“Taking Risks”

by Sarah Bryant

A few years ago, I used to avoid talking as much as I could. Not being able to say what I wanted left me feeling hopeless and trapped. I did everything I could to stutter as little as possible every minute of everyday. The easiest way to not stutter was to simply not talk. Not talking meant I couldn’t do things like participate in class, and I was always afraid my professors would think I didn’t read for class. My fear of talking and having to stutter was greater.

Over time, I developed many ways to avoid talking. I would pretend I was busy on my cell phone or pretend I had to use the restroom. At home I would pretend I didn’t hear the phone ring. I would rather people think I was rude, weird, or stupid than to let people know I stuttered. I’d do anything to not talk.

To do the things I wanted, I had to start taking risks and I started by ordering what I wanted at restaurants (not what I can say fluently), making that phone call myself (not my mom), and asking a salesperson where something is in the store (not walking around the store for 30 min). It was really scary taking risks, but it got easier each time.

Taking risks varies from situation to situation. Sometimes that means just showing up, and that was my success. Many times in college I wouldn’t go out with friends because the possibility of meeting new people was way too stressful for me. Consequently, I would stay in my dorm room. When I focused on my success of showing up, I left the situation feeling good about myself, and that was a first. Avoiding situations was my way to avoid not only stuttering, but also the feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment that I didn’t want to feel.

Now, I talk to my hairdresser while getting my haircut. I talk to classmates when I get to class early. I stop and make conversation with co-workers in the hallway and I participate in class. Instead of trying to hide my stuttering, I let it show through my personality.