Although it’s impossible to describe exactly what stuttering feels like, there are a few comparisons that closely resemble the struggle that takes place:
First, try thinking of the mouth as a “gate.” Only once the tension grows strong enough to force open the gate do the words finally tumble out, much to the stutterer’s relief. As you know, every sound requires its own unique formation in the mouth. Each of these sounds comes to the gate and pushes… and pushes… and pushes with all its might until it finally breaks through. This pushing causes a lot of tension in the mouth, neck, and shoulder area for the stutterer. I often feel my neck tighten, my shoulders scrunch together, and my tongue push against my teeth.
From this description, I’m sure you can imagine how exhausting it is to stutter. It is much more than just messing up words sometimes. It is a daily battle to break free and to make one’s voice heard. But it is a worthy battle, a battle that strengthens character, teaches endurance, and reminds me of just how precious this life really is.
Secondly, try thinking of the mind and voice as two conflicting sides in this battle. Although stuttering mainly affects speech, it wages quite a war against the mind. The mind stands on one side, absolutely bursting with things to say. The voice stands on the other side, fearing it will crack under the weight of all those words. As I look at the person standing in front of me waiting for my answer, my mind screams out a beautiful response, but my voice freezes. My voice knows what to say, how to say it, and when to say it, but it just can’t bear the load. Finally, my mind and my voice compromise, and I blurt out the first thing that will come out. Sometimes, this means that I end up with a caramel iced coffee instead of a vanilla iced coffee.
In the past, I really let moments like that get to me and make me feel like less of a person. As soon as I was out of sight, I would cry until I couldn’t cry anymore, staring at an iced coffee I really didn’t want. On the hardest days, my mom was right there to encourage me: “Kenzie, you may not be the average speaker, but why in the world would you want to be ordinary when you can be extraordinary? Of all the people in the world, your voice makes you uniquely unforgettable.” I love you so much, Mom.
I would be lying if I told you I still don’t have moments like this. I am still human, just like you. To be honest, there are days when I just want to scream. Stuttering makes me feel so vulnerable. But I’m slowly learning how to find beauty where I used to see brokenness.
All of us have struggles, but those struggles can be a gift we give to the world. If we can just learn to harness the stutter’s incredible power and redirect it for good, we can encourage someone else who is struggling. We can remind them that they have every reason to dream big and give them the courage to say what is in their heart. I don’t know about you, but I think that’s pretty beautiful!