Friday, October 07, 2005

When did I start letting this run my life?

For anybody who does not know, stuttering can cause emotional trauma. Is trauma too strong a word? How about pain? Stuttering can cause emotional pain.

When I call a business to place an order or make an appointment, and they mock my problem and/or hang up; it aggravates me.

When I answer a phone call from an uninvited telemarketer or friend of my daughters, who snickers and mocks me, it bothers me.

When a car pulls up beside me asking for directions, only to quickly lock the doors & take off when I block; I feel like a freak.

When somebody calls my cell phone and I am in line at the bank/coffee shop/store/etc.., and I stutter and everybody turns around and stares at me; I’m embarrassed.

When I call a wrong number, and hang up on the first ring, then the person calls back demanding to know who I am. Then threatens to call the police when I stutter; I feel like a lunatic.

When a wrong number calls me, then asks me what my problem is when they don’t like how I sound, I feel angry.

When a potential employer/client calls and hangs up, I feel like a loser.

When I speak in public, and the 3 year old in front of me stares at me with a look of disgust, I resent him for his honesty.

When I go for a walk at night and pass somebody who offers a friendly “hi”, only to jump back in terror when I block, I feel like I’m considered a psychopath.

When I attempt to tell a joke only to lose my listener because I always mess up the punch line, I want to throw up my hands in despair.

When people, I am with, are embarrassed to be with me, I feel rejected.

When the front line hospital workers in emergency, mistake me for having a stroke, I feel even the educated misunderstand me.

When the girl cutting my hair is scared when I tell her what to do, I feel like a fiend.

When it takes me over an hour to change my voice mail message, I feel frustrated.

When I am so engrossed in attempting to speak, that I don’t even notice what is going on around me; I feel like an idiot.

When a stranger starts a conversation with me, not caring about my problem, but I can’t hold up my end because it’s been so long since I’ve had a conversation like this; I feel like a social imbecile.

When somebody holds the door open for me, and I stutter while thanking them and they look at me in disgusted confusion, I feel like scum. But when I don’t thank them, I feel arrogant.

… and on … and on … and on …

Are you still with me? That was a long list. ;-)

Most of the above, I can deal with, but what bothers me the most is that people are starting become scared of me. I don’t know when this started happening, but it’s gotten worse. I may be doing something else that I don’t even realize, but I would like to be able to fix this. It could be caused by my facial expressions & voice, which has become distorted in an effort to break through my blocks.

As human beings, when we feel pain, we will avoid the pain causing activity. It’s a survival tool and part of our psychological make up. It helps to protect us.

The problem is, that gradually, I have taken on some pretty abnormal behavior, such as :

  • Not calling around to source competitive pricing.
  • Not answering the telephone. Even when looking for a job … especially when looking for a job.
  • Not offering assistance to people who need it. Including the lost or blind.
  • Not calling people who I need to call.
  • Avoiding eye contact with strangers, because they might be friendly and say hi.
  • Not going to non-self-serve stores.
  • Not giving out my phone number on my professional website.
  • Avoiding any female stranger in a non-busy place (like a parking lot).
  • Not going anywhere that I need reservations.
  • Not taking advantage of paid for resources at a high priced resort.
  • Not ordering the food I want.
  • Replacing the right word with one that I can say. Some times I do this even when it doesn’t fit … like I’m making up my own language. ;-)

The most I’ve ever gone out of my way was for car insurance. In 1997, I got my first car in Ontario, and went shopping for insurance. Now of course I did not want to use the phone, so I looked on the internet. The only broker I could find in the Greater Toronto Area, was in the nearby city of Hamilton. Since they were on the internet, I thought I could handle it all by their website, mail, and/or email … I was wrong. The form I filled out thinking that would be it, was only a contact request, they wanted to speak to me on the phone. They probably suspected that I was running some kind of scam since there are brokers closer to my home in Toronto. So instead of speaking to them on the phone, I took the day off work and drove all the way to Hamilton (approx.75 minutes each way not including traffic).

My insurance was hardly a deal, it cost me $2,500.00/yr on a $900 car. I have not been happy with their service, and have been their client from 1997 up until about 6 months ago (9 years and $23,000 later). I only switched because my wife called around and got me a price of less than half of what they were charging me.

Over the past 9 years, I have made the journey to Hamilton any time that a conversation was necessary and I wasn’t feeling up to using the phone.

When exactly did I unconsciously decide to allow my problem to run my life? When did I decide to allow my fear become the basis of decisions?

I don’t know, but with increasing frequency, I am allowing my decisions to be determined by my speech problem, or specifically the fear of the emotional pain. And these decisions have begun to turn me into a negative, anti-social outcast.

This was illuminated the other day when I went to a stuttering support group. When I was originally invited, I didn’t plan to go, but did, thinking I could at least flog my blog. The reason I don’t go to support group meetings, is because I always find there is at least one person, who dominates the group with stories of how their life sucks because of their problem.

Well the other day, it was me.

During my long drive home, I had time to reflect on how this could have happened. I wasn’t always like this. I used to love people and go out of my way to be with people. I used to be very positive and see the silver lining on the darkest cloud. Insults, giggles, sneers, and snide remarks would just slide off my back without a second thought. It would be considered more of a reflection of my antagonist than myself.

I guess the pain and fear just started chipping away at my confidence and self respect for so long, and before I realized it, I respected their comments. And it’s gotten me to an emotional state where the fear runs my life.

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Saturday, October 08, 2005 3:58:00 PM, Anonymous Vikesh said...

Hey John,

very interesting post. i think we have all felt the same way and it comes down to perception. as we have all grown up with stuttering and know the feeling of rejection, these feelings sometimes come to us later in life and can cloud our perception of what other people think of us. and if we are feeling down about our speech, our perception can become even worse.

your attitude seems to be changing though for a more positive route. you have chosen to engage yourself in another speech therapy course, and that shows motivation and determination.

good luck!


At Sunday, October 09, 2005 10:41:00 AM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks Vikesh,

You know the biggest problem is really the suprise.

People who know I stutter usually don't care ... some do, but most don't. But it's the people who don't know, are taken off gaurd. Like those who ask for direction, or say hi on the street.

I'm half tempted to get a neon T-shirt that says "Dude, don't freak out .. I just stutter!" ;-)


At Monday, October 10, 2005 12:51:00 PM, Blogger Avenged7X said...


Maybe you should get that t-shirt. At the NSA conference this year, one guy had a shirt on that said something to the effect of "Give me time to speak... I stutter".

We as humans always tend to focus on things that are wrong and out of place. For me it really helps to let go of the negative emotions, and focus on the positive moments, such as when I do a voluntary stutter, or when I build up the guts to tell someone about my condition. Focus on the positive, and learn to forgive and forget the negative emotions. They can only increase avoidance behavior.

Maybe you should try a therapist focuses more on the mental side than the physical side. Stuttering is made usually made up of a small physical component and a large mental component. The mental component grows as avoidance behvaviors grow. You need to attack the problem from both sides. How about make a rule, to only blog about the positive? Thats what I do on mine.


At Monday, October 10, 2005 2:18:00 PM, Blogger John MacIntyre said...

Thanks for the comment Shane.

Regarding the negativity thing, I've talked about this previously. Please see WARNING-Pre-therapy posts may be negative.

My therapy starts on October 17th, ending the pre-therapy phase, which will also end my discussion of how it's affected my life negatively. I hope you will join me after October 17th.


At Thursday, April 13, 2006 6:23:00 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Even though i dont have facial movement when i stutter, John i know exactly how you feel, because there has been a time that my avoidance behavior was so strong, that when someone was approaching me, i felt my throat tensed, and "dizzy". I can manage to say "hi" to people, but when they start to ask me questions, man, all i can say were simple " yes" or "no". But you are strong, you can forget the negative feelings in a short time. I simply can not do that, when i got negative feelings, they usually stay with me for 3 to 4 days, and causes me to stutter even worse... so i guess you are a strong person.


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