How would Beverley Vincent describe to a fluent person her world as someone with a covert stammer?
Ok, so this is me Beverley, a covert stammerer of 41 years! Many fluent people can only imagine what it would be like to have a stammer, they think by 'slowing down' 'taking your time' and 'just relaxing' it will just go away. Well folks, it doesn't it's still there lingering inside your head ready to trip you up at the most inopportune moment! Those important times when you really have to have your say, when swapping a word around just isn't going to cut it!
As a fluent person there are so many things you need to know about me to fully understand just how I tick.
My mornings start like any other but some days my chest feels like I'm being sat on, the anxiety this causes knowing that today will be a bad day is horrible. Tight shoulders, furrowed brow, tension in my neck, chest, face and any other part of my body that feels like joining in. Onwards and upwards though, keep strong Bev.
Work! Trying to hide the fact that I stammer from these people is so tiring, changing words, putting in extra words, pretending to forget what I have to say, hiding the twitch in my eye, covering my mouth, going all around the houses just make your very simple point so your dark secret isn't discovered. Then it happens, just when you least expect it, oh no who noticed? Did I manage to disguise it by pretending to get tongue tied?
The Meeting! Who will be there that doesn't know I stammer? Will they think I don't know what I'm talking about because I don't say what I really want to say? I have so much to offer this conversation and so many questions to ask but hopefully somebody else will ask them. Anyway I can always email them later and say that I thought of the question after the meeting, at least that way I can get my point across without feeling foolish and embarrassed. Let's just hope they don't go around the table and ask you to introduce yourself! If they do, try to go first, start with "Right, ok then, well I'm ......" at least then you can have a run up to it!
The Phone! I have to make calls, I have to receive calls, some are better than others. But it's so much harder to disguise it. So many people have said "Have you been running?" when I answer the phone and I'll say yes, even though I haven't moved for the last hour, at least then you don't have to say "no I was just gasping for breath after forcing Good Morning out!" And then we have the angry customer! Oh no confrontation...... what to do, your heart immediately begins pounding, you might as well just give up now!
The Tears! There have so many occasions in my life when I have cried and not been able to say what I really wanted to say. My friend's father died recently, a very good friend who I respected very much. When I gave his wife a cuddle at the funeral I really wanted to say "He was a lovely man, we will all really miss him, you had many good years together and in time you will look back on so many fond memories. It went on.... What I actually said was "the service was nice" I came away feeling so disappointed because all the words I wanted to say other people were saying.
My perception of other people! Why does it matter to me so much what other people think? Do people think negatively of me because I can't say things the way they can? Why do I feel that people feel sorry for me? Should people feel sorry for me? Are they embarrassed when the dreaded block rears its ugly head? Why do some people make me feel inferior, I'm just as good as them.
The missed Opportunities! School, that job you really fancy, I always wanted to be in the Police, can you seriously imagine that? The language that you wanted to learn but can't as you can't control English never mind another language! The list is too long to go on.
Like the song says 'Words don't come easy to me' I spend so much time swapping words that I really want to say for words that I can say. I constantly scan ahead getting the words ready to change at the last minute.
Those wonderful people who invented texting and email! A big thank you to all those people out there who made a stammerer's life so much easier, finally we can have our say. We raise a glass to the internet so we can book online to see that film we daren't ask for, we can order the pizza with the toppings we actually want! But most of all we can contact the people who actually understand what we are going through and the daily dilemmas we face. We can find other people who also face the same issues every day.
My final note for the day is 'its good to talk'.............. sometimes.