My struggle with stuttering

This is the first time I am openly acknowledging my stuttering. For years, it’s been a part of my life that I’ve been ashamed about. Why? Because I was scared of what people thought of me, I was scared in case they judged me or laughed behind my back or—worse—to my face. But I think I am ready now to talk about my stuttering. I don’t exactly remember the first time I stuttered. My parents tell me I was three or four; they tell me I was a nervous child, very naughty but nervous. Nothing major happened to me—that’s the first question people ask me, “What happened to bring on your stuttering?” Nothing. I had a happy, healthy childhood. I had the right words to say, I just couldn’t say them. To complete one simple sentence took a few minutes. But for me, the worst part was watching them watch me, faces upon faces staring as I tried to roll out the words that seemed to be stuck on my tongue, which felt like an eternity. Faces all with the same sad expression. I knew exactly what they were thinking. And that made me feel worse.

The truth is, I was, and still am, a nervous person: people make me nervous, public speaking freaks me out, and I hate being the center of attention. Up until my mid-teenage years, I stuttered constantly (because you know your teenage years aren’t awkward enough as is without the whole stuttering thing). Looking back on it, I wasn’t bullied much for the stuttering (having a foreign name nobody could pronounce kinda beat my stuttering issue to it), and to be honest, I was my own worst enemy. Each time I stuttered I blamed myself, asked myself what was wrong with me, why wasn’t I “normal” like the other children. It brought my self-esteem down and wrecked it like Miley’s wrecking ball. I just felt useless and insecure. English classes were the worse. Not because I hated reading—I actually love reading, and the book choices during those years were always so interesting. I just dreaded it because English classes meant an hour of my worst nightmare: everyone had to take turns to read out loud, me included. Nothing is more terrifying for a stutterer than to read out loud, in front of everyone, in a classroom where every single eye is on you, waiting for you to mess up, expecting you to mess up. Eventually it led me to skip these classes all together, to avoid the humiliation and the confidence knockout—which sadly also led me to fail the class (don’t worry peeps, I got some help from my teachers the following year and retook my English class and passed!).

Sometime after I turned sixteen, my stuttering got slightly better, I don’t exactly know why or how, but it might have been one of the following:

  1. My parents were going through a rough patch (one of the many would-they, wouldn’t-they get divorced phases. For those wondering, they eventually got divorced; hurrah!), which meant my little brother needed me.
  2. It was also the year I got my first boyfriend. Aw, nothing young love can’t cure, aye?
  3. I discovered the best-ever TV show: Friends. The show taught me many things, one of them being to look at things from a funny point of view and to not take things so seriously, but instead to embrace them with a sense of humor.

And that’s exactly what I did: I became sarcastic and used my sense of humor to help break my habit of stuttering. Did it help? In a way, yes. I noticed that laughing at myself each time I stuttered instead of beating myself up over it led me to stutter less and less each day. It took some time and several self-pity solo parties to do it, but I finally learned to embrace my problem and accept that life is full of sticky situations you just can’t escape from. Whether I’m at school, at my part-time retail job, or out & about, life is full of them. And although there are still times when I feel myself slipping, I just take a deep breath and ask myself, “What would Chandler say or do in this sticky situation?”

I was going to call this article “How I Overcame Stuttering,” but then I realized that it’s not something I’ve overcome yet. Sure, I am much better than I used to be; however, it is still something that challenges me to this day. At 23 years old, I realize that stuttering is an old habit, an old fear, a familiar feeling I don’t want to return to. Like an ex who has hurt you and left you so heartbroken, yet some nights you find yourself thinking about and praying that you have the strength to get over; I just remind myself constantly that I am stronger than that, I am better than that, and that I am greater than the fear. I refuse to let my stuttering define me.

Burcu (also known as just ‘B’) is a feminist whose hobbies include eating, drinking coffee (like, all the time), writing and reading blogs, and convincing herself daily that her crazy curly hair does NOT have its own personality! She also counts stalking John Mayer as one of her hobbies. Currently doing an internship as she patiently awaits the day Taylor Swift becomes her best friend. 

(Image via Shutterstock.)