Unexpected Outcomes: Accept My Stutter…Then What?

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No one had ever told me that it was okay to stutter. When I learned that it really was okay, I never looked back.

I could be filled with resentment and regret for having pursued fluency in speech therapy for a majority of my life. Fluency was always a far off mythical reality that was incomprehensible. Everything I learned was meant to reduce the sheer number of stuttering moments to become more of a normal fluent speaker than not. 

I didn’t know any better. 

It would have been impossible for me to understand anyways. I didn’t have the emotional and cognitive maturity to see beyond the immediate anxiety. Although my parents did all they could to ensure I had the best help, the therapy failed in accordance with the available and trending options of the 1990s, many of which are still impeding those seeking change.

Beyond fluency, what else was there for me to pursue to alleviate the daily impact of stuttering?

The primary alternative within the last ten years has been founded upon the pursuit of self-acceptance, which to do so is as enigmatic as fluency. How does one go about accepting stuttering as a part of who they are? While it is more possible to achieve and a healthier end to stuttering, it would require a much longer explanation. 

However, there are several other tangible pursuits that can position we who stutter to seize unexpected outcomes that ultimately cultivate self-acceptance. I have already discussed several of them in this series of essays, such as habit buildingstorytelling, and cognitive-behavior therapy

The following are only a few of the unexpected outcomes that revealed themselves after I had largely achieved self-acceptance that no one ever told me about at any point in my journey. 

Communicative endurance was never on my radar. There was a time when I couldn’t say more than two or three words in a row without succumbing to a paralyzing stutter. After several years of CBT-based speech therapy, I managed to build up enough open stuttering capacity and efficiency to experience what it felt like to freely communicate sentences or full thoughts. The next pursuit in this progression was needing to open stutter for longer periods of time while cognitively processing my thoughts and physically maintaining my composure, which both were their own separate pursuits. 

How did I work towards achieving communicative endurance?

I seized opportunities to open stutter longer and then fully experienced how it felt. Pursuing stuttering endurance was the same as achieving athletic endurance, which I was doing with triathlon while working towards it in communication. The formula was show up, go through the motions in each opportunity, and adjust accordingly to the situation. Each opportunity to stutter longer extended my endurance and reset my understanding of what was possible. 

Thought to open stutter processing is another pursuit that accompanied communicative endurance. The way I stuttered often led to long silent blocks of speech in which I lost my train of thought and had to fight to get it back. The more I open stuttered the easier it became to process full thoughts and stutter through more content. But, it took a lot of repetitions to get to a place where the silences in speech did not derail my ability to continue. It was one of the outcomes that seems obvious in hindsight yet was the key to unlocking what I now know as a key component of lessening the daily impact of stuttering. 

Resolution, or returning to equilibrium after each moment of stuttering, had the biggest impact on achieving self-acceptance. Being able to recover more quickly after openly stuttering physically changed the way I live with the physiological impact. All I had to do was stay conscious through each moment, and then show up for the next. When I did, I felt and experienced everything that happened instead of numbing the internal reactions. 

It is worth repeating—these are three among many other unexpected outcomes that feed into how I achieved the elusive self-acceptance with stuttering. Even in acceptance, I am still working hard on these pursuits to make them a lasting part of openly stuttering in my daily life. 

Fluency is neither right or wrong, good or bad. But, there is more to the pursuit of changing how we stutter than becoming fluent. 

I wish someone had explained that to me sooner.

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