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Dear Stuttering

An image selected by the author of a letter written to stuttering and published to the Dear Diagnosis literary project

None really diagnosed you, but we’ve lived together for almost my entire life.

I tried to solve you many many times, in various different ways, but no methods ever worked for much time at all. Sometimes you are so intrusive that you lead me to think that you’re a part of me. Aren’t you?

At times I think you’re like a monster, mysterious but always showing up when I least expect it.

I know you’re dependent on me, on my thoughts, my mind, my fragilities. But I’ve not discovered yet how you work. I learnt strategies to manage you, but you still have a strong power over me, and you still hinder me in some circumstances.

We’ve lived together since I was 4 or 5, I think; I can’t remember precisely. I’m not sure about your beginning; my memories are vague, blurry, unclear. I remember in adolescence I couldn’t bring myself to go to bakery and buy a slice of pizza because it was a serious problem to me: I would certainly have blocks of sounds, I couldn’t say what I needed, just because words remained blocked in my mouth. I would go out with friends only if there were friends who helped me in ordering at the restaurant. Actually, though, in adolescence I didn’t have many friends, I couldn’t afford it.

I should be angry with you, Stuttering, but I’m not. I think you have a reason to stay and you’ll lead me to discover it, sooner or later.

But, I don’t think always like this. You make me feel little, unable, insecure – even if I’m very sure of what I’m saying. You destroy my credibility, you know? I can understand why people don’t trust me if and when I tell things stuttering. And for my job, this is not good at all. Fortunately, I believe contents are more important than speech speed, but I think also the contrary when you insinuate yourself overwhelmingly in and through my words. Maybe I should decide on a firmer opinion about this. Maybe when I decide I’ll stop stuttering. Who knows…

I’ve thought many times why I need to stutter, why I carry you around. Sometimes I forget you all together, actually I forgot you in many occasions in the last 8 years during which I did extraordinary things! You are always with me, though – often hampering me – but I’m aware I’m stronger than you. I’ve managed to get many things out of life that you doubted I could have otherwise accomplished.

I can remember a precise moment when I realize I mustn’t be ashamed: I was 18 and enrolled in a public speaking course. My stuttering was terrible, I had to struggle even when saying only a few words to unfamiliar people. Public speaking was both a nightmare and a desire. I wanted to push myself beyond my limit, to grasp the nettle. Flash-forward to the last class, every participant had to present a speech. I had prepared my speech perfectly: well-rehearsed at home with my grandma, my speech sounded beautiful. But, this occurrence is quite “normal”. I don’t hear from you when I feel safe. So, obviously, you didn’t come out until it was time to present my speech in public. I can’t even remember if I managed to say at least the first 3 phrases, but I certainly couldn’t bring the speech to the end. Yet, for the first time in my life I noticed admiration in the eyes of others. After class, we all went out to celebrate and many of them talked to me – asked me things about my life, which made me feel astonished, because in that moment I realized they appreciated me even if I didn’t talk fluently. Until then I’m always left out conversations whenever people realized that I stuttered. I suppose those people thought that I were weird. That moment was very important to me: in that moment I had learnt that I’m worthy of consideration and of esteem, even as a stutterer. Now it sounds so taken for granted, but then it was new for me.

From this perspective, I know you have helped me (and go on helping me) to carefully select people who are worth keeping close. Maybe I used you as a strategy of sorts to identify people I want to keep close, that kind of people who are patient listeners, who like what I’m saying more than how I’m saying it.

Over the years, I have become skilled and understanding why and when you appear. I’ve become good at looking inside of myself to understand you. But there are still periods in my life where I can’t understand you; times when I can’t trust you, because you tend to ruin my life: you’re so intrusive, your speech blocks are too insuperable, my words loose worth, talking becomes too hard, I’m out of breath, I’m tired after saying a single phrase… I risk not saying everything I have to say because of you! You impede me from flourishing.

During these negative periods, I lose pleasure in social interactions, and in some extreme cases, I end up avoiding the people that I care about – even if I hate avoiding them! Despite your exhausting presence, I really enjoy company; I enjoy having conversations, telling people my experiences, sharing my opinions.

As I’ve already said, I know I’m stronger than you. I’ve reached important life goals, I’m happily married and every day I nurture many beautiful projects. Currently, I need to give all of this a try in my job. My job works with words, and I deeply love it. But I’m very scared you make it impossible. So, I need you cut me some slack – now. I deserve it.

Female, Age 27

Dear Diagnosis Affirmation Key

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