ISTAR: Nichole’s Journey


In my last post I gave you a brief summary of my experience at the ISTAR (Institute for Stuttering Treatment and Research) event.  I alluded to one young woman’s  speech that I found particularly powerful.  I had asked her for permision to share excerpts and planned to give you a summary of her speech but I thought it better to simply share with you her speech.  Her response when I asked for permission to share:

Feel free to share my words, that was the point of the speech. I believe in the sharing of ideas and thoughts. It helps put things in perspective; people sometimes forget to live in the moment once and a while (including me).

“Welcome family, friends and honoured guests. I’m Nichole and I will be speaking about my journey towards the acceptance of my stutter.

About 10 years ago, I was at the darkest place I have ever been with my speech. My normally extraverted self was beginning to retreat. Self-resentment and avoidance became my normal behavior. Work substitution became my crutch and hate boiled with certain words, especially my name. My stutter was severe; I could barely string two syllables together without a block. I was fortunate to start speech therapy at approximately this time. After a while I began to open up. My anger began to wane and I could express myself again. The little nagging voice in my head became muffled and disused. My friendly chatter resumed full-fledged along with my stubbornness. The first seed of acceptance was planted. If you had asked me at this time about the acceptance of my stutter, I would have made a scathing comment in reply.

In university, my acceptance was delicate but it continued to flourish. I reduced the amount of time I spent dwelling over the possibility of a stutter. Instead I trusted my voice and my opinions more often. I let myself grow during this time, slowly, so slowly I barely noticed it. At my undergraduate thesis defense, four weeks of preparation, I realized I was more concerned with the content of my presentation then agonizing over my stutter. This was the first time I did not mentally restrict myself with questions like “what if I stutter” or “what will people think if I stutter?” True acceptance had finally found me, although it would take a few more years for it to become a conscious thought and position.

This journey was barely perceptible until I looked into the rear view to see the road I had already travelled. I decided to forgive myself and learn from my experiences, life is too short to be angry with myself. My stutter is an attribute of my identity, but it is not my definition. I have learned to live with it, but I refuse to allow it to rule my life. Today, I rarely even respond to my stutter, although I am vigilant to monitor for negative thoughts. I strive to grow into the person I want to be.

Acceptance is like a many-forked road; we have to choose which path fits each of us the best. The fork we choose in this moment may not be the one we choose tomorrow. We have the power to decide. The main goal is to keep moving forward. It has to resonate at a personal level. The journey is not easy, it is riddled with bumps, ruts, fallen trees and black ice waiting to slip you up. We will experience a wide range of feelings along the way: fear, anger, anxiety, elation, accomplishment and pride. Acceptance is not a solid entity, but flexible and mouldable to the individual.

Acknowledge how far you have come down the road already. Look back at your past, at all the times you felt heartache, take a breath, relax and let it go. Learn from your past to shape your future. Mold your future, by living your present.

We do not have to navigate the road by ourselves. We can get road maps and directions along the way. Look to your support systems, your family and friends, including ISTAR for assistance.

We are the only ones who can change ourselves, and the greatest changes start with just one person, like a woman on a bus or a man with a dream.

Acceptance is a long continuous journey, but one worth embarking on. Thank you.”

If you would like to make a financial contribution to ISTAR you can do so here.

You can watch a video about ISTAR here.

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