I remember a child who had difficulty talking: he stammered whenever he spoke and his eyes will flutter (like a trussed up bird) and face will break into weird spasms, and his speech? that would sound like nothing on earth! That would shock other children. And put them off.
This child would often spend time with a book at the edge of the play ground. Getting lost in a world of adventure and fancy was a lot easier than holding a sustained conversation with others and dealing with their prejudices. The child slowly fell in love with words and their power to conjure up things unseen. So much so, that he began using big ostentatious words in his essays and other school assignments- often eliciting a frown from the teacher.
Many years later, the child made peace with his stammering; accepted openly that he stammered; rose above shame, fear and self loathing. He also became free of the need to prove anything- his subconscious need to use big words and complex sentences. He discovered the beauty of writing simply. He discovered the joy of being who he was, instead of trying to fit into some notion of who he should be. This is my story.
Many years ago, I read that if a covert stutterer could accept his stammering, he will be able to come out of the deep denial and shame. Writing seemed safest and most practical way of doing it. I decided to write a blog. After postponing it for many years, I wrote my first post when I was about 47. I did not just write as a reporter but as some one reliving those moments- a very expressive kind of writing.
It worked. My perception of my stammering and feelings towards it, changed radically. I felt lighter. I began talking to others: other stutterers. They too were facing the same issues. They too began writing on this blog- the first of its kind in India. A self help community slowly sprang up.
My writing benefited a lot by my reading habits. I had started reading Enid Blyton as a reclusive child; then, gradually I covered authors like Dickens, Thomas Hardy, Mark Twain, Emile Zola, Walter Scott, Agatha Christie etc. In recent times, I read too many modern writers to recall their names. But some have stuck in my head for different reasons: For example, Boris Pasternack, for writing a very complex but a truly memorable love story (Dr Zhivago) and Ruskin Bond, for writing simple but touching stories about children in Indian Himalayas.
In the meantime, I came across a website: Veils of Stuttering. It helped me understand how the experince of being “different” can warp our thinking, feeling, acting and even writing. Once I became aware of it, I treid to write in a simple and direct fashion rather than beat around the bush.
So, what have I learned from these experiences and writers? Dont be ashamed of emotions- Life is much more than just events. And secondly- be simple and straightforward. Just tell, what you want to tell- rather than spinning out a yarn.
I was trained as a doctor in 1970’s but only now 40 years later, I was beginning to realize that all the healing and wholeness actually resides inside us- never outside. And writing, honest expressive writing – can bring it out of you. It can put you in touch with your inner larger Self. Writing for a stutterer is like a bridge between his social self and his true inner self. Talking was always difficult- even if I were to talk to myself. But writing bypassed that clogged channel as if it were- and I was communicating freely with my inner self through writing. In the process of writing, I was reliving my experinces, examining them and making sense of them. Day after day, posting on the blog, I began to see the larger patterns and the deeper meaning behind the suffering, my so called “speech impediment”.
Some years later, I contributed a paper on this theme to an online conference organsied by a well known professor of Communication disorders. I received some encouraging feedback. More than that, I read papers by others in the same conference and it broadened my horizon. I got in touch with others who were working on the theme of self help and the role of expressive writing.
In brief- I think, reading, writing, thinking and speaking- are all inter-related and inter-dependent. One helps the other. And they all influence how you feel about yourself.
Have you ever felt “different”? If so, pick up your pen. Your sharing might help others out there. It might help you too..