New York, New York
I started talking when I was 2, and my voice has always been stuttered. When I became aware that other people were worried about it, I began to think of it as something bad that had happened to me. As a kid, I was encouraged and willing to do a lot to make it “unhappen.” Speech drills, magical thinking, voluntary silences, word switching, fluency progress reports, internet searches. All of my tricks, professionally taught or personally devised, confirmed the same message over and over again — you would be better off if you stopped stuttering.
I went through middle school, high school and entered college with that message in my pocket. By my early 20s, I was carrying my stuttering in one hand, and my fearful hatred of it in the other. During my junior year of college, it became too much to bear, and I attended my first stuttering self-help group. I met people stuttering with confidence and jumped in head first to the stuttering community. It was there that I began to reframe how I thought about stuttering. It is not a curse that “happened” to me. I was born a person who stutters, and this is my “language” and, as different as it is to most, I started to try to speak with self-respect and pride. I headed to speech therapy, and after leaving a few clinics that offered me the same old speech tools, I found a team of therapists that helped me process decades of self-defeating messages and encouraged me to openly stutter and educate others about it. I graduated and began my career in oncology nursing, where I told my boss, co-workers and patients about stuttering – sometimes to compassionate, understanding ears and sometimes to awkward blank stares. But I was happier than I had been in years, because I wasn’t living the lie that I talk like everyone else. I ultimately ended up working as an emergency room nurse in a busy NYC hospital. It was pretty crazy, and I loved it. During that time, I attended graduate school to become an advanced practice nurse and now currently work as a Nurse Practitioner in an Intensive Care Unit at a major NYC hospital.
My career is emotionally, intellectually and physically demanding. I have dealt with discomfort, discrimination and embarrassment related to my stuttering along the way. I have also exchanged countless moments of connection and understanding with co-workers and patients. This journey has pushed me to become a powerful self-advocate, a gift I wouldn’t exchange for the world. The foundation I stand on every day, is one built of self-respect, resilience and a willingness to defy the message “you would be better off if you stopped stuttering”.