Thursday, August 03, 2006

Retro: On Stuttering

There was a time where I looked like this:

I think that's the perfect way to preface this angsty rant from my past. (photos circa 1998/9 and writing from around 2000, I believe.)

It’s funny how I can’t really talk right. I can write my ass off, like it was my job (and, of course, hopefully one day it will be) but I can barely carry a conversation with someone. For whatever reason, I was born with a mind that works all the time, and is never in a gear below 5. I work, and in fact at times in my youth would not be able to sleep because I kept analyzing, and over analyzing, to the point where I wouldn’t let myself just shutdown and go to bed, but kept up and kept working on something meaningless. Soon that began to manifest itself when I would think things in light speed, but my mouth/jaw/vocal cords wouldn’t be able to keep up. Soon, I had a stutter on my hands that could topple buildings. I was a first grader with giant ears, candy apple red glasses, and a stuttering problem. Surprisingly, I was not made fun of, nor am I much today, as if it is a sacred area. As if my problem is acknowledged but not brought up.
I went to counseling in school with Miss Fingerman, who I always thought had quite the strange sounding name. Her help was very futile, as I really needed someone to tackle my stutter full-time, not just once a week for 20 minutes in school. After school for a year or two I saw a general practitioner of sorts, someone who could do the things like tongue depressing, or a lisp, so once again I was shipped off to a specialist for stuttering. For the next 3 or so years I was with a woman who clearly didn’t understand me, which was something that I didn’t know at the time, but would eventually be a recurring theme in my life.
Through the course of the therapy I was told to talk SO slowly it was ludicrous. Sounding out words so that the normal speech of, “hello, my name is Michael,” became:
Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooooooooooooooo, *pause* myyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy naaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame iiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssss MYYYYYYYYYYYY-CAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL. I knew that this was simply no way to converse with anyone. Anyone! But I kept going, kept going to K-Mart and asking some poor schlep who I’m sure gets asked this every day by this woman, “where is the shoe department?” She could help others, but she came to a point where she couldn’t help me anymore. She came to the same realization I did; this was utterly useless. My therapist left me with one last bit of knowledge: only you can control this problem.
On my epitaph it will read: He was the only one who could control this problem. Common speech for anyone is a walk in the park. I’m envious of most people who can sit and wax intellectual about nothing in particular for seconds, and minutes, and hours when I can barely get out “Yeah, I’d like to place an order for take out,” or simply give the name “Anton” because the hard A sound clicks in with my stutter. So instead, I give,” uhuhuhAAAAnton” after feeling embarrassed and ashamed. One of the things that separate humans from all other walks of life is verbal communication, and I’m limited in it.
When I’m at a party and a girl comes up to me, I barely have anything to say, and whatever it is it’s usually curbed so that there is no vocabulary that I can fuck up, no words I can stutter, and nothing at all thought provoking because she’s either drunk/stoned and wouldn’t understand in the first place, or that I will get lost in my own quick-thoughts and fuck it up and look like an asshole. I see Brett and with nary a thought, barely a gesture, he has people eating from his palm. Moms, hot women, teachers, it doesn’t matter, he has a way with his voice, his word choice that just clicks with everyone. I stand next to him and watch in awe as he does the simplest things that I frankly cannot do. Some people are envious over the girls that he’s been with, I’m envious over the fact that he could talk to them so well and get them so easily, while I struggle to get nothing. I’m surrounded by fast talking friends who don’t even know how lucky they have it, and will never know.
That’s the thing; a lot of people will never know what I go through. By no means do I say that I live a life not worth living, or that I am akin to someone in a wheelchair, but it’s difficult to explain to someone how much of strife it is to go about life and never truly be understood. Not in the sense of I’m an artist and I draw a circle and I believe it is the meaning of life and you think it’s a circle. I mean that I have ideas and thoughts that go over people’s heads, but just the simplicity of answering “what did you do last night” could merit the dreaded, “what?” or even worse, the nod and “yeah.” I’m sure I get it far too many times than I can even imagine, and the realization of this is unbearable. It’s not a disrespect of people not caring; it’s the prospect of someone not getting something that I desperately want them to know, to feel, to comprehend.
The irony that I want to be a writer, (and believe I’m a pretty good one at the moment) but I cannot even speak is a bit too much to even grasp. I can write out my feelings at a piece of paper, bitch and moan to the computer screen so much easier than talking to my dad, or my friends. A lot of times, people don’t understand what I type, as it’s just the same garbled mess of thought and no revision, the raw feed of Anton thought, much like most of this is for a number of you. So instead of telling my Dad that the reason I don’t talk to him is because he is never interested, plops his ass on the floor in front of the TV and takes more interest in JAG than most of the time he ever as has had in me, I say it to this document. Most of what I say is light hearted to them, because I either fear that they won’t hear my cries, or they’ll just make fun of it like they do most things. I say “I’m going to the bathroom” and I get that reverberated in some new “Anton voice” and doing some stupid action to go along with it as everyone else laughs. Does my low self-esteem come from this very problem? Probably, that and being called fat from now till I die, even though I’m not fat. I’m sure that the stuttering instilled in me a certain defense mechanism, so that anything said to me was not true, just a rib. And because of all of this, instead of airing my grievances to Geoff, or Stephen, or most of the lot of my friends is I won’t be taken seriously, or I’ll be told to stop worrying or stop bitching.
I’ve been told to stop a lot of things. I’ve also been told I have the power to stop. I come from a long line of drug abusers and alcoholics, and that addiction somehow runs through my veins. I can’t stop thinking and over analyzing, I’ll sit and think about if I told my teacher this instead of that how it would affect the grand scheme of things. How if I actually didn’t back down but fought, what would that say about me now? When I’m told I can stop stuttering because I have the power, when at times I sit back and am nearly driven to tears on how I can’t curb this detriment to my life. No matter how hard I try sometimes, I know that the words coming out of my mouth will not be clear, will not be pristine, but will be damaged, will be broken, and will be not what I even want to say. I have the power to control this as much as I have the power to control a runaway train, and that thought is lost upon the world.

I really am a boob.

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