To Monitor or Not to Monitor?
When I first became aware of my stutter (as an impediment, as disfluency, etc.) as a kid, I was sure to document when I was most fluent. This practice became common for me over the years. I'd keep track of the emotions I felt when I stuttered most, what situations caused the most disfluency and who I stuttered most around. Monitoring my speech became as natural for me as breathing.
I've done this for years and used my findings to increase my fluency. I worked on altering my emotions, situations and more so that I could speak fluently. I never viewed this as "wrong" though. I mean, the goal was to do all I could to speak "normally," right?
I've thought very little about monitoring my stutter over the years — after all, it's something I've always just done. However, when speaking with a fellow stutterer the other day, I made an admission that shocked even me. I casually told her that I'm "not really into monitoring [my stutter] these days." And the truth is, I don't monitor it anymore.
Do you monitor your stutter?
I always love when I surprise myself. I'm not sure when it happened, I'm not sure when I subconsciously decided to stop monitoring the severity of my stutter. I would assume that the more I learned to accept my way of speaking, the less inclined I was to monitor it. No matter when it started, I no longer expend energy determining what makes my stutter "worse" or "better." And that's really, really nice.
Much like many other stutterers, I had internalized the idea that stuttering is inherently wrong or abnormal. Because of this, I spent several years of my life looking for ways to become more fluent, to talk like a "normal" person. There is automatic shame inflicted on people who are not able-bodied.
A person's self-image is shaped early on in our lives, by people's reaction to us. So, I was taught early in life that stuttering was unacceptable and I had better do what ever I could to "fix" it — such is the experience of many stutterers. It wasn't until my college years that my focus changed from stuttering less to "stuttering effectively" — a term I learned from one of my speech therapists.
The idea was to be sure to say what I needed to say, what I meant to say despite my stutter, rather than without it. This was a great lesson for me, it was what I needed at the time to shift the view I had of my stutter from one that resulted in shame to one defined by hope.
And now, years later, I've learned a new lesson. I've learned that, along with stuttering effectively, my speech should also be normalized. I've learned that stuttering is not something to be ashamed of, or to spend time trying to get rid of. It'd not something I need to monitor. And so I won't anymore.