Should You Ever Stop Using Your Techniques?
Last week was a rough one — regarding my stutter, I mean.
I'm not sure what happened, why it happened or when, but for the entire week, my stutter was more severe than it has been in years. Years. Every now and then, I'll experience a string of days or, at most, a week in which I stutter more than usual. But this past week my stutter was so severe I was genuinely concerned.
It was difficult conducting interviews and I even had a series of blocks and a very hard time speaking during a big, important meeting. It was super embarrassing. I am usually optimistic and positive about my stutter, and last week required all of the positive reinforcements I could think of — pep talks and all.
During an interview, I found myself at my wit's end with my stutter. Then I though: I'll just use my techniques! Many stutterers, and those with other speech impediments, learn a series of techniques in speech therapy to speak more fluently, and effectively. Most common for a stutterer are speaking slowly, blending one word into another, breathing into each word, and speaking in a rhythmic motion. And during that rough week, I used them all. They helped, but not as much as I would have liked.
When reflecting on those rough moments during that week, I realized that I don't use those fluency techniques much in life anymore. I realized that when I became more confident with and accepting of my speech, I began to speak more fluently and I, in turn, all-but abandoned using the techniques I had once heavily relied on. Even though my stutter is usually severe, I had slowly, over the years, stopped using the techniques. Not because I don't think I need them, but I had grown so accepting of my speech that I seldom thought to use them.
And that's a problem. Hear me out.
I was so out of practice with my techniques that when I did decide to use them this past week, it was very difficult. It was frustrating and they didn't "work" like they used to. I realized that, much like anything, the more you practice something the easier it becomes and the better you become at it. Even fluency techniques. That rough week came and went, and in the following days my stutter has been quite mild. It's weird. Even though things are better now, that situation served as a wake-up call. I'm not too good to use fluency techniques. They're helpful and they work and I need to use them.
I'm grateful for that tough week and those frustrating moments because they helped me to remember my techniques, and to realize I had abandoned them. I've resolved to practice them as much as possible, whether my stutter is severe or mild. As a longtime stutterer, I know that my speech can be pretty unpredictable. So having a grasp on these fluency techniques can ensure that I'm always ready, always ready for those rough weeks. Last week, I may have taken a major L, but as Chance the Rapper said, "Turned all my Ls into lessoooonnns!" (I know that was corny, I don't care).
So, to answer my own question: No, we shouldn't ever stop using our techniques. They are here to help and they do.