I struggle to get my words out of my mouth. People assume it’s easy for me. I’m decently intelligent, I can write well. But I can’t always speak. It’s hard for me to communicate.
I didn’t have the best resources growing up. My parents didn’t communicate anything to anybody, even within their own extended family. Little socialization gave me little opportunity to learn from others. I didn’t have very many options, and I ended up being socially stunted. Then there was the regular threats not to speak to outsiders, which after a while just made me fearful of speaking to anyone.
My brother was nonverbal for a few years. He had extra help in school to catch up. He eventually did catch up, but it really set him back quite a bit (and I think that, in many ways, it allowed him to be manipulated to the severe degree that he was). Even so, everyone sort of just accepted that he wasn’t the best or the brightest. He had that rough start. Whatever he tried, he would get coddled and encouraged.
But me, no, it was different for me. I was the smart kid. No excuses. Whenever I couldn’t get words out, I was called dumb and stupid. You think you’re so smart, but you can’t even speak. I’d freeze in school, not because I didn’t know the answer; the answer was in my head the whole time. But I couldn’t get the answer from my head and out through my mouth. It would get muddled up in something — I don’t know what exactly — and wouldn’t come out right.
People didn’t understand. They just made it worse because their words hurt so much and only made it harder to speak. I’d say things only to have people confused about what I was saying. Then I’d get frustrated and give up. I felt like I was speaking a language no one else spoke. I felt alone. I’d tell myself that my mother was right; no one understands me.
It’s no different now that I’m an adult. I can hold conversations sometimes, but other times, I am quiet and don’t respond. I’m not being rude, but unfortunately that’s how most people take it. I want to respond, I so badly want to respond. But I can’t get the words out and I don’t want people to think that I’m dumb. And seeming rude doesn’t hurt nearly as much as being dumb.
It’s a problem. Because no one wants to deal with my verbal vomit.
It’s a problem. Because I have so much to say and don’t know how to say it.
It’s a problem. Because I can’t ask for help when I need it, so I suffer in silence.
My therapist and I have been working on communication for some time now. There are many times I don’t speak in session because I don’t know how to say what’s inside of my head. My therapist knows that I’m thinking (apparently it shows on my face), and gently pushes me to speak about it. I tell her no, I can’t, it doesn’t make sense. She always assures me that it doesn’t always have to make sense.
Eventually I muster up the courage to talk out loud, but even still, I apologize profusely at the end of every sentence. My therapist sits and listens, and encourages me to keep going. But it’s dumb, I tell her. I’m not good at talking. She reminds me not to judge myself. She reminds me that there’s no such thing as being good at talking.
I’ve reached a minimal level of comfort with my therapist, a level at which I don’t always feel so afraid to speak out loud. She never judges me. She never calls me dumb. Sometimes it takes a while for us to translate what I’m saying, but other times she understands what I mean right away.
But how can I take that out in the real world? How can I get people to understand how hard it is for me to communicate my thoughts, to communicate my needs?
I need patience and understanding. Society doesn’t have time for that.