I haven’t always been who I am today. For the first couple years of my life, I was a talkative and outgoing little kid with a pretty feisty personality. When I think back to my earliest years, I don’t remember ever stuttering. In fact, I was completely fluent until one night, sitting at the dinner table, everything changed. I stumbled on a word and just couldn’t make it come out. My parents were completely shocked. What’s happening? Why can’t she say the word? Overnight, my world had changed dramatically. Nothing would ever be the same.
Over the days following that night at the dinner table, everything about me changed. As a young child and early tween, my voice was relatively low and powerful. Now, with my vocal cords suddenly drawn tight with the tension from stuttering, my voice skyrocketed in pitch. Although it has deepened somewhat since then, my voice is still high for my age and nowhere near where it used to be. Some of my friends kindly asked me about the drastic change in my voice. They were genuinely confused, and of course, I couldn’t blame them. Later on, when I was probably fifteen or sixteen, a lady at a store told me that I sounded like a Disney princess. Most people would think that was a great compliment; but I left that store in tears. I was very embarrassed and insecure about my voice then. In my mind, I sounded like a little girl trapped in a teenager’s body.
Over time, God helped me accept my voice and move past my insecurities about it. I needed to stop focusing on myself and my own insecurities and start looking outward. This is the voice the Lord has given me, and I need to rejoice in that. However, I am still working on releasing some of that tension on my vocal cords so that I don’t damage them. At this point, my voice returning to its original pitch would just be an added bonus!
In addition to the voice change, my demeanor changed. The early years of stuttering were marked by tears and prayers for God to take my stutter away. I retreated into a lonely shell, virtually stopped talking to people outside close family, and shied away from most social opportunities. I went from being extroverted to painfully introverted. I traded boldness for timidity and confidence for insecurity. Again, people often remarked to my parents how much I had changed. Through the loving support of my family and help from God, I have finally learned to accept my stutter and have started opening up again. While I’m still a shy person, I firmly believe that God used those difficult years to mold me into what He wanted me to be. Don’t you love how God can take the biggest trials in our lives and somehow…someway…turn them into blessings? I no longer want to be the person I used to be when I was younger. I believe that He is using my stutter to teach me gentleness, kindness, humility, and the beauty of quiet confidence. These are lessons I need to keep learning each day.
Most of all, my stutter changed how I viewed others. Recently, I posted a thought on my Facebook page: My prayer is that my stutter never makes me stronger without first making my heart softer towards others. Life is not about making ourselves stronger. It is about strengthening and uplifting others. It is about empathizing with the struggles of others instead of only seeing our own struggles. I believe that we should have tender hearts that are never too full for someone else.
I can’t imagine life without my stutter, because without it, I wouldn’t even be who I am today. Your differences make you who you are. Embrace them.
Much love, Makenzie