Wednesday, September 30, 2009


August marked my transition to a new school. I had spent two previous years studying political science at a different university, but after realizing that just wasn't the life for me, I transferred in order to study a science that has interested me since the second grade - meteorology. Academically, I am much happier. But socially...

The first semester at my previous school was terrible. Before I went, I had this idea in my head that I wouldn't make the same anti-social mistakes in college as I had in high school. It would be easy to make friends and become involved in the campus community if I just acted like I was completely okay with my speech impediment. But it wasn't like that at all.

I didn't make friends with anyone until near the end of the first semester. I wasn't even friends with my roommate. I spent the majority of my time in my room watching movies on my laptop. I was reluctant to go out and do anything for fear of feeling even more lonely (eating by oneself can be quite depressing). I ended up becoming roommates with the girl I befriended toward the end of that semester, and as a result made a few more friends who lived on the floor I'd moved to.

The second year at that school was a little better. I lived with the girl who had lived across the hall from me the second semester, and we decided to share a room our sophomore year. It was a pretty good year for me socially - I was a member of numerous clubs, had people to hang out with, and didn't feel the loneliness I had previously.

Now I'm at a new school, and I'm going through all that again. I really honestly thought it wouldn't be that bad this time around. I'm only an hour away from my old school, and already knew people here. But I'm so incredibly lonely despite that.

It really saddens me to say that my speech impediment holds me back as much as it does. I'm 22 and have been dealing with it my whole life. I really want to have the courage to live as though I've come to terms with it. However, I'm starting to think that it's just not going to happen. Not being able to socialize with people the way I would like to makes me absolutely miserable. All I want is to be able to go up to a stranger and start a conversation without this disability playing such a defining role.

I'm worried that my entire life will end up like my college years. :(

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Speech & Life

Disclaimer: I am NOT a poet, and I'm not pretending to be. I suck at poetry. That said, here's a poem I wrote. Sorry about the quality, lol.

trapped in a cocoon of angst and regrets
everything i reach for passes 'fore i can grasp it

i watch as my ideas become real
though it isn't i that drew them

life plays out behind my eyes
and clouds over what my true breath is like

where is my fix? is there a fix?
i hope without hope but yearn nontheless

i want to be me but fear holds me back
irrational fear that runs beside normalcy

A New Post...Finally

I really wish I posted to this blog more often. It really is meditative to write about how I feel and deal with, I just tend to put if off a lot.

Everything's been decently well lately, except I'm becoming increasingly unhappy for a number of reasons. It's probably due to the birth control I'm on, but who knows. I am happy to have decided to transfer schools and study meteorology instead of political science. Poli.Sci. is good and all, but I want to be able to better apply my knowledge to something scientific. I think this will be a change for the better.

As soon as fall break is over, I'm going to contact my school's speech and hearing center. I think it's time I find out if I can do something about my impediment or not. I've been putting if off because I want to pretend it doesn't exist, but it's very real. I'll put up a new post as soon as I find anything out. I think I'm actually more nervous that if there is a program I could be a part of the treatment wouldn't work, than actually going into the program to begin with.

I'm also very proud of myself for a big step I took lately. I'm starting a vegetarian student organization on campus, which means putting myself in front of people and working on my leadership skills. The first meeting went extremely well. Proof that even with a speech impediment, one can still be in charge.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Listening to myself

I used to cringe whenever I'd hear myself on a tape or in a video. I've managed to avoid video cameras and recorders alike for years. When I was in the 8th grade, myself and a partner (who was less than happy to be forced to work with someone who couldn't talk properly, and made it widely known) had to participate in a Spanish project where we made a weather forecast in Spanish, and it was to be recorded by our teacher. I remember sitting with my back to the television while the class was watching all the various group's takes.

Last night, my roommate followed me around the room with her video camera as I was cleaning. Although I knew it was likely that she would upload the videos to Facebook, I still spoke to her while she recorded. When I watched the videos she had taken, I was surprised to learn that I didn't cringe while hearing myself talk. I also realized that my speech impediment isn't quite as bad as I always imagine it is, although there were a few times when even I had trouble understanding myself.

I think, using recording and video, could aid people with speech impediments in improving the way we talk. By watching these videos of myself, I found out where a lot of my problems are, and what specific words I should work on.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How I Deal With It

I received a comment on my post Maybe the best isn't always the best? and wanted to respond to it. Here's the comment:
I know exactly the feeling you're talking about.

I have pretty much the same problem.

How do you deal with the psychological impact? I have tried psychotherapy but that was pretty useless.
I've been dealing with the stress and psychological impact myself since I was little. I've never been to a therapist (although, since my school offers therapy for free, I've been considering trying it), and my surprisingly optimistic moods is the result of a combination of methods I use.

That's not to say I'm always happy, because I most certainly am not, but I've realized that being happy is worth the effort. Here's a few methods I use to boost my mood, not stress out when I have to do something like present information in front of a group of people, and calm my mind overall:
  • Meditation. Meditation has helped me, and is probably the most important thing I've ever done for the psychological impact growing up with a speech impediment has caused me. It's incredibly easy to do. Find a quiet place to sit, and count your breaths. Or use any other method of meditation. More Info
  • A supportive group of family and friends. This is pretty obvious. You need someone to talk to. I used to have a problem with bringing up issues I was having with people I was close to because I was embarrassed, but you'll never be able to be happy if you have a lot of internal issues that you're keeping entirely to yourself.
  • An outlet. Find something that makes you happy. Painting, writing, sports, whatever. Be passionate about it. Then, if you're having a particularly bad day, you'll have something to make you happy.
  • Exercise and athletics. I have never been an athletic person. I always hated P.E., never participated in sports, but I changed a bit once I got to college. I joined the fencing club, became more athletic, and work out every day. My moods have improved, I'm happier, and I have nearly no stress.
  • Religion. This won't apply to everyone. I think my Buddhist belief in impermanence has really helped me a lot to see that trivial insults and daily problems don't matter, because it won't last forever. I'm not an expert on other religions, such as Hinduism or Christianity, but a lot of people seem to pull a lot of faith from their respective religions.
That's all the advice I can give for now. If anyone has any more tips, please post them in the comments.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Socially Inept

I feel so socially inept sometimes. It's like when I'm around people, any little bit of social skills I might have once had completely disappear. It's rather disappointing, especially since I want to meet new people. Most of the problem is that I simply have no clue as to how to start or continue a conversation. I've read a large bit of self-help essays on the web about how to gain better social skills, and they haven't really helped me all that much. A part of me feels that it's due to the fear of not being taken seriously due to the way I talk, but I also think it may be because I shut myself off in middle school, when I decided to become a loner.

Anyone have any tips they'd like to share?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Maybe the best isn't always the best?

It's been a long time since I've last posted, but I really didn't feel like I could write unique posts every week. But I'm going to try something a little different. I want to continue writing about my experiences (because it gives me a place to vent or rethink things that have happened), but I want to do two new things. I believe I asked this before, but if anyone has their own story to share, please email me at karmalily [at] gmail [dot] com. I won't open attachments, so post your story in the email rather than in a MS Word document, and I'll post it here on What Did You Say?. The other new addition is going to be more information regarding speech impediments in general. I'm not going to pound everyone with a lot of scientific information, but a little knowledge is important.

Anyway, since that's all out of the way, onto the post. Even though I'm getting a little braver at speaking in front of crowds/classes, I still get nervous about it. In one of my classes today, our professor returned the last exams we had taken. Instead of him going over the answers as usual, the person who received the highest score was made to stand in front of the class and go through the answers, as well as another student or two reading their essay questions to the class.

As soon as he said this would be a new policy in the class, I quietly freaked out inside. Not cool. Of course, every time I have little freak-out sessions in my head over stuff involving my anxiety about public speaking, I get mad at myself, so that didn't make me feel any better.

The thing that really disturbed me was that one of my first thoughts was that I didn't want the highest grade in the class next time. I felt like I'd rather come in no more than second best rather than have people stare at me (or have me thinking they're staring at me).

That's a serious problem. I'll never succeed in life with this kind of thinking. I know I need to work on coming to terms with the way I speak, and I really, really want to, but whenever I think I'm finally getting over it I end up like this.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

How much longer?

I love this blog. It gives me a place to talk about the one thing that has been so troublesome in my life. But I'm starting to think that I'm not going to be able to continue it. I just feel like there's not enough going on to keep an active blog up and running. So I might still post from time to time, but don't look forward to much. I'm sorry to everyone who's got something out of this project.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Class Participation

One of the biggest education-related projects that I've ever had to deal with was class participation. A lot of the teachers I've had between high school and college count participation as a major portion of our grade. I remember not doing entire projects in high school because I was scared of having to present it to the class. Which consequentially led to my not doing well. It seems to have changed a little bit in college, although I still feel traces of it. For example, today in English, I didn't have a bit of problem talking about a short story I had read. However, in history, I felt as though I was reluctant to speak out in class. Like anything, I guess, it changes from situation to situation. Looking back, I sort of see a difference in that in English all eyes were on me. However, in history is was a call-out-the-answer sort of deal. It's funny; I thought it would be the opposite. Most of the time it's more difficult when everyone is staring at you, but I seem to do better that way.

I still haven't received any personal stories. Please don't be shy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tell Your Own Story

Instead of writing a post today, I would very much like to extend an invitation to my readers. I would love to hear about some of your own experiences concerning speech disorders, whether you have one yourself or if you know someone living with one.

If you would like to submit a story, please email it to me at karmalily at gmail dot com. Please note that I do not open attachments.

Monday, August 20, 2007

H.S. Debates

Most speech disorder sufferers hate giving public presentations, or even just speaking in front of other people. I'm usually the same way. But my senior debate in high school was different. I loved it. I was one of two people on our team; most had three. The topic we had wasn't the most exciting. "Should people be able to legally sell organs". My partner was a friend of mine, and he refused to do the debate, and he decided that he wanted to do the opening and closing. Which left me to the debating. We had done a lot of great research, and I was fully prepared. The room was full of people (and it wasn't a small room), but nonetheless I got up to the podium and began. Surprisingly, I wasn't at all nervous or jittery. I spoke slowly and as plainly as I could. In the end we won the debate.

It proved to me that, despite this impediment, I could still give presentations without ridicule, and that I enjoyed it. I'm hoping to hone my skills in college.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


A while back I came across a website that described a typical school day for someone with a speech impediment. I can't remember what site it was, but they made point that even a simple game of popcorn can be torture.

Before I go any further, I'm tell you about popcorn in case I'm not using its proper name. When I was in high school, we played a game every once in awhile where we'd use a passage from the text book and take turns reading it. We'd either go in a straight line down the rows or else the last person to read would be able to pick who would read next.

Anyway, the site told a story of how such a "game" puts people with speech disorders in a very uncomfortable position. People tend to read ahead instead of reading along so that when it's their turn they'll have a head start. Maybe they won't sound so silly if they do so. By doing that they lose any comprehension of what is being read, along with becoming a bundle of nerves.

I can't even begin to fathom how many times that happened to me. I remember once in my 12th grade AP English class when we were playing. Just like that website said, I did read ahead. I had no idea what the hell I was reading, but I practically studied every word on the rest of the page. Every time someone other than me was called I felt relieved, but I instantly got nervous again. What if I was next? So I would reread the next paragraph again.

I feel sorry for anyone else having to experience that. It really was torture, albeit one that didn't leave any physical scars. Although I think that oral communication skills are important for students to learn, I think to much emphasis is placed on forcing students to read aloud. From experience, I've realized that many of the students don't pay attention, other students get nervous, and when a student does make a mistake they get teased. I was reading a question in biology once when I thought I was about to sneeze, so I paused for a second, right in front of the word "Darwin". Everyone thought I couldn't understand that word. I didn't live that down for awhile.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Worst Two Years of My Life

The class I was in throughout elementary school was super-small - 15 students. The smallest in the district. So I didn't have much of a problem with the other students; we all knew one another and we were all friends. Middle school changed everything - for the worse.

Right from the start I realized it wasn't going to be easy making friends, and it had nothing at all to do with my speech impediment. It was my obsession with Hanson, which I look back on as being a mixture of pitiful and comical. I wore a Hanson t-shirt everyday, and since by that time they were no longer cool, I was the target for a lot of ridicule. Eventually I caught on and bought some new clothes, but I still didn't have many friends. The other students had decided that I was just too weird.

When I stopped wearing the t-shirts everyday, people stopped teasing me about it. But I guess they felt bad for ignoring me because they started on my speech. My voice was constantly likened to one girl's four-year-old sister, and I quickly got used to people mocking me in fake lisps.

In the middle of seventh grade, however, I did make one friend, who remained my best friend until high school. Between her and the two friends I had remained with since elementary school, I did have someone to talk to, but I still felt like an outcast, especially since none of their other friends approved of me. So I got left out of group outings a lot.

Everything changed when we started high school. I guess it was because some of my peers had matured, or maybe they just got bored with me and started looking for someone new. I wasn't particularly fond of high school, but it was a hell of a lot better than jr. high. I just hope college works out all right.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Trying to post one blog per day while moving and taking care of little last minute details is nearly impossible! I'm terribly sorry about not posting anything over the last week.

I've finished moving into school, and since I'm not feeling overly-well (prescribed medication showing me who's boss), I'm relaxing in my room until we have a hall meeting.

Something I've noticed about people's general reactions to my speech impediment is quite interesting. It seems to me that the older the person is, the more they're caught off-guard. Most of my peers at school with me don't seem to really care that much that I talk differently. I've never had anyone ask me more than "Where are you from?". However, older people usually give me a strange look when I first open my mouth, or just stare at me. (Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that the administrators at this school have stared at me humorously- just adults in general.) I've tried to figure out why that may be, but I'm at a loss. Has anyone got any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Phone troubles

I've never liked using the telephone. And it's for reasons besides having a speech impediment: I hate not being able to see the face of the person I'm talking to, and it makes a conversation less personal. I use both my house and cell phones only for necessities, like making appointments and talking to tech support.

Every time I pick up the phone, I become a little nervous. I know it's hard to understand me in person, but speaking to someone on the phone presents a whole new problem. I think it's easier to comprehend someone when you can see their mouth move and their mannerisms while they're talking.

A few weeks ago I had to call Verizon to fix a billing problem. I had to repeat my account number almost seven times because the representative couldn't understand me. Eventually she just put me on hold and transfered me to another department, who then told me they couldn't take care of it and gave me the number for the first representative I spoke to. It got so frustrating that I just hung up.

It's because of experiences like that that makes me do almost everything in person or online. I always choose to use live help chats over calling tech support; instead of calling my high school to ask for a transcript to be sent, I actually go to the school and ask for it in person; etc..

Another problem I have with phones is the new way of patching you through to people. I've only used it once or twice. Instead of pressing a number to get what you want, you have to say it. Last time I was forced to use that system, they had to patch me through to an actual person. But I imagine I'm not the only one that has a problem with that; people with heavy accents probably get frustrated with it too. And that goes with using the phones too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How do people see you?

The one thing that has always bothered me the most about having a speech impediment is people's first impression of me. A lot of people say that first impressions are super-important, and that it's harder to change someone's opinion of you than to just make a good first impression. When meeting someone for the first time, it's usually on my mind.

I work at a small store as a cashier, and people seem to be generally surprised when I open my mouth to speak. I can't tell you how many times I'm asked "Where are you from?". And I also meet a lot of condescending people who treat me like a child because I sound like one.

Those are the people I hate the most. I'm always terrified that people think there's something mentally wrong with me. I mean, once people start talking to me in conversation form, they usually realize there isn't, but like I said before, first impressions count.

A perfect example happened a few days ago. It was super-hot, in the upper 90s (I work outdoors), and the heat was getting to me. I started ringing a woman up, and fumbled my way through her change. I think I gave her the wrong change almost three times. When I said I was sorry and sort of mumbled something about the heat, she said, "It's okay sweety", like you would to a child who just feel and busted her knee.

Writing about it now, I think I may be over exaggerating a bit. Maybe I just imagined she was being condescending to me since most people are. It's so hard to distinguish sometimes.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Famous People With Speech Impediments

While reading Wikipedia's article on speech disorders, I came across a list of famous people who have (or had) some kind of impediment. I was surprised by a couple of them, since I hadn't noticed. This isn't the whole list since I decided to exclude the cartoon characters, as well as a couple of not-so-well know people.
  • Humphrey Bogart (lisp)
  • Truman Capote (lisp)
  • Winston Churchill (lisp, cluttering, stutter)
  • Roman Emperor Claudius (stutter)
  • Thomas Jefferson (lisp)
  • Stephen Jenkins, Third Eye Blind (rhotacism)
  • James Earl Jones (stutter)
  • Jim Jones (lisp)
  • Robert Kennedy (spasmodic dysphonia)
  • Marilyn Monroe (stutter)
  • Joe Strummer, The Clash (rhotacism)
  • Barbara Walters (rhotacism, lisp)
  • Bruce Willis (stutter)
  • Tiger Woods (stutter)
  • Anthony Kiedis (lisp)
There's another list on this page if you scroll down: Famous People With Disabilities

I think I should also explain some of the above words in case you're not familiar with them (most from Encarta's dictionary tool):

Rhotacism: unusual pronunciation of the letter "r," or too much emphasis on this sound
the sound produced when "s" and "z" are pronounced like the soft "th" sound in "third" or "thick"
Stutter: to say something haltingly, repeating sounds frequently when attempting to pronounce them, either from nervousness or as the result of a speech disorder
Cluttering: words run together rapidly
Spasmodic Dysphonia: involuntary movements of one or more muscles of the voice box

Little Chinese Girl

Practically every child gets taunted or bullied in some way, even if it's minor. Luckily, I never got it that badly. I guess it could have been because I was part of such a small elementary school; everyone literally knew everyone else. However, I did experience some ridicule when I was between the first and third grades.

The first thing I ever remember someone saying to me about my speech was sometime in the first grade. The older children decided to nickname me "the little Chinese girl". It didn't last long, maybe one or two years at most, but I do think it left some kind of impact on me (especially considering I'm remembering and writing about it 15 years later), albeit a relatively small impact. After all, it's not what made me become practically silent later on. In kindergarten and the first/second grades, I used to get notes on my report card telling my parents that I talked too much in class.

Looking back, I think I understand something about how slowly something can affect you. Like I said above, the "Little Chinese Girl" comments didn't have an immediate effect on me, although I might have realized that there was something a little different about me. However, I think the reason I became so withdrawn over time was due to sheer overload of taunts and comments I'd received as time went on.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


Since this is the beginning of what I hope will be a successful and enlightening blogging experience, I think I should start off with a short introduction of myself and my goals.

My name is Lily, I'm 20, and from a small town in the eastern United States. Most of my interests tend to fall into the social studies category; political science, history, current events, international relations, and activism. Personality-wise, I'm relatively quiet, determined, calm, resourceful, peaceful, and friendly. This fall, I'm a freshman at a small university, where I'm majoring in political science and thinking about minoring in either environmental studies or international relations/development.

I've had a speech impediment my entire life, despite pretty much growing up in speech therapy classes. It's created a strain on my life, but at the same time I think it forced me to grow in other ways that I otherwise would have been oblivious to. Although I'd do anything to be able to communicate normally, I'm thankful that I had the experience of having to struggle with something more substantial than bad hair days and boy trouble.

There were a few reasons for me starting this blog. First of all, I wanted a place to vent. It's frustrating when people cannot understand you, and most of the people closest to me wouldn't understand since they don't have a problem with it (I'll explain in a future post). Second, I wanted to have a place where I could communicate with others experiencing the same problems, and come into contact with good advice and resources. And, most importantly, to inform people living with speech impediments that they aren't alone.