My Name is Sharon, and I Have a Disability | Teen Ink

My Name is Sharon, and I Have a Disability

August 20, 2019
By sharonberries BRONZE, Old Tappan, New Jersey
sharonberries BRONZE, Old Tappan, New Jersey
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Hi, nice to meet you!  My name is Sharon, and I have a disability,” said no one ever. 

You’re supposed to say: “My name is Sharon; it’s nice to meet you!” and only that. And if you want, you can say something like “I like to play sports” or “I also like listening to music” or another conversation starter, but mentioning your disability isn’t appropriate. So of course I say what anyone else would say. Then I act normal, but I don’t sound normal. Why? Because I’m one of the millions of people worldwide who suffer from invisible disabilities. Invisible disabilities are disabilities that aren’t immediately apparent to others. You probably know someone who has one, but aren’t aware of it. I say that because the World Health Organization estimates that worldwide, about one billion people have a medical condition which could be considered a type of invisible disability.

Regardless of what I say or how I introduce myself, inevitably all anyone hears is my voice skipping a vocal track. My words sputter and stall like a car that won’t start. And then that feeling comes. It’s uncontrollable: the sudden wave of embarrassment, self-hatred, and anxiety, as I awkwardly try to mumble “m-my” and “n-n-name.” I’m taken out of my body and as an onlooker, I cringe at the poor soul listening to me, who is usually embarrassed for me and trying to be patient while I remain unable to finish a simple sentence. 

There you have it, I stutter. And while a quick Google search tells me how many millions of other people stutter (did you know that Marilyn Monroe had a stutter?) that doesn’t help me shake my  feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness. Over the years I’ve learned to adapt. I pray not to be called on in class. At restaurants I only order food I can pronounce without stuttering. Forget about asking for a le-le-lemonade or extra k-k-ketchup. Those two words, among many others, were on my list of  the words I never, no matter how hard I tried, could get out without revealing my stutter. 

For most, speaking is something you just do without giving it much thought. Growing up, I envied my friends saying whatever they wanted to say, whenever they wanted to say it. They cracked jokes at exactly the right moments, gave amazing class presentations, and conversed with people like it was no big ideal. And why wouldn’t they? I’ve come to accept that. I’ve also learned to understand that everyone has something they dislike about themselves. Some will stutter, some will not. Some are shy, others are impulsive, blurting out things without thinking. At times my stuttering has been a blessing in disguise. 

I’m not saying I love my stutter. I don’t. I don’t entirely hate it either. I’ve accepted it, but not embraced it. An event in kindergarten is my first memory of being different. My friends and I were playing and all was going well until a girl sighed and blurted out, “Why are you talking like that? It’s so weird. Talk normal now.” I tried to understand her, I really did. She didn’t know any better, but the damage was done. All I remember is that I came home that day crying and feeling ashamed. I would learn to get used to both feelings. The thought that I was incompetent in something as simple as talking also haunted me. I cannot forget the nights I spent trying to make myself “normal” by reading books out loud, playing out fake conversations in the shower, but ultimately crying and screaming from frustration. I still have those days. I’ve managed to hide my stuttering, but more importantly, I've learned that I’m not the only one who hides their disability. Billions of people around the world suffer from hidden disabilities. Worldwide more than 70 million people stutter. Yet they’re only one percent of those with hidden disabilities. Millions more have health issues like chronic pain, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, cancer, allergies, chronic fatigue, HIV, or a mental illness they hide. We all suffer in our own ways.

Why am I sharing this information? Because while I struggle with my words, your words have the power to change me. That’s why I want you to  help—not by curing my stuttering or anyone else’s medical condition, but by simply speaking to me. Ironically, it’s not my words, but yours, that will make the biggest difference in my life. 

Speak words of kindness. Speak words of patience. Speak acceptance and understanding. No matter how simple, short, or small your words of kindness are, they will make a huge difference in the lives of those you meet who cannot speak as eloquently. 

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This article has 1 comment.

on Oct. 29 2019 at 9:15 am
SergeantSteel82 GOLD, Fort Wayne, Indiana
10 articles 0 photos 30 comments

Favorite Quote:
one of the greatest tragedies of our time is this impression that has been created that science and religion have to be at war.
-Francis Collins

I may never let go of my anger and wrath,
But I will always have the last laugh.
-Corey Taylor

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

You did an amazing job on this article! I can feel the emotions you are trying to display and I understand exactly where you are coming from. On top of everything else, your first article got an Editor's Choice badge! That is not easy at all, very good job, and I hope to see more of your writing in the future, you are a very talented writer!