Sometimes, when I am very stressed or in the midst of dealing with ghosts from the past, I stutter. This used to be a real problem for me. I also had a lisp. I saw a speech therapist for a short time when I was very young. And it also led to many opportunities for me to show the bullies why it was not a particularly good idea for them to pick on me. But teasing hurts. Which led to me not talking much. Or I would pace myself so it didn’t show up as much. It was not a constant thing and definitely more prominent during times of traumatic experience. But it was still there.
After my father died and we moved to Texas my mother bought a house that saved me. Well the fact that the bathroom had fabulous acoustics actually saved me. My father had died and the majority of the ongoing trauma died with him. But I still had the stutter and the lisp. And this is how the bathroom saved me. Everyday after school when there was a lull between anyone else coming home and my coming home, I would read out loud in the bathroom. I could hear myself clearly and listen for the shape of the words. I read Jane Eyre out loud in the bathroom until I had the stutter under control.
The depth of the language and shaping of the words enabled me to be able to overcome that particular obstacle. It was also an amazing feat since in reality I had only been reading for about four years at that point. Up until the fourth grade I had been just barely getting by in the reading department. But again I kept practicing and reading until viola I could read Jane Eyre. And pretty much anything else that was put in front of me. It was how I escaped the horrors of my life and stayed sane.
The other night I started to stutter again. There is a lot going on in my life and I had been having a particularly hard time with nightmares. While talking to my children I could not get out the words that I wanted to say. I started to panic. It is kind of a claustrophobic feeling to not be able to talk. To not be able to express the things that you are feeling. It creates a sense of being trapped. I took a moment to think and try to get past the feeling and relax so that the words could come out. I stayed silent and let the breathing ease my thoughts back into a place that was calm. And then I slowly began to finish what I was saying.
There are fewer and fewer times when I feel my ability to speak slip away. Being able to remember how to stay calm and speak slowly has helped. As has the knowledge of breathing and being mindful of what is happening around me at that very second. And not the panic that is trying come from the past. Right now at this very minute there is no threat, there is only me and the sounds of the cars driving past and the sound of the keys as I type. In this moment I can speak and not stutter, be free of any traps, and allow myself to just be at peace.
Reading to escape, again. I have found myself reading more of what I want to read and less of what I need to read. I am still in school and find that when I reach this level of feeling overwhelmed I just want to escape. The whole wait until I finish the course thing does not work. I want to escape and I want it now. Fiction preferably, something that does not make me cry. Something that sends all those happy thoughts and feelings into play would be good. Like reading a good love story. Or any book that ends with a happy ending. Anything that is not related to school. Which is what got me stressed in the first placed.
So, though I should be reading and writing papers I find myself reading other things. I do go back to work. I know I should be focused. I just want to escape all the things that worry me. I just want to be free to lie on the couch and read and eat bonbons. Let the sun shine on me through the window. Hear the gentle strains of relaxing music playing in the background. While I am daydreaming this I may as well ask for meals I don’t have to cook and a clean kitchen I didn’t have to clean.
Today is a day I wish to escape from. But I can’t. I have to work on my studies and get them finished. I am trying to escape and not face the many things that are always there. Some escape is good. But not today. Today I have to work my little behind off and finish all the work I put off by escaping yesterday. Today I am the little engine that could and I will work through all the papers and get the reading done. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
Then tomorrow, when all this is done and the work is finished, I have a book to read.
I get lost in books. I go to them when I am overcome with pain and sorrow. I go to them when the world becomes too much to bear. When the depression creates a loss in my heart that I can not fill in any way. I open a book. It takes me to places outside of my life. To places that I have not been. Or sometimes I am returning to after a long time away. I open a book and I am gone. My mind distracted from the pain of the past and the depression that comes in like a hungry wolf at my door. They have always been my comfort.
I did not learn to read until I was in fourth grade. I could read but I couldn’t READ. It was a struggle. Words were there but they did not make much sense. And then one day while working with at tutor they became something different. They became a key that opened up a door to a place that would save me. Somewhere to throw my mind to in dark painful times. A place to hide in while horrible things happened to my body.
And now they are places to go when the depression comes and tries to eat my soul. It is where I turn when I am feeling alone in a crowd of people. I sometimes feel like I fight tenaciously to stay in the book and not come into the real things. Like caring for myself or others.
But they are also places that lift me from where I am. A good story can lift me from the darkness. A lovely romantic story and I filled with the lightness of a good story. An adventure to the ends of the world and I am filled with a sense of adventure. I allow the books into my heart.
I have also found healing in books. Books that help me to understand why my brain reacts the way it does. Books that explain why the trauma has held such a hold on me. And how I can move beyond that grasp. Books like Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky and The Body Remembers by Babette Rothschild or The Mindful Path To Self-Compassion by Christopher Germer have given me such knowledge of myself and the things I am going through. There truly is a book for every occasion. And knowledge of myself has given me a sense of empowerment that I have never felt before.