Alright, breathe, just breathe don’t screw up or they’ll be screaming at you, they’re going to find out you can’t handle this and send you home. Ok breathe, the Petty Officers gonna call your name any second now all you have to do is say “Here Petty Officer!!” And yell your social. Ok breathe…

“KARN, BRENT!!!”

”HERE PETTY OFFICER…”

“Oh thank God”, ok now grab your bag and go call home, you did it ok relax, you can do this, you wanted this your whole life, and a stutter isn’t going to stop you now.

This was my first day in the Navy. Right off the bus we where yelled at, told we are “dumbasses” and “worthless”. While in my head I was feeling “What the hell did I get myself into”, yet also ecstatic to be on my own starting my life.

Something I never talk about, something I’ve been embarrassed about my whole life is that when I’m nervous or under a lot of pressure I can’t spit out my words. Literally I open my mouth and if it’s a word with an A, E, or I sound I can’t for the life of me spit it out. While I can work around certain words now I know I will never be free of this condition.

 

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I remember one time my family was going to see that years summer hit movie “Armageddon”. I remember we where running late and my dad told me to hop out and get the tickets. I was so scared not to go stand in line but to go up to someone and say “Armageddon” I couldn’t do it, I tried practicing in line but absolutely nothing came out. I was almost to the front, and literally beads of sweat where forming on my forehead. Ok it’s my turn I walked up to the glass with this cool looking guy probably in college who wouldn’t understand what the hell I was doing or trying to say. I put my dads money on the counter and said

“Could I get 2 Ad.. 2 Adu…,” OH NO!! I was thinking in my head this is so embarrassing. “Could I get 4 kids and 2 parents tickets to A.!. for Ar..”

“For Armageddon?” the young guy said taking pity on me

“Yes, thanks” I gave him the money and smiled apologetically secretly praising him for helping me out. I could relax now and not have to talk the rest of the night, silently wishing I could someday find my voice.

School was never very fun for me. I was raised on sports and watching TV, so having to sit still for hours at a time drove me crazy. From middle school to my junior year in high school English was my least favorite subject. It wasn’t because of writing papers or using proper punctuation and grammar but all the reading aloud we had to do. When we would go row by row and have to read aloud my heart would start to pound the sweat would start to form on my head and under my arms. In my head I was surprised I could still breathe because I was numb all over. I would just tell myself “OK, it’s almost your turn just go as fast as you can and get it over with” but when it’s my turn my brain and my mouth loose all control and I can’t be certain what will come out. In my mind this is what everyone else is thinking.

“Geez, I didn’t know Brent couldn’t read”. I was miserable all day long afterwards, and walking though the halls I knew everyone was talking about how Brent was so stupid and how he couldn’t read one paragraph.

It all came down to having confidence in the way I talked. I could go months without having any problems with a stutter but then I wouldn’t be able to spit out one word and for the next couple months I wouldn’t hardly talk because it would always be in my mind that I was going to screw up what I said. It wasn’t until I started reading aloud to myself and hearing the words come out of my own mouth that I felt I could function normally just like everyone else.

Growing up I was the fourth of five kids, so trying to have my voice or opinion heard was pretty useless. My dad was very strict and I was always afraid to be around him. So when I was a kid I was always scared to talk aloud of fear of him putting me down, or just yelling at me for reasons that at the time I had no clue what I did wrong.

I’m not trying to place the blame on my dad but I do think he was a trigger for being afraid to talk around him and other people. And I’m still not sure if there’s a psychological imbalance in the way my brain processes words or if my vocal cords are screwed up, whatever it is I just know there is no more helpless feeling in the world then not being able to communicate like everyone else.

Over the years I’ve run across people that I could tell have a speech impediment too, sadly I compare myself to them and thank God that my speech could have been a lot worse. But I know the struggles that they have had and I could relate to what they are trying to say.

I have plenty of embarrassing stories I could share but what I really want to say is that, anyone can overcome their biggest shortcomings as long as they stay positive and keep a good outlook on life. I know having a good attitude will not fix any problem. I just know that being a positive person helps me stay calm and being kind to others makes me feel better about myself.