I wanted to start sharing the remarkable stories of adults, young adults and children grappling with the severe social anxiety disorder called Selective Mutism in hopefully what would be a series of guest posts.
My first guest post comes from Meagan, who has her own YouTube Channel to help her tell her story. She has agreed to tell me her story so I can share with the families who read my blog.
I am quite honored that she came forward to help others understand how selective mutism has affected her childhood, her struggles and triumphs and how she continues to navigate through life with the challenge of selective mutism. There is an abundance of information regarding selective mutism in children now and the outcomes are much more positive, whereas, not so long ago, it was a poorly understood and frequently mishandled condition.
My life with Selective Mutism, by Meagan
I used to be five years old.
I started kindergarten in 1987. My teacher, the counselor, and the other students saw my failure to speak as a refusal to participate. I wanted more than anything to speak but the words just wouldn’t come out. They called me a disciplinary problem. I thought I was just a quiet and anxious little kid. My mother told them she couldn’t afford a therapist. This debate continued till I was in high school. Then my mom left my problems to me.
I used to be seven.
I had repeated first grade and stopped talking to my oldest sister. I have failed to speak to her since then. The list of family members I couldn’t speak to grew longer in the following years.
I used to be twelve.
I had sung in front of several crowds with my classmates. The final crowd was the entire student body. Instead of praise I received sarcastic feedback like “Oh so you’ll sing but you won’t talk.” The following school quarter, I left the choir.
I used to be sixteen.
I had started my freshman year of high school. During my entire high school career I got what I wanted, no attention. But I also got something I didn’t want…anxiety attacks. The attacks continued throughout my high school years. They eventually impeded my work performance and my attendance slipped. The attacks got so bad that I eventually quit after my junior year was over.
I used to be nineteen.
It was 2001 and I was working at my first job with my mom. She had told her coworkers that I didn’t talk in school. Big mistake. After I started as a data entry clerk, I couldn’t see the point of talking to anyone there. The way I saw it they already had a preconceived notion of what I was like. My mom repeated two words to me that she remembered in her debate with the counselors and teachers “Selective Mutism.” A year and a half later and I was laid off from the only job I’ve ever had.
I used to be twenty-two.
I started college in 2004. Every word that I spoke I considered an accomplishment. I’d tell my mom my day was good when I had an opportunity to speak in any of my classes. My first semester flew by and I started the next with online classes. After an overwhelming year of online classes I left.
I am twenty-eight years old.
My name is Meagan. I deal with Selective Mutism. I’ve been unemployed since 2002 and have no current prospects. I fill my time with music, online friends, and books. Writing became my only way of communicating at a very young age. This has evolved into emails and instant messages.
The failure to speak does not suit me. The more I want to talk to the people I love and care about the more I feel like a disappointment when they are around. My voice stops in my throat. The only way to ease this tension is to let go of the idea that I may ever talk to them. Some of them have never heard my voice. Other family members I just stopped speaking to at a very young age.
My mom raised me on her over generous, you win some you lose some, philosophy. It took both of my older sisters longer to realize how much our mom has done for us, but they figured that out eventually. She’s been my best friend and I can only hope that I’ll be able to take care of myself without her guidance someday. The most my mom has ever done for me is take care of herself. She never did that before a few years ago. My mom has held back on enabling my behavior for the past eight years. She basically stopped doing some things for me. The best thing she ever did was put a name to my failure of speaking.
Some things have changed. I can walk into a store and buy groceries without my mother. I can walk into the BMV and renew my driving permit. I can order my own meals when I’m with the people that I can talk to (that remains a short list). Now that I’m old enough I can walk into a Winery and take care of the wine list for a party on my own. I actually enjoy parties now, which I didn’t use to.
How I do all of the above is beyond what I thought I could do. I’m realizing a bit at a time what I am capable and not yet capable of. Journaling has become my auto therapist. I often write about my goals and then rewrite them. It puts reality on a level I can understand. Passing my time with learning new songs on the piano and recently taking up the violin gives me something I can stretch out with and relieve some of the tension I carry around with me. I can just be. I suppose music is my meditation.
I’d like to tell parents what they could do for their kids but I can’t because I’m not a parent. I just wish I could tell these kids that are dealing with Selective Mutism what they can do for themselves. The one thing I’ve learned to do is take care of myself, because that is part of survival. I may never work in a traditional 9 to 5 job; again, it was so stressful I would have panic attacks on a weekly basis. The way my college classes were scheduled, I learned how much interaction I could stand and for how long. I have alternatives as so many of us do. Knowing yourself and knowing what you are capable of can be empowering and overwhelming. I still worry about my future but I always come back to what I’m doing today. I’m helping myself.
For more information about selective mutism please check out these links -
If anyone would care to submit a guest post regarding their selective mutism story or their child’s selective mutism story, please drop me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org