My old self:
I am a very quiet girl. Usually I prefer to sit on the side and not draw too much attention. Speaking is my fear. I will do anything to avoid it; whether it's running out of the room or just acting as if I don't know the answer to the question. Most of my friends know me as the girl who doesn't speak in class. Only my close friends have really heard me talk.
I don't like that people see me this way, but I guess it's better than the alternative - stuttering.
Ever since I began to speak I've had a stutter. My earliest memory of stuttering is in the 3rd grade, that's when I asked my parents to go to a speech therapist for the first time. I always thought of my stutter as something to be embarrassed of, to be ashamed of. I thought of it as a disability. Instead of facing my stutter and making the best of it, I tried to hide it and run away from it.
My new self:
I may not be the loudest or most talkative girl in the world, but I'm no longer afraid to speak.
It's not that the stutter disappeared, I just think of it in a completely different way. I learned to see my stutter as a part of me, and to embrace it. God only challenges us with challenges we are able to face, and if God gave me a stutter then I must be able to face it.
I realized that my stutter makes me unique, it makes me a more patient person and it teaches me the value of words. Over the past few years I've gone through major changes in my life and now I'm happy to say that: I have spoken in front of my class; I took an oral exam and scored very well on it; I make phone calls whenever I want to; and I even got a job which requires speaking to customers and co-workers all the time.
My journey to my new self:
As I mentioned, over the past few years I've gone through big changes that completely turned my life around in such a positive way. This process started when I first met Uri from Schneider Speech in 9th grade. I came to Uri as my old self and left just I started to reach my new self.
On my way towards my new self, I endured several setbacks alongside many victories.
Pushing me too far, too soon, was a terrible mistake.
Whether it was my speech therapist, my friends, my family or my teachers. Over the years I've had teachers who tried to force me to speak in class and on the other hand teachers who respected my request not to be called on. I definitely had a much better relationship with the teachers who respected my silence than with the teachers who did not. The teachers who gave me my space were in fact the ones who ended up hearing me speak more in class voluntarily.
Surprisingly, the teachers who gave me my space, were the ones who ended up hearing me speak more in class.
Another thing that was not helpful during those years was my own constant desire to cure my stutter. Because I was so focused on getting rid of the stutter, I didn't give myself the opportunity to learn to accept it and live happily with it. In the back of my mind I knew that I was probably going to have a stutter for the rest of my life but I wasn't willing to give up. The more I tried to get rid of the stutter the more upsetting it was every time I wasn't able to speak fluently.
I felt like a failure. But once I accepted myself with the stutter and decided I won't let it get in my way, the stutter actually got significantly better and bothered me a lot less.
As a teenager going to speech therapy, patience was the key to my transformation. I needed to be patient with myself, and I needed my speech therapist to be patient with me as well. Every big change I went through was made up of a lot of small changes that could not all happen at once.
When I first met Uri I remember telling him "I will never call to order pizza" and "I will never speak in front of my class." Uri assured me, over and over again, that one day, I could do all those things. Even though I didn't believe him, something inside me wanted to prove him right and prove me wrong.
My therapist's belief in me was more than I had in myself. I think that belief was a big part of my change.
My last meeting with Uri was at the end of 10th grade. I didn't think it would be my last meeting, I was sure I would be back again when things got hard. But once I stopped going to speech therapy I started to really think about everything that happened during our meetings.
The more time passed the more I saw myself change. I became less afraid of stuttering and slowly started to do the things I told Uri I would never do. The more time passed the more I saw myself change. I became less afraid of stuttering and slowly started to do the things I told Uri I would never do.
I was a much stronger person and when things got a little hard I didn't even feel the need to go back to speech therapy, because I was able to handle it myself.
It turns out I proved myself wrong. He was right. I could and would do so many of the things I said "I never could..." And I'm so happy I did.
Devora Levi is 18 years old. She lives in Israel and will be starting her national service this coming year.