Enlighten blog series – Part 1 – Selective Mutism

As we start 2021 I feel hope and a collective togetherness. Last year has made us reassess and try to navigate the new normal.  At South Staffordshire Network for Mental Health we have opened the floor to individuals who have everyday struggles.  This new blog series is called:

Enlighten

Jessica one of our volunteers has kindly written a blog that highlight’s the struggles with living with Selective Mutism.  Read on and I hope this will give you more insight into this misunderstood condition:

It’s hard to say out loud because of people’s prejudgement. If you are unaware, selective mutism (SM) is a form of social anxiety, more common in younger children, which prevents the sufferer to speak in certain social situations.

I was diagnosed with SM and severe anxiety at the age of 7. It was a tough time, not being able to speak at school and in social situations also not really having any friends.

I couldn’t communicate with family outside of my parents and my one set of grandparents.

Friends, family and just strangers just assumed I was a rude or just a shy child when it was way more than that.

Imagine having the lowest confidence in the world, and the way people deal with that is by moaning that you’re rude. When I grew up, I wanted to be able to talk to people. I wanted to feel understood and I wanted to be able to answer all those questions I couldn’t answer when I was younger.

I dreamed of what I would say when I could, and how I would help people to understand. But this is something people wouldn’t know how you truly feel unless they have gone through it too.

People would ask me questions and I would feel my throat and chest getting tighter no matter how hard I tried to get the words to come out of my mouth. It felt like the words were physically stuck.

SM isn’t something you grow out of like shy children often do is only likely to make things worse. The earlier a child is identified as being a selective mute, and given ways to manage their anxiety, the better.

Even though I was diagnosed quite young I was still unable to talk at school. I started to whisper when I was in secondary school. In my later teen years, I also started to suffer with depression. I think this was partly due to the way I have been treated by my peers and individuals in this part of my life.

I am learning that all of this is okay. Whether I can or can’t talk; whether people like it or they don’t; whether I am understood or judged harshly what really matters is how I feel inside and acknowledging how far I have come.

Today, I still find it difficult to talk. Words still get stuck on their way out, and sometimes I feel like I lose them completely. Sometimes what I want to say comes out as something that doesn’t quite sound like I wanted it to. Sometimes, words just fall out of my mouth, and they don’t appear to make any sense.

Other times I still can’t say anything at all.

Even after everything I have been through I wouldn’t want to change it as it has made me the person I am today.

Words by Jessica Yapp