Selective Mutism and Me

How I turned the struggles of my past into my greatest gift.


When I was two years old, my family moved from England to South Africa. It was 1981 and this was a stressful time in all of our Lives. My younger brother was only a baby. He screamed a lot back then. My Dad worked a lot. My Mum knew no-one in the big, crazy city of Johannesburg. We moved house five times in six months.

Somewhere along the way I stopped speaking outside of my immediate family.

In my early years I continued like this. When I think of it now, I see that I had a lot to say, but I couldn’t quite connect with the words. It was as though a wall in my throat prevented me from speaking – and so I communicated instead non-verbally.

The pressure to conform

Over the years, I began to feel more and more misunderstood – and there was a growing pressure from other people for me to speak. It was confusing times, and I began to lose my sense of self. On the one side, there was the external pressure to speak and fit in. On the other side there was the internal pressure to remain authentic and let my voice emerge when it was ready.

The external pressure won; I forfeited the importance of being me and instead chose to be someone who would fit in. It never really worked though – I always felt a little bit of an outsider, and a little bit unfulfilled.

My natural (and a little crazy) voice emerges

My true voice actually began to emerge in my late twenties. When it begun it was particularly confusing for me. Words would occasionally fall out of my mouth when I was faced with particular triggers. These words did not make sense – they were mostly gobble-de-gook sounding and came with energetic rushes through my body. Although this was occasional, it was a little bit weird for me as I had no idea what was going on. Sometimes it seemed I was fluent in a language that I had never before heard, but when I allowed it to happen I realised that afterward I felt a lot lighter – like I had cleared some old, stuck heaviness from deep within.

Speaking from the Heart

Once I began speaking publicly about matters that were very close to my Heart I noticed a big change. The gobble-de-gook disappeared and was replaced by my ability to more fully express myself. Gradually I noticed that my voice sounded different – it had taken on a different quality and sounded (to me) much more natural. I realised that before these past few years, a lot of what I had spoken through my life had been forced – from a squewed internal understanding that if I say these words I will be more accepted.

Being able to fully realise and express myself feels absolutely wonderful. I am still on a steep learning curve and have times that I fall back into my old patterns, but from where I have been this place I am in right now feels fabulous!

It also feels incredible to be able to share the many insights I have gained along the way – and to offer them to all ages. The creation of my books allows me to express myself in many ways – all ways which I love and which help me to feel whole. There is a written, visual and vocal element to what I can now offer the World. What an incredible gift – and journey!!

If you’d like to explore my experiences of selective mutism in greater depth, please have a look at these blog posts – or sign up to my newsletter to hear about the release of my upcoming book for adults, “I have something to say!”