I’ve often wondered how my life might look if I had not presented with selective mutism as a child.
– If I had attended my first day at nursery school and spoken to my peers and my teachers?
– If I had never struggled to answer the role?
– If a stranger had smiled at me and I answered them with a friendly “Hello!”
– If I had always been full of smiles and poses for the camera?
– If I’d jumped straight in and given things a go?
I could waste a lot of time in this way, wondering ‘What if ..?” and dreaming of the person I might have become, and the different stories I might have to tell from my childhood.
The confidence I might have gained, the fun I might have had, the ease I might have felt. I could probably go on and on, and on some more.
The thing is, with or without selective mutism, I’m not sure it actually would make a lot of difference. Sure, the process of becoming me would probably have been strewn with fewer obstacles, but now that I’m here? I think I am stronger for it.
We need our challenges to grow
I once believed that everybody else had it easier than me. No matter what difficulty other people came up against, I used to think, “Well, at least they can tell someone what’s wrong!”
As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that it’s all about perspective – to some people it is the end of the world if they stub their toe, whilst another might bravely face an amputation. In my opinion, life presents us with challenges to help us to grow in the direction of our dreams. It is then up to us whether we want to embrace those challenges, or attempt to run in the opposite direction. As I discovered, running away from your difficulties truly gets you nowhere. Until you are ready to face your challenges head on, they will follow you everywhere you go.
If I hadn’t once struggled with selective mutism, I would have found a different way to grow, with different challenges. I like to think that, ultimately, I would have emerged victorious, with a similar outlook that I enjoy today.
How selective mutism grew me
Selective mutism was a condition that forced me into the background. I became a listener, an observer, and a noticer. I developed understandings about people, and as I grew I realised that I was very good at reading people and at interpreting non-verbal communication. I sometimes wonder if this might be a struggle today if I had not once struggled with selective mutism.
I am hugely grateful for my childhood when it comes to raising and understanding my own children. I feel that selective mutism has helped me to develop my empathy and intuition regarding other people. I have a sense about what people need and how to approach their difficulties. Sometimes I watch people wrestle with themselves as they attempt to understand the point of view of another. At these times, I feel intensely grateful that I have experienced my life the way I have. It hasn’t been easy, but as they say, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, and I completely believe that it does. In fact, if you will allow yourself to see it, I think that the most difficult challenges hold the greatest potential for growth. Everything has its equal and opposite, and if we are capable of experiencing one side then we are certainly capable of experiencing the other.
A difficult childhood doesn’t have to become the foundation for a difficult life. It can instead foster determination, belief, faith, understanding, and so much more. We don’t know where our challenges might lead us, but in hindsight we can usually see that the very difficulties we once wished would disappear have instead helped us to grow into more strong, capable, connected people than we ever thought we could be.
In truth, I’m not sure who I would be without selective mutism. I’m not even sure I would like to know.
I have grown to love my quirks and my sensitive ways. I also thoroughly enjoy the contrast as I compare the person I am today to the little girl I once was. I love the determination I have developed that spurs me on to share more and to try new, scary things. I adore the sense of freedom that I experience as I write and explore my thoughts and feelings, and declare myself as intimately as I am able. I relish the connection that occurs when my words touch another.
I would not have it any other way. Selective mutism was hard and challenging and difficult every day, but it has grown me into a person I can honestly say that I am proud to be. May your selective mutism journey also bless you with experiences and joys that you never before imagined. May your challenges turn into wonderful opportunities and may you get to know and love yourself more intimately than you ever dreamed.