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- May 2018
Selective Mutism
   Tue May 01, 2018 5:26 pm

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Selective Mutism

Permanent Linkby ChasingDreams on Tue May 01, 2018 5:26 pm

Selective mutism seems to be described as a symptom of social anxiety rather than as a specific anxiety of speaking.

In my experience my fear has been of the actual words that might come out of my mouth. What if they were misunderstood? What if I said the wrong thing? What if I had misunderstood? Yes, I could speak just fine in some situations, but it would have been difficult to pin down people or places where I found speaking difficult. It could happen at school or at home. It could happen with someone familiar in a familiar place. These were perhaps the hardest times as no-one understood why I could be talking one moment and then silent and literally speechless the next.

There are exceptions. There are specific situations where I know I will have trouble. Guessing games are still a cause of massive anxiety. How could I possibly guess at what is going on in somebody’s head at any specific moment? Telling me it is obvious is not helpful. I only know that what is in my head is not necessarily obvious to anyone else. Why should your thoughts be any different?

Ambiguous questions. A person seems to think their question is clear but I am not sure what is being asked. This extends to written questions and especially exam questions where my anxiety levels will already be high.

Questions asking me what I think (because sometimes what I think does not seem to be appropriate or acceptable so why on earth would I voice my thoughts aloud?!).

It is theorized the mutism continues because it is negatively reinforced. That may be the case but what is the alternative? Keep asking the question until the person breaks? Beat it out of them? Refuse to let them do something or go somewhere until they answer? Alternative forms of communication can work, and texting has saved me a number of times, but if I am really ‘stuck’ then I can’t text or sign or write any more than I can speak. I know I haven’t actually lost the ability, but I can’t access it.

Therapists and doctors have asked me about my history, about things in my past that might have triggered these problems. Honestly? I can’t think of anything. I am from a traditional, conventional nuclear family. I am diagnosed with anxiety and depression and my own feelings of worthlessness have seen me in some fairly dark places. My partners have not been well chosen. But all this started before then. All this started at school. I don’t know exactly how far back as I was always a quiet, introverted child. The first time I can remember a distinct time was when I was asked by a teacher why I hadn’t done my project over the holidays. I was ten, and it was supposed to be about contemporary Greece. I didn’t have a good reason. I guess I was scared it wasn’t going to be good enough. I didn’t know what to put in and what to leave out. I was a perfectionist who liked to do well and I had no idea what the teacher was looking for. But I didn’t know all this at the time. All I knew was that I didn’t have a good reason for not doing my homework. And I couldn’t say anything. And then worse, I got one of those nervous, rictus grins which made the teachers (there were two by now) accuse me of finding the situation funny. I did not and the incorrect accusation only made things worse. I don’t remember how the rest of the meeting went. I may well have run away as that became my way out. I learned to storm out. I perfected the art of ‘walking away’ from confrontation. I literally ran away with a backpack and hid in a field at the end of the village.

Running away got me into trouble too. It really isn’t the answer, but if it feels like the only way out it is still my get-out of choice. I am lucky enough now to have people around me who understand. They clarify, re-phrase and let things drop if I get really stuck. I have an arranged ‘bolt-hole’ so that if things get really bad and I need a safe space they know I am actually safe and in return I text them when I can and ...

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