Selective Mutism - Justine's story

Justine and her mum, Julie, are both contributors to Selective Mutism In Our Own Words - our new book

I have had SM all my life, I cannot speak to anyone out of my small family circle; I am ostracised, feel overwhelmingly anxious outside of home and cannot leave the house without my mum or sister with me. As a seventeen year old I feel ridiculous, I want to be able to step out the front door and show the world what I can do, yet all that bravado is dissipated the instant the door is closed, and I am but an infinitesimal mouse to be trampled.

From all experiences of trying to achieve 'normality', I feel I have only been thwarted by society's idea of what I should be.

I once had a very naive hope that I could attend school and 'recover', just to be taken advantage of by schools who see only the funding support that my disability provides, and be forced into fitting their sausage- machine moulds to suit their interests.

My mother is amazing, she is my absolute support, and has tried her utmost best to get in contact with associations that are supposed to help with my difficulties, give me opportunities in life, all in vain, because I 'refuse to make contact' because I REFUSE to talk to them and 'work through it'.

I am filled with disgust by how the bigots of our culture believe they can shove us into a corner and poke us with a rod to speak like 'normal' people do, as if we are freaks of nature with evil worms inside us which must be purged, that if you swallow this pill everything will be hunky dory.

Yet I protest that worm is not within us, but the folds of society. For if the world was kinder, was properly informed about our difficulties, if people looked at us with the empathy and regard good people give to the physically i.e. 'visibly' disabled, instead of being looked at in anger by those confused by how we act and define us as impertinent, life would be so much easier to cope with. Just the simplest of recognitions, anything to show that people do actually care, actually want to understand, would make me more willing to fight the fear inside of me.

I can say unabashedly that I am scared of people, and that I in many ways prefer hermetical existence to attempting interaction with them. But there is still in me a seed that wants to release the warmth I can only communicate to my animals to people. Though I dislike vast crowds of babbling people, I am still drawn to their quirky personalities, and I yearn for meaningful friendship, can feel its deficiency in me.

Instead of branding us as problem to be fixed, why not try to comprehend how it feels to be us, trapped in a silent bubble of terror and doubt of self-worth, trapped in our own heads where thoughts of futility and hopelessness prevail. Just imagine how that must feel. Then maybe the next time you encounter someone scared and mute, rather than a look of hurt surprise or forcing them to talk, you might exchange a kind word and a smile of understanding; to make their life feel brighter. For those small steps are the profoundest motions to change.

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