Selective Mutism - Miranda's story

I'm Miranda, I'm 17 and I am currently (sort of) living with Selective Mutism.

It's hard to say (or type in this case) out loud and I was in two minds about writing this, just because of people's prejudgement. If you are unaware, Selective mutism is a form of social anxiety, more common in younger children, which prevents the sufferer to speak in certain public situations. I was tested for this in 2007 and had months of counselling at the age of 8. It was a tough time. Not being able to speak in lessons, not making proper friends, in the prime time of a child's development. And then being pushed into a room and expected to speak about my feelings to a nurse I've never seen before. A weird experience for any child but one with selective mutism, their worst nightmare!

I had a good childhood, as many people would've had, well developed, quite smart in my younger years of school. But as soon as it was apparent about what was 'wrong' with me. I wasn't doing very well in school, I couldn't communicate with family outside of my parents. (which is one of the worst things for me now). 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... Let me tell you, that is not the best thing in the world.

My counsellor suggested I carried on with  Stagecoach, a performing arts school, and that really helped me. I felt like part of a family and the people around me loved the same things as me. Performing taught me how to become a different person, an alter ego if you want, which helped me in the real world. As  Augusto Boal said: 'we all must do theatre, to find out who we are, and to discover who we could become.' This is one of my favourite quotes as I became a different person and discovered who I really was, not just the shy one who never speaks.

The years following, I was more confident and a happier child. Once I moved up to Secondary School, I started to hide within my shell, not talking in lessons, avoiding any social situations. It was a different environment where I was unfamiliar with. It was a scary world, everyone was older and more experienced than me. Then, luckily, I discovered a performing arts group ran at my school. I joined, after my friend persuading me for about a year, not knowing what to expect, standing in the corner of the hall, overwhelmed by the amount of talent in one room. This group really did bring me happiness. I found myself again as well as finally making life-long friends. Those three years were the happiest I had ever been, my SM had virtually vanished! I was a better person. Yes, there were still some difficulties with my speech (I often talk too quickly, unable to pronounce words properly), but overall, I was a different person.

However, summer 2015 came around and I had to leave my secondary school to move on to college. I left with decent GCSE results, 2 A's, 4 B's and 3 C's and got accepted into a high course at college studying animal management. Great! A fresh start! Right? Well... I still had that new found confidence within me from before the summer, I made a few friends, settled in well. All my lecturers were lovely, my tutor was the nicest person in the world. Of course I had the first week nerves as anyone would, but I was ready to forget the old me with selective mutism and focus on my new life. It was going well, until around the first half term. As I was no longer doing performing arts and missing it like hell, my confidence began to drop again, I wouldn't speak as much in lessons, and once again my speech was becoming too quick and slurred. Shit. Not this again. I couldn't do the one thing that helped me over come my SM, and now I'm going back to how I started. Back to square one. For the past few months after this point, things are slowly getting worse. I can barely talk to my class mates, apart from a select few, my panic attacks are beginning to worsen again. In the middle of January, I opened up to my tutor (a completely different topic, a story for another day) and she said she'd support me and suggested I took counselling, although I was reluctant, I gave it a go. And if anything, it made me feel worse, confidence and happiness wise, I felt like that 8 year old girl again in primary school, so I stopped, it just wasn't for me.

However, after that small amount of counselling, I couldn't stop thinking about my life and how SM has effected me through it, to be completely honest, it may be affecting my grades (which I've noticed recently) as I am unable to ask for help or even email for help.

Living (sort of) with SM is a challenge that many children and teens have to deal with every day. My life has it's ups and downs, but so does everyone's. I know and have proved to myself that it will get better eventually and I just have to keep looking up.

I'm not looking for attention, I want to share my story and raise awareness of SM, that kid in the corner may not be just rude or ignorant. Think about the bigger picture. JUST BE NICE TO EVERYBODY haha!

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