An Open Letter to the Phone

Dear Phone,
For the longest time, you were one of my biggest adversaries.  I think it had to do with the fact that my stutter is/was the worst when I use you.  Or maybe it’s because the first time someone equated my stutter with lying was when the two of us talked via you.  Regardless of the cause, you were one of the main things I knew I needed to conquer if I were to truly be accepting of my stutter.

During my teenage years and early twenties, I would do anything within my power to avoid you.  If given the option of talking to someone over the phone or talking to them in person, then I would pick the in person conversation every time.  The fear of using you was that bad. When I had no other choice but to use you, I wrapped myself in dread as if it were the only thing I had to wear. I would go into my room and write a script for the conversation.  I knew your presence would cause my stutter to invite itself into my conversation.  I would use relaxation techniques before I used you.  I used every technique, trick, and special effect available to me in hopes that my stutter to be a minor star, not the leading star, in the production called This Phone Conversation.  My stutter usually ended being the lead star, I was the guest star, and the person on the other end was the audience who didn’t know how to react.

Our biggest issues came when I needed to use you at work.  For years, I would run in the complete opposite direction whenever you rang.  When I was unlucky enough to answer you my techniques and tricks went out the window.  I had no script to lead me in the conversation.  My responses would be terribly improvised because my main concern was ending the conversation as soon as possible.  My stutter was once again the lead star and my role diminished to a cameo appearance.  It was a production I wish was only available to a select audience, but was on display for all to see and hear.

After a second stint in speech therapy and tons of personal growth, I now consider you an acquaintance. I don’t mind using as a means to communicate. I no longer use a script when I use you and at times I’ll call a person when others are around. I no longer wrap myself around in dread when I need to use.  I now show the production This Phone Conversation without any concern who sees and hears it.  I now consider myself as the lead star and my stutter as a cameo visit.  I can now confidently say that you were just one of many adversaries I have defeated in my journey to accept and embrace my stutter


If I Didn’t Stutter

Whenever someone asks me if Icould take a magic pill to eliminate my stutter would I?My is response is if I were offered the pill 100 times, then I would decline it about 97 times.

Here are my reasons why I would not take it:

I wouldn’t have some of my life experiences
I wouldn’t be part of a great and inspiring community
I wouldn’t be as emphatic and compassionate
I would be missing out on some great life lessons

I wouldn’t have discovered
writing as a means of expressing myself

I wouldn’t be as good of a listener as I am
I wouldn’t be me

To My Unborn Children


Dear  Son/Daughter,

First off, I can’t wait to meet you!  I haven’t met you yet, but I already love you immensely and unconditionally.

A fact that you need to know about me: I stutter.  What that means is may take me a few extra seconds to say something.  I may make some noises before I talk or my mouth might be open, but no noise comes out.  When I stutter, I may not may not make eye contact with you.  I’ll make weird facial expressions when I stutter.  Besides that, there is nothing wrong with stuttering.  I am not a bad or evil person because I stutter nor am I lying.  When I stutter it’s not because I’m nervous, excited, or anxiety ridden.  I tell you this because you may hear these things about stuttering and what causes stuttering.  I want to tell you that all of those are wrong.  Stuttering is just something that happens when I talk.  There is nothing wrong with stuttering. My stutter has taught me numerous lessons and given me opportunities I could never have imagined.

With that said, I hope you do not stutter.  I say this not because it would affect how I love you or how much I love you because it won’t, but out of love for you I don’t want you to go through what I went through.  I don’t want you to be filled with self-doubts every time you talk.  I don’t want you to be afraid of or avoid speaking out in class, talking on the phone, and ordering your meal at a restaurant.  I don’t want you to be constantly thinking about what the person on the other side is thinking about you and your stutter.  I don’t want you to be picked on in school because of your stutter.  I don’t want people to think you are dumb, lying, or a bad person because you stutter.  I don’t want you to experience the self-doubts and insecurities I went through.

But if you do stutter, great! You have someone that I didn’t have in my life, which is someone close in your life who gets what it means to stutter and all of the mental and emotional “stuff” that comes with it.  In me, you have someone who can help you and guide you through all of the stuff that stuttering brings into a person’s life.  There are a few things I need to tell you about your stutter.  The first is: you control it, it doesn’t control you.  Secondly, you dictate your future, your stutter does not. Finally: you always were, always are, and always will be so much more than your stutter.

Regardless of if you stutter or not, I will always be behind you win or lose, fluent or not, on good days and bad.  I will be your advocate, cheerleader, encourager, and whatever else you need.  I can’t wait to meet you and see the world through your eyes.


Love always,


An Open Letter to the Letter ”H”

Dear H,

As you know, I stutter and you are one of the sounds I stutter on the most, but one I always seem to need.  What an ironic twist, right?  You probably think it’s funny.  My last name is Hayden.  One greets another person, either on the phone or face to face, with some version of “hello”.  I went to college in the city of Hattiesburg.  The main street in Hattiesburg is Hardy Street.  During my final two years of college, I lived off campus in an apartment and guess which letter the complex started with?  You guessed it, “H” for Hillendale.

For years, I would go out of my way to avoid you. When someone asked for my name I would stutter for as long as it took to say Hayden because there was no way I could pretend I didn’t know my last name.    When someone would ask what apartment complex I lived in I would play dumb and pretend I didn’t know the name of my complex.  My generic response was, “It’s on Lincoln Road.  It’s right next to Winn-Dixie and the Lincoln Road Liquor Store.”  If that description didn’t work, I would spend the next few seconds, which seemed like hours, trying to get the name Hillendale out.   When I would answer the phone I would respond with, “yes,” not because it made sense, but it’s what I could say.  When I saw someone I knew I would wait for them to acknowledge me because it was easier.  If they didn’t acknowledge me first, then I would ignore them so I wouldn’t have to deal with one of your visits.  When someone asked me where Southern Miss was I would either pretend I didn’t know the name, which made me look dumb, or I could stutter on Hattiesburg for as long as it took.  I would be able to get away with not saying Hardy Street because I could simply point out where a place was by the surrounding buildings.

As I’ve gotten older, I no longer view you as something that is out to get me, but rather an ironic quirk about me.  Do I appreciate the fact that you are one of the sounds I stutter on the most, but are one of the sounds I use the most?  Not really.  However, do I hide from you by any means necessary? Hell no.




Why Frozen Is One of My Favorite Disney Movies

I’m 24 years old and Frozen is one of my favorite Disney movies.  Yes, I know I am not in the target audience and about quadruple the age of your typical Frozen fan, but hear me out. I first saw Frozen during Christmas break of my junior year of college.  I had just completed my first semester of speech therapy, after an eight year break, and was in the early stages of accepting my stutter and the fact that I will probably stutter for the rest of my life.  I remember sitting in the theatre with two of my friends and being hit by some of the lyrics from “Let It Go”, one of the film’s minor songs.  The line in particular being, “…conceal don’t feel/don’t let them know.” I sat in my chair thinking, “Oh dang.  That’s me.”  You see, that’s how I felt about stuttering and going back to speech therapy.  Ever since my stutter made its way back into my life, three years prior, I lived like Elsa.  I concealed my feelings about my stutter and acted as if I was ok with its return.  When I went back to speech therapy I concealed it from nearly everyone and hoped no one would find out, much like Elsa hid her ability to freeze things from nearly everyone in her life.  I was afraid what would happen if my friends found out about my weekly visits to speech therapy.  I was concerned about their perception of me changing because for so long I acted as I was completely ok with stuttering, when in actuality I wasn’t.  I feared people would see me differently once they knew, so I didn’t say anything about speech therapy.  Like Elsa had her ice castle where could freely freeze things, speech therapy was my ice castle.  The therapy room was the only place where I freely and willingly talked about stuttering because I knew no one would judge me, my stutter, or my views about it.  I brought those thoughts home with me after my friends and I left the theatre that December afternoon.

A few weeks later my mom wanted to see the film, so being the good son I am I went with her.   I didn’t tell her or anyone else about what went through my mind during my first viewing, as I was still processing all of it.  When we reached the point in the film where Elsa belts out that minor song a different set of lyrics hit me.  This time, “ …let it go, let it go/Can’t hold it back anymore,” hit me hard.  I thought to myself if Elsa can let go all of her fears and demons about freezing everything, destroying her relationship with Anna, and freezing Arendelle, then I can let it go too.  I can let go of my fears, doubts, and insecurities I have of stutter.  I can let go of what my friends would think about me going to speech therapy.  I can let go of the perceptions people have of me and my stutter a.  I can be me.  I don’t need to hide my rekindled friendship, but I can embrace and accept it.

Because of what Frozen did in helping me on my journey with accepting my stutter, it is one of my top 3 favorite Disney movies (Lion King and Tarzan being the other two).  If you have a problem with that, then you need to let it go.


Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, sky, outdoor and text

Now we know why I was so excited to see the Frozen ride and why I was bummed that it was a 90 minute wait.

Random Writings

Untitled 1

If we encounter growth from a bad experience, then was it truly a bad experience?  Does that mean we failed because the experience was bad


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Is it failure if we grow?
Is it failure if we learn?
It is failure if we experience joy?
Is it failure if we experience peace?
Is it failure?

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I’m learning that it’s ok to not be ok
I’m learning that failure isn’t always failure
I’m learning that joy can come from failure.
I’m learning that peace can come from failure
I’m learning that that failure will not define me, but I will define it.
I’m learning

To My Speech Therapists

Dear Ms. Carol, Ms. Joan, Victoria, Hope, Amelia, and Taylor,

First off, thank you for all of the work you do not only for myself, but for others.  The work you do on a day in and day out basis is more impactful than you know.

To my elementary school speech therapists, thank you for helping me go from a 5 year old kid who could barely say the letter “r” without stuttering to someone who fluently delivered the keynote speech at my 5th grade D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony.  Thank you for incorporating my hobbies and interest, from The Weather Channel to The Dumb Bunnies, into our speech therapy sessions.  Thank you for the constant encouragement and helping me become more fluent as the years passed. Thank you for compassionately listening to the troubles of a third grader.  Thank you for erasing my fears that I was different from all the other kids in school.

To my college speech therapists, thank you for helping me become more fluent via the techniques I learned or re-learned from you. Thank you for being a sound board when I needed to vent about whatever was on my mind that day.  Thank you for allowing me to set my goals and doing anything and everything within your power to help me accomplish those goals.  Thank you for conducting our speech therapy sessions on the phone and making me call random places and ask them a series of questions.  I am now far more comfortable talking on the phone because of it.  You helped me achieve those goals by conducting numerous mock interviews with me, as a means of preparing for life after graduation.  I am a better at interviews because of it.  Thank you for making me do so many presentations to the walls of the speech therapy room, to empty classrooms, and to your classes.  I am now confident in my public speaking abilities and willingly put myself into public speaking opportunities, something I never would have done if it wasn’t for you.  But more importantly, thank you for helping me become more confident and accepting of my stutter.  Thank you for introducing me to different stuttering organizations, I would not know about them if it wasn’t for you.  Thank you for being a sound board and listening to me as I struggled to grapple, understand, and accept the fact that I stutter.  Thank you for helping me process all of my thoughts about stuttering and helping me turn them into positives.  If it weren’t for the work done in the therapy room, I don’t know if I would be able to accept and embrace my stutter.

Forever appreciative,


An Open Letter To My Stutter

Dear Stutter,

For most of my life, you’ve been the friend I don’t want, but couldn’t see my life without.  The majority of our friendship has been filled with anxiety, nervousness, hate, self-doubt, and insecurity; however, those negatives have since turned into beauty, acceptance, and ultimately self-confidence.

When we first became friends I was five.  You filled me with a sense of doubt and made me wonder if I was the only person you were friends with.  I went to speech therapy for seven years and as the years progressed our friendship weakened.  When I went to high school, I thought you were a childhood friend that I would never see again, but wouldn’t forgot. Boy, was I wrong.

We became friends again when I was a senior in high school and we’ve been friends ever since. Our re-newed friendship was difficult for me to accept. My senior year of high school and most of my college career was filled with a mix of self-doubt, nerves, anxiousness, and insecurities.  During those years, you were winning.  I didn’t participate in class because I was afraid you would make an untimely visit.  I had to write a script every time I wanted to talk on the phone in case it was a three way conversation between you, me, and the person on the other end. I wouldn’t order through a drive thru in case you ordered something I didn’t want.

My last two years of college were a time of transition for us.  We went back to therapy and worked on our issues.  I still didn’t want you present in my life, but I began accepting our friendship.  I learned ways to avoid you, but more importantly I learned how to not allow you to dictate what I could and couldn’t do.  I talked on the phone without a script, I started to participate in class, I volunteered for public speaking opportunities.  I was allowing myself to say we are friends and not be embarrassed by our friendship.

After I graduated college and moved to a new city, you were one of the few friends I had in my new city. I still didn’t want anything to do with you, but I was becoming more accepting of our friendship.  Shortly after moving to my new city, we went to our first NSA meeting and it was there where I met some of your other friends.  That was the best thing I’ve ever done because it showed me I am not the only person you are friends with, a great thing for my younger self to know.  Those meetings have allowed us to be better friends and be more open about our friendship.  I now openly talk about our friendship with anyone who will listen.  I write about our friendship regularly and share it with whoever wants to read our story.  That’s something I would not have when we re-newed our friendship.

Two years have passed since we went to our first NSA meeting and our friendship has only strengthened because of it.  I’ve accepted that we will be friends for the rest of my life and I’m okay with that.  Yes, I still struggle to keep eye contact with people because I want them to look at me and not you.  Your visits still cause me to wonder what the other person I am talking to is thinking about your visit. At times, I need to assure them that you’re no big deal and they should ignore you.

However, our stronger friendship has also made me see the good in you. Because of you I am a better person and more confident.  I see people for who they are, not what they sound or look like.  I am mentally stronger and I know who I am and what I want because of you.  Although at times I wish we weren’t friends, I’m glad we are.  I don’t know where I would be without you.  I guess that means I won because I see your beauty and not your ugliness.


Better luck next time,


Acceptance, Peace, and Stuttering

Acceptance is a term used a good bit when I talk about my journey with stuttering with both those that stutter and those that do not stutter.  It usually comes up in the context of, “I’ve accepted the fact that I stutter and probably will for the rest of my life,” “How did you accept the fact that you stutter,” or “What does acceptance mean to you?”  For me, acceptance means I do not hide the fact that I stutter and I am open about talking about stuttering with others.  Acceptance means being comfortable with my voice and allowing myself to use it in all situations.  Acceptance means I do not let the fear of stuttering prevent me from doing what I want to do.

A few months ago I was talking online to someone that stutters and he told me, “That’s great that you made peace with it, but I would get rid of my stutter yesterday.”  I was taken aback by his statement because I had never equated my acceptance of my stutter to being at peace with my stutter.  I responded by telling him that I wouldn’t use the word peace when describing my stutter.  To me, peace means knowing things are the way they should be and not wanting to change them.  I can’t use the word peace because that means I wouldn’t want to change the fact that I stutter.  Yes, I have accepted and embraced my stutter, but to say I would deny the magic pill every day would be a lie. Those days are extremely rare and few and far between, but are still there none the less.  Because of that fact, I can’t say I am at peace with my stutter.  Maybe one day I can have both acceptance and peace, but for now all I have acceptance. And that’s ok.  My lack of peace does not and will not discourage me from embracing acceptance or advocating for stuttering any chance I get.

What It Feels Like To Stutter

Whenever I stutter, I get involved with mental gymnastics.   A thousand thoughts race through my head every second, while my voice is not coming out.  Whenever I ever have a bad block, I look down and my heart races.  This story is what all what goes on in my head during a bad block.

It was Friday October 30, 2015.  It was employee appreciation day at my job, a job I had only been at for roughly six weeks.  Outside of the people that I worked with on a daily basis, very few people knew I stuttered.  That all changed on that fall day.

A raffle was held that day and being one of the new hires I was “lucky” enough to pull some of the winning tickets and announce the winner’s name.  When I realized I had to call names and had only seconds to mentally prepare for it my first thought was, “Oh ****.”  Being put on the spot to speak is something most people don’t like, factor in the fact that I stutter and this is something I did not want any part of.  As I made my way to the center of the crowd to announce the names, my heart was beating as if it were Usain Bolt in the Olympics.  My mind was racing with thoughts of, “Why couldn’t I have gotten a heads up? This is going to suck.  Damn.  What will the people I don’t work with think about me?  Will this change their view of me?  Damn.  Damn.  Will they understand me?”  All of those thoughts occurred within seconds of being told I was doing this and when I drew the first name.

I drew the first name and stuttered hard on it.  The thoughts of “when will this end” and “just get through this” were racing through my mind.  My heart was still racing like Usain and I was looking everywhere, but at the crowd.  The fact that all of my co-workers, roughly one hundred, were looking at me and waiting on me to announce the winner only made my nerves worse, and in turn I stuttered more on every additional name.  After what seemed like hours, all of the winners were announced and I quickly ran inside. I went inside, punched the water fountain, yelled a few choice words, and went to my desk pissed off.  I was pissed not because I stuttered, but because that was some people’s first introduction to me.  I was afraid they would now see me as “the new guy that stutters” or “the stutterer” and not James.  I hated that my stutter was able to introduce itself to them before I could introduce myself to them.  After a few minutes, I calmed down and was able to enjoy the rest of the day.  However, the thoughts of “that sucked”, “do they now see me as the stutterer”, and “do they care that I stutter” were still present.

I’ve been at that same job for nearly two years now and I can say with confidence that no cared nor cares that I stutter.