I sat in math class, gritting my teeth, nervously awaiting the inevitable. My “special” speech teacher would be coming soon. As the door slowly creaked open, the room grew silent. I braced myself against the stares as I quickly grabbed my books. The only sound was the squeak of my sneakers on the tile floor. Until I passed the class loudmouth’s desk.
“Retard,” he muttered.
I didn’t bother looking up. It was just a typical day in junior high.
Alone with my speech teacher, things didn’t go much better. She tried to teach me how to diagram sentences, but I couldn’t concentrate. I was too busy fighting off tears. What’s the use? I wondered. I don’t understand.
When my teacher asked me a question, I tried to respond.
“I-I-I-I-I d-d-d-on’t know.” Oh no, I thought. It’s happening again! Stop it, Abbie! Being one-on-one with my teacher was just as intimidating as being in a regular classroom.
She asked again. But I still didn’t know the answer.
After my session, I headed for the cafeteria. I dreaded lunch period, where I might hear some more rude comments.
It seemed like everybody liked to make fun of the girl who stutters.
“You can’t be cured”
As long as I can remember, school has been hard for me. When I was young, I went to a lot of different doctors. In fourth grade, I was diagnosed with a language-based learning disability. Basically, that means some of the neurons in my brain don’t work right, making it difficult for me to express and retain language—whether spoken or written.
At first, my parents and I thought my problem could eventually be “fixed,” until the doctor told us otherwise. “Your brain processes information differently than most people,” he said. “It can’t ever be cured.”
But the doctors did tell me that with hard work I could understand how my disability affected my central nervous system, and that I could take some steps to overcome it. Knowing how my brain worked would help me with my learning struggles. But I would probably always stutter. My mom tried to reassure me that going to a “special teacher” didn’t mean I was stupid. I tried hard to believe her. But it was very frustrating when other kids were so mean to me just because I learned differently than they did. I had days when I wanted to get up in front of the class and scream “I’m not stupid!” But I never did.
By the time I started high school, I was pretty good at sports and had an outgoing personality. But I still lacked the ability to communicate well. Some days, I couldn’t even say the word “run.” I could see it in my head. But I couldn’t write it or say it.
On top of that, no one even tried to understand me. I guess that’s why I started hanging out with the “wrong” crowd. They accepted me, stuttering and all. So I looked past their bad habits—smoking, drinking, whatever. In fact, I joined them.
I knew what I was doing was wrong. But no one could feel my pain. Not even me. That’s what drinking can do. It made me numb. I didn’t have to think about my problems when I was drinking. My parents kept telling me to trust God. But why? If he was such a good and loving God, my life wouldn’t be so hard.