Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dealing With SD and Ignorant People

Hi All!

This post is dedicated to Coffee Bean. She shares my diagnosis of SD and commented that people make her feel worse about her voice by saying things like "Wow, your voice is Awwwwful!"

First of all, if you don't have SD you need to realize how it can impact a person's self esteem. I mean, think about it - our society revolves around spoken communication and not being able to speak really takes you out of the loop. Yes, email is wonderful but, you do have to actually face people in person and talk to them. You can't order a coffee at Starbucks without talking (well - you can but handing people notes in fast food restaurants usually makes them think you want to rob them!). How many times do you talk on the phone? Talking on the phone is something a person with SD can't do very well. Usually, SD voices are not very loud and don't transmit over phone lines well. Cell phones are even worse! Even passing people on the sidewalks usually requires a "hi!" at the very least. Spoken communication is required.

If you can't talk - you are isolated from this "trivial" communication. You are basically outcast from the society of spoken communication. Since most people are able to communicate verbally, society doesn't really tolerate people who can't.

Sure, if you are Deaf, you don't communicate normally but you have a reason that most people understand and accept. Having SD - first of all, most people have never heard of it and therefore don't understand it. Next, SD affects the voice and nothing else. You look perfectly normal and then can't talk - people don't understand how that can happen. Finally, even though our society hinges on spoken communication, a surprising number of people don't actually listen. They are so busy thinking of what they are going to say next that they don't take the time to really hear what people are saying. And to really hear a person with SD -literally and figuratively - you need to pay attention.

Not being able to participate in spoken communication leaves a SDer feeling like less of a person. Like someone who is not valued by society. It is difficult to deal with the fact that the main human method of communicating has been basically taken away from you. Then people make comments without hearing or thinking!

No one in society would go up to a disabled person in a wheelchair and say something like "Gee, your legs look really weak!" That would be considered rude. So why do people think it is okay to comment on someone's voice? It is a disability also.

Usually the commenters are just ignorant (I don't mean stupid - two totally different concepts!). They don't know about SD and they don't take the time to think about what it must be like to have SD.

We need to let people know about SD so that they can stop hurting us with stupid comments (here I mean the comments themselves are stupid - not necessarily the people). Even our relatives and friends make stupid comments without thinking about how it impacts the SD person.

I personally deal with these comments in a couple of ways. First of all I hand out SD literature to people who don't know about it. I got the little tri-fold cards from the NSDA and keep them in my purse. I have handed out something like one hundred of them.

Next, if the comment is from a stranger (like the worker at the Home Depot garden center who told me I sounded horrible and wanted to know what was wrong with my voice), I look them straight in the face and tell them "Nothing is wrong with my voice. Why do you ask?" Remember, I am accepting my SD voice as my normal voice (or at least trying to). Besides - it really isn't any of their business. This comment always shuts them up.

If the person making the comment is a relative or a good friend, I tell them that comments like that hurt my feelings when I have been doing everything I can to improve my voice. I tell them that I am working hard on my voice and that actually, the voice they hear is much better from where I started. This normally starts a conversation about SD and how difficult it is for me to be basically silent in a noisy world. This helps my relatives and friends understand more about SD and its impact on my self image.

Acceptance for both the person with SD and the people around him or her is a long journey which is made solely in baby steps. It is frustrating for all involved and many times it is a "one step forward - two steps back" kind of thing.

I hope that my fellow SDers never forget that they are not alone. I hope that they don't forget that there is always hope. I hope they don't forget that there are people rooting for them who love them just the way they are - voice or no voice.

Coffee Bean - I love you just the way you are!


Voice Update:
Okay - I did talk yesterday despite feeling like being mute. I talked in my nasal voice to the kitties as I wrote my grocery list and then talked to myself like that in the store. No one heard me this time because I was a little self-conscious about it. I also massaged my throat as I pondered over which products to purchase. I thought that was a good use of pondering time.
After all of this - my voice was pretty strong in the evening. I am planning on doing the same thing today (without the grocery store) to keep working on my voice.


Coffee Bean said...

Awwww... how sweet! I find that most people just think that I am sick and they don't mean it to hurt. I used to hand out the little tri-folds but have actually had them handed right back. It is my experience that people really don't care to know what is wrong... so now I save them for those who ask and really seem to want to understand.

However, people are downright rude to me during the thick of the flu season and when the weather is crummy. It is as if they think I am out spreading the plague. I even had a checker at Hobby Lobby whip hand sanitizer out of her pocket after handing the pen back to her right in front of me. An employee of blockbuster once told me I had no right to be out and to go home to bed. Oh! and last fall we were out at our son's football game and the weather was bad. After the game we started talking to another couple since the area had cleared and I thought I could be heard. The gal kept looking at me horrified and told me I sounded horrible. I told her I wasn't sick and that I just had a vocal chord disorder. We talked a couple more minutes and she asked me if I was sure. Ummmmmm... yeah. She then said that was good because she thought I was stupid to be out sounding like that. So much for pleasantries. It really hadn't occurred to me prior to that that anyone might think I was stupid on top of sounding awful.

Trisha said...

I guess I am just more agressive about the darn information - no one has given it back to me yet. Maybe they are afraid to???

The whole thinking you are stupid has happened to me numerous times. That is so annoying! Afterall - I am able to talk in complete sentences and about topics other than tv and the weather - why would the SOUND of my voice make me stupid?

I do get people thinking I am sick. Sometimes, just to be mean, I play it up to really freak them out. I mean if they are so ignorant - they deserve it!

Brittany said...

Keep up the good work.