On nightmares

The topic listed for this week on the #ENGL496 syllabus is “Talking Cures and Traumatic Etiologies.” Considering that I absolutely expected to write a blog post about the stuttering pride movement as a backlash against long-held beliefs that a stutter is something which must be “cured.” I even went to far as to actually write a long draft for said post, with the intent of using information from yesterday’s class to flesh out a few of my writing points.

As you may have noticed I didn’t post a dang thing yesterday.

That being said, this post still absolutely requires some of my original framing: “stuttering pride” is a movement which borrows framework from LGBTQIA+ pride movement/s. As explained in the 2016 International Stuttering Awareness Day (ISAD) Online Conference introduction video the feeling of pride in an aspect of oneself which has historically been seen in a negative is an “antidote to the shame, fear, and the guilt that many [stutterers, or people who stutter] experience” (0:33-0:40).

In taking a gander around some of the 2016 ISAD Online Conference posts I came across this set of videos posted by Bruce Imhoff on the topic of stuttering pride. While the videos themselves are wonderful (and served as the inspiration for my original post) I’ve ended up with my reaction to the videos as the topic for this week’s post.

Here’s an excerpt from my first-watch notes:

  • Super fucking into these videos. I went into this thinking that stuttering pride was solely for people (like myself) with either a transient or ~ghostly~ stutter, and less for people (like myself also) with a severe stutter.
  • These videos make me uncomfortable tho–why?

Originally I connected the discomfort described above to my already present discomforts with contemporary gay pride movements. “Surely,” I thought to myself, “there must be some type of hierarchical privileging of voices.” Based on my brief look into the movement, however, that’s almost 100% supposition. Looking back to my notes above I think that it’s perhaps more likely that my experiences  of stuttered speech are experiences which I would personally describe as nightmarish, otherworldly, or ~ghostly~, and I’m projecting my own insecurities on to the movement.

In that vein: I’ve personally suffered from recurrent nightmares since I was quite young. A common theme in these nightmares is an inability to accurately and/or adequately communicate with others, either through a shroud of muteness or otherwise unintelligible speech. This shroud almost always winds itself so tightly around (what I hesitate to call) my body that I begin to suffocate. Blessedly, this is usually the point where I’m able to will myself awake.

As a high school student I found some solace from my nightmares in reading (usually) fictional accounts of the nightmares of others. Black Vaughn’s “The Leviathan,” for example, is an account which I find myself routinely returned to (if only for the first few lines): “There are memories I bear which erupt from the formless black of dreams. I still awaken at night crying out for safety and, finding myself alone, I hide in sheets, attempting to assuage a cold shivering that refuses to leave my bones.” While I as an adult I have become more comfortable with my stutter as it occurs during my waking hours, in “the formless black of dreams”I am found routinely incapacitated by virtue of my (seeming) inability to communicate with others.

In contemplating my above-described nightmare trope in relation to my above-described coping mechanism for said trope I’ve found myself reading (and rereading) Martin Farquhar Tupper’s “The Stammerer’s Complaint” (1838) a fair bit this past week. In the first stanza of the poem stuttered speech is characterized, amongst other things, as “[s]ome undefined and horrid incubus” (l.10) which “paraly[zes] […] from shadowy terrors in unhallowed sleep” (l.11-12). While I’m hesitant to say that I relate to the poem overall, this description is absolutely a moment wherein I find comfort in seeing some of my night-time fears realized in script. This is compounded by form of the poem as a fantasy of fluent speech–asleep I am the stutterer, but awake I can live a fantasy of fluency.

Prior to writing this post I considered stuttered speech to be one of my favourite things to hear. And, in all honesty, I latched on to those moments of dysfluency like a life-line. Now I see that it’s truly only the stuttered speech of others which is comforting. I can only hope to one day have the full capacity to feel such moments of comfort (and pride!) in hearing my own moments of dysfluency.

Want to read the follow-up to this post?

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One thought on “On nightmares

  1. Pingback: Aside: On nightmares – Mx. Moireabh

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