How Two Little Comments Destroyed Me

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I’ve written before about how I have a speech impediment, specifically a lisp and rhotacism. I wanted to talk a little bit more about that today, and about how two little comments led to my becoming severely depressed.

While I did experience some bullying about the way I talk in middle school, I didn’t encounter it much in elementary school. I think that was due to the fact that I grew up on an island and most of our families knew one another or we were related as cousins or neighbors.

I’m very thankful that I wasn’t bullied in elementary school, because gosh-knows how much harder that would have made things. I still find it hard to believe that I used to get in trouble for talking too much in class. That definitely wasn’t a problem that I ran into during middle school or high school.

When I think back to the beginning of my experiences with depression and anxiety, my brain always settles on two distinct comments that were made to me regarding the way I talk. Both comments were made almost in passing, but they have stuck with me for the past twenty years, and I doubt I’ll forget them anytime soon.


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“If you learned to talk better and lost weight, you’d be really pretty.”

I was told the above statement, word for word (yes, I still remember it that clearly), by another student in my fourth-grade class. I don’t remember what we were doing or why she said it to me, but it was the first time I felt different from my peers. I’d been in speech therapy since kindergarten, along with a few other students from my class, but by the fourth grade, I was the only one left taking it.

I’ve always struggled with my weight and was definitely a chunky child. I wasn’t embarrassed about my size until this comment and a few other moments between fourth and sixth grade that made me self-conscious about my body for the first time.

If someone said the above statement to me today, I would tell them to fuck off and would promptly forget about it, as I’ve learned to love myself as an adult. As a ten-year-old though, being told you’re not pretty because of your weight and speech impediment is a huge deal, and the comment stuck around at the forefront of my thoughts for far too long, all the way to college.


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“If you don’t learn how to talk right, you’ll never get married or find a job or be successful. So try harder!”

Thinking about this statement makes me furious now that I’m in my early thirties, but for all of my teenage years, I couldn’t get this thought out of my head.

My sixth-grade speech therapist told me this. And I believed her. Instead of telling one of my parents what she said to me so that they could speak to the school about it, instead of telling my regular teacher, I simply took her statement in and internalized it. She was an adult and a teacher, so who was I to argue?

More than the first sentence I talked about, this second one had a huge impact on my childhood and teenage development, and I wish I could go back in time to tell my eleven-year-old self to not believe a word she said.

I spent years feeling like a complete failure before starting on anything. I would take failing grades on school projects just so I could avoid standing in front of the class to present my book report or project. I talked to no one, having just a handful of friends and never really branching out. I never dated in high school because I believed that I wasn’t worth it and felt that no one would be interested in me anyway because I was fat and talked weird.

I had severe depression in middle school and high school, and no mental health care. I don’t know if I even tried to tell anyone about how I was feeling. I just believed that I wasn’t good enough and never would be. I fantasized about suicide, but thankfully never attempted it. I loathed going to school and would fake being sick just to stay home and get lost in a book or The Sims, where I could pretend to be someone else.


tim-mossholder-SR8ByN6xY3k-unsplash.jpgIt wasn’t until college and my early twenties that I started to realize everything I’d believed as a teenager was wrong. I started dating and realized that not only did the people I dated not care about my speech impediment, they actually liked the way I talked. I learned that I could be fat and still be loved. I took job after job that forced me to talk to people (think tour guide or call center) and no one made fun of the way I talked!

Coming to terms with all of the time I wasted as a teenager believing that I wasn’t deserving of appreciation or love still hurts to think about, but I’m so thankful that I broke out of those beliefs and was able to become a successful adult. I still suffer from depression and anxiety, which I’ll be dealing with my whole life on and off, I’m sure (on top of being bipolar), but I now feel confident that I can handle it.

It almost sounds silly to think that two small comments can have such a huge impact on someone’s life, but, as cliched as it sounds, words really can hurt, especially when you’re young and you haven’t learned how to defend against them.




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6 thoughts on “How Two Little Comments Destroyed Me

  1. I can’t believe it was your speech therapist who said that. How completely irresponsible and fucking clueless of that person, saying such a thing to an eleven year old. Really pissed me off to read that. I’m very sorry as it clearly had a traumatic effect on you that lasted so many years. I’m happy to know that you were able to grow to accept yourself and can now see these events from a better perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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