"You're dropping off that last -R sound again, let's rewind and listen to how you're pronouncing," my Speech Therapist would say (a little too often for my liking).
She'd proceed to rewind the audio cassette tape that held our recorded sessions and re-play it back to me. This was typically done when we were at the crossroads of my conviction that I was pronouncing something correctly, and her profession saying I wasn't.
I've associated listening to my voice as this horrible exercise, forcing myself to admit I've done or pronounced something incorrectly.
It took years, literally, for me to tolerate hearing a recording of myself. I can actually recite back to you small moments in my life that comprised of me plugging my ears if I ever had to listen to myself speak on an audio or videotape.
High School News Channel, I did one little segment less than a minute long-I went to the bathroom to avoid having to listen to myself.
Spanish College Class-Our final exam was a video and I put in earplugs as it played in front of the class, so I wouldn't have to listen to myself.
I rarely leave voicemails; why would I want anyone to have the burden of listening to my own recording?
Strange, right? I am okay with my voice, I am okay with talking to others-but put me in front of a recording of myself and I cannot stand it.
As I got older, I realized most people - Apraxia or not- despise how they sound on a recording. Most people do not appreciate listening to oneself talk, which is something I find relief in.
Recently, I attended a virtual screening of 'Finding Our Voices,' a documentary made by my dear friend Evan Gardner who also had Apraxia. If you have an opportunity to watch it, I highly recommend it. It chronicles the different perspectives and challenges of the disorder while adding a personal touch of Evan's and his family's journey as well.
I did a small interview within this film, so having to watch myself speak was anxiety-inducing. It's funny that I had no problem doing the interview, but again having to watch it and listen I automatically revert back to that child anxious for her speech therapist to rewind the tape.
I watched the entirety of the film, and for a few seconds when I knew my segment was going to come on I had clicked the 'Mute' button. I didn't want to hear myself.
But then it dawned on me, that I preach hopefulness and I advocate on finding confidence within one's weakness... If I am truly going to be okay with my speech, I have to be okay with hearing myself speak.
So I listened to myself during this film.
For the first time, voluntarily, I listened to my speech, what I had to say, and I realized it wasn't that bad.
My speech and having to listen to recordings of it used to be punishment.
But when I actually listened to my speech, it was like every syllable was an indication of a years-long journey. Even my middle -R sounds, maybe a bit shaky, but I was pronouncing them. That was progress from the 5-year-old girl that was completely non-verbal.