Dear Apraxia

 Dear Apraxia, 

I am now 26 years old and still explain to people why I speak the way I do. 

Sometimes I wonder what's more annoying: not being able to talk to people or defend the way I speak. All in all, I know my speech is what makes me, well, me. It's my mechanism to express anger, passion, and communicate my needs. 

Because of you, Apraxia, my memories and childhood videos seem to contradict. I have early memories of talking to my cousins, camping by a lake, and playing on the river-even jumping off of a boat. I remember talking to those around me, saying, "Did you see what I just did?!" Watching early childhood videos today-all that I hear is complete babbling. I don't even know what I'm saying, I don't understand 5 year old me. 

It's strange and alarming. 

After 13+ years in speech therapy, I thought I overcame your greatest of hurdles. Because of you, I attended speech therapy two to three times a week, up to an hour per session, repeating the same old dreaded 'R' sound. 

A speech pathologist would always give me a sheet of homework to do at home, which I'd say "Sure, okay." My dad would try to reinforce the homework, but how exactly could he? My mathematics homework alone (that was actually graded) was taking me 3 hours to do every night. 

Speech therapy took about 1,950 hours of my childhood, on top of the 3,250 hours spent in a classroom from Pre-K to 12th Grade. 

None of the calculations above even include time spent doing homework.

It was a challenge, it was difficult, it was consuming; it was all because of you Apraxia. 

I honestly have every reason to not like you, nor my voice, and to only speak when I absolutely have to. I don't have to socialize; I don't have to be a people-person. 

Even as an adult, my stomach sometimes churns as I hear other adults with Apraxia that sound completely "fine," as if they never had a speech disorder. 

Was that supposed to be me? Maybe if I did more of my homework, or attended more therapy, it could've been me. But would I even want that? 

No, I made my choice at 16 to pursue my goals, hobbies, and dreams. All AP classes, best college possible, and do my best on Varsity Swim and Water polo. Time-wise I would've had to sacrifice one or two of the things I wanted to do in the name of 'Speech Therapy.'  

I wasn't ready to quit speech therapy, trust me when I say all advising me said I wasn't at 'graduating level.'

But I did the one thing that not many thought I could do. Rather than waiting for 'approval' of my speech, I learned to love my speech the way it is. 

My speech and all of its differences, is a testament to everything I've gone through. It's my battle scar, and I want people to know about Apraxia. If my 'different' speech helps with that, then so be it. 

Apraxia, I have every reason to not like you. Not many sixteen year olds are forced into that level of life-changing commitments. But despite of this, I must also thank you because there are lessons you've taught me that many don't even know yet.  Thank you for showing me at a very young age that success isn't a clean road.

Thank you for showing me what it takes to find Hope. It's my responsibility to find it and be hopeful. I will have every excuse in the world to be a cynic, jaded, and negative. 

But because of you, I've learned that it's my job to find my well-being. 

I've learned that happiness comes from within and that sometimes hope is as little as knowing that tomorrow's a new day. 

Because of you I've learned that even though positivity is so hard to find, it's the most cherished. 

I've learned that being brave and being courageous requires you to simultaneously be afraid, while going forward anyways. 

So Apraxia, it may be fair to say that I don't like you, but I can at least thank you for all you've taught and are still teaching me to this day.