The Joy of Belonging: 36-year old man recovered from 12 years of stuttering & depression after “making better friends”

Have you ever wondered just how bad not fitting in a group of friends can get?

I received a very moving email from a member from our non profit community TCKID, a 36 yo man who suffered from over 12 years of stuttering and depression because of a lack of belonging. His stuttering “gradually got better” after he made better friends.

He’s not the only one, I have talked to a few dozen people with similar stories who are suffering in silence.

You can read his story below:

Hi Brice,
Hope you can understand my English, It’s what I learned by myself so I hope everything is understandable.
I think my story is maybe a bit different because there are 2 other factors in my life that makes my life even more difficult.

You may reconsider your promise of reading every email if they are all this long

I lived in Oman, Irak, and Saudia Arabia with my parents up until I was 13. I loved it there. I can’t Imagine a better childhood than the one I had. That is the first 13 years. The rest was not a pleasant experience to say the least.

I never went to school when we lived in the Middle East. All studies were done via mail and came from the ministry of education in Belgium. My mother was also my teacher… if she had the time that is.

My fathers career was the bigest focus of my mother. I can remember that she was always preparing some big party to get my father introduced to the write people. So many times we were left wandering on ourselves, wich ment no school at all and that was fine for me My mother also had a very different idee of how to raise children. She believes in a free way of raising children. Wich in many ways ment ‘no’ upbringing. A child can only develop it’s natural capabilities if it’s not suppressed by adults she thinks. In theory this sounds very good but in reality there are many drawbacks. I didn’t know what it’s like to listen and do what an adult tels me. And on top of that I have ADHD wich my mother also refuses to give me medication for because se believed that this would also surpress any natural development of a child.

At age 13 we came back to Belgium.

So there I was in Belgium in a real School (even a boarding school!) for the first time in my life. Here all of a sudden I had to listen to what adults told me to do.
You can imagine it didn’t go well and I hade real problems to fit in. I had been kicked out of 7 schools when I reached the age of 18. The day I got the be 18 was also my last day of school, with no degree whatsoever.
The only job I could get back then was working in a factory. That also didn’t went well.

I think I must have worked in at least 20 different jobs by the time I was 24 and I was feeling deeply depressed.

From the time I was 13 when we came back to belgium I had begin to develop a speaking disorder, apparently because I couldn’t handle everything. When I was 24 I stuttered so bad that I could hardly speak anymore. Today almost all of my stuttering is gone as I began to think a lot and understood from where it was all coming and starting to accept things for what they are.

Back when I was 24 the internet was starting to develop. I saw a big opportunity here in designing websites, creativity had always been my biggest capability. Designing websites was so new that there was no degree for this so me not having one I hoped wouldn’t be that much of a problem. I talked it over with my father and he also believed it was a good idee. He bought me an Apple computer I couldn’t afford myself back then but it was the computer you needed to have to do graphic design work. I also stopped working in the factory’s and I got my self a licens to work as a freelancer. The beginning was far from easy, I had to learn everything myself and I didn’t have any money. But I hanged in there and it did work out in the end.

Today I work as a senior Motion Graphic Designer at Agency.com Brussels. I’m a full time freelancer at this company for the last 5 years, I have a really nice income and I work for mayor international clients. I worked really hard to get this and I’m good at what I do so I should be happy where I ame now. But I’m not. I want to walk away from it all and do something else. And this isn’t the first time. Back when I was working in the factory I was also a semi profesional snooker player. I put years of hard work in my snooker, but when I started to get really good at it I walked away from everything and start to do something completely different. Same with the job I have now. I’m going to walke away from something I worked so hard for to do something completely different I know nothing about. Now I want to start up a small company that designs and makes leather laptop sleeves and bags, and I know absolutely nothing about this leatherbag business.

It may seem strange and foolish to leave everything you worked for and are good at behind, but this is what I know and in a strange way I feel familiar with, this is what I always have done.

Except that it’s painful because it’s something I worked so hard for. I still cry sometimes that I left my snooker and never looked back to it. And I aslo cry now that I realise I’m going to do the same again with my present work. But if I stay and do where I ame now I’m unhappy to.

I’m a bit afraid to seek contact with other TCKA people because what if I can’t even relate to these people? Many things I read on the website I do relate to. But for me it doesn’t stop there. There are 2 other big thing wich causes a lot of problems for me in fitting in, making friend and keeping friends I think. It’s not having a proper upbringing by my parents together with having ADHD. It’s like our family lawyer once sad to a friend of mine when he was talking about our family, ‘the mother can not be tamed, and the children, they are like wolfschildren’. He didn’t say it in a bad way. But I think his observations are right. So maybe it’s not only me who has it difficult in keeping friends, but it’s aslo true that it’s not easy to be a friend and stay a friends with me for other people. I think many times people don’t know what to think of me, they don’t seem to be able to get a grip on me an place me.

I’m an observer and a thinker like may TCKs. Maybe a bit to much of a thinker because the outcome is many times not that pleasant. Thinking a lot develops very strong believes, principles and values. This is fine, accept I also think it’s this that makes it very difficult for other people to stay friends with me. I can easily make friends with Belgium people but after a period of time I can’t stay friends with them.
Many times it comes to a confrontation I’m so deeply hurt in my believes, principles and values by these friends that I can’t be friends with them anymore. The person in question does not even understand why. Not all people think as much as I do and are therefore many times unaware of what they are doing and why I can’t be friends with them anymore.

This makes it very difficult for me to have a feeling of home.

For me home is not a physical place. I feel home wherever I know there are people who truly care about me and I about them. Home is a constancy in your life wich you know is always there no mater what. But I can’t find constant friends, they always come and go. Therefore It’s difficult to have a real feeling of home.

My stuttering began when I was 13.

At first it was not so bad and I could keep it much under control so people wouldn’t notice it. As adapting and trying to fit was more difficult each year it got worse. I remember when I was 16 a teacher in class asked a question to me. It was really simple, everyone in the class knew the answer and so did I but couldn’t say the word. The teacher waited for the whole class hour for me to say the answer. I sat there all this time in my seat with everyone in a painful silence waiting for it to be over. It was only at the last minutes I couldn’t take it anymore and I broke out in tears.

When I was around 18 it was again more easy to keep it under control when I felt a bit better because I made some friends here in belgium who I had a nice time with, even if it was only on a very shallow level. It was a few years later when it went very bad when I started to realise that I had no education what so ever and that it was not going to be easy to get out of the life I was living. The friends I had were all doing drugs and so was I. The older I got the more I started to have difficulty what I was doing and the people I was associating with. I was 24. So I cut them of in my life all at once. This was very hard, it was a time that I had no friends what so ever. It was also the first years as a freelancer and in the beginning I had no experience and no or very little work. All of a sudden I also had to talk to people with I higher education and I felt very much inferior to them. I remember those years very well because at one stage it was so bad I could hardly speak. I felt very unhappy and depressed. When I was talking I was thinking about these things that made me feel depressed and it made my brain and talking organs completely out of sync.

The next years my stuttering gradually got better as I made some new and different friends than I had before.

My work as a freelancer also started to go very well, and when I was around 30 I was working for all the big clients I always believed I had the capabilities to work for.

Today I think people who know me can still recognize some stuttering, but it’s more a habitual left over.

If I really wanted to I could speak without stuttering but I don’t care that much anymore. When I was younger I felt very ashamed for it but now I don’t anymore, and with that thought it gradually went away.

Getting older makes you accept things more like they are. I’m 36 now.

Lately I feel that some of my stuttering is coming back a little bit from time to time because I’m very much in the same situation as I was so many years ago when I was doing it so much. I feel again very restles because of all the changes that have happend lately and are going to come. Like before I felt that a lot of people I was friends with were not really my friends and I had to break with them. But a very few are still there this time, so it’s not that bad. Also I realised that the job I worked so hard for is coming to an end and that I have to leave it behind in search for something else. But also this is not the end because for each loss there is place for something new and different. It’s still hard because you step in the unknown and you don’t know what it’s all going to lead to but then you realise that you have been here many times before. It doesn’t give you any guarantees but it helps.
Of course Brice you have my permission to share my mails if it can help people.
Seppe