A few days ago, I was interviewed by stuttertalk.com about my experience with the SpeechEasy. In 2002, Good Morning America followed me as I tried the device out for the first time.
It was a miracle. I could talk. I went to Subway, and for once I got exactly what I wanted. I didn't pick ingredients that were easy to say. That may sound like a small thing, but when you have always settled for foods with easy-to-say names, it feels pretty damn good to get tuna on honey wheat with banana peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, mayonnaise, spicy mustard, American cheese, vinegar but not oil, and pepper but not salt. I was free.
I'm not exactly sure when I noticed that the device wasn't working for me, but it wasn't very long after my Subway "eureka" moment. At first, I began to notice the feedback that the device produced. It was sometimes hard to hear the person to whom I was talking, and I was all but deaf in public spaces. I knew that there would be an upgrade soon though, so I shrugged this off.
Soon, I noticed that I was stuttering more. I blamed myself. I was clearly not using the device correctly because anything that costs $5,000 must do what it claims to do. No. It wasn't me. It just didn't work.
My first thought was "how am I going to tell my family?" Everyone thought that Mark The Stutterer was gone. He was vanquished by science! In his place stood a confident, happy, silver tongued devil with the world at his fingertips.
I slowly stopped using the device without telling my family. I was away at college, so this was pretty easy. When they called, I would just say that the battery was dead or that I had just gotten out of the shower. It worked for about a month, but my mom eventually caught on.
She understood my reluctance to talk about the problems I was having with the device, but she pushed me to get in touch with the people at Janus. She said that they could help me.
I humored her for a little while before finally admitting what I had know for a while: the SpeechEasy device did not work.
The next 6 months were probably the worst of my life. My dream of being fluent had slipped through my fingers. I withdrew from friends, I stopped going to class, and I drank. I finished spring semester with a 0.5 GPA, and I was put on academic probation. I blamed everything but stuttering for my downward spiral. I refused to accept that I actually wanted to be fluent that much. The let down had crushed me.
That summer, I decided to rejoin the world. I bar backed at a local bar and made plans for the next school year. I contacted a few friends and even dated. I was going through the motions, but my heart wasn't in it. I was convinced that I would always be Mark The Stutterer and never Just Plain Mark. I had a built in glass ceiling. I tried not to take it too hard when my boss at the bar told me he wasn't going to give me the prime bartending job he had promised me because "I just couldn't talk to customers." He was right. Who would promote a guy like me?
Since then, I have struggled to convince myself that I can do all the things that Just Plain Mark can do. I married a beautiful girl, I graduated college, and I now spend my time racing bicycles and laying out and designing books for Deeds Publishing. My life isn't perfect, but its imperfections cannot be blamed on stuttering.
What was I saying? Oh yeah - SpeechEasy. Give it a try if you must, but don't get your hopes up.