My trainer comes up to me. “How are you doing, Milana?” She asks. I barely whisper, “Good,” though I see her 4 times a week, sometimes more. And she’s not scary, I just can’t speak to her.
Lots of people confuse selective mutism with just plain shyness. But there is a big difference. Take Gabriel, my brother, for example. He is shy. When he went to school, at first, when people talked to him, he would just stand there. But my mom explained to him to just say ‘hi,’ and he thought ‘Ok! That’s easy,’ and suddenly he talked. My mom tried the same tactic with me… with a different outcome. It didn’t make me talk – if anything, it made me quieter. That’s because he is shy and I am selectively mute.
If someone is shy, they are hesitant to speak, but will, if they are in the right setting with the right encouragment. They might just be scared to say the wrong thing or worried that they will say the wrong thing. They may be frightened, but if they feel safe they will open up. But when you are selectively mute, it’s different. You really want to speak, but can’t. You want to open up, but won’t. You want to be a part of the group, a part of the conversation, but no. You’re quiet, not because you want to, but because you have no choice. For example, one day at my barn, Bella (my friend) and Madison (my trainer) were talking about the animals that show up in their backyard. I wanted to put in about the turtle that came to my backyard a few days back, but after a few minutes, when my vocal cords still wouldn’t vibrate, we moved on.
We figured out I had selective mutism a few years ago, when, thinking I was shy, my mom brought me to a therapist to help get some mental tools to get me to open up more. When that did not work, the therapist suggested that I might have selective mutism, and I should see a specialist. At this point, we started doing some research, and everything matched that I would have selective mutism. Actually finding out that something could define what I was feeling made me feel much better and less alone than before. Because it helps to know that other people are similar to me and that I am not alone. Finally, we saw a therapist that specialized in selective mutism, and she started helping me. That helped me a bit because she understood me, but it still did not completely help. Selective mutism is always a challenge in everyday life, and I am constantly struggling with it.
Having selective mutism means I also have a lot of unvoiced thoughts and comments. That builds up a bunch, and sometimes it helps to write it down. That’s part of what got me to start making this. Just because I don’t say much doesn’t mean I don’t think much or feel much. Sharing it with similar beings can help a ton.