I went to sleepaway camp for a month this summer. While that might seem like a terrifying experience for someone with selective mutism, at camp I felt like I could be open about myself. I found myself talking a lot to friends and strangers, campers and counselors. Camp was a surprising happy place, and I found myself dreading going back home, where I would be alone, but for my family.
On the first day of camp, I was expecting to have to work really hard to avoid talking, while also not making a bad first impression. But it was not to be so. I went up to my dorm room, where my room-mates were unpacking. On of them, Maya, immediately said hi and started going on about how happy she was to meet me. You might have thought: Uh-oh, we’re off to a bad start! But no! Instead of clamming up and being quiet, I struck up a conversation, and made friends with her. With all the other girls I was exactly the same! I don’t even know why. Maybe because no-one already knew me, so they did not know that I was normally quiet. It felt really good to be open and talkative.
When I came back home, I became the quiet me everyone knew, only feeling a little bit braver. I’m not sure what it is about camp, but it just feels like a safe place where I can be myself. One of the reasons might be because there are not many consequences because it is short term. Another might be because I am around very few people, but the same people every day, just having fun, for a month.