My Stuttering Chameleon Diary

The back of a woman's head as she types on a laptop, with an insert of a drawing of a chameleon, using coloured pencils

19th August 2021

Megumi Ishikawa introduces us to her blog 'Stuttering Chameleon Diary', in which she writes about living and working in Japan with a stammer.

I was a silent child who couldn't say a word outside my house. People distinguished between my twin sister and me by talking to us and seeing from which one they got a response. But I was talkative at home and I never feared speaking with my family. 

Hello everyone, I'm a 39 year-old Japanese woman, currently working from home in Tokyo as a sales assistant. Because I live alone and mostly communicate with my co-workers by email, I hardly talk with anyone and I fear saying "Thanks" at the reception of the gym where I go regularly. I can say it naturally when I enter the gym, but my throat shuts when I leave. Weird, isn't it?

Four years ago, I suddenly started to stammer even when I talked with my family and I was very shocked. I looked for help online and learned that I had a stammer — or '難 発性吃音' as it's known in Japanese (pronounced 'kitsuon') — from a speech counsellor. 

Being mistaken for someone who has no opinion, when hundreds of thoughts are in my mind, is frustrating.

Though I always knew there was something different about my speech, I had believed that 'stuttering' meant only repeating a sound, which I didn't do. So, learning about many different types of stuttering, such as blocking on sounds, was an eye-opener for me. 

Shy people are not rare in Japan and I feel that especially women with speech differences are not regarded favourably. Men are still the breadwinners who do the talking in the business meetings here. Being mistaken for someone who has no opinion, when hundreds of thoughts are in my mind, is frustrating.

Why I Started my blog

Not long ago I started writing an online blog called 'Stuttering Chameleon Diary: Ordinary days of a stutterer'. My initial purpose in writing this diary was to show my unvoiced feelings to my former employer from which I was suddenly dismissed. I also wanted to point out some issues with the recruitment industry in Japan. 

As I continued to write, I noticed that my ordinary days were actually full of speech-related incidents I wanted to remember and people I wanted to thank, so they became another motivation. I imagined the faces of my co-workers, my friends and family when I wrote about them. I thought of my unknown stuttering readers when I mentioned my stammer. 

A lot of people have asked me about the title of my blog. My natal chart says about my star sign: 'Although often quiet and shy, another day may find them talkative and passionate.' I have often been told by my friends that I change like a chameleon. They said it in a good way, because I was either cheerful or fearful, never aggressive or mean to anyone. 

I think everyone changes their mood to a degree, but overthinkers like me tend to show almost a different personality. If most people make a small pond, river or a lake from one drip, I create a huge ocean and drown. When they change from purple to pink, I change from deep blue to dark red, so my change is visible. I haven't thought of my Chameleon-like persona connecting with my speech fear, but I think they are related because my fear grows when I remember the past awkward experiences in which I stammered. But when my brain is preoccupied by happy things, I can be extremely happy and talkative.

I hope you will time-travel with me as my guest and enjoy reading about my ordinary days. When I was told that I had a stammer four years ago, I felt very happy. I always knew that stutterers understood me, so they were much more attractive to me than people who spoke fluently. 

If after reading my diary you connect with it and feel like I'm your friend, that would make me proud of my stammer.

Read Megumi's blog Stuttering Chameleon Diary

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