I have mentioned that I talk fast. Really fast. I’ve been in speech therapy to figure out how to manage it, and I often forget to use the behaviors I have learned. I know that I am really hard to understand at times. It gets worse when I’m nervous or angry, so the self-perpetuation is super awesome.

My father was the same. He also had the same aw-shucks-sorry-about-that demeanor about it that I do when strangers mention it. Everyone who points it out to me thinks that they must be the first to notice, and that they are the first to come up with whatever clever thing they have to say about it.

I’ve known since it was brought to my attention in fourth grade. Just never did much about it. Never knew I could.

You can imagine the mileage some people got out of it when I decided to study speech therapy. I chose it because I felt like I might be able to bring some empathy that people who have never had articulation problems might not have. My mentor in the program was a stutterer, so it seemed reasonable.

My first semester, I was standing in front of a room of my fellow students doing my part of a presentation when an exasperated voice came from the back of the room “Ok, could you please SLOW DOWN? I don’t know how anyone understands a thing you say. God.” From someone who was aspiring to work with people who have speech disorders.

But, at that point I decided I might as well be a patient in speech therapy while I studied. I was tested, and I speak 3 times as fast as the average person, and I read aloud 4-5 times faster. My therapist (who was my mentor) gave it a name: tachylaylia.

Tachylalia, or tachylogia is extremely rapid speech. Tachylalia occurs in many clutterers and many people who have speech disorders. Tachylalia is a generic term for speaking fast, and frequently does, but may not, coincide with other speech problems.

So, Tachylalia is not a disorder, by itself. It frequently occurs along with stuttering, or cluttering, which is a fluency disorder marked by erratic rhythm (bursts of speech followed by illogical pauses) and poor syntax or grammar. If I do any of those things, it’s infrequent.

I was treated with Delayed Auditory Feedback, where your speech is recorded and played back through headphones but with a slight delay, like an echo, that you focus on and try to match in real time. When you can’t hear the echo, you know that you are speaking at a normal rate. It was very effective at the time, but it doesn’t stick, and I can’t wear headphones everywhere I go. Focusing too hard on it causes me to lose my train of thought – and then I do clutter. So I taught myself to keep a beat, subtly tapping a finger against my leg on each emphasized word or syllable. That works well when I remember to do it.

My career in Speech Therapy didn’t work out – life happened during the time that I would have had to devote all of my time to graduate school, so I moved on.

Now, when I am in a group I just don’t talk much. I am often considered stoic, or standoffish. But if I participate, it’s inevitable – someone will bring it up. They will probably ask if I have thought about being an auctioneer, or say “what? what?” over and over, or talk over me in that repetitive gibberish that is so hilarious. Sometime they get  irritated, almost on a personal level – and I suppose if you have to work that hard when listening, that would be irritating. Many otherwise nice people seem to get some joy out of watching how uncomfortable and embarrassed it makes me. Yuk, yuk, yuk.

And if I get tired of it, I am told to lighten up. It’s just a joke.

If I imply that the issue might be their intellect, I’m an asshole with no sense of humor.

I do get fed up, particularly when I feel dismissed professionally. Once, after a work meeting years ago, I sat down in a fellow manager’s office and asked why people thought it was acceptable to hammer away at how fast I talk. How it was ok to keep bringing it up. It made me feel stupid and like I don’t belong, I told her. She told me I was being too sensitive. So I stood up and said, as if to an imaginary listener,

“Wow. You have a BIG ASS. Has it always been that big? Does anyone else in your family have that? I mean – wow. Have you seen it? What is that LIKE? Have you thought about a career as a professional buoy? Hahahaha! Maybe you could be a personal flotation device for thin people. OR A SUMO WRESTLER!”” And I got up and walked around her office like I was getting ready to wrestle. “What? Can’t you take a joke? I only joke with you because I like you. Stop being so sensitive.”

Funny. No one has any trouble understanding me when I’m being a dick.

She said “Please. Do not. Ever do that. To anyone. Or you. Will be fired.”

And I promised I wouldn’t, BECAUSE I WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO SOMEONE – but I wanted her to think about that next time she thought I, or anyone else, was being too sensitive. Why does someone else get to decide what I get to be sensitive about? Why is your need to be funny, even affectionately so by your standards, more important than someone else’s need to not feel bad?

And if you really think I’m being too sensitive, why am I still to blame when I turn the tables? I’ve never met anyone who could withstand it when I pointed out the button they might not want pushed. Friendships have ended over it – and always because when I do it, it’s mean.

What you think is good-natured teasing might actually be really frustrating or hurtful to someone else. And I hear you – it’s like the world is covered with eggshells, sometimes. I have days where my eyes never stop rolling – can we find one more thing to get mad at everyone about, please? Another way to divide people into smaller and smaller warring factions? Because we don’t spend nearly enough time drawing sweeping conclusions about someone’s character and psychological makeup based on a single observed factor.

 

Why is she still talking?

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