So I did a post on my previous Norwegian blog about this, which I know came to a surprise to a lot of people. And now I’m doing it in English so anyone who does not understand Norwegian can still understand what I have been through and what so many others are going through.
Why are you not talking?
It’s when you can tell the world about the things you keep so close that you start to let them go, or has already let them go.
Maybe not the world, but at least being able to talk about it – tell it to someone else.
This is the most personal post I have ever written, and ever will write.
When I talk about it it seems like an entire life away, a different girl. At the same time I remember it so well, the feelings and the despair.
Little Marte that went to kindergarten. Mom had no idea. Dropped me off and picked me up – I got in the car and started talking with no stop.
There is a lot of people going through tough and hard times as kids, even though you might be very young and can not remember the exact moments it does not mean that the little person wasn’t present in those moments and that it won’t affect the child as it gets older. That is exactly what happens. The brain is very good at purposely forgetting and shutting out bad memories or bad things, but it does not mean that it’s not still there in the subconsciousness.
The little girl that moved to Bodø. Went to kindergarten and kept talking non stop with Mom.
All until one day the kindergarten aunt (we call them that in Norway) said she had to speak with Mom.
“Marte doesn’t talk.”
More things made sense to Mom. I had always been quiet when she came inside to pick me up, but the second we got into the car I started talking again.
I talked to my two best friends in kindergarten. I trusted them. Kindergarten aunties could stand outside the door of the room we were playing inside to hear me talk, and that was the only times they would hear my voice.
After that it was multiple years with minimal talking. I went to school with the same people for years, but I guarantee they could count on one hand the times they heard me speak. No way they would get to know me either.
It is so clear on photographs as well. To the left you can tell I’m confident and feel safe, to the right you can see I feel unsafe and uncomfortable with other people around me.
Looking back at it I think it’s sad. I was such a good kid with strong opinions and always made the people close to me laugh either when we were playing Idol or played dress up or any of the other ideas I always came up with. I wish more people got the chance to know that little girl.
The few people I trusted and let in has been with me since then. I hope and do believe that is the reason why I’m able to keep and take care of good friendships today. I have had them by my side through everything and they were the first ones I let in. Malin, Martine and Mathilde.
I could probably have written an entire book about this. My feelings, my despair, the reason for everything and how I got out of it.
So how did I feel? Why did I choose to not speak?
It was never a choice. What kid would ever choose to not speak up, not get to know new people, listen to adults and kids talk about you – but say nothing yourself?
I wanted to talk so bad. I always answered in class. In my head. I just could not get it out. It was a block there.
When I got a bit older and could say a few things I got even more attention when I did because it was so rare. It only made it worse.
If it was something I hated it was attention. I hated it more than anything.
I have been so insecure and I have been so scared to trust people.
When I was around people I did not trust it was all I could think about. “I have to try and say something, just anything”, “It doesn’t fit the conversation, everyone will be staring”.
I just need to try everything so they won’t ask that question.
My stomach hurts so much then. It’s a type of feeling I would never want my worst enemy to experience. I still remember that horrible feeling.
“Why are you not talking?”
Auch. There it is.
Today I know that no one ever asked that question to be mean. Kids are kids. Kids are supposed to talk and play and laugh and tell stories and get to know other kids – especially if you are in the same class.
Kis are curious. Of course they will ask why. Why a little girl choose to never say anything. It is such a strange thing for kids that don’t know what it’s about. It’s hard to understand.
I did not even know what it was about. I also wanted to be like everyone else.
I’m gonna let you guys know one thing. It is insane how drained and tired it made me. I can tell you that it’s tiring to jog for an hour, to work for 9 hours, to do a commercial for 24 hours. But all those thoughts, all that frustrations inside the head and body of a little girl – that it the most tiring things in the whole world for a girl that wants to so bad, but just can’t. A girl that feels so different, but still just like everyone else. “If only I could show how I, Marte, really is, then I know you and you and you would actually like me so much.”
I did not like other people talking about me, or saying my name. Because when they said it they were talking about the girl that didn’t talk, it was not the stubborn Marte that my Mom knew, the annoying little sister my brother knew, or the goofy girl my best friends knew. It was my name, but I never wanted to hear it from them because they weren’t talking to the girl they thought they were. I was not weak or an invisible person, but that is what I felt when they said my name. It might have been easy to see that little girl as that. If they only knew what was going on inside my head.
Stress, despair and worries a seven year old is not supposed to have. I had so many more “adult” thoughts even then compared to kids my age. I had a lot of time to think while the others were talking
But there’s a hero in this story as well.
My amazing Mom.
If it had not been for you I would never have been where I am today. I know for certain I would not be living in London. I would not have experienced half of what I have today.
She read and studied and talked to anyone and everyone who could know anything about this. Selective Mutism. Anxiety of speaking.
She didn’t pamper me, she explained to me that I had to challenge myself if I wanted to get better. If I wanted to talk more.
It was so hard, but she was right. We went to a place almost every Saturday, a place we had been going to since we moved to Bodø. I wanted water, sometimes hot chocolate. If I wanted it I had to go with my mom up to the counter and ask for myself. Sometimes I ended up with water or hot chocolate, sometimes I ended up with nothing.
But it got better, and it got easier.
Mom was right.
School was something else. It was so much I really wanted to say – and I wanted everyone else to get to know me and not just be the girl that doesn’t talk – I knew that I was so much more than that. I wanted them to know the girl I was at home or with my best friends. Smiling and happy, pretty funny at times, and the most stubborn little girl. Not afraid to talk.
It took time. There was so many things I wanted to say, but I was overthinking and could not get anything out until the people around me started talking about something new, and then I felt like it was too late.
Every time I went home from school without being able to say what I wanted, I felt like a failure. That feeling was horrible. Stomach ache and so very tired from walking with my shoulders up to my ears and all the thoughts that had been going through my head.
Sometimes I did it. And then I left school with a better feeling. If I could not do it next day again I felt even more horrible. I did it yesterday? So why not today?
After a while I got more tough for every day that passed. Sometimes it was still extra hard.
What changed me a lot I would say is traveling. It was a huge turning point for me.
I started seeing things differently. We are all just people living our lives, why should I care so much? I need to be proud of who I am – and be able to show it. It’s not a bad thing that people are interested in who I am, not a bad thing to get attention. I need to talk.
I started getting annoyed at myself. I am a good person – I know I should have a lot better confidence. I’m hiding away, hiding away everything that makes me Marte. Everyone should get the chance to see how weird and happy I can be, how strong opinions I have.
I can’t be wasting all my good characteristics and only keep them to myself. I need to listen to what my close ones tell me.
I remember things really starting to change. But back home I still got some of those old feelings back. I think it was the memories.
I also think that so many years spent just observing people, just listening to them talk, how they choose their words and looking at their body language – made me kind of an expert when it comes to reading people.
That today has really payed off. I notice all the small things that might be difficult for others to see. Signs of nervousness, lies, people trying to be someone else, people hurting inside. I always have enough confidence to let people know my opinions, more than that even – I will always speak up if I think something is wrong. I am not afraid to show my reactions. I don’t let people scare me anymore, no matter how big authority anyone has it does not mean you are more worth, that you have more of a right to speak your mind or that what you say is more correct – I can tell that everyone has their insecurities, that it is so many people trying to be someone else. Everyone is struggling with their own stuff, and that’s just how it is.
I have pushed myself so much throughout my life. I’m so thankful for my stubbornness.
My stubbornness started showing more than ever when I was struggling the most with talking. My teacher at school and my Mom used to write to each other, and make a plan for when I should try and say things in class so I could be prepared and actually do it. One time everyone was going to say a song they liked. For me it was between two different songs. One had the most difficult and long name, but that one was actually my favourite. The second had the easiest name.
I know for anyone not experiencing this kind of block, this anxiety, can’t imagine how this possibly can be difficult, just say it right? It’s not that easy. The body stiffens and you can’t speak at all. That feeling is so horrible. It’s terrible. I always wanted to, but I couldn’t.
I was screaming and yelling and was so frustrated at home. I have to laugh a bit – if everyone that knew me as the girl who didn’t speak was there to see me then they would have been shocked – talking was not the problem back home where I felt safe. I was again back to feeling completely drained. Mom told me I could say the simple one. No, I couldn’t! It was not my favourite. I ended up saying the hard one. One step closer.
I also remember my Mom organising a little meeting with someone else who had Selective Mutism. It was a little girl my age, and her parents. Mom and me. We went out to eat pizza. That meeting helped me a lot. I realised how far I had gotten, and that it can be even worse for someone else. That I was not alone. I answered her parents when they asked me about something. The girl had to whisper to her parents if she wanted to say anything, and then they had to tell us. I think meeting me gave both her and her parents hope that something could change as well. Sometimes I think about her still – wondering how things are now for her.
Little Marte that did not want to talk to anyone, couldn’t talk to anyone – ended up leaving home at 17, working as a model, being the one asking strangers, calling, fixing things whenever I’m with friends or family, letting everyone know my opinions, experience the world on my own, giving people an opportunity to get to know me – but most importantly, me getting the opportunity to get to know so many new amazing people.
The girl that once hated attention and people noticing her – she now wants you to see her, hear her, and understand her.
We can all get better if we find the strength to push ourselves. No matter how much you are struggling I know things can get better, it can get so much better. Don’t let your past define you, please don’t. You have new opportunities every single day.
I don’t want you guys to compare this to being shy – it’s something different. I remember I hated that word. I truly hated it when people used it regarding me – or asked me if I was shy. I wasn’t – I just couldn’t get out anything that was going on inside my head! I hated it when people made me feel like I was weak and someone who was less worth, that I was no one. I was 7 years old, 10 years old, 12 years old – and I could already see how badly everyone around me was trying, how they tried to be accepted by others, how insecure they really were, but I was still sitting there feeling that horrible feeling because I could not get any words out. I think that was something that made me feel a bit better. “You’re not fooling me, I can see that you are struggling – you as well.”
I think that was part of my motivation. I wanted everyone around me one day to understand that I also understood, I saw so much more than you thought.
On the positive side, people with this condition also have:
❤ Above-average intelligence, perception, or inquisitiveness
❤ Creativity and a love for art or music
❤ Empathy and sensitivity to others’ thoughts and feelings
❤ A strong sense of right and wrong
Thank you so much, Mom. For all the knowledge you have given me, for all the times you made me stronger, for the times you have been there right by my side, and for the times you have let me challenge myself alone. That has all made me into the woman I am today. And that woman – I am so proud of her.
For the Norwegian post press here.