When I was in elementary school, I maybe talked to one or two people during the school day- my twin sister and a best friend. That was about it. During class, I didn’t speak at all. Some days were better than others when I could ask to use the restroom or- actually that’s all I remember asking a teacher. As I got older, I began leaving a whiteboard in my desk or my locker and would bring it out when “I didn’t feel like talking” and would use that to communicate. So, why did my teachers tell my parents that I don’t participate enough and that I don’t ask enough questions and that I should talk more? Why didn’t they tell my parents that I didn’t talk- at all?
As a child, everything that I did was normal. I assumed everyone had days where they lacked the energy to vocalize. In actuality it takes way more energy for me to vocalize than others. Here is the thing that can complicate being selectively mute, all ability to speak doesn’t always disappear completely. There are times when I can only whisper. There are days when I loose some vocabulary. There are days when I can’t get vulnerable information out of my mouth. For example- I might have a pressing emotion I am going through and I am thinking about it a lot, but when someone asks me how I am doing I say that I am “good.” Meanwhile, my brain is screaming that is not what I wanted to say! Why did I say that? Why didn’t I tell the truth?
I can also be triggered into falling silent. The most common one is confrontation. I often loose the ability to speak when I have to stand up for myself or others. My head could be screaming to say something and put that person right, but my mouth won’t open. The words won’t come out. For this reason I tell people that I don’t like confrontation.
I also loose the ability to speak in loud sensory unfriendly environments, when there is too much to process and I can’t keep up. Other times, when I am exhausted- I don’t have the energy to vocalize my thoughts. Lastly, I loose the ability to speak when I don’t feel heard. When I am shut down and talked over and feel like no one cares what I have to say- the words stop coming.