I am not quite sure where or how it started, but there are a few things that I believe may have led and even triggered little Melanie finding shelter in becoming selectively mute at the age of 3. What is selective mutism you may ask? It is a complex anxiety disorder that will affect a person's ability of speech, therefore making them unable to talk or communicate in an effective way in select social settings. (ie: school, gatherings, social outings, etc.) This typically begins at an early phase in childhood. These children will only feel comfortable speaking to someone if they feel safe, secure, and in a relaxed environment. This disorder affects 0.8% of humanity.
Some say triggers cause it, others say it just happens. I feel that in my life it was a mixture of so many things. I can assure you however that this is not a choice that a child makes and says "hey, I'm not going to talk". Believe me. Any person who has ever lived with selective mutism will tell you that everything inside of them wants and wanted to speak. As we journey through this blog, I will paint a very thorough picture of what life really looked like in that internal prison. To lock yourself up in your head is a very dangerous thing. When I am ready, I will write about this very matter of this disorder.
When I was 2 years old, my little brother was born but was severely sick with asthma. So much so that they had to rush him from Timmins to Sault Ste Marie in order for him to receive the care that was needed. Imagine your entire world shaking at 2. Mommy and daddy having to rush away, hours away, in order to be with your new little sibling. Being left with your outstanding and amazing grandparents. I truly don't think I understood what was going on but I do know that when my dad returned (he managed to do so prior to my mom and brother coming home for Christmas), this little 2 year old girl held on to her daddy's neck for 2 hours straight without letting him go. I am told that I never really liked hospitals after that and would not cope well even when we would drive by one. Up until now, I could never really understand why Christmas (as much as I love the holiday!) made me feel so uneasy, feeling down, discouraged, and even depressed. Yes, you read that right. However, I don't think I ever linked the two together until digging into this journey. This year and moving forward, Christmas is being redeemed!
Fast forward months later. My little brother is not doing well and having an asthma attack. My mom calls an ambulance. The experience with all of it, including the paramedics, was not so good. I am told that little Melanie was super stressed when it all occurred and that I was traumatized by the experience itself. It was sheer chaos. I write this and so many emotions are surfacing. That little 2 year old must have been so scared. Could fear have dug a deep and dark hole inside her little person so soon? Why did her little world feel so out of control? Was there yelling involved? What did this little one revert to or do in order to cope with the fact that her little brother was not well, her mom was likely shook up cause her little one was unwell? What did it all look like? What did her little mind think and her little heart feel? So many questions left unanswered.
The summer prior to attending pre-kindergarten, mom took Shawn and I for a walk. She tells me this story and I can envision it. We were taking a walk down the street from our home. As she approached the school, which was not even a block away, she realized she was REALLY not feeling well. She pulled the stroller into the school and had one of the teachers call 911. As we were waiting for the ambulance to show up, the teacher tried to struck up a conversation with me. "How old are you? What is your brother's name?" I stood there, frozen. Not a word. Not a sound. Nothing. I am told that at that time they knew something was up and alarmed. I visited social workers to get assessed (I mean, I remember this as if it was yesterday; they had dolls and barbies for me to play with and they would just talk to me... I had no real idea what was going on), a psychologist, no one seemed to have true answers or solutions other than "your child is selectively mute". I commend my parents tremendously because they did not have many resources in order to know how to help their sweet girl fight and overcome selective mutism. They truly did the best they could with what they had.