The first thing people usually ask me when I tell them that I had selective mutism is, “How did you get over it?” I haven’t. Well, I have. It’s a tough question.

For a lot of kids with selective mutism, talking at home is normal, but talking at school and other public places is difficult and nearly impossible. But is it still considered selective mutism if that dynamic is flipped, so that talking in public places is normal, but the thought of talking at home causes panic and anxiety.

The situation I’m dealing with now is more along those lines, but there was a time where I didn’t talk in school. For most of my childhood, I identified with my taciturn nature and thought that was just who I was. When I was little, it was easier to make friends without talking because socializing was generally more activity-based, like swinging on a swing set, playing in the dirt, or playing video games, and conversations weren’t very complicated. I could get away with nodding my head or shrugging for most questions, and then returning to whatever activity I was doing.

The older I got, it became a lot more difficult for me to traverse the field of social interactions at school. In 7th grade, people were standing in circles and just talking to each other, hugging each other, and making jokes. It all seemed so alien to me. At the beginning of each school year, when everybody was returning from their summer vacations, I’d make an effort to start talking. Someone was bound to ask, “How was your summer?” So I’d visualize myself saying ‘good.’

I didn’t have any success until the beginning of 10th grade, when I finally answered that question. “It was okay,” I replied to this boy in my class, and by the end of the day, everybody had heard about it. And it all went downhill from there.

When everybody knows you don’t talk, there’s no expectation for you to say anything at all. “Oh, he doesn’t talk,” they’d tell to those who weren’t aware of my quirk.

After that day when I spoke to my classmate, I did reply when people asked me questions, but I definitely didn’t have the ability to carry on a conversation. I was 16 by then, and during those years where I didn’t talk, I missed out on learning about talking and experiencing various social situations. So I went from ‘the kid who doesn’t talk’ (more like a gimmicky reputation) to just a quiet kid (pretty low on the social totem pole).

If you’ve ever missed a week of school because you were sick, you have to catch up as well as keep up in class. It is tough, especially if you are still sick. Likewise,  the later you ‘overcome’ selective mutism, the more you have to make up for. You have to catch up to your peers as well as keep up with them in terms of social development. And you also have to deal with the other things that selective mutism contributed to, like depression and self-esteem damage.

This is why it’s important to treat selective mutism early, so that a child doesn’t miss out on those early social experiences. For the selective mute teenager or adult, life can be especially difficult, even if you ‘overcome’ it. And it can get really lonely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sign up and help spread the word about our site Selective Mutism Online!