I’m here today to share with you all how difficult I would find it to spend a day without speaking. The reason I’m doing this is to help spread the light on Selective Mutism which is a severe anxiety disorder and is also what Steffi in A Quiet Kind of Thunder suffers from.
So before I begin, here’s some more information on the book!
About the Book
Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.
Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.
From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.
When I first thought about how difficult it would be to not be able to speak, I thought about the amount of times a day people speak to you and expect an answer back. Strangers that have never met you who you may accidentally bump into in the street. People who ask you for directions or the time or for your help with something. This would be tricky – and something that I also think would be also be incredibly hard for a deaf person too – but then I dived a little further and realised that I talk… a lot. I used to think of myself as a quiet girl. A girl who kept to herself and spoke only when she felt she needed to and in part, I am still that person but I also talk a lot more than I even knew.
The second thing to come from this thought process was the thought that I would not be able to work in the job I am currently doing. A large part of my job is talking to customers. It would be impossible to do my job if I was incapable of talking – and of course, how would I have interviewed for the job in the first place? On an average day I talk to maybe 100 people. Sometimes all I say is hello. Sometimes I just have a quick interaction while I sign them up to the library and other times I have to have a more in depth conversation so that I can help the customer in the best way possible. Then there is all of the essential talking that happens between myself, my colleagues and my superiors. Words of discussion, of explanations, of tasks that have or need to be completed. Without this communication, it would be a disaster. How would my colleagues communicate to customers the reason there are less books is because I am creating a nicer area for them if I hadn’t told them this first?
So without a doubt, my job would not be there. So what would I do for a living instead? I cannot even fathom a job where there is no talking at all. I’m sure that there is probably something. Maybe something in crafts or art, but even then you have to have the talent for it and how would you sell it without words?
Then I thought about eating out. I do this more often than I probably should. But eating out means ordering. Ordering is very difficult without words. I presume in a restaurant you might be able to point at the dish on the menu but what if you needed something changing? Or what if you’re in a coffee shop or somewhere like McDonalds or Subway? At least if you go food shopping, these days you can get by without words because in most larger stores you can either self-scan your items or do a scan and shop but if you need help or a staff member asks you something, how would you go about answering them?
There is so much about my day to day life that requires speech or words of some kind that the idea of being physically incapable of doing it, scares me. I’ve always been petrified of losing my sight or my hearing but never really thought about speech. Until now. And it is now something that I am grateful for and will treasure from now on.
As someone who suffers from anxiety, I can understand that fear. I can understand the worry that must go through the mind when it comes to being unable to speak. I know that when I suffer from panic attacks, I can barely talk. I need to get myself to a safe space but telling someone that isn’t possible. I’m usually just about dealing from not being able to breathe. And I also know that the fear of certain situations has stopped me from going places or trying new things. So, I can see how it is possible to deal with this fear by not speaking.
And knowing how tough this would make life, I can only hope that the people they love understands that and accepts them as they are. Because they’re going to need every last ounce of support they can get.
You can find out more about selective mutism on the NHS website: here and on a few Selective Mutism specialist websites, such as this one and this one, and also on this anxiety websire, here.
As well as A Quiet Kind of Thunder, I would also highly recommend, What I Couldn’t Say by Faye Bird as another UKYA book to read which features a main protagonist with selective mutism.