October is Selective Mutism Awareness Month, and we are trying to raise awareness of the struggles we have had while facing this condition. We are two teenagers with selective mutism, and we are trying to convey our struggles with it, in hopes to help and inspire other people who are struggling with the same thing.
Throughout the years, we have faced a lot of prejudice and stigma about this condition as it is quite rare and not many people understand it, especially with regards to teenagers and adults. Most of the treatments out there are aimed at younger children, but as we get older we need a different approach in treatments; we think differently as we mature. Many teenagers with SM have a long history of not being able to talk, along with a long history of anxiety surrounding it.
We have felt very alone because of our condition, and the fact that there’s not enough understanding of it amongst mental health professionals and the general population leads us to feel even more isolated. Most people think that we are being stubborn or that we actually get to choose when we are able to talk or not. This is definitely not the case. Selective mutism is not an easy condition to manage, and we experience an inordinate amount of anxiety when there is an expectation to speak.
Knowing people who have the same condition has helped us immensely, since we have someone to relate to and we can help each other out. We have similar experiences and understand the importance of validation in the selective mutism community.
There are complications even after someone has begun to manage their selective mutism. The recovery is usually very long and a lot of work has to be put into it. Someone who has SM, and hasn’t talked for the majority of their lives, may have trouble fitting into society because they have limited verbal communication skills. This is especially true in teenagers and adults, and it may make it harder to get a job, attend higher education or successfully function in adult life. Increased awareness and education of teens and adults with SM can help us live a more meaningful life.
[Bekki] I have been friends with Stella for a while now. I think it has helped me to realize that even though it is uncommon to come across someone like me, whose paralyzing anxiety prevents talking, it is less lonesome now that I’ve met someone to relate to, and who is very similar to me.
We hope that our points of view, from our first-hand experiences, have given you more insight into what it’s like to be us, and the importance of greater awareness, understanding, and recognition of teenagers and adults with selective mutism.
Bekki Semenova is a passionate selective mutism and mental health advocate who aims to inspire and help the selective mutism community find their strength and feel less alone. She hopes that by sharing her experiences, she can help others like her who are struggling in similar situations. She is located in Vaughan, Canada.
Stella is currently 18 years old and is living in Australia with her family and beloved horse. She is interested in horse riding, spending time with friends and spreading awareness and understanding of selective mutism.