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  • My name is Shaela Niles.

  • I'm 25 years old.

  • I am the kind of speaker that speaks at a slow pace

  • and deliberately.

  • In November of 2011,

  • I found something on Wikipedia that changed my life.

  • It was the words "selective mutism."

  • It is defined as an extreme anxiety disorder.

  • It validated something I have been struggling with for years.

  • More precisely,

  • learning that I had this disorder

  • motivated me to try to overcome it.

  • Like me and others who didn't know about this disorder,

  • it also motivated me to spread awareness.

  • Selective mutism had a huge impact on my life.

  • I suffered with this condition from childhood to adolescence

  • and into adulthood.

  • Unlike most babies, I was a quiet one.

  • I didn't make babbling noises,

  • and I didn't cry for hunger.

  • My parents enrolled me

  • in physical, occupational, and speech therapy,

  • but nothing seemed to make a difference.

  • I taught myself how to crawl.

  • I had my favorite toy and blanket across the room,

  • and it wasn't too much later

  • that I learned to walk at a very slow pace.

  • At age two, I still wasn't talking.

  • If I wanted something, I would grunt and point.

  • I didn't say a single word

  • until I was about three or four years old.

  • I also had a separation anxiety

  • that left me clinging onto my mom.

  • She even spoke for me.

  • By the time I was five, I was a chatterbox.

  • (Laughter)

  • I asked a lot of questions

  • and wouldn't stop to listen to the answers.

  • (Laughter)

  • It was like I was starving for social interaction,

  • because outside of home,

  • such as school, I remained mute.

  • My throat closed up, and my lips were sealed shut.

  • A teacher would ask me a question,

  • and I stared up at her,

  • blinking, with watery eyes.

  • There was this silent awkwardness between us.

  • There was a lot of pressure on me.

  • I would look down at my desk

  • until she told me she would come back to me later

  • and moved on to the next kid.

  • Only then did I feel like I could suddenly breathe.

  • I never understood why I couldn't talk and others could.

  • My parents and teacher didn't know the reason why either.

  • The teacher assumed I might be autistic.

  • My doctor evaluated me for autism,

  • but he didn't think I was autistic.

  • I went to play therapy,

  • but there was the expectation that it didn't go so well.

  • They thought I was choosing not to speak or listen,

  • or pretending to act helpless.

  • I was labeled as "shy".

  • My anxiety put me behind in my education.

  • >From kindergarten, all the way to 12th grade,

  • I had an Individual Educational Plan,

  • and in it, I was marked down

  • as having a learning disability.

  • I always thought, if it wasn't for the anxiety,

  • I would've done well in school.

  • I knew that I was very smart.

  • However, I had to go to special education

  • to catch up with my peers.

  • It hurt me, more than it helped me,

  • because it affected how I felt or see myself.

  • It lowered my self-esteem.

  • After I heard from others how shy I was,

  • I began to believe that shyness was part of my personality,

  • and I couldn't change it.

  • The anxiety developed into other problems,

  • such as a health anxiety, and perfectionism.

  • I wouldn't raise my hand for fear of being wrong.

  • As I got older, I also suffered

  • from agoraphobia, OCD,

  • and clinical depression.

  • I figured what I had was beyond shyness.

  • I wondered what I had been struggling with.

  • And I waited for somebody to help me,

  • but nobody bothered.

  • So my anxiety and depression got worse,

  • isolating myself from everyone else.

  • I began to have panic attacks,

  • and even worse, thoughts of death.

  • A year ago, I recovered from my darkest days.

  • I made a commitment to myself that I would not give up.

  • Selective mutism wasn't a curse but a gift.

  • I joined Toastmasters.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • It showed me the light and hope for the future.

  • I stumbled a couple of times,

  • but I refused to let it pull me back into the dark.

  • Toastmasters built my strength and confidence.

  • I became a counselor at the Youth Playhouse Theater.

  • I enrolled in college.

  • Since the first day of school,

  • I've raised my hand nearly every day.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • Right now, I am most proud

  • of having this opportunity,

  • standing here before you, giving a TEDx talk.

  • There are new challenges to face,

  • like becoming a librarian and a bestselling author.

  • (Laughter)

  • And I will cross those paths as they come.

  • What I am learning is that life goes at its own pace,

  • at its own time, and in its own way.

  • My life started out very slow,

  • very unsure, very silent.

  • What I didn't realize is that for me,

  • my life was meant to happen in small increments,

  • unhurried and unrushed.

  • And in a world that's impatient to move and go,

  • it's easy to get overlooked,

  • because there's a lot of tedium and growing at a measured, steady pace.

  • A flower doesn't flourish overnight.

  • It doesn't go from bud to blossom in one gigantic burst.

  • It takes patience, time,

  • and a whole lot of precious tedium.

  • The real magic is in the waiting

  • to unfurl, unfold, and fully bloom

  • into something magnificently

  • and beautifully wondrous.

  • Thank you.

  • (Cheers) (Applause)

My name is Shaela Niles.

Subtitles and keywords

B1 INT UK anxiety selective mutism mutism pace didn selective

【TEDx】Beyond mute | Shaela Niles | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

  • 634 10
    Amy.Lin   posted on 2017/10/21
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