Before my days of the internet, I had always believed that everyone with Selective Mutism was exactly like me; extremely chatty at home but totally silent outside of their home. However, this is not the case and there are many people who suffer from what’s known as Low Profile Selective Mutism which is where they are able to speak in settings such as school, but only minimally. When I first heard this, I found it very interesting because it made me realise that my case of Selective Mutism was actually quite a severe case of High Profile Selective Mutism.
For the majority of my life, I had only ever been able to talk inside of my house, so long as no one I wasn’t able to talk to was in the house. The second the front door opened, I went completely silent and I remained this way until the second I got back home. I did not utter a single word to anyone. Some people with Low Profile Selective Mutism are able to speak to maybe one or two friends at school so long as there is no one around, or they may be able to speak to one or two teachers at the end of the lesson when everyone else has left the room. Some are able to answer questions very minimally if the teacher calls on them. This is one of the reasons why many cases of Selective Mutism are dismissed as shyness because since they are able to speak, even if it is only minimally, it’s not seen as a huge problem to many people other than the person suffering from the Selective Mutism.
Not only was I unable to speak absolutely anywhere outside of my home but also as time went on, I was also unable to communicate in any way whatsoever. During my younger days in Primary School, I was able to use a lot of gestures and many of the other kids picked up on what these gestures meant. I was also able to be a chatterbox very easily with the use of my whiteboard with every single other kid I came across. I couldn’t ever communicate with any of the other kids via talking, but for some, I was able to talk to them if they came to my house or if I went to their house. It was rare that I was able to communicate directly to a teacher, but if I did really need something, I could sometimes force myself to ask using a whiteboard. Although it was difficult, if a teacher asked me a question during a lesson, I could answer using my whiteboard.
However, when I reached High School, all of this changed. During the beginning, I could on occasion communicate with some of the others during lessons via passing notes, but this was always with the same people. There was only one friend who I could communicate constantly with the use of the whiteboard that was on the back of my planner, but once she moved away, I was unable to communicate to anyone in any way whatsoever. I began to be unable to use any kind of gestures to communicate with anyone other than nodding my head, shaking my head and shrugging my shoulders. Apart from the extremely rare occasion when I was able to write things down to the other students, this is the way it remained until the day I left school, although I was able to communicate with everyone who sent me a message when I began to use social media.
When it actually came to talking, there was nothing. I was not able to get a single word out the whole time I was at school. I could talk quietly to a friend during Nursery (3-4 years old) but as soon as I began Reception (4-5 years old) that changed and from then on I was totally silent until the day I left school at 16. There are some cases of Selective Mutism where their anxiety is specifically related to school and they can talk anywhere other than school, but for me, it didn’t matter where I was, school or not, I was still unable to speak absolutely anywhere outside of the house. I have found it so interesting how SM affects people in such different ways. I have even heard of a few cases where their SM is actually the opposite! They can’t talk whilst they are at home around their family, but when they leave the house they can talk. Cases such as these make me realise how fascinating of a disorder Selective Mutism really is and it does amaze me that there hasn’t been more research put into it. It just goes to show that when it comes to absolutely anything, it really does affect absolutely every person so much more differently to the next; no two cases are ever the same. They may be very similar, but they’re never the same.
Nowadays, I am unsure as to what I would consider myself in regards to having either Low Profile Selective Mutism or High Profile Selective Mutism. Before my treatment, not only was I unable to talk to anyone other than my immediate family members and one grandparent, but it was also the place/situation that brought on anxiety that stopped me from being able to talk. Nowadays, it doesn’t matter where I am, it is now purely about who is around. There are many situations where I will be able to talk perfectly fine without the worry about who is around, but then there are still situations where I will be completely silent, but that will purely be about who is around. However, whereas I would’ve been totally silent even if there was someone around that I could talk to, after receiving my treatment I can now whisper to someone in their ear that I can talk to in pretty much most situations.
However, I think there would be one place that I would still be unable to talk; school. My lower High School was knocked down and a new one was built and when I went to look round the new one with my younger brother a couple of years ago, I was amazed that I was actually able to talk! I was extremely hyper-vigilant the entire time about who was around because although it was a different place, there were still the same teachers. However, I think upper school would definitely be off limits, even if the entire building was empty! Since I experienced the most extreme anxiety of all time there, it would be extremely difficult to go back and try to talk there. I suppose it doesn’t really matter though because it’s not like I’ll ever have to go back!