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Why Can’t You Speak? – with Chelsea Gamache, the Selective Mutism Podcast Host

Guest: Chelsea Gamache

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Transcript

Hayley Stanton: Have you ever felt like you just can’t get your words out? Like somebody talks to you and you just seem to freeze? And your words get stuck in your throat? Well in this episode we are talking about how being unable to get your words out can be an anxiety response.

Chelsea Gamache was diagnosed with Selective Mutism at age five and is passionate about sharing her experience, raising awareness and helping others who are struggling with Selective Mutism and anxiety. Chelsea is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and she hosts ‘Outloud the Selective Mutism Podcast’ with her mom and she also recently wrote a children’s book about Selective Mutism called ‘I Am Brave’. I imagine that this conversation will be eye-opening for a lot of people who have experienced something very similar to what Chelsea describes within this episode, but you never had a word for it before. I found this conversation with Chelsea absolutely fascinating and I was surprised how much of Chelsea’s story I can relate to for myself, and you might be too. So I invite you to join me in this wonderful conversation with Chelsea. I’m Hayley and you are listening to the Quiet Connections podcast.

Hayley Stanton: [00:02:02] Welcome to Quiet Connections, Chelsea.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:02:04] Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be a guest on a podcast.

Hayley Stanton: [00:02:10] Yes, because you have your own podcast, don’t you?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:02:14] Yeah, me and my mom do it together. It’s called out loud, the selective mutism podcast. So I’m used to being on the other end.

Hayley Stanton: [00:02:23] And this is what you’re going to talk to us about today. Selective mutism. Because I think it’s something that a lot of people, we don’t know about it really. And a lot of us will probably experience it in line with social anxiety. But we may never know that that’s something that’s going on for us. So perhaps you can start there and just explain a little bit about what selective mutism actually is.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:02:43] Yeah, sure. So selective mutism. First of all, I was diagnosed with it when I was five years old. But we saw signs of it much earlier. I was always very shy and I hate that word, but I was very afraid of people and I didn’t like attention. Like as a baby, I would cry of people, looked at me a certain way.

So, first of all, selective mutism is an anxiety disorder, which is basically when someone is unable to speak in a certain setting. It’s usually at school. When we first see that popping up. And this is despite them being able to communicate like regularly in another setting. So they might be very comfortable at home.

They might even be very extroverted and outgoing and then they just freeze up at school and they do not talk the entire day.  Everyone’s so different. It can be like, Oh, they only talk to their peers, but they can talk fine to adults or they, the other way around. You see all different variations, but yeah, for me, it was, I was more comfortable at home, but I still experienced anxiety at home as well, but it was a lot better.

And then at school I didn’t talk to anyone less, there were certain rules. It was very like I had one person I would talk to, but it had to be just me and them. So if someone else could hear us, it wasn’t, I wouldn’t talk. And then I also had certain teachers I could talk to as well. But again, it had to be one-on-one.

Hayley Stanton: [00:04:16] Yeah, I can so, so relate to that. What do you think the link is between social anxiety and selective mutism?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:04:24] anxiety. It’s hard for me to pull the two apart. I know that you can have selective mutism and not have social anxiety or at least not considered social anxiety disorder. I think a lot like the majority of people, I think it’s.

It might be 90% of kids with selective mutism, also meet criteria for social anxiety disorder. So it’s a big, big amount, but you can have one or the other. I know again, social anxiety is something that just isn’t picked up on very much as well. Yeah. And I think it’s like, it’s so important for people to know about it, which is why I’m like so passionate about spreading awareness because it’s easily misunderstood.

And I think if you don’t know what it is, it can look like rudeness or I don’t know. Disinterest. Yeah. It looks like, Oh, I don’t care. And I don’t want to talk to you, but it’s actually like a fear response to all this anxiety you’re feeling. Yeah, I think it’s important to educate teachers and people who come in contact with these kids.

Hayley Stanton: [00:05:32] Absolutely agree. And so this, this was my experience at school. Sounds very similar to yours that when I was in a classroom, when I was called upon in class, Or, you know, I would just freeze. I couldn’t literally just couldn’t get the words out. And I was the same in groups of friends. I would just sit there silent and I could only talk to people one to one.

And I remember once there was this girl who was like, you know, she wasn’t necessarily my friend, but she was part of the group of friends and she just started having a go at me about how she hates me, because I’m so quiet. Well, you know, I never had a diagnosis of selective mutism. I never even had a diagnosis of social anxiety.

So, so yeah. How would you know, that selective mutism is something that you’re experiencing?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:06:21] Yeah. I mean, a lot of people. Describe like they really, really want to talk, but they physically feel like they can’t. So it’s almost like there’s a blockage in your throat or something, or your body is not responding the way you want it to.

There’s also like if you look at the criteria, it has to be a certain number of months or something like there’s very specific criteria. And it can’t be like the first month of school because. It can be normal for kids to be nervous when they start at school. Yeah. But yeah, it’s hard because you need to get like a good assessment and there’s not that many professionals that are super familiar with selective mutism.

So people end up on waiting lists and it’s actually kind of hard. Like I’d say there’s a lot of self-diagnosing because people are like, Oh, that sounds exactly like what I am experiencing, but they can’t go find a professional to do an assessment.

Hayley Stanton: [00:07:20] Yeah. And selective mutism affects approximately one in 140 school aged children according to the selective mutism association.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:07:29] It’s pretty low, but I think it is very underdiagnosed.

Hayley Stanton: [00:07:34] Of course. Yeah. Social anxiety. It’s about one in 10 people that experienced that, that we would know of. So there again, it’s something that’s underdiagnosed and a lot of people do experience social anxiety and not have that diagnosis too.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:07:50] Yeah, it’s interesting. I guess for me, People are always like, it’s some big mystery. Like, why won’t you talk, why are you afraid to talk? And I think social anxiety for me was a huge part of it. I was afraid of making mistakes or sounding stupid or being judged for what I said. I also did not like the sound of my voice.

I was self-conscious about what I sounded like. And I felt like I couldn’t control the tone of my voice were very well. So if someone like I squeak some word out, someone would laugh. Cause it sounds funny. Like it’s like I am really struggling. That would really. Freak me out and I’d probably not talk again in front of them.

But it was all it wasn’t just about speaking. And I say this all the time on my podcast, because the focus is on speaking because that is kind of the biggest barrier. I’d say that these people are facing who have that diagnosis, but there’s other things going on. You’re afraid to do things in front of people.

It’s almost like you’re on a stage and every day you’re performing different tasks in the field. That’s what it feels like. Oh, a lot of kids can’t get up and go to the bathroom or they can’t eat in front of other people. You see that very often.

Hayley Stanton: [00:09:08] Yeah. Yeah. So that’s a real kind of. Similarity between selective mutism and social anxiety.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:09:15] Yeah. It’s hard. It’s like, yeah. It’s like what came first? The chicken or the egg type thing. It’s like, I don’t know which came first. I almost want to say the anxiety. Because I think I was born with. Really strong from the moment I was in this world.

Hayley Stanton: [00:09:32] Oh, I was wondering if you are a highly sensitive child.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:09:35] Oh yes. We haven’t even talked about the sensory issues. Yeah. I had lots of sensory issues as well, and I would say I’m highly sensitive. We did an episode on that and I really related with all of it, but it’s hard again, it’s hard to know, like, I’d say the anxiety makes it hard to speak in certain situations because it puts you in that freeze response.

And then there’s also like the feeling of people thinking you’re going to mess up or you don’t want people to judge what you’re saying.

Hayley Stanton: [00:10:08] Yeah, definitely. That’s that avoiding that being that center of attention, I guess.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:10:13] Yeah. It’s all it’s attention is so Versive. Which I guess you get better at with exposure.

Hayley Stanton: [00:10:20] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So can you tell us about what’s happening inside us when this selective mutism is happening .

Chelsea Gamache: [00:10:28] Yeah.  I know some people don’t get these same symptoms. I think I was pretty severe on the physical symptoms because I would often faint or be at the point of throwing up because of anxiety. It was usually when I was put on the spot though, like I would have heightened anxiety going into school, but then maybe attendance or getting called on would just push me through the roof. And I would shake and I get all sweaty and my vision would go and I’d have to put my head down. But I felt like I couldn’t, it’s the pressure of someone expecting you to speak that makes it hard to do so if that makes sense.

Hayley Stanton: [00:11:07] Yeah. That makes complete sense to me. Yeah. I can actually remember, you know, there was a couple of times where I’m like, I could put my hand up. I can’t, I really want to, I want to give the teacher the answer. I know that I have the answer. But because I am this, you know, the shy girl and it’s expected of me not to speak. I didn’t want to like speak up and then have the attention.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:11:27] Yeah. And then it builds up because you get that reputation and then it’s harder and harder to break. Because there’s going to be a bigger response to you talking or doing something out of character. Everyone’s like, Oh my God, she finally talked. And then that doesn’t feel good. It just kind of, they feed into each other. It’s so hard to.

Hayley Stanton: [00:11:47] Yeah. I saw you posted a behavioral cycle that kind of explained that and then there was something in it around when we stay silent, somebody often will jump in to rescue us.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:12:02] Yeah. That’s a big part of it. And I think they it’s a lot of the time it’s parents and. They see their kid in distress and of course they’re going to help them. That’s the natural thing to do. But that kind of continues the cycle of not having to face your fears and answer a question or speak up for yourself. So yeah, they focus on that a lot in therapy working with the parents, changing their behavior as well.

And you see it with peers as well. A lot of friends will try to help their, their quiet friend by speaking for them. I would definitely. Yeah, but it doesn’t help in the long run.

Hayley Stanton: [00:12:40] Yeah. So, so I’m thinking about you know, The freeze respondents that’s happening. And I mean, that’s a neurological thing, isn’t it?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:12:47] Yeah. It’s almost like you get stuck and it might take you longer to respond. So I think people get uncomfortable with that. Awkward silence when maybe if you waited a little bit longer, which might seem unnatural, they might answer It’s kind of waiting out the awkward pause.

That can be hard, but when you’re in that freeze response, it’s really hard to like calm yourself down and focus on one thing, because there’s so much going on.

Hayley Stanton: [00:13:16] It does take time. Doesn’t it? So I saw that you mentioned about the way that people react to you. So when you do speak up, if you’re given a lot of praise, sometimes that piece can be given in the wrong way. Can you talk to us about that please?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:13:34] Yes. So you would think that praise is great. Praise is great and it does increase behavior a lot of the time, but I think with selective mutism, it’s putting attention on the child that is going to actually decrease the behavior and behavior maybe, or make it less likely to happen again.

That attention can be really adversive. And I think there’s ways to praise someone that can be more effective. Like you can do it like more discreetly, like with just like a nod or like a thumbs up, or you can talk to them after the fact and say like, you did a great job speaking today in class. Like that was awesome.

It doesn’t have to be like over the top, like everyone clap for her because she finally talked. That’s actually not what we want it doesn’t help, we just want to be treated like everyone else and to have it not be a big deal.

Hayley Stanton: [00:14:31] Yeah. Yeah. We want to be able to like, just talk and move on.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:14:36] Yeah. It’s like, yeah, I’ve been trying to do this for awhile. Yeah. But there’s something about it. Like, I always felt proud of myself. Like I felt like I didn’t need everyone cheering for me. Like I felt like, Oh, I did it. Like I finally did it. That’s awesome. Like that was enough for me. I didn’t need people giving me a round of applause, but. Everyone’s different.

Hayley Stanton: [00:15:02] So I was looking through your Instagram and you had some of these old goals that you had when you were younger and you show the little goal sheets. And one of them said about silly talk. What does that mean?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:15:18] Okay. So. This is actually pretty common in people who have selective mutism. I don’t know, like the stat of it, but people will say like, Oh, my kid is using like a fake voice. Like they’re not using their real voice. So what I used to do is I would use like baby talk, like I would kind of revert my language back to like using grammar incorrectly.

Like I sounded like younger than I was in my, the pitch of my voice would change. A lot of kids do this differently, but that was how I did it. And I try to explain it to people as I’m like, it feels like it’s not me. So if somebody judges how I sound or what I say, it’s not really me. It’s like, I’m protecting myself from feeling judged or something, but it’s also feeling uncomfortable and that’s kind of what comes out when you’re uncomfortable, but you’re trying to talk anyway. It can be hard to be yourself when you’re under that amount of anxiety. So, people are always like, what do we do? Like, should we be punishing this? Like, should we be ignoring them and waiting till they use their real voice? And I just think it’s hard enough for them to get that out. That. I wouldn’t acknowledge that it’s different from the regular voice. It’s just the best they can do right now. And it will go away eventually when they’re more comfortable.

Hayley Stanton: [00:16:44] Yeah. That’s a lovely tip.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:16:46] Yeah. A lot of kids that make like, they pretend they’re animals or they won’t have a conversation with you, but they’ll meow.

Hayley Stanton: [00:16:55] Yeah. I have heard other people talking about using a different voice as well. So yeah. I find, I find it very interesting. So talk us through what you’re doing now. I mean, you’ve come a long way.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:17:07] Yeah. It’s. Yeah, I feel like I never thought I would be, have a job at a certain point. It feels like so debilitating that you don’t picture yourself like having relationships and like friendships and having a job, like an adult, real adult job even going to college, but I did do all those things. And it, it’s not easy. Everyone wants like a good answer on like how to overcome selective mutism. And how did you do it? And I don’t really have a good answer. It’s just like, I put myself in really uncomfortable situations that I didn’t want to be in. And I worked through them and it didn’t look pretty. It was messy and I made a lot of mistakes.

But yeah, I think therapy is super important. But you have to make sure you find a good therapist because not that they’re not good therapists, but certain therapists don’t have the understanding of selective mutism. And I think that’s so important to have. But I’m not really answering your question.

Hayley Stanton: [00:18:14] No, no. I find the same thing with social anxiety as well. But yeah, you, I mean, you’ve got your podcast.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:18:20] Yep. So I started a podcast. It’s been about a year and it’s been amazing. I just love hearing people who reach out. That’s like the whole reason we do it. It’s just exciting to have like a place where people feel less alone and they can listen to us and maybe learn from our experiences. Yeah, I think that’s absolutely beautiful.

Hayley Stanton: [00:18:43] You’re speaking about something that isn’t spoken about and, and giving that voice to people who just, you know, they can’t necessarily express what they want to from where they are.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:18:56] Yeah. So it’s great to have like a free resource for people to learn more about it. Share with their teachers and whoever else needs to be educated. It’s been really fun and we get really awesome people reaching out.

Hayley Stanton: [00:19:13] What are the other kind of myths about selective mutism that you want to take this opportunity to bust?

There’s

Chelsea Gamache: [00:19:21] a lot of myths. Yeah. The whole shyness myth is I know it doesn’t bother some people who have selective mutism, but I always hated the word shy because I felt like I’m not shy. And I didn’t really feel introverted even though I look like the most introverted person, like at school or in situations where I’m not comfortable, but I just. It felt like that wasn’t a good explanation of what was going on. And it felt like they’re just like, Oh, whatever, she’s just shy. But it felt like no, there’s something bad happening to me that we’re not acknowledging. And I think it’s kind of an excuse to like push it aside without addressing what’s really going on.

Hayley Stanton: [00:20:01] Yeah. And, and from a child’s perspective, just being called shy, even a child knows that that’s not a good thing. And I think it just feeds into that cycle of that idea there’s something wrong with me. And then you kind of want to hide yourself away.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:20:15] Yeah. It doesn’t help for sure. There’s other, there’s other myths. Like it’s not autism, although you can have both. A big one for me. I like to talk about how it’s not just with children. Even though I, I’m not sure if it’s still in the DSM as a childhood disorder, but , on a lot of websites, it says it’s a childhood disorder, which yes, we do see it more in children. But if you don’t get treatment and you grow up, I don’t know. There’s teens and there’s adults with selective mutism and it’s still important to acknowledge that and they still need help. And I think part of that’s access to treatment and it’s not where it should be, and there’s not a ton of experts in every location in the world.

So people are not getting diagnosed and they’re not getting the help that they need. So hopefully that gets better eventually.

Hayley Stanton: [00:21:07] Yeah. I think it’s another one of those things where it’s not spoken about enough, so people just don’t know. You know, I asked my partner if he knew about selective mutism and he’s been a nurse for many, many, many years. And he was like, I’ve never heard of it. And he said, we only had like a month of kind of psychiatric exploration in his nurse training. And that was all they’re sent off with.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:21:31] So yeah, I know it’s. I, I was a psychology undergrad student and we, it actually did come up, but I think it was just like, I don’t know, like a little paragraph, like in a textbook. I was like, Oh my God. Yeah. It’s not like you get trained in. Yeah. You have to learn for yourself.

Hayley Stanton: [00:21:58] Which is really tough because so my short kind of Interactions with the mental health service. Whereas, I mean, firstly, when I was 19, I actually overdosed because I got to the stage where I was like, I just don’t see how, how I’m going to fit into the world or, or, you know, I can’t talk to people. I can’t get a job and stuff. And I definitely can’t go to university. How would I do that? So that’s the stage that I got to when I was 19 and I ended up in hospital and the nurse that saw me was asking if I did it for attention and I just shut down and I couldn’t respond at all. Couldn’t get any words out

Chelsea Gamache: [00:22:38] and I dunno how you respond to that.

Hayley Stanton: [00:22:42] But then, you know, I was referred on to a counselor, a later date and she was kind of guiding me to talk about specific events or traumas in my life that she thought was worthy of you know, a suicide attempt when actually it was just that I felt I didn’t fit in and you know, I then shut down and couldn’t talk to her. And she was like, well, if you wanted my help, you would be talking to me. It’s frustrating. So frustrating as it’s just not the truth.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:23:08] No, that’s awful. I really just want everyone to understand that, but it’s so hard to get get it out there and it really hurt. It does a lot of damage when people do misunderstand it, especially professionals that you would kind of hope would be able to help you. It hurts the most when they don’t get it.

Hayley Stanton: [00:23:32] Yeah, for sure. I mean, you have you’ve come so, so far. And I want to kind of know what has helped you and what you suggest to other people.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:23:44] Yeah, that’s, it’s really hard. I feel like I try to tell that’s like the whole reason I started the podcast. I wanted to tell my story and what helped for me, even though it’s different for everyone.

I think I was really lucky to get an early diagnosis five years old, but that’s not to say you can’t make progress. If you’re older, you can be an adult and do amazing things and reach your goals. It’s just harder to find treatment, but I, I don’t know. I think for me, I went on medication at an early age now that.

It’s something people aren’t comfortable with sometimes. But it was definitely like a big change for me. Not that it, I took a magic pill and it started making me talk. I that’s not what happened. I wanted to talk and I was in constant fear in a lot of situations and that just kind of lowered it down where I could function better.

And do what I wanted to do. Yeah. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I don’t think it changed my personality. It made me more myself. And there’s no shame in taking that medication for him, anxiety or whatever mental health disorder you’re dealing with. So that was definitely a big help.

I was also lucky to have a therapist who knew about selective mutism and had treated other kids with it, which I know. Is hard to define for some people, unfortunately, but that is super important because I hear stories of families not getting very far in therapy. Cause they’re like, Oh my kid won’t even talk to the therapist.

Like how do we do anything? Like how do you make any progress when they won’t even talk to them? But people who are trained in selective mutism know how to work up to that.

Hayley Stanton: [00:25:29] Yeah. And I think it’s okay to like, just transfer to a different therapist and try a few before you find the right one for you too. And we don’t always give ourselves permission to do that.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:25:39] Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with referring out either if you are there. And you’re like, I don’t know what’s going on. Someone else try. There’s no shame in that. If there’s also with selective mutism, there’s this thing, people call it contamination, but that’s kind of a weird word.

I guess it does get the point across though. So if You have like an interaction with someone and you are unsuccessful at speaking, it becomes harder to talk to that person again, or they’re contaminated, which sounds awful. That’s it’s not supposed to be something bad. It’s just how that learning history develops with that person.

So I’d see, like, if you have a long history of not speaking to a therapist, it might be harder to do so. Someone new might be easier.

Hayley Stanton: [00:26:23] Yeah. Yeah. That makes absolute sense.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:26:25] That was also a big thing for me. Yeah. I switched schools in six for seventh grade, the end of sixth grade going into seventh grade and I was able to kind of start fresh. That’s not really an option for everyone, but yeah. Hard-won like, you’ve been in the same environment, your whole school experience, and you’re with the same peers who have this like perception of you, or at least you think they have a perception of you that might not be accurate, but like having that fresh start. Just made such a difference for me, I felt like I could kind of reinvent myself and start as myself.

Hayley Stanton: [00:27:04] Yeah. I was convinced that that was what I needed to and when I left school and went to college, I was like, right. It’s going to be different now. It’s definitely going to be different. And I went in there. And like half the girls that I went to school with were sat in the room. So it was exactly the same.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:27:20] Oh my God. I have the same thing. I had a few people that went to the same school. Like we both switched school at the same time. And I was like, I just want a school where nobody knows me.

Hayley Stanton: [00:27:34] And then I think the other thing that you mentioned was about setting specific goals and taking small comfort zone stretches.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:27:42] Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind of like, it’s not an easy thing. It takes hard work and you have to be uncomfortable. Like that’s the hard part. You have to kind of accept that it’s not going to be a comfort experience. Like you can stay in your comfort zone and just never talk and never do the things that you want to do. Or you can challenge yourself and put yourself in these situations that. Kind of push you. Yeah. But you can do that little steps at a time. It doesn’t have to be this big scary thing. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton: [00:28:16] Yeah. And so much of this as applicable to both social anxiety and selective mutism and yeah. Yeah. We’re kind of protecting ourselves and avoiding stuff and avoiding being seen Because we think something really bad will happen if we do, if we are seen and heard, but yeah, when you sort of future pace and you’re like, well, if in five years time, if I haven’t done this, if I haven’t stretched myself, like where am I going to be? And what if I do do it? Where could I be then? I mean, look at how amazing you are doing.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:28:53] I swear, like the podcast has been like therapeutic because part of all of this is not wanting to be vulnerable. And I kind of just forced myself to share the scariest parts of my past. And like, to me, that was not good. I felt like my childhood was like really hard and sharing that with other people and being vulnerable and also getting good feedback while doing that. It’s so rewarding. It just shows me that it doesn’t have to be scary.

Hayley Stanton: [00:29:26] It must have been really scary to start it. Like what pushed you to do it?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:29:31] I don’t really no where it came from. I was like, I love podcasts. So I listened to them all the time and I was just curious, one day I was like, I wonder if there’s any about selective mutism because I see all these cool new resources now that. They didn’t exist when I was a kid. So I was like, there’s probably a podcast, there’s a podcast about everything, but at the time there wasn’t. So I was like, maybe I’ll do it. I don’t know how hard it is to start a podcast.

Hayley Stanton: [00:29:56] But you were the first that’s so cool.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:30:00] Yeah, there were episodes about it, which is nice, but there was none like, this is all we talk about.

Hayley Stanton: [00:30:06] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Cause there’s so much to talk about. So it makes sense to have a podcast. I love the way that you have that have other guests on and you know, people with experience with their parents again,

Chelsea Gamache: [00:30:20] we’ve had really awesome guests.

Hayley Stanton: [00:30:22] Yeah. How did you feel about doing that public speaking?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:30:28] Yeah, it’s weird because public speaking is like our biggest fears if you have anxiety And it’s weird because I felt like I had overcome selective mutism at a certain point. Like I was speaking to classmates and I could answer questions in class and I could raise my hand and say something if I wanted to, but getting up in front of people and presenting something was like, Would just shut me down.

So I was like, I thought I was past all this, but then I was still having panic attacks. And I remember going to school one day and I was supposed to give a presentation that day and I just immediately threw up the second I got out of the car to go into school and I used to. Just like hide in the bathroom and try not to faint.

Cause I didn’t want to like make a scene and get more attention for fainting. So I would go hide and try to faint in private. But. I don’t really know, like how I somehow managed to start presenting. It seems like I went through a few really bad presentations and I used to have teachers that would let me like, do it privately, like one-on-one after school or do it with like a smaller group of peers.

So that’s definitely helpful. And it can help you like work up to that. Mm, but a big thing is like feeling unprepared and not knowing what you’re talking about. Like, if you’re very fluent in what you’re presenting, it takes like less brain power to do it. And if you don’t really know, if you’re not super confident with what you’re presenting, it’s like you shut down from the anxiety and the extra pressure of having to think all that through.

Hayley Stanton: [00:32:10] Yeah. That makes sense. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So again, I’m hearing about taking a comfort zone stretch and doing it a bit by bit.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:32:20] Step-by-step. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton: [00:32:22] And you have recently, I guess, stretched your comfort zone again and written a book.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:32:28] I did. Yes. I’ve been wanting to write a book for so long. I actually started writing like a longer like memoir, but I, I don’t know why it’s been really hard to write and like relive these moments that were really hard. And I kind of, I think this was like a coping mechanism to writing this children’s book because it’s kind of like, I’m still writing a book, but it’s easier. And I don’t know, it was easier to write and it was really fun to do the illustrations. And it’s called, I am brave. You can find it on Amazon.

I’ve been like blown away.  Keep getting messages from people like saying their kid loved it and like pictures of them holding. It makes me want to cry. I just can’t imagine like having a book like that, like if I was a kid and I found a book. That explained what I was experiencing. I would think that would make you feel so much more comfortable and like less alone. I always felt like I was the only one who was experiencing that. So that’s what I wanted to do by writing it.

Hayley Stanton: [00:33:33] That’s so beautiful. I am brave. So that is, you know, help helping young kids, I guess, who are experiencing selective mutism.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:33:42] Yeah, it’s very short. It’s probably for like kindergarten. I don’t know what they say in the UK. Like four to five-year-olds maybe the next school year above that too.  I dealt with like a lot of low self esteem as a kid and not being able to talk and like do the things I wanted to do made me feel bad about myself. So in my book, I wrote like positive affirmations. Like the character reminds herself like all the awesome things about herself whenever she feels like she can’t do something. So I just wanted to teach kids that they can stay positive and still love themselves.

That’s so cute. Oh, I think I’m going to have to go and buy the book for my niece and nephews now.  Oh, so is there a practice that you use, you mentioned that you used to have low self-esteem and confidence. Is there something that you still use to boost that?

Let’s see. It’s more like I’ve gone through like CBT and I found that to be pretty helpful, like just reframing your thoughts and like challenging them because a lot you have so many thoughts flying through your head when you’re anxious and it’s good to just stop and say like, Oh, is that actually true?

And is that accurate? And is that thought helping me in any way or is it, can we just kind of move on past it? Because I think you kind of like, you can get stuck on certain thoughts and it Can kind of tear away at you. So it’s good to just see them as like separate little things going through your head that you don’t have to buy into.

Hayley Stanton: [00:35:24] Yeah.  Then we become like the observer of the thoughts, not the thought itself.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:35:29] Yeah. I also I really love acceptance acceptance commitment therapy, which I am trying to learn more about. It’s kind of like a branch off of behavior analysis, which is what my master’s degree is in, but we didn’t talk a lot about. Act.

Hayley Stanton: [00:35:44] Yeah, I’ve heard so much good stuff about it.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:35:46] Yeah. And I think it would be really helpful for teens and adults who are struggling with like anxiety and selective mutism. Yeah.

Hayley Stanton: [00:35:57] Yeah, for sure. So at this point, how comfortable are you feeling in the world?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:36:05] I feel pretty good. I’m pretty confident. Yeah. In certain areas, I feel like I definitely still struggle, which is okay. And I think it’s important to tell people like you can, like, it’s a lifelong journey inside. He doesn’t kind of disappear for me at least. It’s just always there and I feel like learning to manage it and. Not let it hold me back from what I want to do is super important.

Hayley Stanton: [00:36:29] Yeah, I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s a really normal human emotion and the more I speak to people, the more I realized that we all feel anxious at times and we we’re all self-doubting and, you know, the difference between the people that we look at and view as successful and the way that we feel about ourselves is just that the people that we view as successful have pushed through and done the thing that they’re scared of anyway whereas I was always kind of like, I’ll just wait until I feel confident. And then that day never, ever came.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:36:58] Yes. And there’s something about perfectionism too, because you want it to be perfect. And if you just do it kind of, it doesn’t have to be perfect. You kind of realize like, Oh, why was I holding back? I don’t know.

Hayley Stanton: [00:37:13] Yeah.  I think Brene Brown talks about perfectionism being like the 20 ton shield .

Chelsea Gamache: [00:37:18] I love  Brene Brown.

Hayley Stanton: [00:37:19] Yeah. It’s just another piece of armor. It’s not really, it’s not a part of our personality. It’s just a coping strategy that we’ve learned to kind of hide ourselves away and avoid criticism, I guess. Yeah. So if you were to look back and give your younger self some advice, what would you offer?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:37:40] Yeah. I would tell myself that I am not alone and there’s other people that go through the same thing and it’s totally normal and you can get through it. If it really feels like you can’t end, it feels like it’s the most impossible thing to do. But if you work on it little by little, it is possible.

Hayley Stanton: [00:38:01] Absolutely. I feel like that’s the biggest thing. The almost, the very first step in moving through that social anxiety as well is just realizing you’re not alone and being a part of a community, people who really get it and understand and know where you’re coming from.

Chelsea Gamache: [00:38:19] Yeah, for sure.

Hayley Stanton: [00:38:21] So where can we find you Chelsea?

Chelsea Gamache: [00:38:24] Yeah. You can find the book and everything and all the podcast episodes on our website, it’s outloudsm.com.  You can find us on Instagram and Facebook. We have the Facebook group, which is really cool.

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