GERMAN VERSION: Emmet has been a key part of the McGuire Programme Ireland for over eleven years as a Course Instructor and Staff Trainer. He has also served as an Evaluation Auditor and for several years ran the very successful Dublin Support Group in Ireland. A few years ago he moved to Germany to develop his webdesign business.
Emmet O’Connell is my name and I come from Ireland. I moved to Germany in the middle of 2013 and currently I’m living in Bochum with my wife, Daniela. I’m a husband and a father, an Architect and a webdesigner, dabbling in graphic design and photography and I’m currently working in a ‘Startup’ company.
Oh, and I stutter with control. And my stutter no longer defines me!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t stutter. I’ve stuttered out of control up to the age of 38 and I always had difficulty communicating my feeling, thoughts and emotions previous to joining The McGuire Programme.
Through out my childhood I was very shy, possibly as a result of having a stutter. I was always thought of as the ‘quiet one’ and I found myself continually holding myself back from engaging in conversation with other kids my own age. I didn’t really like primary school, as I became an easy target for all the bullies inside and outside of school. As the old saying goes ‘kids can be cruel’ and I felt their wrath.
My parents tried to help out and they brought me to various speech therapists throughout my childhood and my early teens. I even considered but never tried ‘hypnosis’ as a treatment and I also thought about learning sign-language (but thinking about that now doesn’t make any sense, as not all people understand sign-language but at the time it might have been a solution I was happy with). I’ve had to write down notes on a pieces of paper to convey what I wanted to say. At that time it was the only thing they worked for me without having to go through the embarrassment of the facial struggles and distortions.
I also attending speech therapy in London in my twenties and thirties and that kind of work for the duration of the sessions which were once a week for a period of 8 weeks but when those sessions ended and when it came to the outside world I always reverted back to my old trusted bad speaking habits and behaviors. I’ve had so many bad speaking or non-speaking experiences that there are too many to mention but I’m sure you have experienced similar speaking encounters yourself. Some of these experiences I will be sharing with you all in greater detail in early 2015.
I studied Architecture in Bolton Street College in Dublin, a career path that came by my way after been rejected by numerous Art Colleges. I really wanted to become an artist or graphic designer. I went for the Art College interviews but couldn’t couldn’t sell myself the way I wanted too or the way they wanted their students to act. After graduating from Architectural College, I moved to London and found worked as an Architectural Technician. I loved my time in London and my passion for architecture was heightened.
During this time in London, even though I had a stutter, I got to fulfil one of my live long ambition of working in the music industry. I formed a band and a record label with a long term college of mine in 1991 and we continued this venture until 1996. We co-wrote all our material and I sang. On stage I had a completely different persona, my friends couldn’t believe that it was me performing but offstage I become my usual-self. I was a wreak, afraid to speak or engage in conversation with friends, fans and the new media interest. This was not good for the progression of the band, especially when it came to media interviews.
And the reason I didn’t like doing those interviews is because of my stutter. Every time I spoke or tried to speak it was very evident I had a speech impediment - I had silent blocks, repetitions, facial struggles, contortions and distortions of all sorts. I developed tricks that I thought would help me to become more fluent but the tricks just made matters worst and the tricks become more extreme as the years progressed. I really hated myself during that period, every social situation brought on panic and fear. And resulted in me having panic attacks which later developed into social anxiety. Stuttering for me was going from one panic attack to the next. I even remember one particular time when I was walking down the street in Soho and saw a good friend approaching in the distance, I panicked and hid behind a car so I wouldn’t have to engage in conversation with him. Unbelievable, I know, and I even shared a flat with him too!!
After 11 years in London I moved back to Ireland in September 2000 and found work in a Architectural firm in Dublin. I worked their for 9 years until the global recession kicked-in and I was, like so many other people, made redundant.
It was during my time at this Architectural firm that I found out about The McGuire Programme. I found out about the programme during a session I attended with ‘The Irish Stammering Association’. After that particular session, I investigated the programme and found some information online. After a number of days I worked up some courage and rang the Regional Director, Joe O’Donnell.
During the telephone call to Joe, I tried my best not to stutter (thinking back about that now seems funny to me). Joe was extremely friendly and helpful and sent the application form via slow-mail. The application form lay on my desk at work for almost 3 months until I received a friendly reminder from Joe, checking-in and asking if I had a received the form. That day I filled in the form but it lay on my desk for another few weeks.
I finally picked up the courage to post the application form and walked down to the nearest postbox. I stood at the postbox for about 10 minutes, pushing the envelop into the postbox but ever letting go. The envelop went back and forth like this for a good few minutes until I finally lost the envelop to the postal system. My thoughts at the time were, ‘what have I done’, it’s too late to back away now’. I was nervous, stressed and a little bit tense but also tiny bit excited.
In February 2004 I completed my first McGuire course. And what an experience it was, I will never forget the people who helped me out during and after that first course. I knew then that I should have made the decision to join a long time ago but I simply didn’t have the courage and I was too afraid that it wouldn’t work for me BUT I was so wrong, the course worked and I was so happy to finally have control of over my stutter. The journey has been challenging and fun. It’s not an easy journey, it takes a lot of hard work and discipline but the rewards are forever life changing. I was now able to do what others take for granted; something as simple as saying my name or getting the meal I wanted and not what the person next to me was having.
After that first course I took every opportunity to share my experience with the world. I’ve had the opportunity to be interviewed by local and national newspapers, I’ve been on national and local radio stations on numerous occasions and I’ve appeared on television talk shows, both live and pre-recorded.
It has and still is an big adventure. The programme has given me so much confidence, inspiration and motivation to keep pushing myself and to continually expand my comfort zones. I’ve worked on my speech on a daily basis, following the rules and directions of the programme. I’ve attended and helped out in over 40 intensive courses over the past 11 years and I’ve been actively involved in the Dublin weekly support group meetings.
On the programme members also have the opportunity to become coaches, course instructors, staff trainers and even regional directors, generally giving back what the programme gives to so many. I decided to take the McGuire coaching examinations in 2004 and quickly become a Primary Coach, only 4 months after my first course.
The following year I become a course instructor intern and interned with the brilliant Michael O’Shea in 2005 (Michael is the author of ‘Why I called my sister Harry’ and the founder of Speak Soon Communications). I instructed my first course in February 2006 and I’ve instructor 4 more courses since. I also became a staff trainer in 2008 and become activity involved in the yearly staff training events in Galway.
As I’ve previously mentioned I was made redundant in 2009 - before joining the programme this would have been another one of those life events that would have totally stressed me out, especially in relation to my stutter BUT this time round I looked at this as a great opportunity to work freelance in the design industry, something I’ve always had a passion for but could never get the courage to explore. So, a couple of months after I was made redundant, I formed my own company in 2010, trading as INDEXD and I’m still working under that banner to this day.
I’m now studying German in the Ruhr Universität. I’m only at level A2 but learning new stuff everyday.
I’ve recently been approved and appointed as the role of Regional Director for The McGuire Programme in Germany. I’m really excited to have this opportunity to bring such a programme to the people of Germany. I can’t wait to get the ball rolling and start to buildup the programme in this new region. The programme is only as good as it’s members and I know that the Germany Region will grow and grow over the next few years to become one of the best in the World.