The story of my stammer began when I moved to Ireland from my original country of Romania, at the age of 10. I had never experienced any difficulties with my speech until then. Within a few months, out of nowhere, I began having infrequent blocks on some words.
Looking back now I can identify the major psychological trigger as the transition to a new language in school, that I did not know very well, and trying to fit in by the way I spoke, that suddenly made me become self conscious of my speech. I did not think much of my little speech blocks and was not particularly affected by them. It was only in my last year or two of secondary school (around age 17) that I became even more self-aware and the problem began to manifest itself, and I started avoiding certain speaking situations for no clear reason. I couldn’t explain what was happening, so I ignored it and moved on. I then entered college to study medicine, never thinking twice about my speech. Very soon the pressure to perform began to increase, and I fell prey to the mentality that if my speech was not perfect I would not be seen as competent as my colleagues. I started relying on using tricks such as changing words and holding back for fear of embarrassment in case I blocked. This affected all aspects of my personality, stopping me from appearing as confident as I really felt, and not allowing me to express my true self even with my friends. By my third year in college I became immensely stressed and realised I would not be able to enjoy college or indeed my profession unless I figured out what was going on with my speech. I searched for information and for the first time I learned what it meant to have a stammer, a word I never associated with myself. I found out about the McGuire Programme and decided it was worth a shot. Arriving in the familiar city of Galway for my first course in summer 2013, the very place where my stammer began, I felt determined to make a change. It was an immense relief to meet others who were challenged by the same problem. After an intense first day of learning and drilling the new techniques, I noticed I could speak with an ease that I had not felt in many years. Doing the street contacts also showed me that, when armed with the techniques and mentality of the course, there was absolutely nothing stopping me from interacting in the way I wanted. The difficult part was returning back to the outside world, and resisting the temptations to fall back into my old patterns of speech. But with the immense support of the coaches, which were just a phone call away, and the support meetings, I was able to gain even more confidence and push out my comfort zone by seeking out opportunities to speak. I could finally experience what life can be like if my speech was not an issue, and I am still continually working to strengthen my speech and put it to the test in any way I can.