My stammer was the first thing on my mind when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I would think about when I went to bed.
I used to think having a stammer was the ultimate burden and feared it would hold me back in all aspects of life. Growing up with a stammer was hard work and something I cursed, because I truly felt that something was wrong with me and nobody could understand how it felt. My stammer became apparent in primary school and a lot more notable throughout secondary school. Throughout my school years I would plan my days in advance to work out ways to avoid speaking. Maybe if I pretend to leave my homework at home then I won’t have to read it out in class; if I buy a packet of biscuits for lunch I won’t have to order a sandwich; if I have mum call ahead they’ll be expecting me. The fear of stammering and the thought of what other people might think of me were nearly as bad as the stammering itself. Tricks helped at times, particularly word avoidance. I used to look up challenging words in a thesaurus and learn off easier alternatives. I was a covert stammerer and would go to whatever costs it took to hide what I considered to be an embarrassing problem. Speech therapy wasn’t the answer for me although I appreciated the time I was given to work on improving my speech. There came a time where a mixture of avoidance, word substitution and a variety of tricks would get me through most days without anyone finding out that I had a stammer. It worked, to an extent, however only in certain situations. I could not avoid a word when asked to read and once the stammer became apparent, it would spiral out of control. The fear was always there though, even at the best of times. This wasn’t how I wanted to go through life, one hiding place after another. I wanted to overcome my stammer and leave the fear of speaking behind me. I joined the McGuire Programme in November 2011 just after I had finished college. I had graduated from NUI Galway in Civil Engineering and wished to pursue a career in this field but was far too fearful at the idea of speaking in an office type scenario. Answering phones, speaking to directors, clients and co-workers, I knew I would not simply be able to avoid and substitute words forever. The McGuire Programme was scheduled to run in my hometown of Galway City and so I knew that this could be an opportunity for me to get in control my speech and my life. I joined the programme that November and looking back struggle to imagine what my life would have been like if I hadn’t done so. It really was a life changing opportunity. I have since become a coach on the programme to continue working on my speech and to help others with theirs. Dealing with a stammer isn’t so difficult when you have the techniques to combat it, a support network to guide and assist you and a family of McGuire Programme graduates and coaches who have heard it all before. The programme had provided me with the tools and confidence I desperately needed to aspire to something better. I returned to college the following September to study a Masters in Fire Safety Engineering and began working as a consultant engineer after my first interview, which I continue to work as today. I still wake up every morning and go to bed every night thinking about my speech, but this time I take all the positives from my day and think about the opportunities I will have tomorrow to speak to new people. I am not hiding behind the fear of stammering nor am I ashamed to be a person who is challenged by stammering. I work on my speech every day because like all good things you want to last, it requires that little bit of attention and maintenance.