It’s September 1997, my first day at secondary school. I didn't sleep at all for two nights previously, worrying about my first day and how I would cope with my speech. I'd had a stammer all my life but to be honest, prior to secondary school it didn't really affect or bother me too much.
But by the summer of 1997, that all changed. I realised I was leaving my comfort zone of 12 classmates, 12 friends who knew me and all about my stammer. I was going into this unknown world, meeting new people, new classmates and a new environment.
As the summer went on, the more nervous I got! Finally, the dreaded day arrived. We had 10 different classes that day and with my surname starting with "A"....... I was the first name on every roll call. The usual first day questions by each teacher were, "where are you from? Have you any brothers or sisters already at this school?" etc. For the first 3 classes I did my best to answer each question, but nothing came out, nothing!
I was trying my best to force out a word, any word. But as the fear was so great, I couldn't even make a sound. I needed an old friend from primary school that was in my class to answer each question for me that day.
As the days and years went on, I became an expert at avoiding questions & speaking situations. So much so that some teachers stopped asking me any questions at all. But this wasn't just at school, this was a common occurrence, all day, every day. I needed to do something about my speech, but I was too ashamed to try get help. I felt isolated.
Until one day, a teacher kept me back after class and told me about Joe O'Donnell & the McGuire Programme. This teacher had already been in touch with my parents and passed the contact details onto them. So when I came home that evening, I got my mum to ring Joe. I went along to an information evening soon after that and joined up straight away.
I did my first course in May 2001 in the Aisling Hotel in Dublin. It was the best 3 and a half days of my life! The one thing that still stands out from that course, is knowing that I wasn't alone. Everybody on the programme, has been there. They know what it’s like to have a stammer. They know all about the shame of it, the fear and the holding back, but they also know how to help you.
This not a cure. I still have good days and bad days, but more good than bad. I know now how to turn the bad into good. It takes a lot of hard work, but it is very rewarding.
Since joining the programme, I've done numerous radio interviews, a television interview & a reading at a wedding. But the best part of all is that I now enjoying speaking and with the unlimited after support, you can too.