Growing up, I always wanted to be a journalist. I knew I was good at writing and conveying messages and ideas, but the communication part that was required was my downfall and made me question myself at every turn. How could I communicate effectively and efficiently as a writer and journalist with a stutter? For as long as I remember I've stuttered, from the first memories of speaking. As an overt stutterer - and very good at hiding my speech, word substitution and situational avoidance, I might add - I coasted through life always filled with anxiety over how I communicated. Feeling like I was being judged every time I spoke, because I didn't speak like others.
Through school and ultimately onto university, my speech got progressively worse year-on-year until I was in such a bad way that I was living my life in total avoidance – avoiding people, places, occasions, interactions and situations and living my life controlled by my speech entirely. Everything I did was dominated by this stutter, yet I had such poor self-acceptance that I didn't want anyone to know I had this, I didn't want to talk about it or accept it as a part of me. I had tried speech therapy several times whilst growing up with short-term success but no long-term benefits, so it took me until I was 21 and graduating from my degree until I took proper action. The day I travelled to Belfast in February 2011 to embark on my McGuire Programme journey, I hesitated and almost didn't get on the train. Looking back years later, I'm so proud of myself for getting on that train and taking those tough first steps in the journey to the rest of my life, because it's completely transformed me. My quality of life, my self-acceptance, my confidence, everything I was missing in life was suddenly before me and through hard work, determination and persistence I'm so glad to say that the McGuire Programme changed my life. It continues to change my life daily, too, and I remember being in that room on that first day of the course and feeling the world click into place and understanding 'there are others like me' and 'this actually works'. That moment I will never forget.
As part of the McGuire team, I want to help guide others through this process and show them how much the world opens up when you face your stutter head-on, reclaim your confidence, learn new techniques and change your mindset. The power of this programme is that it's those who have been through this before and who have lived shared experience who are passing on their skills, knowledge and guidance. I'm living a life I only dreamed of when I was a teenager, and it's because of the McGuire Programme that it's now a reality, so I'm proof that your dreams are possible and that a stutter will never hold you back, unless you give it the power over you.