Most people who stutter have had a stutter since an early age, whilst for others it can be caused due to an external factor. I never had a stutter until the age of 15. It would always appear during the exam period, whilst I was preparing for the IGCSE exams (equivalent to the GCSE exams, but on an International level), and once the exams were over; it magically vanished. It always followed this same pattern (until I was 17) and henceforth, made me believe that it was caused due to exam stress. Since the age of 17, my stammer became part of my everyday life. The more stressed or nervous I was, the more my stutter would progressively get worse to the extent where I couldn’t speak nor say a word at times. Some former classmates would ask me if I was afraid of something and I would always respond that I wasn’t scared, just anxious for some unknown reason.
When I first realized I was stuttering, I had no idea what was going on or why it was the case…all I knew was that I had a speech impediment and needed to do something about it. Each time I would stutter, I felt frustrated that I couldn’t say what I wanted to say; sometimes I would feel humiliated because I was different from fluent speakers due to these changes occurring suddenly. Over a short period of time, whenever I would feel some vocal tension, I would quickly find a synonym for the word I was trying to say, to replace it with another word, which I could enunciate. Therefore, in this way, I was able to hide my stutter and pretend like I was a fluent speaker.
In total I speak four languages: English, French, Italian, and Spanish and I have noticed that my stutter would progressively get worse when I spoke other languages, besides English. For instance, when I speak English my stutter is usually mild (but can sometimes be moderate), when I would speak French, Italian, and Spanish, my stutter would usually be moderate, but at times appear to be severe. This for me was a weirdly interesting observation, but I knew I couldn’t live with a stutter forever and I needed to do something about it.
For a few months, I did some speech therapy, but I became impatient and felt it never worked; since I never saw any real, drastic change. It came to a point where my stammer was taking control of my life and I wasn’t able to be the person I wanted to be… I was so desperate to find a cure, or at least something, which would enable me to control it. I was searching for videos on YouTube, until I came across a documentary about the McGuire Programme called ‘Stop My Stutter’ starring ‘Pop Idol’ singer, Gareth Gates. I was impressed with how much progress people (who were enrolled on the course) made during the time spam of three days. After watching the video, I had this gut feeling that I needed to be part of the programme in order to master the techniques in hope of controlling my stammer.
I enrolled on the McGuire programme in July 2014 at a course in Wembley and never looked back since. The programme changed my life for the better and I felt I had better control of my life and could be the person I wanted to be, say what I wanted to say without worrying about looking like a fool to others or even being judged as well as being made fun of.
Throughout my childhood, I was that shy, reserved, timid girl who would sit at the back of the class, just minding my own business.
The confidence you gain on the course is just impeccable. Now I feel more confident and secure in myself than I have ever been in my entire life and I am no longer that shy person (even though I still have my moments) and I enjoy meeting new people as well as conversing with them.
My stutter may always be a part of me, but now I have the tools to be able to control it… and I no longer let it dictate my life.
No one should feel like they are losing a part of their identity, can’t have any self-confidence, or willing to pretend to be a person they are not. No one is perfect out there, but it is how we perceive ourselves, which would enable change to occur and move forward, in addition to learning from our mistakes and growing as a person.
Thank you McGuire family for always making me learn something new everyday and inspiring me to be an eloquent speaker. We are more than just a community; we are a family who understand each other and who are willing to help one another in times of need. Family isn’t always blood related and you truly feel like you are part of something amazing.
Sabrina De Angelis