I don’t think fluent speakers could ever really understand what the life of a stammerer can be like. I started to stammer when I was 3 years old. I went through a couple of speech therapies and what I gained – or rather learnt by myself – is how to hide my stammer. I avoided certain words, sounds, used word substitutions, filler words, pretended to have forgotten what I meant to say just so I wasn’t seen as someone who had a stammer. These practices often led to awkward, even bizarre situations, I was seen as someone foolish or clumsy but I didn’t really care as long as I could get through the situations.
On the other hand, I had situations that triggered my very very bad stammer. Back then it seemed to be the better I got in hiding my stammer in social situations, the worse my speech got when I couldn’t control myself.
For example, having to call up anyone unknown on the phone, going to the GP, having university exams then going to job interviews, speaking with my manager, introducing myself at a company meeting, asking for something in a store, talking with my not so often seen relatives, or just a simple bad day.
Before those situations I had sleepless nights being anxious, stressed, being afraid of stammering, which eventually led to stammering. Many times my stammer was so severe I had to write down what I wanted to say. I was completely unable to say a word or my name, not to mention complete sentences. Other times I just skipped introducing myself, or just did not make a call and I sent an email instead. Or I begged my friends to make a call for me and pretend it was me who was on the phone.
No one really understood, not even myself how could I speak so fluently in social situations and comfort zones and absolutely not being able to communicate in other situations. I felt ashamed, isolated, distant and frustrated.
As I got older I realized I would always be dependent on other people’s goodwill and help and would never be able to lead a life I’d wanted, as at a majority of my everyday activities I completely failed to communicate appropriately. My stammer defined my life.
As my last hope, I made a research and found the Mcguire programme. What really surprised me about the programme was that it was run by stutterers! I watched some videos and read a couple of stories and I was convinced to join this programme as for the first time in my life I didn’t feel so alone with my problem.
It was liberating to see that so many people had gone through the same, and they could achieve so much!
I joined the programme in 2016 March, and it was definitely the best decision in my life.
I remember right after 24 hours of joining I could stand up in front of more than 50 people and say out my name aloud for the very first time in my life.
On the last day during my farewell speech, my friend and brother could see me (again for the first time in my life) standing up in front of an audience and speaking out loud from my heart. It was really a life-changing experience for me and I didn’t look back since then.
I cannot express how much I achieve in such a little period of time – I got job interviews, a new job, new friends, joined Toastmasters, attended client-facing meetings, went to social events where I didn’t know anyone… and enjoyed all of them!
I’ve not only become a better speaker but a better person as well, I gained the confidence to realize I am able to do and achieve whatever I want to if I put in the effort. I do not let my stammer define me anymore. I’m no longer afraid of speaking situations but seeking them out. I no longer run away from my fears but face them.
I’m very grateful for this programme and each and every person involved – members, coaches, instructors, directors and Dave McGuire. You all gave me a chance to be the best possible version of myself and I couldn’t have done it without your help and support.
I’m very happy and proud to say I become a speech coach on the programme recently to help other people to overcome their stammer too and live their life to the fullest. I’m looking forward to being a part of their personal journeies and give something back to this amazing programme.