I am 22 years old and my stammer has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Although it can vary on the size of a part it plays from time to time. I remember first going to speech therapy when I was around six but after a couple of years my stammer seemed to disappear and everyone thought that I had ‘grown out’ of it.
There were always many theories for why I stammered, the first being that my mother and father split when I was eighteen months old and this might have been the time when I would have first started to speak. My mother moved a couple of hours away and I went to live with my dad and Nan. I remember having difficulty vocally communicating, but it was never a real issue to me then.
My stammer then came back when I was fourteen, around the time that my Nan suddenly had a stroke and passed away. I was in a very different mind set about my stammer back then and I seemed ignorant to the fact that it was there. It took me around a year to admit that it was back and go to see a speech therapist. When I finally saw a speech therapist I seemed to be fluent when I spoke to her but then I would have real trouble as soon as I left. Due to this I didn’t think speech therapy was benefiting me in any way and I chose to leave.
I had always been able to control my stammer until a few years ago when it began to control me. My dad split from his wife, who was a substitute mother to me for 10 years, and then my brother got sent to Afghanistan with the army. Since then my stammer got worse and worse, which was a very scary thing to experience. At the beginning of 2013 I started to witness a change in my personality as I would start avoiding certain situations. I used to be an extremely sociable person and was always known for this but I began to dread meeting new people. As soon as I realised this, I referred myself back to speech therapy.
My stammer has always been different to the ‘average’ stammer you hear about. I stammer more with people and situations that I am most comfortable with and, for many years, prior adult speech therapy, I thought that this was psychologically based. I had never met another person with a stammer and felt as if I was the only one in the world with this problem.
Since having adult speech therapy I have learnt a lot more about myself and the way I breathe, speak and my posture. I had picked up a few bad habits, also knows as fillers, that I believed helped me speak but got stuck somewhere down the line such as, closing my eyes, bending my legs and tapping. I am a very anxious person now, I constantly tense my body and I take huge breaths before speaking.
I recently went to a stammer support group where people meet monthly and share experiences. I met a few people over the age of 60 who still stammer and even though it was terrifying trying to accept that it will be there for that long, it gave me comfort to know that they had learnt to be in control and not their stammers. Along with this I read Katherine Preston’s book ‘Out With It’ which I could relate to in so many ways. I felt as though I had joined her on her journey to accept stammering. It was a very difficult thing to do, still is, but by accepting it I have opened up so many pathways which I never thought were possible. I no longer ask friends to make phone calls for me, I order exactly what I want in a restaurant and if someone doesn’t have time to listen to my stammer then I have no time for them. I still have the ‘bad’ days but don’t we all from time to time?
I have had many theories throughout my life on my stammer and have always blamed something for it being there. But from the support of the BSA, Katherine Preston and many fellow stammerers I have met in the past year, I have found acceptance, my confidence and the love of speaking and listening again. I could not thank the British Stammering Association enough for the support they give individuals every day who struggle to come to terms with their stammer.