It’s meeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!! So my sister FINALLY asked me to write on her blog (cue celebration meme here). I thought to myself, “YAAAASSSSS! A chance to write about The Bachelor (she is secretly a fan) or to give tips on hair and skin care products for that ‘I tried but didn’t try too hard and still look FLAWLESS but really I wasn’t trying that hard lewk!’”
Yes, I have a lot of energy in general but more so I am just excited to write something for this blog and you will get to read why personality really played a big part in the struggle I am about to share.
I have had a stammer ever since I was a child and have been living with it for almost 30 years. My mum told me when I started talking I was like any other child however when I was about 2 the stammer came. My parents took me to a doctor who confirmed it and since the stammer was hereditary (from my dad’s side) it was not something they could control and I would have to learn to live with it.
I was, for the most part, a ‘happy go lucky’ kid who looooved to talk. I never saw my stammering as much of a hindrance (emphasis on the word much). I come from a loud family; for those of you who know my sister, it can be hard getting a word in over everyone else. And although I am one of the more sane and reserved ones in the family (middle child syndrome perhaps), when it came/comes time to get my word in I most certainly will. Sometimes that took long difficult moments of uncomfortable looks from family and friends waiting for me to finish or even start a sentence.
Sometimes kids in primary school would make fun of me by mimicking my stutter but I chose not to let it get me completely down. This is because I am a positive person so I chose to remember my journey to overcoming my struggle rather than the discomfort I had to endure. And when I was ten years old, there was a positive conversation I had which I held on to and I still remember to date. My Sunday school teacher, Emma, mentioned that she also had a stammer as a child but that as she got older it got better and eventually disappeared. Thinking about it now, I am not sure how entirely accurate that was but it gave me hope for the future.
Looking back now, I am grateful I met teacher Emma because my experience has been somewhat uplifting. Once after high school my mother took me to a support group at Aga Khan Hospital, where to her shock, when I spoke I did not stutter on my words at all. That was tough because I felt like hearing all those people with a stammer would also trigger my stammering, like a Domino effect. But I explained to my mother and the doctor that usually I only stammer around the people I am closest to.
A lot of people who I met in my adulthood also do not know that I have a stammer. At university, when we had to do group presentations, I thrived in my presentation skills. Even at work, I recently became a trainer in hospitality which means I spend the whole day talking and yet I don’t think my colleagues know I have a stammer.
It has not always been rainbows and roses though. Once early in my career, I had the most mortifying experience. I was a telephone operator and working the evening shift alone. I got a call and when I answered it, I tried to speak but I was not able to get a word out. The caller kept repeating ‘Hello’ but there was nothing from my end. I was so frustrated with myself that I just hang up the call (very poor telephone skills which I do not recommend). She called a second time and the same thing happened. I could not speak, so I hang up the phone again. The third time I was able to answer and apologize. I told the lady I had a stammer and I was trying to speak but could not and luckily she was very understanding. That was the worst incident I remember having which I have only ever told to my mother.
So it can be frustrating. You want to wave and make hand gestures and remove all the air in your lungs just to get, at the very least, that one word out. All the while people avoid making eye contact with you, thinking they are making you uncomfortable. But like all things in life, I have learnt to deal with it and I know my triggers which for me are:
- When I get excited, which is mostly around family and friends, I start to speak fast so I stammer a lot.
- Words which start with ‘st’ or ‘ch’. When a sentence has these words, it triggers my stutter. So you can imagine saying Standard Charted Bank is like a tongue twister for me.
And how do I cope:
- Breathing. I am sure every stammerer will tell you this, but it does help to take deep breaths before talking. Unfortunately sometimes I never know when I will start to stammer so I can only take deep breathes and hope the words come out after.
- Knowing my triggers. All people with a stammer are different so I have to know which environment/words set my stammer off.
- Working around some of the words which set off my stammer, although it is really hard to get around saying ‘Standard Chartered Bank.’ Even writing it gives me the heebie-jeebies (lol, this is actually a word).
But the most important way to cope, like I mentioned in the beginning, is personality. For me I find the people closest to me are the ones more affected by it than I am. For me it’s just my everyday life with my loud, crazy family and friends, all talking at the same time and me wanting to contribute to the conversation.
Do I hope one day my stammer completely goes away, or wonder what it would be like to not have a stammer? Of course! But it’s as much a part of me and the concept of not having a stammer is actually weirder to me than I’m sure it is for most people listening to someone with a stammer speak.