I’ve had a stutter my whole life. My earliest memory of it affecting me was when I was about four years old, and I had to introduce myself to the class. When I stood up, a feeling of dread and fear came over me, and I struggled to say anything.
Throughout my life, I’ve never let my stutter hold me back. My friends and family have always been incredibly supportive and always encouraged me. But that doesn’t mean living with a stutter has always been easy.
The first major impact my stutter had on my life was back in 2014. I was just starting my career, and my job involved a lot of phone calls and attending meetings. On one occasion whilst on the phone, the office went unusually quiet. The same feelings of dread and fear came back to me, and I was petrified someone would overhear me struggling to speak. Five minutes into the phone call, I managed to say about two or three words.
I was feeling so frustrated, it was at this moment when I decided that I would either have to quit my job and change my career, or I can face my stutter head on.
By this time, I’d already been on a few speech courses, including private and NHS ones, but nothing really worked or clicked for me. Eventually, in 2015 I came across the McGuire programme, where they explained that my stutter doesn’t have to negatively impact my life. They helped me learn to accept that I’ll always have to work hard on my speech, but it should never rule my life or stop me from achieving anything.
Through the programme, I was taught to fight my stutter head on and I was encouraged to continuously push myself out of my comfort zone. However, in work, it can be especially challenging for me to practise some of the techniques I’ve learnt. I want to come across as competent, quick and sharp, but I used to worry that people will think less of me, or that I might not be up to the job.
However, Co-op and my manager were incredibly supportive of me and my journey. My manager asked me lots of questions about how she can help. From there, she asked me to share my story with our team, about the techniques that I’ve learnt and how they can all help and support me.
Just recently, on one of the McGuire courses, I was challenged to speak to over 200 members of the public and deliver a speech, using words and sounds I personally find difficult to say. I’m proud that I was finally able to do this in Newcastle city centre on 15 February.
Over the past five years, I’ve continuously pushed myself to gain greater control over my stutter. I’m open and honest with everyone I meet, and often it opens the door for conversation. I continue to push my comfort zone in everyday life, which has led me to be involved in many situations I never dreamt of, including joining Toastmasters! And the more I talk about it, the more in control I am of my stutter.
If you know anyone with a stutter, I’d say allow them to take the time to say what they need. Encourage open environments where people can be themselves and ask questions to see if there’s any way you can help them. And if you’re going through anything similar, try to put yourself in uncomfortable situations, as I believe if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.
My journey with my stutter is a lifelong one with no real finish line. But I’m incredibly proud of how far I have come, and I’m no longer afraid of letting my voice be heard.