This is by far the most personal and emotionally fueled post I’ve done. For ISAD 2019 I wanted to share my story and how my stammers affected me. It’s taken a lot to write this and a lot more to post this, but here it is.
Remember when you read this, a stammer is more than just dysfluency and getting stuck on a few words or sounds. Also, it’s not anything to do with nerves or intelligence. Having a stammer is tough, tougher than most people could ever imagine. So just bear in mind the mental and emotional affects of a stammer when you read this.
I’ve had a stammer as long as I can remember. When I was a young child, I never saw myself as any different to others, so therefore never really saw my stammer as a problem. That’s probably one reason why I didn’t find speech therapy that effective because I didn’t have the knowledge. As I got older, my stammer become more prominent, the first memory I got of it being a problem comes from end of the juniors. As I started secondary school my stammer got worse, and I struggled a lot. The biggest mistake I made was letting in the self-doubt. I let my stammer get in my head, tell me I couldn’t do that, he couldn’t say that, I couldn’t be that person. That’s why I struggled a lot, not so much because of my speech, but the effect it had on me mentally. It was tough, very tough. I remember getting myself so worked up almost every day because of the fear of speaking. If I was having a bad patch, I would hate school at times, hate the thought of being asked a question, not being able to answer and being laughed at. Paranoia played a major part for me, I remember being told nobody was laughing at me or nobody noticed, but I had it set in my head and some days that broke me. Luckily, I had some incredible teachers who weren’t afraid to go the extra mile with me, who helped build me back up when I was at my lowest points. Without them school would’ve been a lot harder. Thanks to them, they laid the foundations which I needed to help make me the person I am today. Again, in college, I grew as a person but still every now and again went back to the same, scared child who was worried about speaking in fear of what other people might think. I didn’t openly show it as much compared to what I was like in school, but I still struggled a lot in college; so, I was not only trying to hide my stammer, but I was also trying to hide my mental state so to speak. Neither of those worked in my favor.
When I started work, in my head I didn’t want to let anyone know I stammered, which went out the window when in my ‘welcome meeting’ I was asked to read something aloud. Looking back, trying to hide my stammer didn’t help. All it did was made me look nervous and because I didn’t speak about it, nobody knew what to do or perhaps didn’t think it was a problem as I never mentioned it. Stammering is not a nervous this, it’s a neurological condition and no two stammers are the same. Meaning they vary between people in almost every part. Work is a complicated one, because I did have the support around me to better myself, I was encouraged to work with customers and speak more which no doubt helped me a lot and I am grateful for that. Further down the line I spoke more openly about my speech, still not as open as I would’ve liked to because of the fear. Getting recognised as ‘the best example of customer service’ was a moment as a stammerer, I’ll never forget. The only thing is, in work my speech has always been temperamental, and it frustrates me as I know I can do my job, but sometimes it’s hard to prove that when I can’t get my words out.
Again, as I got older, I became more active as a member of the British Stammering Association, getting to know other people who stammer is something I recommend to anyone with a stammer, it really shows how you aren’t on your own. I started to post little videos onto social media groups to share with other people who stammer. All these little things make a difference. The most fundamental part of my life, not just as a stammerer but as a whole was when I made the decision to attend The Starfish Project. This was the moment when I thought enough was enough, if you watch my videos from Starfish, I said about how what I’ve been doing is hiding my stammer, but now it was time to actually make a difference to my life. Those few days taught me so much not just about stammering but about myself, I become part of a family, a special family which words cannot describe. I met some of the most incredible people of my life on that course and will be forever grateful as I went home a new man. The real me, no excuses, nowhere to hide the rest of my life started the minute I stepped out into this real world. Without Starfish, you would not be reading this right now because I would have never had the confidence to openly post this, doing my best to make a difference to stammerers across the country. And I think that is incredible.
I’m now open about my speech and willing to speak about it, just talking to my family and best mates really made me feel at ease and more confident instantly. So, if you want to know anything such as what to do when you speak to someone with a stammer or want to know what it’s like having a stammer. Just ask, I can obviously only tell you from my perspective, but like every stammer is different so it’s a chance to learn more in general and about my story. I just want to say thank you for giving this your time, I know it might fry your head because a stammer is complicated, believe me I know first-hand. But even if one person has learnt something or been engaged reading what I’ve got to say then posting this was worth it. We need to raise awareness about stammering, don’t let the stammer win and talk about stammering. That was a brief summary of my story, I could’ve said a lot more, but I don’t think it would’ve had the same affect. I hope life with a stammer has come a bit clearer and you can see my journey from the start up to this point on October 22nd, 2019 where I can now say my name is Callum Schofield, Proud Recovering Stammerer.