“Emmet has been a key part of the McGuire Programme Ireland for over eighteen years as a Course Instructor and Staff Trainer. He has also served as an Evaluation Auditor and for several years ran the very successful Dublin Support Group in Ireland. A few years ago he moved to Germany to develop his web design business.“
What do you do when you’re feeling completely useless and alone?
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, how many friends you have or how “successful” you may appear to be. We all feel disconnected from time to time. And if we listen to and believe the voice in our head, we can quickly spiral down into loneliness and darkness.
I felt disconnected from everyone all the time because I had a severe problem communicating with other people. Imagine living in a world where communication is extremely difficult after all the world we live in is all about communication. Imagine living your life having difficulty every single moment while trying to engage or have a conversation with someone, not being able to order something you want over the counter in a shop, or feeling fearful while ordering a meal you want when eating out with friends ( I used to order the same thing as the person next to me ordered as that was the always the easy option) or imagine having difficulty with something as simple as saying your name when asked. I struggled with all of these every time I wanted to speak. I felt the fear, I felt the anxiety, I felt the embarrassment every single minute of every single day up to 38 years of age.
My name is Emmet and I stutter but my stutter no longer defines me anymore. I’m a husband and a father, an Architect and a web designer, I also dabble in graphic design and photography and I’m currently working in a ‘Startup’ company. I lived in London for a number of years, I come from Ireland and I moved to Germany in 2013 with my wife, Daniela.
Throughout my childhood, I was very shy, possibly as a result of having a stutter. I was always thought of as the ‘quiet one’ and I found myself continually holding myself back from engaging in conversation with kids my own age. There was a lot of bullying when I was in primary school and when I was a teenager, strangely some of the bullyings wasn’t directed at my stuttering but with a stuttering problem, it becomes difficult to defend yourself verbally. I became vulnerable to a range of other bullying attacks and I was an easy target and it was difficult to stand up for myself.
My parents tried their best to help and brought me to various speech therapists throughout my childhood and teenage years. The speech therapy didn’t really work for me and I continued to struggle with speaking throughout my college life and beyond.
I also attended speech therapy in London in my twenties and thirties and that kind of work for the duration of the sessions which were once a week for a period of 8 weeks but when those sessions ended and when it came to the outside world I always reverted back to my old trusted bad speaking habits and behaviours. I’ve even had to write down notes on a piece of paper to convey what I wanted to say. At that time this was the only thing that worked for me without having to go through the embarrassment of facial struggles and distortions. At some point, I even considered but never tried ‘hypnosis’ as a treatment and I also thought about learning sign language but thinking about that now doesn’t make any sense, as not all people understand sign language, but at the time it might have been a solution I was happy with.
I was lucky enough to find a career that suited my talents. I loved drawing and I had a passion for design. I really wanted to become an artist or graphic designer and I applied to Art College but couldn’t sell myself the way I wanted to because of my stutter.
During those Art College interviews, it was recommended to me that I should try out Architecture instead and I applied and got accepted (btw: I didn’t have to do an interview, I only had to pass an entrance examination). So, I studied Architecture at Bolton Street College in Dublin. After graduating from Architectural College, I moved to London and found work as an Architectural Technician. I loved my time in London and my passion for architecture was heightened by living in such a beautiful city.
During my time in London, even though I had a stutter, I got to fulfil one of my lifelong ambitions of working in the music industry. I formed a rock band and a record label with a long term colleague of mine in 1991 and we continued this venture until 1996. We co-wrote all our material and I sang. On stage I had a completely different persona, my friends couldn’t believe that it was me performing but offstage I become my usual self. I was a wreck, afraid to speak or engage in conversation with friends, fans and any media interest. This was not good for the progression of the band, especially when it came to giving media interviews.
Every time I spoke or tried to speak it was very evident I had a speech impediment – I had silent blocks, repetitions, facial struggles, contortions and distortions of all sorts. I developed tricks that I thought would help me to become more fluent but the tricks just made things worst and the tricks become more extreme as the years progressed. I really hated myself, every social situation brought on more panic and more fear. And this resulted in me having panic attacks which later developed into social anxiety. Stuttering for me was going from one panic attack to the next. I even remember one particular time when I was walking down the street in Soho, London and I saw a good friend approaching in the distance, I panicked and hid behind a car so I wouldn’t have to engage in conversation with him. Unbelievable, I know, and what’s even worst is that I shared a flat with him at that time!
After 11 years in London, I decided to move back to Ireland and I found work in an Architectural office in Dublin. I worked there for 9 years until the global recession kicked in and I was, like so many other people, made redundant.
It was during my time at this Architectural office that I found out about The McGuire Programme. This is a programme founded by a stutterer to help other people who stutter. I came across the programme during a self-help group session with ‘The Irish Stammering Association’. After that session, I investigated the programme and found some information online. After a number of days, I worked up some courage to ring the Regional Director of the programme in Ireland, a great guy called Joe O’Donnell.
During the telephone call to Joe, I tried my best not to stutter (thinking back about that now seems funny to me). Joe was extremely friendly and helpful and sent me the application form in the post. The application form arrived but lay on my desk at work for almost 3 months until I received a friendly reminder from Joe, checking in and asking if I had received the form. That day I filled in the form but again the form lay on my desk for another few weeks.
I finally picked up the courage to post the application form and walked down to the nearest post-box. I stood at the postbox for about 10 minutes, pushing the envelope into the postbox but never letting go. The envelope went back and forth like this for a good few minutes until I finally lost the envelope to the postal system. My thoughts at the time were, ‘what have I done, it’s too late to back away now. I was feeling nervous, stressed and a little bit tense but also a little bit excited.
In February 2004 I completed my first McGuire course. And what an experience it was, I will never forget all the people who helped me out during and after my first course. I knew then that I should have made the decision to join a long time ago but I simply didn’t have the courage and I was to afraid that it wouldn’t work for me BUT I was so wrong, the course worked and I was so happy to finally have control of over my stutter.
The journey has been hard, challenging and fun. It’s not an easy journey and it takes a lot of hard work and discipline but the rewards are worth the effort and are forever life-changing. I was now able to do what others take for granted; to speak without the fear!
After my first course, I took every opportunity to share my experience with the world. I’ve had the opportunity to be interviewed by local and national newspapers, I’ve been on national and local radio stations on numerous occasions and I’ve appeared on television talk shows, both live and pre-recorded.
It has and still is a big adventure. The programme has given me so much confidence, inspiration and motivation to keep pushing myself and to continually expand my comfort zones. I’ve worked on my speech on a daily basis, following the rules and directions of the programme. I’ve attended and helped out in over 40 intensive courses over the past 11 years and I’ve been actively involved in the Dublin weekly support group meetings.
On the programme members also have the opportunity to become coaches, course instructors, staff trainers and even regional directors, generally giving back what the programme has given to so many. I decided to take the McGuire coaching examinations in 2004 and quickly become a Primary Coach, only 4 months after my first course.
The following year I become a course instructor intern and interned with the brilliant Michael O’Shea. Michael is the author of ‘Why I called my sister Harry’ and the founder of ’Speak Soon Communications’. I instructed my first course in February 2006 and I’ve instructor 20 more courses since. I also became a staff trainer in 2008 and I became actively involved in the yearly staff training events in Galway, Ireland.
As I’ve previously mentioned I was made redundant in 2009 – before joining the programme this would have been another one of those life events that would have totally stressed me out, especially in relation to my stutter BUT this time around I looked at this as a great opportunity to work freelance in the design industry, something I’ve always had a passion for but could never get the courage to explore. So, a couple of months after I was made redundant, I formed my own company in 2010, trading as INDEXD and I’m still working under that banner to this day.
I’m now also studying German at the Ruhr Universität. I’m only at level A2 but learning something new every day.
And now I’ve been appointed as the role of Regional Director for The McGuire Programme in Germany. I’m really excited to have this opportunity to bring such a programme to the people of Germany. I can’t wait to get started building up the programme in this new region. I know from experience that the programme is only as good as its members and I know that the German Region will grow and grow over the next few years to become one of the best in the World.