It’s September 1997, my first day at secondary school. I didn’t sleep at all for two nights previously, worrying about my first day and how I would cope with my speech. I’d had a stammer all my life but to be honest, prior to secondary school it didn’t really affect or bother me too much.
But by the summer of 1997, that all changed. I realised I was leaving my comfort zone of 12 classmates, 12 friends who knew me and all about my stammer. I was going into this unknown world, meeting new people, new classmates and a new environment.
As the summer went on, the more nervous I got! Finally, the dreaded day arrived. We had 10 different classes that day and with my surname starting with “A”……. I was the first name on every roll call. The usual first-day questions by each teacher were, “where are you from? Have you any brothers or sisters already at this school?” etc. For the first 3 classes, I did my best to answer each question, but nothing came out nothing!
I was trying my best to force out a word, any word. But as the fear was so great, I couldn’t even make a sound. I needed an old friend from primary school that was in my class to answer each question for me that day.
As the days and years went on, I became an expert at avoiding questions & speaking situations. So much so that some teachers stopped asking me any questions at all. But this wasn’t just at school, this was a common occurrence, all day, every day. I needed to do something about my speech, but I was too ashamed to try to get help. I felt isolated.
Until one day, a teacher kept me back after class and told me about Joe O’Donnell & the McGuire Programme. This teacher had already been in touch with my parents and passed the contact details onto them. So when I came home that evening, I got my mum to ring Joe. I went along to an information evening soon after that and joined up straight away.
I did my first course in May 2001 in the Aisling Hotel in Dublin. It was the best 3 and a half days of my life! The one thing that still stands out from that course, is knowing that I wasn’t alone. Everybody on the programme has been there. They know what it’s like to have a stammer. They know all about the shame of it, the fear and the holding back, but they also know how to help you.
This is not a cure. I still have good days and bad days, but more good than bad. I know now how to turn the bad into good. It takes a lot of hard work, but it is very rewarding.
Since joining the programme, I’ve done numerous radio interviews, a television interview & a reading at a wedding. But the best part of all is that I now enjoy speaking and with the unlimited after support, you can too.