pat on the back

The confidence that writing these blogs has given me is unbelievable. Today i did something 6 times that i rarely ever do. Whats that? i hear you say, well dear reader i shall tell you, i  not only answered the phone but i also made three phone calls. 

Debbie will tell you that i never do these things, i only normally talk to her on the phones and usually avoid making phone calls even to my family, but today something was different. On my phone different people have different ringtones so i know straight away who’s calling and if i want to answer. If the standard ringtone goes i never answer and simply let it go to voice mail but today i took the BRAVE step of actually answering. I remembered the techniques from Gillian my speech therapist and slowed my breathing down and managed to sound fairly fluent. I always find answering the phone the worst bit because normally i stop breathing and struggle to make my words come out and ok at first today was hard but instead of giving up i carried on with it and actually felt really good.

When i got in i had to make phone calls that i had been putting of and again everything went fine, yes i stammered but i was in control of it, the difference in me this week is amazing and for someone with such a low opinion of himself even i have to admit that. I’m not naive to think its now all going to go swimmingly all the time but lets just enjoy the moment and give myself a pat on the back

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speech therapy

So one of the lovely comments that i have gotten has been from a someone studying to become a speech therapist, who said that the hardest part was trying to understand how a stammerer feels as they didn’t stammer themselves. This was an interesting comment and it did ring true with me. I’ve been with 5 speech therapists in my life and it has been apparent that none of these have had speech issues and to me i think i found it hard to accept this. One of my big issues has always been the old “how would you know?” and “how could you possibly understand?”  and for to receive a comment like that has got me thinking maybe i was too closed mind. 

My dealings with speech therapy has always been the same, generally i am asked to read aloud either single words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs. I’ve never really understood why and what good it does, sessions were ok but i felt more like i was in therapy rather than doing speech therapy, as a result i was becoming more fluent in the sessions but as soon as i left back to square one. My latest therapist has worked on other things with me which i think has made a difference, we always start sessions with breathing exercises which at the time i didn’t get but now i realize the benefits, and although yes we did end up reading aloud i felt i was making progress, I’ve not had the opportunity to go back due to work commitments but i can honestly say she has made a difference.

What i would really like to know is :

What makes someone want to become a speech therapist?: Personally i know i could never deal with this myself, dealing with people’s hang ups and frustration must be hard, it really must take a lot of patience and understanding. I’d also like to know how difficult it is for speech therapists to deal with us stammerers

i would also love to know what different techniques are used in other countries, is stammering seen the same way we do?,  Are there more resources to deal with speech therapy?

positivity

So after yesterdays blog, Debbie asked me a question about what positive things do people do that help you? This question has been running through my mind all of last night and all of today and i still can’t answer it. The answer is simply nothing. This may sound negative or i may be coming across as bitter, depressive or something similar but i can honestly say i am none of these things (possibly bitter). I am quite positive about where i am going with my speech and these blogs although only a couple of days old are definitely helping me. Today for probably the first time ever i said to myself “I WILL CONTROL MY SPEECH” this may sound silly but to me its uplifting, most people will tell you that my speech controls me but today i made a conscious effort to STOP, BREATHE and START AGAIN. Simple enough you may say but to me its taken years to try and attempt and conquer. I have always let my mouth dictate whats being said instead of my brain. The best way i can ever describe it is my mouth playing catch up with my brain. 

But back to the question in hand,i couldn’t answer Debbie i stammer around everybody and anybody. You would think i’d be more fluent around Debbie who has been with me since 2001 but in all honesty i’m as bad sometimes with her as i am a complete stranger. I am most fluent when i put into practise what my SLT taught me but its getting to do it, i’m probably lazy but once i start to stutter i physically can’t stop myself, i can hear my head saying simply stop but instead i block, start getting breathless or blurt. Frustrating is the word that i feel best describes how i feel about my stammer. I’m not depressed i have learnt to deal with having it and in a way i guess its me and it makes me unique whether i like it or not.

However i am really going to be positive about my stammer,  today has been a good day i feel like i achieved some degree of fluency when talking to people which i havent done for a while. Debbie is really encouraging me to be more positive and its good to know that i have such a good support unit with her. Another big help yesterday was Brandon my nephew who also stammers, whilst messaging each other i said to him don’t let it hold you back like i did and he’s reply was simply well you’ve got a good life so the stutter mustn’t of held you back too much. He was absolutely right I’ve put to much emphasize on my speech without actually realizing that hold on a minute, I’ve got a great family, friends i can rely on, a job that i love and more importantly I’M HAPPY. How many people can say that?

helping?

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking they are helping a stammerer when they do one of a few things:

Interrupting you: Seriously it doesn’t help whatsoever, it throws us of board and makes things worse

Guessing: You may think you can guess what the next word is going to be but how could you?, most of the time the sound you hear isnt connected to the word we are trying to say

Eye- contact: I may be on my own here but from personal experience i CANNOT take being stared at, its very off putting to me and makes me feel even more uncomfortable then i already am

Helpful comments: Believe me aren’t, in the past I’ve had: take your time, there’s no rush, i can wait, just stop and breathe, start again. If you can name them I’ve probably heard it

Looking bored: i’m sorry if i’m taking to long to talk to you but trust me its more embarrassing for me than you, i can tell when your losing interest

Phoning me: Everyone who has my number knows my situation and knows i’m even worse on the phone, so why would you put me through the trauma of phoning me?

Most importantly this last one,

NEVER, EVER think you will ever be able to make a joke about my stutter: Yes i am the first to make a joke of it but thats different I CAN unless you have had to deal with it just for one single day you will never understand

My pet peeve is when someone interrupts me and guesses the next word, my brother was forever finishing my sentences when we were younger, yes he thought it was helpful it was the complete opposite, i’d go off feeling stupid and frustrated. If you notice that i’m stuck on a word my brain is already trying to find a different word to say, that’s the problem!! Put yourself in my shoes for a split second, how would you cope?

Why?

So why at the age of 34 have i decided to do this now?, Well it all really began when I was sitting uncomfortably watching the undateables with my wife Debbie when it suddenly dawned on me, without my wife being so supportive and standing by me that i could easily be on an episode, my speech has gotten that bad over the past years that i feel its uncontrollable and an embarrassment, As you will learn with this blog my speech is my Achilles heal, it controls me and i have a big chip on my shoulder about it, the best way i can describe is that whenever it happens i feel about one inch tall, i get embarrassed and hate myself. Debbie described it best when she says its like your own little prison the only way i can describe the feeling is that whenever i stutter my brain is still talking and my mouth is playing catch up. Debbie never sees my speech this way and insists that it’s not as bad as i make out but i cant help feeling it. My speech therapist has recommended that i try counselling as she feels that there is something holding me back from accomplishing what I want in a way I’m hoping this blog will act as some form of counselling and help. Debbie who is my rock and confidence also thought that this may help, and in all honesty without her support i wouldn’t be doing this at all . My twin brother ( the depressed moose) has also written a blog about his problems with depression and that seems to have helped him so why not

So where did it all begin?, as far as i remember i have always stuttered (or stammered) what ever one you choose to call it, my earliest memory is of being 8 or 9 and leaving school to go to speech therapy, it was a group therapy and i don’t recall enjoying it at all, my parents never made a big deal of my speech so i guess i didn’t i was quite popular at school due to the fact that i was good at football ( which is the only time i don’t stutter), my twin used to take the piss but that’s what siblings are they for but whenever i had a problem he was there with me, i never really suffered from bullying occasionally the odd word here or there and the odd fight but it could have been so much worse, i think bullies realized that they weren’t taking on just me but my twin as well occasionally it did pay to have a twin. Whilst growing up here i didn’t really think about my stutter as being a problem until we moved areas. Growing up in the late 80’s was difficult stuttering was a bit of a joke for everybody, comedy shows would make a joke of it Open all Hours was often repeated even today although i know it is funny i cant watch it and of course we have Garry’s personal favorite Stutter Rap, oh how i loved that song growing up

Obviously moving at the age of 10 to a new area making new friends had an effect on me, luckily again as i was good at football i was quite popular, i got into more scrapes here than at the previous school but that was probably more me trying to find my place than anything else, I changed speech therapists here and felt more comfortable on a one to one basis but still didn’t feel that i was getting anywhere with it, football came first and so i didn’t go to a lot of sessions especially if it feel on a football match or training session, then after 2 years was the dreaded move to secondary school, i was dreading going there as i knew what it was like older kids, talking in classes, meeting loads of new people, having to explain to people my problem, it was horrendous. The theme of being popular due to football was again included here so i was very very lucky, i knew my place and a s long as i didn’t make my speech to aware to people i was fine. Registration was hard having to say here sir whilst everyone was staring at you was the hardest. Incidentally the hardest question you can ask me even today is my name. I dreaded having to read aloud in classes, at primary school i used to put accents on and loved it but here was different. I suddenly became very aware of the fact that people were watching me, i’m sure i could hear sniggering and stifled laughter, i didn’t know anyone really from my old school only 1 other person from my class was in my new class (Garry my twin was in my classes for the first time as well), i started making excuses not to read, or mostly would just refuse to do it and then get into trouble but in my eyes it was worth it. I never went to speech therapy during high school no-one ever mentioned it at all, football was my life and i think i was playing 5 nights out of 7 with various clubs, education didn’t matter my dad always drummed into us that football came first and that we were good enough to play professionally therefore in my eyes why bother, i had friends yes but no-one that i could call a best friend or anyone that i could talk to, I’ve always felt uncomfortable in the presence of other stammers so that was a no go as well, i always felt like i was on my own even though i had a twin brother. The problem i felt at school was that i was known for either being my brothers twin or simply because of my speech. I never put my self into situations where i could challenge myself i always hide away or played dumb and made out i was an idiot (something i still do today)

I managed to get through high school then came the new problems of the big bad world, i never wanted to go to college because of my speech, i always wanted to get into writing, it was always my escape i felt confident writing although until someone criticized it then i gave up ( this blog could be Short and sweet), i have never handled criticism even today as my wife will tell you, i wish i could be more like her and not give a fuck what people think but i need approval , no-one in my family knew but i always wanted to be a journalist but in my head how could i interview someone? id be a laughing-stock, no-one would employ me. I took the first job that came my way working in a sports warehouse, did that for three years liked it at first then got bored lol the perils of being 17 and bored. My speech was never really an issue there until it came to having to answer phones, that is my worst nightmare, its like getting an unwanted dirty phone call i tense up, i cant breathe and i cant talk, horrible just horrible. I gave up on speech therapy by this point i knew i could never conquer it

By the time i was 22 i had just learned to deal with it, i never liked how i looked, never liked myself in fact it was this point that i first got tattooed, tattoos are the only thing i like about myself, Debbie thinks i’m addicted i think she’s right but if people are staring at my tattoos they aren’t noticing my speech and when i talk about them i don’t stutter as its something i am proud of. At this point in my life i was relatively ok with my stutter, i had been single for about 3 and a half years and i knew that no-one around my age group would be interested because of my speech than fate intervened and i might deb by chance, to cut a long story short deb was living on the isle of wight i was in London and within three months we had decided that the timing was right and i moved down here to be with her and three kids, the kids were and still are fantastic when it comes to my speech they have never said anything about it and just behaved like its normal. It wasn’t hard moving really, i had nothing to stay behind for in London and i knew Debbie was the one for me, it was the right stage in both of our lives, my family wasn’t particular thrilled that i was moving in with a woman 12 years older than me with three children but most of them accepted that i wasn’t changing my mind, my mum and Debbie are the best of friends now, and although me and my twin sort of fell out over it for years we are slowly rebuilding that relationship, my dad well once he realized he wasn’t going to change my mind we’ve not spoken since 2004, my thoughts are basically i haven’t got to bump into him in the streets so bollocks!! but sorry I’m going of point. I found it difficult looking for work on the island, lots of clicks here jobs passed on through the family and all that etc etc, but Debbie supported me through two years and then we got married in 2003 and a month later i was working for Iceland, i hated every minute of it , having to talk to customers i refused to work on tills and eventually after 3 years i went on the sick with a bad back and never returned. In the summer of 2006 i joined Royal Mail, now this seems odd that a person with as bad a stutter would join a customer based job but i absolutely love it, i think my speech has improved because i can’t hide from people i have to talk to people, luckily i have had the same round for 3 years and my regulars now me and understand me. Occasionally i have had to have words with people, one old gentleman thought tat my Bluetooth headset was a contraption that made me talk proper!!! luckily i knew he meant well and seeing as he tipped me at Christmas who was i to tear a strip of him. However over the past year i feel my speech has gone downhill, i restarted speech therapy last year which at first i felt was helping but eventually weekly sessions turned to fortnightly sessions turned to once a month and i haven’t been since September the last session she said about trying counselling and this is where we are today. I cant string one complete sentence together, which frustrates the hell out of me because when i put into practice what i have been taught by my latest therapist i can do it, I know that if i breathe, talk slower i can do it, something in my brain stops me from doing it, in my head whenever i stutter my head is saying STOP, BREATH START AGAIN but i cant. Maybe part of me realizes that my speech is why i’m the person i am today, would i still be me if i were normal?, would my life be any better or worse?, for years my speech has held me back but what if the speech isn’t the problem its me?, am i just kidding myself? Am i too old to learn?

Hopefully this blog will help me somehow understand and hopefully it will help and inspire someone else out there who is maybe feeling the same and perhaps it will educate people into how people with stammers feel.