Ben Rowley looks back with regret at the times he let stammering hold him back, and explains how he built up the confidence to do things he never thought he was capable of, like start his own podcast and co-host a YouTube channel.
Imagine jumping into a pool of icy water and you rise to the surface, wanting to scream. It seems the air has been withdrawn from your lungs; your throat closes completely and you cannot produce sound, even though you try your hardest.
This is what I feel like when I stammer. I jump into a pool every time I speak and I'm constantly anxious that it's going to be icy. It's mental agony and I believe now, as a 24-year-old, that I'll feel this way for the rest of my life.
I can't begin to count the amount of times I've ducked out of a potentially life-changing moment. I look back at those times with overwhelming regret.
Having said that, I like to call myself a 'recovering stammerer'. I’m 'recovering' because I am in a much better place than I was one, five or ten years ago. It’s improved steadily over the years to the point that I can currently engage with the world in a pretty normal way, whereas in my early years I found it difficult to start a sentence, let alone string one together.
It's perhaps a stereotype that British people dislike human interaction, especially with new faces. For me that dislike used to be fear, dreading every time I spoke. I was scared of making myself look like a complete fool. I was worried that the recipient would be confused, or worse would mock me for it. I'd feel guilty that I was wasting someone's time, like I didn't deserve to talk. Not only did stammering ruin interactions, the anxiety of stammering often prevented them from even happening in the first place. I can't begin to count the amount of times I've ducked out of a potentially life-changing moment. I look back at those times with overwhelming regret.
My pathway to confidence
I've taken part in The McGuire Programme, a course that teaches the costal breathing technique. I like the way it also taught assertive self-acceptance and non-avoidance methods (encouraging overt stammering over covert) by putting you into situations you are most afraid of. It was life-changing for me and helped me to go to and graduate from University, meet so many wonderful new people and give presentations in front of hundreds of colleagues and experts, succeed in one of the most high-pressure job interviews of my life to one of the world’s biggest companies (over the phone!). It also helped me broadcast myself on television and YouTube in front of thousands of people, and start a podcast of my very own (I know!), talking about something I love — Stoke City Football Club. I used to help host a YouTube channel about it called The Bear Pit TV and I now host a podcast called The YYY-Files, where I interview Stoke City fans about their journey, experiences and relationship following the club.
There will be times where I stammer and it's up to me to decide whether I choose to let it corrupt my hard-built confidence once again, or use my mental strength to let it slide.
The course has been just one method of granting me a pathway to confidence. I'm lucky enough to have experienced a number of pivotal moments and periods in my life which have exponentially increased my confidence. I feel invincible compared to the scared little boy I was not so long ago, but even I know there's such a long way to go to truly master myself.
Believing in myself
My confidence as a stammerer is tested every single day, every time I speak, whether I'm on the road to recovery or not. There will be times where I stammer and it’s up to me to decide whether I choose to let it corrupt my hard-built confidence once again, or use my mental strength to let it slide. Significant stammering moments have been the start of a slippery slope even when I'm most assured of myself. On the other hand, overcoming the greatest intimidating speaking situations have transformed the way I approach life.
I feel invincible compared to the scared little boy I was not so long ago.
I will never take the power of speech for granted ever again. My experiences have brought out the best in me. I have done things which I never thought I'd be capable of and it's shaped me into the person I am content with today. If there's one thing I want everyone (stammerer or not) to take away from this ramble, is that I find that believing in myself is the most powerful thing in the world. Whatever it is that currently petrifies me, I have the mindset of attacking it and using it as a platform to make my mark in the world. I no longer underestimate myself.
Your ability to speak, however imperfectly, can change your life. Use it.
This is an abridged version of a blog post made by Ben, which you can read in full at bar.depear.co.uk
The McGuire Programme is one of a number of courses for people who stammer. Read more about the range of options on our Therapy & Courses section.
Would you like to write an article for the site? See our Share Your Story page to find out how.