I now talk about my stammer
Joe Merriweather tells how about the extent to which he hid his stammer, and the course that helped him.
Ever since I was young I always struggled with my speech but had never really addressed it. I found that I would often get stuck on certain words which left me feeling stressed, tired and frustrated. It stopped me putting myself forward for public speaking opportunities and even speaking with friends or family if I knew certain words might come up.
This also became a challenge when I started looking for a job and took a sales role. Having a stammer made pitching, cold calling and speaking to clients quite a struggle at times. I felt helpless and often isolated. I found myself often trying to hide my stammer in fear of being 'found out', which was exhausting. Even my closest friends and family didn't realise that I had a stammer and had no idea what I was going through. I think that shows how much work I had put into hiding it.
Even my closest friends and family didn't realise that I had a stammer and had no idea what I was going through. I think that shows how much work I had put into hiding it.
I tried to ignore it for a long time until one day I finally told my girlfriend how much it was impacting me. We talked about it and I decided to get some support and see what options were out there. I went to my GP, who suggested getting speech & language therapy. Unfortunately there wasn't anything available in my area on the NHS so my GP told me about City Lit in London, who run therapy courses. I looked at their website and saw that they did a group course for 'interiorised stammering', which was coming up. I didn't even know what an interiorised stammer was and didn't know anyone else with an interiorised stammer. When I read more about it, it was describing a lot of the things I did to hide my stammer so that no one finds out. I decided to sign up for the next course.
- Read more about Interiorised, or Covert Stammering
I was nervous about going because it was in a group setting. I wasn't used to talking about my stammer to anyone let alone a group of people. But it turned out to be one of the best parts — meeting people who are going through the same experiences and challenges was a game changer for me, and we were able to support each other along the way.
Meeting people who are going through the same experiences and challenges was a game changer for me.
I also wasn't sure about it at first because it was an online course, but it worked really well. We had weekly sessions of two hours over a period of six months, with very short bits of homework to do in between the sessions. The course was structured really well, easing the group in at the start and going at a steady rate with progress coming (at least in my experience) relatively quickly. There was a great balance of practical and theoretical work.
Addressing thoughts & feelings
To my surprise, the most helpful parts of the course were the ones that focused on my thoughts and feelings about my stammer rather than on actual speech techniques. It encouraged me to explore my relationship with my stammer, firstly by making me aware of how often it shows up. I realised how my thinking often leads to negative thought patterns and that how I perceive my stammer internally was different to how others perceive it. Thinking about this helped me get to a much calmer and positive place, which in truth, was the biggest win for me.
I was apprehensive going into it all but it was 100% one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has transformed my relationship with my stammer which has in turn had a huge impact on my happiness and wellbeing. A year ago I would have never spoken about it with anyone — now I talk about my stammer at work, with my friends and have even posted about it on LinkedIn and had a really positive response from people. There are days that are harder than others, but I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.