I sometimes feel like I don't fit in

The article's author, Jessica Forrester

Jessica talks candidly about how her stammer is affecting her social life, relationships and at work, and shares the things she finds helpful.

My name is Jessica and I am 38 years old. I have had a stammer for the majority of my life and to this day I still get embarrassed about what to expect from other people's reactions when my speech decides one day to play havoc.

My stammer started in my teens at school and after I was bullied I changed schools. No one really mentioned my stammer in the new school so it was fine and I made friends who I still have now. I found it different in college — there people would ask me, "Do you have a stutter?", "Why do you do it?", and "What causes it to happen?" This used to make me feel very self-conscious and I believe from this stage I got worse as I didn't understand why I was doing it or how to control it.

I have always thought: why would anyone want to be with someone who has a stammer when they could instead be with someone who talks fluently? 

My parents knew I had a stammer but never ever mentioned it to me. It was when people began laughing at me and making nasty jokes, or asked if I had a stammer, that I questioned it with them. My parents always told me my stammer was not that bad, but to me it felt soul destroying.

Work

At present I currently work as an Administrator at a university disability and special needs department. However, I spent the bulk of my career working as a Paralegal at a legal firm, for over 14 years. I have also worked in compliance within the NHS. I have never really struggled with finding jobs as I interview with very few hiccups in my speech, and I somehow overcome this with all the adrenaline. 

A young lady sitting on a bench looking at the camera, with the words 'Share your story' overlaid.

However, it has not been a walk in the park for me at work; I have had people constantly laugh and talk about my stammer behind my back and to my face. I remember in one job when a group of male colleagues nicknamed me Gareth Gates, which was really hurtful. But I always tried to ignore it as I was there to work and get paid.

I do find looking for work hard sometimes, only more with the interview process. I am currently looking for more stable work and have noticed that sometimes my speech is fine and then all of a sudden I get the blocks, I can't think and then the words are almost impossible to get out. 

Social life & relationships

I don't really have much of a social life. I used to when I was in my early twenties but sometimes I feel that I don't really fit in well with people and I am different and weird to them, although this is not the case.

I have never had a boyfriend; I have dated men but it has never turned into anything serious and I have blamed my stammer for this. I have always thought: why would anyone want to be with someone who has a stammer when they could instead be with someone who talks fluently? 

I have also found that getting enough sleep, trying to stay calm and speaking slowly in certain situations always helps

Growing up with a stammer has caused me a significant amount of anxiety and depression, although no one knows this or has ever asked how it makes me feel. Sometimes I can get extremely low about it, especially if I have had a bad interview or a conversation with someone where I struggled to get my words out.

What has helped me

A few years ago I found a helpful book by Malcolm Fraser titled 'Self-Therapy for the Stutterer'. The book had various tips which helped me with certain words or letters that I found impossible to say. I have also found that getting enough sleep, trying to stay calm and speaking slowly in certain situations always helps; however this is only a short-term fix.

I have always dreamt of what it must be like to speak 100% fluently without people who don't understand giving you those weird looks or seeing a smirk appearing on their faces. However, as I have grown older I have cared less of people's opinions but deep down I do wish I could be that confident, fluent woman.

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