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.
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.
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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