I wish someone had told me that it's OK to stammer

A man at a restaurant table, looking at the camera with his arms crossed

After battling his speech all his life, Jonathan writes candidly about the effect this has had, but also how starting to talk about it is helping.

How do you condense 33 years' worth of stammering experience into an article? 33 years of battles, of thinking about saying your name to a stranger, ordering a coffee and looking with envy at those who can speak without hiding their mouth, contorting their face or their heart racing. Whose deepest fear is not snakes or spiders but words that begin with a D or J.

I'm Jonathan and like so many others, I have battled and fought my whole life and experienced the highs and lows of stammering. I have a good job where I speak to clients and hold training sessions, and I have a wonderful wife and three beautiful daughters. On the flip side, I battle depression after many years of running away from and not admitting I had a stammer.


I suffered abuse as a child, which was around the same time I started stammering. My stammer ironically became my safety blanket, my safe space, a way to protect myself. I was a smart, curious child with a lot of ideas and ambition, but I deprived myself of opportunities. I was gifted at running but refused to go to sports meetings. My teachers couldn't understand why. But I refused and I hid. Why? Because they ask you your name before the event.

I did well at secondary school. I had amazing, kind and supportive classmates. But just when I found my feet, at 13 my parents moved from our quiet little Welsh town to London. This was an atom bomb in my life. Because of my stammer and Welsh accent I got teased and bullied every day. So much so that my parents eventually agreed to let me move back to my old school and stay with my grandparents.

To fit in, I decided I would change my accent, to the dismay of my parents. But I wanted to change me.

After moving back, something had changed in me. I developed a fight. I vowed to myself that no matter what it took I would do something about my stammer. I started to read aloud in class. The more I read, the more fluent I got and the better I felt. There would be very dark days, but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel.

I left school and had little choice but to go back to London. To fit in, I decided I would change my accent, to the dismay of my parents. But I wanted to change me. I figured if I could be someone else then I might be able to conquer the stammer. I found it increased my fluency and for the first time, I felt I could speak freely. But if someone came on TV with a Welsh accent, I would change channel for fear of my accent coming back. I once watched the snooker for four hours with earplugs in because the commentator was Welsh! Don't get me wrong, I'm very proud to be Welsh, but this was purely self-preservation.


I grew in confidence, made friends, taught myself how to interview and I got jobs. I would class myself as a covert stammerer and have learnt to adapt and change words on the fly. I gained more fluency and a larger vocabulary. But I've battled and fought my speech every single day. What people don't see is, for example if I have a client meeting or presentation, the anxiety and dread that is all consuming. I practise and make sure I am well informed before the meeting. This calms me and the calmer I am the more fluent I am.  

I would have months of fluency but after one stammering word or incident, this would be followed by dark weeks. My confidence would be rock bottom, fluency gone, and I would deal with it in my own head and beat myself up. There were days where I wished the world would swallow me up; where I couldn't face another day of being me. My Welsh accent has completely gone, and I struggle to even try and put it on — I feel extremely sad with hindsight but a desperate 16/17-year-old with no support will try anything.

But I am now talking to people and being open about my struggles — it helps. There are people who do understand, who can help, who you can talk to.

I have never really spoken about it up until now — I have kept it in, battled for so long and created a persona that isn't really me that my brain can't deal with anymore. I sadly never had any support, and it upsets me to think others are going through the same. I wish someone had told me that it's OK. It's OK to stammer, it's OK not to feel great today, it's OK not to want to talk. I have achieved what I have by myself and through sheer bloody mindedness which I am proud of, but I have also lost so much and would trade in my struggles for help and support.  

But I am now talking to people and being open about my struggles — it helps. There are people who do understand, who can help, who you can talk to. 

I cannot tell you how immensely proud I am of people who stammer. The trials and tribulations of so many people, what a lonely place it can be. The struggles, fights, highs and lows of stammerers and their support network is phenomenal. 

My own struggles have given me more experience than I care to admit and if anyone wants help or advice, I am more than willing to communicate and assist in any way I can.

If you stammer and would like to talk to someone, STAMMA is here for you. Call our free Helpline on 0808 802 0002, start a webchat or email help@stamma.org. See Get Help for other things you can do.

If you would like to contact Jonathan, email editor@stamma.org and we'll pass on your message.

Two women in running outfits holding flags and looking at the camera
Tayo & Bhupinder
A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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