15th March 2023
In a candid article, Esther Donkor tells us how stammering impacts her life. Despite the difficulties she faces, Esther explains why she wants to become an advocate for others in Ghana who stammer.
My name is Esther and I live in Ghana. I'm in my early 20s and in my final year of university studying agribusiness management.
I have a stutter but I've never really been proud of it. My mom says I've stammered since I was a kid. I felt so bad because I have five siblings and I am the only one who stammers.
School & uni
I first realised I stammered when I was 11. I stood up one day in junior high school to answer a question in class and the words just wouldn't come out. I couldn't speak. I was so embarrassed.
Throughout secondary school things were hard, especially during presentations. I felt nervous and scared of talking. I remember I once hid in a washroom to skip my economics class simply because I didn't want the teacher to ask me a question. I really had difficult moments at school.
I feel so embarrassed and heartbroken most of the time. But I don't want people bowing their heads and feeling sorry for me.
At University, presentations are constant. I always get nervous when answering a question and have a whole lot running through my head. Immediately when I hold on to a microphone, it starts and I just don't like the feeling. I feel so embarrassed and heartbroken most of the time. But I don't want people bowing their heads and feeling sorry for me.
There were these two guys in my class who wanted me to be their friend. It was going well until one of them said hello one evening after lectures. My words weren't coming out so I looked away and ignored them because I was so embarrassed. I felt so ashamed and kept telling myself how badly I had behaved towards them. The guys haven't approach me since, probably thinking I don't want to be their friend.
I don't like meeting people and socialising because there's always this voice that tells me how bad things will be if I try to open my mouth. I try to avoid people or not look them in the eye when talking. After church I always ran away for fear of speaking to others. Sometimes during conversations I want to contribute or crack a joke, but I don't because I'm afraid I'll stammer. During phone calls, it's always difficult for the first word to come out. Sometimes it doesn't come at all.
Whenever I go somewhere, I have this fear that I'll be called to talk or asked a question. I'm always nervous. The fear is so bad that sometimes I don't want to see people I know if they're with others I'm not familiar with for fear that I'll stammer when talking to them.
I want to get married someday but the thought scares me. I keep asking myself, "Will I be able to say the marriage vows?"
One of the most difficult things has always been saying my name, especially when someone asks for it. It just doesn't come out and I feel so embarrassed. Whenever I have to meet an official, I get scared. Sometimes I cry and I ask "Why me?".
I've developed coping strategies like adding certain prefixes before talking, like "yh good morning" instead of just "Good morning" and nodding my head or giving a thumbs up to every question that demands a "yes". It has been tough.
Worries about the future
I want to get married someday but the thought scares me. I keep asking myself, "Will I be able to say the marriage vows? Will I be able to speak with the guests? How am I going to welcome my in-laws? What are they going to say if I stammer?”.
I'm worried about having children too. How am I going to defend them if I need to? I worry that they’ll stammer like me and have to go through the things I go through.
Currently, I haven't done anything about it. But I really need help. I'm always on YouTube searching for ways to control my stammer but it is not working. I've always tried to hide it and that's breaking me.
Realising I'm not alone
I need a club where people who stammer can meet and talk about their experiences, share ideas and feel good about themselves. I wish to stand in front of my colleagues and tell them about my stammering so that I'll feel good about it and feel OK in class.
I'm really happy to have seen posts from STAMMA and to know that I'm not alone. It really means a lot to me. I'm happy I got to know this page that allows people like me to express ourselves and share our stammering journeys. I'm learning to embrace my stammer and from today, I'm going to work through it. Hopefully I can become an advocate for stammerers in my country and speak up for people like me.
I want others to allow people who stammer to just be themselves, and not to make them feel bad. Also I want to make stammerers comfortable and happy about their stammer.
If you are looking for support with stammering, see our Get Help section. You can talk with us via our helpline or webchat, open every weekday. We've also got a list of in-person and online stammering groups you can join to meet others.