5th January 2022
After a submission to read her children's story at an online event was accepted, Phyllis Edwards started to doubt whether she could do it. Could friends from the international stammering community provide the support she needed? Did she go through with it? Read on…
I really need to share what happened to me recently as it was such a learning curve. I had been feeling nervous but excited ever since I replied to a request for submissions for the 'Communication Through Art' event. This was a marathon online event last December organised by the World Stuttering Network, with people who stammer sharing poems, stories and art.
I work at a Montessori preschool in New Zealand and I wrote a series of stories about 'Dillis Duck' which I read to the children there. Doing that helps me to embrace my stammer at work. When I found about the event, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share my stories, even though I found it scary as someone who stammers.
Worry & support
When I was practising reading one of Dillis's adventures in the run up to the event, I noticed I had lots of trouble saying her name properly. I started worrying about it a lot and could feel my stomach rolling around. I wondered if maybe I shouldn't take part in the online event after all. No, I thought, that's not the answer. I want to do it. I need to find a way. I know, I thought, I will change Dillis's name to Amy. Yay, problem solved.
I started worrying about it a lot and could feel my stomach rolling around. I wondered if maybe I shouldn't take part in the online event after all. No, I thought, that's not the answer. I want to do it. I need to find a way.
But it wasn't long before the joy and relief I had felt were replaced with that funny seasick feeling in my stomach again. I didn't want to let myself or Dillis down. I felt restless and needed to talk to somebody about it. I turned to Anita Blom, who has been involved with the International Stuttering Association, and whom I adopted as a mentor a while ago. So I messaged her. Anita replied and got me back on track — I knew she would understood where I was coming from. She suggested that I explain upfront that I was having trouble saying Dillis's name before reading my story at the event. It might take some of the pressure off, she said. I immediately felt better and went to bed with a peaceful mind.
I had also been worried about changing Dillis's name the next day at work, where I planned to share one of her adventures with the children. But the team have been so encouraging and supportive, so I knew I wasn't going to change the name there either.
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The next night I was having a weekly Skype meeting with my friend Alexis. Alexis and I soon developed a strong bond after discovering each other through the STAMMA/British Stammering Association Facebook Support Group in 2018, and we support each other whenever one of us is pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. As soon as her lovely understanding face appeared on the screen my words poured out: "Oh Alexis, guess what I nearly did. I almost changed Dillis Duck's name to Amy. But don't worry, I didn't. But can I please read it to you?". "Yes," she said, "please do". When I had finished, Alexis, in her supportive way with a big encouraging smile on her face, said, "Phyllis, that's so good. I am so glad you didn't change her name".
The day of the event
I was quite happy to get up at 3am New Zealand time to take part in the 'Communication Through Art' event when it came round. I admit I had some 'comforters' as I like to call them, just to settle my tummy. These included wearing a top given to me by one of my long-standing friends who has supported and encouraged me throughout my adult journey. Then there was the reassuring thought that Anita Blom was also presenting at the event, as well as a plaque Alexis had given me that I was holding on to tightly. My amazing husband had also got up to help me.
These experiences are so valuable. They may be scary but the relief and exhilaration you feel along with the support and understanding from everyone just make you want to carry on and do more.
The event organiser Tom let us choose which order we went in and I asked if I could go after Anita, who was on first; more comfort for me. When I had read my story, my emotions were: "Yes, I was able to do it! And I introduced Dillis Duck." These experiences are so valuable. They may be scary but the relief and exhilaration you feel, along with the support and understanding from everyone, just makes you want to carry on and do more. Events like these allow me and others to feel freer and build confidence and self-esteem. I found the whole experience fulfilling — listening to the other participants was just magical.
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Days later, I woke up early after hearing an email notification on my phone. With a sheet over my head I sneaked a look. Tom was writing to say he had put the event on YouTube. I knew it was coming and I had been a bit nervous about that. But when I looked at it; wow. I was proud of all the participants — everyone's artwork and poems were amazing. What I was seeing just brought everything into perspective. Not only how far I had come, but also, really what does it matter? Yes, I do have a stammer but with all the empathy and support people in the stammering community and family and friends bring, I just felt proud.
You can watch the Communication Through Art event on YouTube, with Phyllis reading her story at 11:28.
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