30th May 2022 (updated, originally posted in 2019)
With The Prince's Trust Awards taking place last week, a winner from the 2019 ceremony, Gideon Buabeng, tells us how he turned a corner with his stammer, and how a near fatal attack led to him becoming a motivational speaker and a youth mentor.
How I used to be
All my life I was ashamed of my stammering. I hated it. It depressed me to the point that I wouldn't go out for a whole week if I had to meet new people.
I got bullied in school and by my family and friends when I was younger. When I knew I was performing in school assemblies, I used to cry every night before going. I would tell my mum that I was sick but that only worked for so long. After a while she realised the real reason I didn't want to go. She signed me up for speech classes when I was about 10 or 11, but I stopped going because I didn't see any progress.
The fear of speaking and meeting new people followed me through my secondary school years, 6th form and then university. My stammer shows up the most when I have to introduce myself to people. I stammer when I say my name and I found that the most embarrassing thing ever, so I would avoid speaking to people I didn't know. How could I not even say my own name? I used to think. It really broke my heart. I felt so low.
So many things I wanted to say and do and I couldn't because of the shame I had over my stammer. Something needed to give.
It would depress me even more because I'm a bubbly guy and love meeting and networking with new people. I would call myself hurtful things and hate myself so much — why was I born with this, why me? I thought. Overthinking it made me stammer more, which would lead me to feeling worse than I originally did.
Turning a corner
This was my mindset till about a year ago. It got to the point where I felt my stammer was controlling me. So many things I wanted to say and do and I couldn't because of the shame I had over my stammer. Something needed to give. I thought, let me try at least. Let me do some research and understand my stammer more. Through research and learning and applying techniques, as well as connecting with people and being self-motivated, I got more confident.
I still stammer in general, sometimes when I introduce myself, but who cares? It's not the end of the world, right? It's who I am and I've learned to accept it.
I've been able to push boundaries that I thought I'd never reach and now I speak in front of crowds of 1,000s of people. I'm currently a Prince's Trust ambassador, a motivational speaker and a youth worker. I got involved with the Prince's Trust after suffering from PTSD because of an attack when I was at university that left me with 14 stab wounds. I felt lost and hopeless and through the Prince's Trust I was given a mentor who helped me believe in myself again. This gave me the confidence to share my story and speak around the UK, empowering young people and mentoring them to be their best selves.
It's not always easy of course, but I'll keep pushing myself. I still stammer in general, sometimes when I introduce myself, but who cares? It's not the end of the world, right? It's who I am and I've learned to accept it. I now want to use my reach and voice to raise more awareness of stammering amongst young people. I wouldn't want a young person or anyone for that matter to go through what I did without support. Feeling like you're alone with stammering can really keep you down for almost all your life.
I thank STAMMA for giving me and others the platform to come together and raise awareness on stammering.
BECOMING Young ambassador of the year
In October 2019, I was presented with the Young Ambassador of the Year award at The Prince's Trust Awards. I'm still overwhelmed at the fact I won this award. It means so, so much to me; words can't begin to describe how proud I am of myself. I never stayed down when life knocked me down and it's a pleasure to be recognised by the Prince's Trust and rewarded for it. This award is for everyone and anyone that feels low, unheard of, invisible, embarrassed and worthless. Get around a community that can motivate you to reach your potential! It's essential!
Update 30th May 2022
After winning my Prince's Trust Young Ambassador of the year award in 2019 and sharing my speech I felt extremely confident especially with my stammer.
However, just a few months after that we were in a lockdown and we were forced into isolation due to Covid-19. Anxiety and nerves consumed all of us during this period and it led to me stammer a bit more than usual. I was not happy about this and started to view my stammer as a negative thing again.
I remember I had made positive notes the previous year whilst attending my stammering support group and one of the positive notes I made was "having a stammer does not make me less intelligent than someone who doesn't, so if I have to stammer my way through a sentence, then I will do just that and feel proud about it!".
The year after getting my confidence back I took on a new role of being a community facilitator for the Met Police which involves facilitating group discussions. I stammer through some of them and I don't feel any less as a person!
Would you like to share your story? Or do you something you want to get off your chest about stammering? See our Share Your Story page or email email@example.com to find out how.
(Pictures courtesy of Ian Jones)