Stammering was my guilty secret

Paul Blythe: close-up

The effects a stammer can have are laid bare in this article by Paul Blythe, who talks about the years he spent hiding his stammer.

For many years I tried desperately to hide my stammer. I was a covert stammerer. 

Stammering made me feel flummoxed, frustrated and shameful (FFS!). The thought of people finding out I stammered sent my stress levels soaring. So I hid it by doing lots of avoiding. I avoided talking — situations I thought would result in me stammering; words I thought I could not say; and being open about stammering and my feelings. This happened gradually over a few years and was firmly established by the time I was a teenager.

Effects

My obsession with hiding my stammer made everyday situations awkward and challenging, eg introducing myself to new people; shopping; answering questions in school (or anywhere else) and telling bus conductors where I wanted to go. I would rather have stuck pins in my eyes than use a telephone in the presence of other people. Funnily enough though, I was fluent when reading aloud in junior school and can remember volunteering to do so. No wonder I was flummoxed.

Pretending to be fluent was stressful and exhausting.

Stammering was my guilty secret and had to be hidden at all costs. This made it very hard for me to accept it or seek professional help and support. I wanted a cure for my stammer, not help to deal with it. As a result of this I pretended to be something I was not, ie fluent. Pretending to be fluent was stressful and exhausting. It reinforced my avoidance behaviour and, perversely, for many years allowed stammering to dominate my life and dictate what I did and did not do.

Being a covert stammerer was without doubt challenging but it did not stop me enjoying school, work and life in general. Nevertheless, if I could go back in time I would love someone to teach me, before reaching middle-age, that it is OK to stammer and I need not hide it. It  would have made my early life so much less complicated.

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