I’ve never been one for fronting up to my stammer/stutter, or at least I never was until recently when I decided I’d had enough. I’d lived with my speech dictating my every decision for too long and I needed to reclaim control.
It can be hard to explain to those who do not stammer/stutter how it impacts on everyday life, how it makes decisions for you, and how it decides whether you speak or stay quiet. Many times, while speaking with friends and family, I attempted to depict how stammering/stuttering controlled my life. I told them how I would choose never to pick up the phone, and instead use text or email to communicate. I told them how I always made sure I had the right change for the bus so I never needed to speak to the driver. I even told them how I would order a certain brand of beer instead of another because I knew I would stumble over my words or block when I asked the bartender for it. Even after all these examples I knew they still could not fully understand or even imagine what it is was like to stammer/stutter, and so I thought of a way that would show them.
This idea came about only recently, but the journey to it began almost four years ago. I was, you see, so desperately unhappy with my stutter. This was not always the case, but for a time I felt as if I would never live without this torment. Then, when I had to give up my old job because of a serious back injury, I fell into what eventually led me to where I am today; in a place where my stutter is no longer controlling me, and where I am the one who decides who I talk to. I put much of this change in mindset down to writing.
I suppose the fact that I did not need to speak to do it made it attractive at the beginning, but now it is something I enjoy more than anything. Having returned to college to study journalism, I began writing my blog, and from there I began the arduous trek to the place I find myself in today. The blog, and more importantly the people I have met through it, have shown me that stammering/stuttering will always control me if I let it. Its force and power are immense, and it is relentless at times, but by challenging it things can change.
The #challengeyourself project
What I have found through my #challengeyourself project is that many people who stutter/stammer are realising that they can take back control. I wanted to show the world, and more importantly the stuttering community across the world, that people just like them are challenging their stutter.
The idea was to get as many people who stammer/stutter as I could to send messages about ways in which they were challenging it. Some chose to write the message on a piece of paper and take a picture of it, while others painted their message and sent a picture of it that way. Indeed, many used their imagination and creativeness to create theirs, and what was created was a collage of inspiring and thought-provoking messages. People from around the world wanted to get involved, and through some of the brilliant groups on Facebook, word spread quickly. When the collage was complete I was so happy, and I now have something I can show others who don’t stammer/stutter to explain what challenges people who stammer/stutter face everyday.
One of my favourite messages came from nine-year-old Natalie (pictured above) who stated how she wanted to raise her hand in class every day and talk. We all know how anxious it can be in class when question time roles around, and I was so inspired by her attitude at such a young age. Her mother Regina informed Natalie about the project, and from there she painted the message, with the words “I stutter on, I am strong” at the end. It was, and still is, so uplifting. Many others also contributed, and as you can see from the collage, their messages are truly inspirational. I never foreseen the impact of the project, and I never realised how much those who stutter have in common. We have all travelled similar paths, and we have all experienced similar emotions, and the more we can do to build the community and the relationships within it the better.
And with the success of the first two collages, a third stage has been launched. Plenty of messages have already been received, but if you want yours included then why not send it to email@example.com or message it to the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/DiaryofaStutterer). As I am sure those who have taken part will confirm, it is a worthwhile task, and one that will possibly lead to others being inspired to challenge their stammer/stutter.
To view larger images, right click and select 'View image', or equivalent in your browser.