I stuttered since I can remember. However, its severity and manifestations have evolved throughout time. I’m 34 and I live in Costa Rica. I am a software engineer.
During my childhood and early teens this didn’t impose a massive challenge in my life as I felt I had it under control. It didn’t impede me from achieving my goals and it was not at the forefront of my attention. I think this last part was key for it not to cast a huge shadow over my life and my self-esteem. My stutter and I had a somewhat harmonious relationship. I wasn’t bullied in school and I didn’t feel less than others. I was just different. My friends and peers had known me since an early age and they accepted me as I were. And so did I.
My parents took me to various language therapies at different stages of my childhood, which I gladly attended. Now as an adult I realize they were concerned about it (more than I was) and they did their best to help me. The problem was that they were trying to fight something I didn’t consider a serious problem in my life thus I wasn’t looking for a solution. For me, it was an occasional inconvenience. Therefore, I didn’t put the necessary effort and work to overcome it. BUT, I still hated it.
Later in my life, as a young adult attending university I started to feel more vulnerable and exposed. I started to detect that my stuttering affected me more than I expected, especially since I was living a myriad of new experiences unknown to me and I was socializing with a new set of people I’ve just met. I was taken out of my comfort zone. I started to feel shame and to reject my stuttering, however I didn’t acknowledge it and acted as if it didn’t exist. Over the years, these feelings piled up and exacerbated my frustration. It had become a burden. A hurdle that I wasn’t willing to jump over, because I didn’t want to admit its existence. I was in denial. Needless to say, it was evident to others. I wasn’t fooling nobody but me.
In my late 20s I decided to do something about it. The first action I took was purchasing a book about accepting and living with stuttering. I vividly remember the shame and strange adrenaline I felt when I bought it: it felt like I was doing something forbidden. I didn’t want anyone to glance at the book cover. I didn’t read it in public. Stuttering and shame kind of go hand in hand. Overall, it was a good book, but I wasn’t ready to soak in its content, nevertheless it was a great first step to start tackling and acknowledging the problem.
A few months after, I signed up for a group language therapy for adults. It was refreshing to share with fellow stutterers and share our experiences. These sessions gave me a confidence boost and my speech improved, but it didn’t last for too long. Shortly after, I went back to my old ways.
Things went quiet for a couple of years. Until I decided I wanted definite change. I wanted a long-lasting solution. I wanted to live life fully. I deserved it. We all do.
After browsing some books online, I found Lee Lovett’s book and decided to acquire its audiobook version. I binge listened to it, as I could identify with how he presented his experiences and challenges. I was engaged and it definitely impacted me. I remember how shocked I was when I took a self-assessment presented in one of the chapters, and I was categorized as a severe stutterer. I had always considered myself as a mild/occasional one. I was wrong and surprised.
A few months after that, I joined WSSA and started coaching sessions with Javier, who has been an amazing guide and has helped me improve my speech in ways I didn’t consider possible. He helped me understand that my stutter didn’t define me and I started to see my speech through a different lens. Together, we explored Lee’s method in depth. He motivated me to become a better and more eloquent speaker. After 1 year of monthly sessions, I feel happy and proud to consider myself a PWSS: a person who stopped stuttering. I’m deeply grateful for Javi’s advice and patience and for Lee’s book and the great program that WSSA offers all and at modest cost compared to other therapies.
During this time, I’ve developed a set of skills and tools to control my speech and mitigate my anxiety. This has not only helped me overcome my stuttering, but it has also made me a better presenter and a confident storyteller.
As with many aspects of life, there’s no magic cure or shortcuts to beat stuttering. Just dedication, patience and no looking back. You have to put in the work to get the rewards. But it is worth it. Stuttering can be stopped.
José, Costa Rica — September, 2021.