My name is Fiona, I’m 34 years old and live in the UK. I don’t remember the first time I stammered, but I do know I’ve never known a time without it – until I stumbled across Lee Lovett’s book, that is! Having been living with a fluctuating stammer for over 30 years, varying from mild right up to can’t-say-a-single-word severe level, I’d long given up hope of finding a complete cure. I tried everything from various speech therapies (mentally scaring) to crystal healing (physically scarring) and auditory delay devices (bank balance scarring).
Other people, for all their good intentions, appeared to imply from a young age that my speech was something to be embarrassed about and hidden, as they would talk for me in company and make phone calls on my behalf, even right up to recently. My childhood dream of becoming a vet was discouraged by my parents and teachers, and I’ve instead chosen a career with very minimal interaction or speaking required. I’ve gone through periods of severe anxiety, depression, loneliness and agoraphobia, and quite simply haven’t lived the life I wanted to live – all because of stammering.
For want of a better phrase, I’d ‘accepted’ stammering by the time I found Lee’s book: Stuttering and Anxiety Self Cures, in early 2020. I’d not accepted it as a way of life, but just that it was always going to be a part of me. I read the 5 star reviews of the book with scepticism. How could something as simple as reading a book be a cure?! I decided to think about it another day. Turns out, 2020 was a year of having a lot of extra thinking time on my hands, and when the pandemic hit and I began working from home and having to interact with people in different ways, I decided to give it a go. What did I have to lose..?
I struggled to read it at times; there were so many home truths I felt sure that Lee had somehow been spying on me my whole life! I wrote out the crutches on a post-it note and stuck it to my computer screen, so I could practise using them during Zoom meetings with colleagues. To my surprise, they worked. Not straight away, and not all the time, but it was certainly a start. Lee’s email address is in the book and I decided to get in touch. He replied straight away but to my shame I then didn’t respond back to him for several months, as I needed to save up to join WSSA and begin coaching. In December 2020 I finally did it and took the plunge, and started Skyping with Lee.
By this point I was struggling to put the crutches into real-world practise, regularly stammering on around 30- 40% of words, but after the 2nd session with Lee he said my stammer was barely detectable even with no crutch use at all. I could talk absolutely fine to him yet still experienced many bad incidents between sessions. I was not a good speech cop at all! After a few sessions with Lee it became clear that until I started speaking to all people with the same confidence and fluency as I did with him, then I would never break the stammering habit, but I just couldn’t seem to do it. Lee put me in touch with Prathusha – speech coach extraordinaire – to see if she could offer a different perspective for helping me overcome this mental block.
Under Prathusha’s coaching I was able to pick up previously less used crutches and mimic her way of speaking. She taught me the importance of the AST’s (something that had slightly fallen by the wayside, if I’m honest) including new ways of visualising them, and gave me the encouragement to begin talking using the crutches in ALL scenarios.
I’m still working on the self-confidence thing; undoing 30 years of hiding my voice from the world is a tough ask, but armed with Lee’s wonderful methods and Prathusha’s unwavering support, I’m definitely getting there. I still feel the fears, but I know the crutches and methods work, and I can talk beautifully and completely stammer-free. As evidence of this fact, I have not had appeared speech disabled to anyone in well over a month. My last hurdle is in sight, and I can’t thank both Lee and Prathusha enough for what they have given me (and WSSA’s SAM club and services), as for the first time in my life, I truly feel like I can say any word, anywhere, anytime.
It is my hope that all stammerers come to know this feeling one day, too. If you want to stop stuttering, join WSSA at https://worldstopstuttering.org, read Lee’s book and get to work and you’ll beat it too.
FIONA, England, July 2021