My name is Bharath; I’m 23, and I live in Singapore. I am thrilled beyond words with my speech now, and I have not had a bad incident (appearing speech disabled) in roughly six weeks. Even so, I still have fears that I may not know the Crutches well enough to overcome all future speech-panics. My Speech Coach, Prathusha tells me that fear is not stuttering and that fears die in time, but it takes longer.
I realize that to move forward, I need to accept and acknowledge my growth. Hence, I am writing this down to cement my progress and to label myself as a PWSS and to now start the next step of my journey, learning to love to speak in all situations. . Let me share with you how far I have come.
I first started to stutter when I was sixteen years old. Prior to that, I had only minor dysfluencies such as repetitions whenever I got too excited. Other than that, I would call myself a good speaker. I had given multiple speeches in front of my school before with no speech issues. In fact, people would specifically request me to ask questions in class, give presentations etc. I would love to do so because I knew I was good in it and sometimes I felt I had the audience in the palm of my hands. At the same time my confidence was also sky high due to various factors – having good grades, being popular to a certain extent, etc.
However, as I grew older and went into junior college (JC), I realized I was becoming a lot more self-conscious. Perhaps it could just be due to puberty and adolescence. I remember vividly during my 1st day in JC, we were tasked to introduce ourselves. When it came to my turn, although I did not have a bad incident, I hesitated and had a ‘mini-block’ when I had to pronounce my name, Bharath.
I wondered what was going on, why did I struggle to say my name? For the first time, I felt that I had no control over my speech which frightened me because being a good speaker was something I had great pride in. That was the start of my stuttering journey. Since then, stuttering became worse and worse, and it exacerbated after entering medical school. There was a point where I was blocking on nearly 50-70% of my words when I was nervous.
This took a huge toll to my self-esteem. I was too nervous to ask questions during tutorials even though I could not understand some concepts. I sometimes even skipped lectures and other lessons as I feared they might ask me to answer questions in front of everyone.
I did not sign up for a lot of university events because I was terrified of having bad incidents in front of people. Consequently, my grades as well as my social life took a downward turn. Things became worse once clinical years started and we had to attend morning rounds and present in front of the team. I had several bad incidents during this period which really crushed me mentally. I attended speech therapy and I was taught only 1 technique of elongating words which didn’t provide a robust framework to tackle the issues of stuttering holistically.
Somehow, I managed to graduate and started work in April 2020. After a few bad incidents while working, at a point where I was feeling utterly miserable with my life, somewhere around June 2020, I stumbled upon Lee’s video on Youtube titled: Stuttering became my biggest blessing. It was through that video that I was introduced to WSSA and after a few months, I started coaching sessions with Prathusha.
My speech did not improve overnight. Even though I knew the concepts of the 1-2-3 punch, I was not implementing them properly. The main reason was because under pressure, I just blocked and I did not practice the crutches enough to use it effectively. It took me a few months to get a hang of the crutches. Gradually my speech improved but I was still having bad incidents frequently.
Things started to improve when I was tasked to give a presentation a few months back. I was extremely nervous regarding it and then something clicked. I told myself no matter what, I was going to start and end my presentation using Crutch 9 and 10. A huge obstacle I faced was being hesitant to use the crutches because it sounded weird to me. However, when push came to shove, I finally bit the bullet and forced myself to purely focus on the crutches no matter what others felt about it.
Voila, this worked. Since then, my speech has been improving and my bad incidents have been reduced dramatically. After a while, I realized that it has truly been a month since I have last had a bad incident.
Now moving forward, my plan is to maintain the fluency I have painstakingly achieved. I still need to practice the crutches regularly so that I can one day say that, no matter how pressurizing the situation is, no matter who is in the audience, I can easily use the crutches and sound fluent, instead of panicking and going back to my old habits. I do believe that when I reach this stage, I would automatically be able to confidently say I love to speak in all venues.
Lastly the final goal I am aiming for is to be able to genuinely believe that stuttering has been a great blessing in my life. For this to happen however, more work has to be done – but I do believe that the best has yet to come.
I want to thank my coach, Prathusha, and Lee Lovett for his incredible book and everyone at WSSA ( https://worldstopstuttering.org). WSSA is the world’s only community of ex-stutterers and those becoming ex-stutterers. All of them understand the problem and want to help. Join WSSA and follow their lead. I am so glad that I did.
BHARATH, May 2021