Mirko, Italy

I am 30 years old and I am from Italy. My oldest memory of stuttering was one day when I was on the phone with my aunt, as a young kid, and I remember that I had to say the word “otto” (eight in Italian) and instead I forced it and said “cotto” (cooked in Italian) and my aunt said: “cooked? what was cooked?” and that felt very weird.  I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t say “otto”.  I remember being in class at elementary school and I had to read aloud: It went well but I was so relieved when I finished because I was expecting not to be able to do that. So, sometimes I stuttered and sometimes I didn’t.  I think that I became aware of my speech difficulties when I was probably 6 or 7. My mother did as well and my family.  In an attempt to help me, whenever my parents saw me experiencing some difficulty, they said “You either speak well or you don’t speak”. That was extremely frustrating and tended to make me not speak.
After a couple of years, my mother decided to send me to a Children’s hospital where I had some therapy sessions with a Speech pathologist and Psychologist. The former was a lovely young woman, who really tried hard to help, and she probably did to some extent, however she only focused on breathing and asked me to read aloud. That’s when I discovered by myself that, since I was having trouble with words starting with a vowel, I could insert an “H” sound in front of it and read it with no problem (Lee’s crutch 4). That surprised me and the speech pathologist. According to her, there was nothing else we could do!  Having never stuttered, she couldn’t understand the problem.  So, my stuttering continued.

The sessions with the psychologist were useless. The guy knew absolutely nothing about stuttering or how to help.  All that I did was sit on a chair with a sweating sensor on my finger and ask me to speak. Sometimes the sensor was triggered, and that would mean that I was getting nervous, and sometimes it did not trigger. The goal of the psychologist was to leave me alone in his office and ask me to talk and not allow the sensor to trigger. As I said, that was totally useless and felt uncomfortable.

Years passed and my stuttering was always situationally mild/moderate but still there. I avoided many situations that required pressured speaking.

After that, and after dealing with a tumor, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a commercial pilot.  My career progressed and after almost 10 years I am still flying airplanes, but speech wise things were starting to decline. I think that my mind tried to escape from the idea of addressing stuttering so my motto was “As long as I can do my job properly and safely, I don’t care if I have speech issues in my normal life”.  As a pilot, this could not work forever.

As you may guess, one day, just after returning to work after the first Covid lockdown, I had a bad and embarrassing speech incident while arguing with a colleague. It is shocking how this small event completely changed my life.

As I said, til that moment I was complacent with my speech difficulties. I was avoiding the problem, but since that very moment I started to get constantly afraid of speaking and appearing speech disabled. Could this affect my career?  Could I lose my job?  I was panicking, the situation seemed totally without control. I started having issues talking to anybody (that includes my fiancée) and things were going down. I was waking up very early in the morning and felt totally defeated and unable to keep control of the situation. Something really good happened.

In March 2021, I found WSSA online, and I joined and read Lee’s 3rd edition of the book. I knew about Lee because I was always aware that one day or another I had to deal with stuttering so sometimes I was looking for miraculous cures (Spoiler Alert: there is NONE!) but never really wanted to act till this moment.
 Lee’s book is amazing. Lee does something extraordinary: He gives clear ways for beating the stuttering chain. I know, this may sound difficult to understand to most fluent people and I am sure many stutterers do not really realize the power of all this, but really having clear techniques can save the day and your mental health.
 As I joined WSSA, I was assigned to Leah, a great coach from South Africa. Leah was extremely helpful, always on my side, and most importantly, she was very positive and there when I needed.  We had some sessions in which we mainly reviewed and practiced crutches and then attacked my issues from a psychological point of view. They were very effective. I thank Leah from my heart.  

 I also had a couple of sessions with Lee himself and I have to say that there are no words to describe the way this man is dedicating so much of his time and effort to help others. I really think that he is an amazing person!
 As I joined WSSA, I watched dozens of coaching sessions for other people and that was extremely helpful because while I watched them, I was pretending that I was the person getting coached.  Those videos were like private lessons.
 Now, I have passed the 4 week period of no bad incidents and can consider myself “cured” which simply means that I do know how to avoid a stuttering incident. When you learn crutches you realize that with some practice you can do it.
What I am working on now is loving to speak. It takes time, I feel that I have ups and downs but on average I can see a positive improvement trend. I love to speak and I want to become good at it. No time and room for fear.  Going to WSSA’s SAM Meetings helps a lot, as you can participate as much or as little as you want.
 So, if you are reading this there is a good chance that you have issues with stuttering. Please read carefully: Stuttering can be cured, no doubts about it. In my case there is a strong link with anxiety (which is fear of something that can happen in the future -> a bad incident) so Lee’s approach is the best available: Mind training to relax and Practical ways to learn to be fluent and beat a possible block. I am doing my homework and striving to improve every single day. Our brain is lazy, it will do whatever we do the most so one day I am sure, using crutches will become second nature. 
 Lee’s methods and WSSA’s program of services and Leah’s coaching allowed me to avoid appearing speech disabled and to go on with my life while also keeping improving.  There is no reason why you could not do the same! So do yourself a favour, get to work…NOW.  If you come to WSSA’s SAM Meetings, you’ll probably see me there.

Mirko, Italy, June 2021

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