From puberty to around age forty, I was a suffering stutterer. Unless you knew me then, you haven’t known me as a stutterer. In fact, by age thirty, I had become very good at hiding it from most. The irony is that, pre-teens, I spoke exceptionally well, but, after one ghastly reading-aloud instance at school, I began stuttering under pressure. Two decades later, after finding ways to conceal my stuttering, I, once again, became viewed as an excellent speaker (despite lingering stuttering-fears), but, between those extremes, my life as a stutterer was a form of “Hell”. I thought about it every hour, almost every minute, 24/7. It was a sad way to live. Once I put it behind me, a few friends, who knew of my stuttering-days, asked me to help their stuttering-children. I did, and I spoke with them by phone (which was then very expensive); it forced me to analyze what I had done to hide my stuttering. I began to write those children and their parents pages of suggestions. Decades later, those letters became the basis of my book — which led to emailing and Skyping with PWS, which led to SAA, and now some PWS call me the “Speech Whisperer”.
I’ll never forget the first time that I stuttered and, then, blocked. It was in my early teens, in English class; I was asked to read aloud from a text. For reasons still unknown, I stumbled and stuttered on a word. The entire class laughed. My face reddened, and I proceeded to stutter on the next word, and then the next. The class dissolved into a paroxysm of laughter. My mouth froze; I blocked; I could only puff air and spit; I stared haplessly at the teacher, who then called on another student to read. And so my stuttering-odyssey had launched itself for reasons I have yet to fathom. I fell into the pernicious grasp of Satan Stuttering.
From that day forward, in pressure situations, I stuttered. Most commonly, it was when trying to say someone’s name (a word for which there was no substitute) or to read aloud from any text. Words beginning with “R’s, “W’s” and “L’s” were the most daunting. My stuttering grew and grew AND GREW. When I stuttered, my head spun and my body sweat; I thought about it, minute-to-minute, 24/7; I began to contract migraine headaches, which still plague me, although much less now. My stuttering steadily increased.
My stuttering-nadir occurred in my mid-twenties, not long after passing the Bar Exam. I was assigned a pro bono criminal case. My client had been caught in the act of an armed robbery. By the time that I arrived in Court in to attempt to try the case, I could think of nothing, absolutely nothing, save, “How will I avoid stuttering?” Of course, I didn’t avoid it. I couldn’t say my name or my client’s name, which then snowballed into many other words. The Judge had to complete my name, my words and sentences. It was ghastly, the most public humiliation imaginable. The Judge was kind and sympathetic, although others in the courtroom either froze or laughed in muffled tones. I wanted to die, right then, on the spot; had I known a way, I would have taken it. My nascent legal career, my very life seemed to be ending – for me, a fledgling attorney with a wife and two sons — and flat broke. Where to go from my inexplicable, self-imposed abyss? I had no idea.
In those days (the late 1950’s), there were few books, therapists or clinics that dealt with stuttering, and I knew of none, nor was there an Internet, Amazon, Google, iPhones or iPads. Moreover, I had been raised in in a religion (which I greatly respect to this day) that did not believe in medicine, and I had never, ever even been in doctor’s office. In an absolute panic to save my inchoate career and financially tenuous existence, I consulted a psychiatrist, the late Frank S. Caprio, M.D., Ph.D, a sagacious counselor and a prolific author. I told him that I had just enough money for six sessions. He didn’t cure me, nor was he sure that there was a cure, but he pointed me in the right directions. My only hope, he admonished, was “self-cure”. He recommended self-hypnosis, which has become a major part of my life. My logic, and Dr. Caprio’s, held that stuttering was caused by my mind, and had to be cured there. He recommended a great, little book (“A Practical Guide to Self-Hypnosis” by Melvin Powers), and I taught myself to hypnotize myself. I never put myself 100% “under”, but, whether I was only 10% or as much as 70% (likely my maximum) under, it helped me hugely. I began the process of DICTATING my thoughts – about speech, and, later, about other things that helped me make myself into an infinitely better person than I had previously been.
I began reading aloud, alone, in a closet with a flashlight, because, there, I did not stutter. After a while, I was able to read aloud outside the closet, and, then, in front of the mirror, if alone, and, later, I could even read to others, and, eventually, I began enjoying reading to others; increasingly, I read aloud with great emotion, as might an actor on a huge stage before a sea of listeners. I was creating hours of fluency memories, and I was training my mind to think about my MESSAGE and NOT about any specific word, and, big surprise, my stuttering fears began to subside.
I also slowly came upon a combination of methods (Crutches, as I now call them) which enabled me to duck, dodge and avoid stutters one-by-one, thus decreasing the number of new stuttering-memories that I created. These both expedited my self-cure AND, so important, minimized and finally eliminated relapses. This one-two-three punch (reading aloud, self-hypnosis and Crutches) guided my mind to begin to accept my voice without stuttering; mind-control, began to work, slowly but progressively. In the end, I taught myself to LOVE to speak, and, to this day, I LOVE TO SPEAK. There are still risks: Satan Stuttering still imposes a latent fear here-and-there, but I know so many ways to dodge each and every one that I kill that Mephistophelian Monster every, single time. He cannot beat me; he knows it; I know it, and, now, all the world who knows me knows it.
Along the way, I discovered Emile Coue and his marvelous Auto Suggestion techniques, which are a more user-friendly and easier method of mind-training. I still give myself Mind Training Treatments every day. Some days, I do self-hypnosis, but, increasingly, I do Auto Suggestions, which takes less time. Auto Suggestion is NOT as effective as self-hypnosis, but it’s all that I seem to need, right now.
I wish that Dr. Caprio were still with us today, because I DID “get it under control”, as he had said that I might hope to do, and no one (save my wife) has been able to detect me stuttering in the past four decades. I’ve even taught public speaking, informally, even to some politicians.
Oh, yes, I’ll never deny that I’m still a stutterer; I still have the fears many days, but I blow them away as fast as they come with my mental power hose. The stuttering snowball can work in both directions: to make one progressively worse or progressively better. I’m still getting a little better every day – and I intend to do so as long as I live. As my methods enabled me to stutter less and less, I revamped my Mind’s Memory Bank, from one full of stuttering memories to one full of memories and visualizations of fluency and my self-implanted credo:
If I can say ONE word anywhere, anytime,
I can say ANY word anywhere, anytime.
So many thousands of times I have whispered or said or bellowed such words to myself!!! They are my therapy; they have become my mantra. I embrace them and they me. Negative thoughts and fears cannot enter a mind already full, as a sagacious metaphysician once wrote. I keep my mind full of positive thoughts. It’s an ongoing challenge, but I do my best, and, on balance, it has whipped Lucifer Lip-Sealer and given me a real life to live – talking freely and with joy.
What were the “crutches” that I discovered? What exactly did I do to replace the ghastly, crippling stuttering memories with ones of joyous fluency? The story and my methods are detailed in my 312-page Amazon book, “2nd Edition, Stuttering & Anxiety Self-Cures: What 100+ PWS Taught Me”. See Amazon Books under my name. I wrote my book in a stream of consciousness and published it in spring 2016 and released five times better version in spring 2017. When I wrote my first draft, I had never read any other book about stuttering nor had I been online on blogs or Facebook. I wanted to write my battle with stuttering unvarnished, with no influence from others. After I wrote it, I went online and searched for stuttering-related books and was surprised to find dozens and dozens – and dozens more. I then read many of them (50 or so), and I found touching stories by stutterers and many worthless, almost insulting books of 20-50 pages, but few were anything like the methods that saved me; so, I changed very little in my book. It is, as best I know, an original story of one man’s unique approach to the vast wasteland of stuttering and to the verbal leprosy that it can impose.
Being now long in the tooth, long retired and no longer needing to make a living, I have made helping stutterers my charity. Why? Because it’s something that I know how to do, and I understand THE PAIN that PWS suffer, and I want to help relieve whatever of it that I can. I said to myself, “If my book helps only ONE PWS self-cure, all the effort to write the book was worth it. Well, it did that and much more, and I am over them moon with joy about that. I have given my book away to countless stutterers. I enjoy Skyping with many of my readers. Some of my reader-stutterers urged me to get on Facebook, a medium that is totally foreign to me, and I was a bit afraid of it, but I joined it too, in summer 2016. Since then, over 2,000 PWS have found me on Facebook, and I communicate with over 100, and I now Skype with 10-20 per week for one hour or so each.
Stuttering became my greatest blessing, because, through my lonely struggle with that debilitating curse, I learned a great deal about training my mind and dictating my thoughts. Many of the things that I discovered on my own are increasingly espoused by the medical community, especially by neurologists, in the new science of “neuroplasticity”, which has begun to gain a head of steam circa 2005. I firmly believe that, in another fifty years, much of medicine will have turned to mind-control as one of the principal therapeutic “medicines” for all manner of ailments. Mind-control can be more than a curing-placebo or a substitute for novocaine in the dentist’s chair or an alternative to morphine when it ceases working – all of which it can do and has already accomplished. Mind-control can give us the lives to which we aspire. As knives cut both ways, there is no negative that does not have some positive attributes, and vice versa. Stuttering can be turned on its head; stuttering can be made to work FOR YOU rather than against you. The methods that I used and use to defeat Serpent Stuttering are the same methods that I now use to manage boredom, depression, anger, anxiety, insomnia, and even some physical ailments. They’re in my book, Find it on Amazon, or request a free copy from SAA.
Time is limited, and life isn’t forever, but if you have speech problems, and, if what I wrote above makes any sense to you and seems to be worth a try, I and the other Founders of SAA will try to help YOU. Read my book; try my methods and then email me at [email protected], and we’ll Skype.
Someday, SAA and its Founders may receive more Skype-requests than we can handle, but, so far, we have granted all requests, no charge. So, join SAA in the War against Stuttering. If you do and if you beat it, as expect that you can and will, then SAA will ask you to help another stutterer, gratis, as SAA needs an army of Coaches to handle the millions of stuttering sufferers out there. This, too, I promise you: There are few feelings more rewarding than hearing a stutterer tell you, “I have been stuttering since age three, some days on every word, but, for the first time in my life, I now feel that I can overcome stuttering.” Hearing that is a gift worth earning, and I hear every week, and, sometimes, every day. It makes my life worth living. : )