My name is Nick. I’m 30 and I live in Canada, where I am a biologist. I have stuttered since age 3. I guess that I had a “medium” stutter, but it was bad enough to cause me incredible embarrassments and pain in school and social situations for most of the last 27 years.
As a kid, I started stuttering almost immediately – as evidenced through home videos. I would get blocked on a word or several words while trying to express a thought. Around age 10, to keep from repeating the same letter or syllable over and over again, I started using “umm” and “ahh”, which led to endless umms and ahhhs and giving me the appearance of being mentally deficient. Then, in high school when doing reports, etc., some kids made fun of me. This of course only compounded the problem.
Whenever I changed schools or social circles, and made new friends who didn’t see me as a stutterer; I would, for a while, become fluent again – building a kind of “comfort zone” for myself. But when faced with new stressful situations, I’d feel the fear again and have a few bad incidents, which would soon snowball back into full-fledged stuttering worse than ever before. An example of this was when I switched from a French school to an English school; I was fluent for two years. Then, upon leaving that circle of friends to attend University, where there were 200-300 students in my classes and I felt in absence of a comfort zone; I began to stutter again. It was quite possibly my worst period. I was 20-24 years of age. At 24, I moved away from my French hometown to an English Province. I made new friends and experienced a fresh start – again, my stutter subsided. At age 26, I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree, and the stutter returned as bad as ever. The thought of having to present a thesis in front of hundreds of intelligent individuals was simply too much. It’s at this point that I knew: I needed to find help soon or I wouldn’t be able to complete my degree. I tried an immersion program for people who stutter where I went for days of intense training. It worked great for the time that I was there, but, when I left, the stutter returned after a few weeks. I have repeated that program several times with the same results. Also, the methods prescribed have always seemed too hard and too rigid. Also, they insisted that all their PWS engage strangers in conversations regularly and announce that they were stutterers. Although this was a fun activity, I strongly believe that reminding myself regularly in this way that I was different and that I stuttered – no matter how much their techniques worked in the moment of a disclosure – did more harm in the long run than good.
Lee urges me to never announce that I stutter and to let my speech speak for itself; he also doesn’t want me to talk under pressure, except in ways that avoid embarrassing incidents, which his methods enabled me to do. The point is not to avoid difficult speaking situations FOREVER; but to allow the “leg to heal” so to speak – by maximizing the incidence of fluency memories and minimizing the incidence of stutter memories. If you’ll study his methods, you’ll see how this elicits continuous and lasting progress towards fluency. Also, Lee has videos about this which you can find at Speech Anxiety Anonymous, just Google or go to https://speechanxietyanonymous.org/; SAA is the charity where ex-stutterers help PWS self-cure.
By the time I reached 30, I had been through a half dozen different speech therapists, hypnotherapists and clinic-type programs, including some of the best known therapy programs. Some of these programs gave me temporary relief, but these fluency honeymoons eventually collapsed. I felt that I had to find a different approach. I found Lee’s book on Amazon in March 2017, and its methods made so much sense to me that it gave me immediate hope. I tried hard to apply his methods; I taught myself to do auto suggestions, as he outlined, and to use the “crutches” and that helped too.
Then, in October 2017, I emailed Lee (his email is in his book) and asked him to Skype with me. He replied promptly, and, after about six Skypes, I am thrilled to say that I haven’t had a detectable speech embarrassment in five weeks. Also, I used to think about stuttering up to 30 minutes of most hours, and, now, I think about it only one minute or so most hours. This has given me the greatest sense of speech freedom, and I am convinced that, as long as I keep doing my auto suggestions and using the crutches when needed, there will be no relapse.
Yes, it’s true that I still get butterflies in lots of speech situations, but I can avoid stuttering or blocking to the point that I don’t appear to have a speech problem. Based on that, I have to agree that I have joined SAA’s “self-cured PWS”, making me a PWSC (person who self-cured). I still have stuttering fears, but now I know how to reject them and insert a positive thought and grab a crutch, if necessary.
What has helped me the most? Doing auto suggestions and using the crutches, and I never tell people, who I’m not immensely close to, that I stutter and I don’t apologize to anyone for stuttering. I let my speech speak for itself. So, now, people view me as a normal speaker. I still want to go to the next level. I want to learn to “love to speak”, really and truly LOVE to speak. I now realize that, as long as I keep refusing to stutter, which I do every day, stutter-fears grow less and less every day, and my speech gets better and better. I now believe that I CAN become one of the best speakers in my peer group. When I have accomplished that, as I am confident that I will, I intend to start using auto suggestions to train my mind and “dictate my thoughts” (as psychiatrist Dr. Caprio urged us to do) for other purposes and to effectively transform stuttering into the greatest blessing of my life.
My goal in writing this story is to inspire some other PWS to do what I have done. As hard as it may seem, the truth is that most of us can unlearn stuttering. I hope that you’ll do it too.
Nick from Canada, December, 2017