Livewire - 2 March 2011

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The Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech has highlighted the effect stammering can have on people’s lives. I have seen the film several times and although I enjoyed it immensely, it brought back memories of difficult times.

Anyone who has a stutter (and those around them) will associate with the issues raised.

I have suffered with a stammer for 39 years, and a stammerer really does suffer! At 15, my stammer appeared overnight, which is highly unusual. I found myself barely able to speak for several years. This cut short my education, as I left school a year early, job interviews were impossible, and I can’t even begin to tell you the problems created where girls were concerned.

My mother was a nurse and I aspired to be one, too, but communication is such a huge part, I thought it would remain a dream, as even answering the phone brought me out in a sweat. My father, a painter and decorator, took me on as an apprentice, and I let the brush do the talking. My parents were a huge support but my stammer often made their life difficult.

My mother came to see The King’s Speech with me and it made her cry. We both found it emotional. I sought the help of speech therapists at Victoria Hospital for 10 of the 15 years I worked with my dad.

Collectively we improved my speech. I became a porter at St Annes Hospital, then, some years later, did my nurse training.

My dad died while I was a student nurse and that changed me.

I studied counselling and communication, later gained a BSc (Hons) in grief and bereavement, then a Masters degree in research, looking at loss, death and grief.

I started teaching in the hospital, at universities, and have spoken at conferences. I now work as a nurse at Trinity Hospice.

I am still a stammerer, but controlled. It takes a great deal of energy to think about my breathing, which helps control speech, and it can cause fatigue and headaches.

In speech therapy groups I met people who had never had a relationship, who were virtually housebound, suffered depression, and contemplated suicide, because they cannot live a normal life.

The consequences can be horrific.

I would like to thank them and speech therapist Linda House, and my parents, for their patience and support.

I receive daily support especially from colleagues, which enables me to live as normal a life as possible.