From Stammering to Orating

Words won’t come out, I would feel chocked with my face turned red, body all tensed and my eyes full of shame! Stammering has been a part of my identity ever since I can recall myself old enough to speak. From where I stood, it was bad, or worse, it was humiliating. I stuttered on 18 alphabets out of 26. Yes!!! EIGHTEEN! 

Imagine a young child who is trying hard to speak but just keeps stammering at every word possible. I couldn’t even pronounce my name without stammering. I would struggle to say the most mundane things that come so easily to others like ‘hello’ or a simple ‘hi’ over a phone call. With no clue and understanding as to why it was happening to me, I became petrified of having to answer the landline at my place. All I wanted was to be able to stay quiet and away from this torture of speaking to someone when I knew for sure that I won’t be able to.

I remember my school days. I would go to any lengths to avoid making eye contact with my teachers and would sit in the last benches so the teacher wouldn’t be able to spot me or ask me to read to the class. In any lesson, whenever I had doubts, I stumbled with them in my heart and grew anxious, but I never asked for clarifications from my teachers or even classmates. Because if I did ask, I would’ve taken ages to just ask one question and the entire class would have something to laugh on for the entire day. The school hours were suffocating as I wouldn’t utter a word the entire time. Internally, I had given up and caved even though as a child, I didn’t know what giving up meant. I remember regarding my childhood as a nightmare and an absolute disaster. It truly was!

I felt like I wasn’t understood well. My parents were always there for me, but somehow, they didn’t understand the intensity of impact that this was making on my life. With pure concern and love in their hearts, they would encourage me and create various opportunities where I was forced to speak with others, however, it only did more harm to my self-esteem. All these internal battles I was fighting with myself were slowly denting my mind and leaving scars. It was like an iceberg, where a lot was going on deep within than what was visible to the naked eye. But, after all, I blame no one. How could anyone understand how I felt internally when I never tried to explain my side. And, how could I’ve explained my side when I couldn’t say anything without stammering for a million times! It was like being stuck in a mud hole! 

Sometimes I wish there were counsellors back then too. Someone who could create that safe space where I could say, or do anything and in any way without the fear of being judged. All I wanted was to tell someone that I wasn’t at fault, words just didn’t come out well. I felt breathless as I spoke. My self-confidence was shattered to pieces, I felt anxious and panicked every time I was around people. To avoid these terrifying emotions, I started painting my distance from everyone and became a loner. As a 12-year-old, I had decided my fate to be a nobody! And guess what? I was somewhere happy that way as my experience with being in the limelight had been terrifying. 

But, I did feel that life was unfair! I wasn’t asked if I wanted to stammer. It was just a given and as I couldn’t speak, there was no way I was excelling academically. To avoid classes altogether, I looked for co-curricular activities that required little to no talking. I opted for sports! Ironically, all my pent up aggression, frustration and irritability channelised into a vigorous sportsman. I excelled in soccer, rugby, polo, baseball and other athletic endeavours like races. I represented my state ‘Delhi’ in 8 National level championships out of which my team won 5. Also, I was made the school sports caption and won various awards for the district and state-level competitions. 

As I started achieving merit in sports, I started regaining my lost confidence and sense of self. Somehow, I managed to make friends and fathomed the courage to initiate small conversations with them. With time, even my pronunciation improved a little, though I still stammered but somehow I wasn’t as ashamed of it now that I wouldn’t talk at all. My confusion kind of took different turn now as I figured that there were moments when I wouldn’t stammer and then there were times that triggered stammering. This kind of made me feel angry with myself as I began to believe that I could speak normally and fluently like others, but I wasn’t able to for some unknown reason. 

I began to realise that I always stammered in the most critical times. Times when I knew I shouldn’t and times that were important. I was still bowed down with all the heavy lifting this problem required mentally and emotionally. To reveal a deep-seated secret, I had never spoken to a girl up till 11th grade. Who would make a fool out of himself by doing that? Isn’t it?

One day, while browsing to learn more about stammering, I saw an advertisement about a Speech Therapy Clinic. Frankly, I hadn’t even heard that such a thing existed. Brimming with curiosity, I asked my parents to take me there. They sure did. On our first meeting, he asked me to narrate the entire list of alphabets from A to Z with my tongue out along with some other exercises. This entire experience was nothing less than embracing for me, to a point, that I couldn’t take it and just decided to walk out. Confrontation was so toilsome for me that living with stammering seemed to be the easy way out. 

Deep down inside, my heart kept searching for another therapist with a hope that someone will be sensitive to how I feel and will treat me for who I am rather than just a body that stammers. I was a living human after all and had as many emotions as anyone else. To my fortune, I found a Speech therapist and decided to call this time rather than directly visiting him. With so much nervousness, I stammered multiple times. Nothing had changed, except for the fact that the doctor this time acknowledged what I felt. He asked me to loosen my grip of the phone, take a deep breath, count slowly till 10, and then say ‘hello’. And, it happened. My first fluent ‘hello’ over the phone!

I knew I had found my guy so I started therapy which continued for about 9 months, in which, we did various exercises, public speaking practices and he even gave me certain applicable tips that stay with me till date. 

Few of them were;

  1. Stammering isn’t a disease, it’s simply a condition that can be cured or mastered through consistent practice of specific techniques. This compelled me to steer through my therapy sessions with hope and a vision to live life fearlessly. 
  • No one can disrespect you as long as you value yourself. This gave me confidence and develop self-respect.
  • Practice your way to mastery. My doctor used to create a small seminar room with a podium, a mic, and an audience that included people who had similar experiences with stammering. This led me to shed off my inhibitions as I learnt I wasn’t alone in this. This stimulating environment was like a run through to deal with life outside speech therapy with people who couldn’t care more. 

I took me time and years of self-bashing, to finally learn that I had all the solutions within me. The prime one being to love myself and be kind to myself for all that I went through and braved alone. Some continued to make fun of me and crack jokes about the way I spoke, but I had made my peace with myself. I knew that the only way forward to better my speech was by keeping my calm and avoiding unnecessary anxiety. So, I pulled myself up again overtime someone bashed me or belittled me. 

I believe there is a silver lining to each cloud. In my journey to master my speech, I aced a few other qualities that became a part of who I am. Some of them being:

  • Confidence to always own your journey and believe in yourself.
  • Self-acceptance to come to terms with the fact that I stammer yet, that’s just a part of my life. Now my whole life. And, even though I do stammer at times, I can continue to talk unaffected. Also, there are parts of me that I decide not to let stammering overshadow. 
  • Self-respect for dealing with something with multiple thoughts of throwing your hands up in the air. But still, persisting and not giving up. 
  • Patience with myself for continuing to rehearse breathing exercises an to stay calm so I didn’t trigger stammering. 

It’s been a long and somewhat a tedious journey so far. And though, I’ve made great friends and have come too far in my journey now, I still stammer at times. But you know what? IT’S OKAY! I am more than what I face and way more than my struggle with stammering. This chapter of my life does not define me or affect me adversely anymore. 

I believe in myself and will continue to do so. Since then, I’ve delivered multiple speeches and love to deliver presentations. I am the director of my family’s corporate company and often take interviews. I also practice Buddhism and frequently take up anchoring different meetings. I am confident to stand up on any stage, any podium, any light, and speak indulgently in front of a crowd. This fear might have taken years for me to conquer but, I am proud of myself as it didn’t get the best of me. Sometimes I feel grateful as I am a stronger person now than I ever was!

I believe that if I could do it, so can you! Just believe in yourself and fight the stigmas you’re hiding behind. You will realise that the mountains of problems that stood before you, are only meant for you to climb. 

My major takeaway from this experience was to never label anyone. As a child, I wished people to see me just as a child. Not a stammering child. Or if that’s too much to ask, then a child who did stammer. Yes, there is a difference! A stammering child is a label or an identity. But, a child who stammers is a part of me, not defining me in entirety. It would’ve made such a huge difference to me. Nonetheless, I decided to engrave this experience in my heart and be that one person for anyone who will feel that they’re being labelled! 

Warrior Shivank Maingi


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ankit kathuria
ankit kathuria
4 years ago

Very inspiring. Keep it up.

4 years ago
Reply to  ankit kathuria

Thank you so much Ankit.