Living with a stammer

By Katie White

Having a stammer can result in a fear of speaking in front of other. Illustration credit: Laura Duffy

For as long as I can remember, I have had trouble with words. I’m sure you’re thinking: “Then why are you writing an article?”, but it’s not that I don’t know what to say, I do, I just can’t get those words from my brain to the world.  

When people think of stuttering, they think of a child who is telling their parents a long-winded story about the time they saw a dog in the park, or when someone is afraid or nervous. They don’t think of little old me, nervous in the queue at DCU NuBar repeating in her head “goujons and chips please”, “goujons and chips please”, “goujons and chips please”.

Over 1 percent of the population in Ireland have a stutter and there are many different reasons as to why it happens. For some it’s due to medical injuries such as a stroke, trauma or brain injury. Others may be due to genetic abnormalities in the language area of the brain. No matter what the cause of it is, we still suffer with things that don’t even cross other people’s minds such as saying “Hello, my name is Katie”.

Many stutterers have immense difficulty with their name, because it is the one thing they literally cannot change. You can say you “live on the Northside” if you can’t say the word Drumcondra, or you can tell the taxi driver “the Spire” if you can’t say “O’Connell’s street”, but you can’t really tell someone you have met, your name is ‘Sarah’ when it’s actually ‘Katie’. That could get a bit weird when they try to look you up on Facebook.

Coming to college was soul-crushingly nerve wrecking for me. All I was thinking of was how many times I was going to have to say my name. I thought I was never going to make new friends and that I was going to end up being ‘that lonely girl’ in the corner of the lecture theatre. Luckily my personality tends to override my stammer in many cases like this and I just get on with it.

The most noticeable thing that I found coming to college, was that the majority of people had no idea what was going on when I was flinching my face and jerking my head while trying to get a word out. People who didn’t know would say things like “Did you forget the word there for a second?” and continue to laugh at my forgetful brain. I tend to not say anything to them because of the pain staking guilt they often feel when I say I have a stammer.  

Even though this is something that affects me every day, I refuse to let it hold me back from anything. My stammer does not define me, I define it. All jokes aside, this is an incurable condition. I either don’t speak at all or continue to live my life as a happy stammerer.