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I can’t even say my name!

My stammer isn’t severe, but it’s making me depressed and anxious.

Our elder has a few coping strategies to suggest — some more out-there than others.

Dear EWC

I want to talk about my depression and anxiety which I have because of my stammering issue. I think stammering is a normal thing which many people have and it does not make you less of a person, but still, when I stammer, I can’t stop myself from feeling embarrassed and worthless. Now my stammer isn’t extremely severe, thankfully. I mean, it’s not like I stammer all the time. I’ve given a couple of presentations at university where I spoke very fluently and even my classmates were really impressed at my eloquence. But I can’t ‘keep up’ that eloquence and that confidence for a long time. There are times I stammer even while pronouncing my name or my course at university, which is Industrial Design. The word ‘Industrial’ seems so hard to pronounce. The problem is, whenever I stammer at answering such basic questions like people asking me my name and the course I’m studying, it really makes me feel like the stupidest and most worthless person in the world. I wish I was like my other classmates who have consistent confidence all the time.

I think what makes my particular case of stammering worse is my negative childhood experiences since psychologically, your past experiences shape your subconscious mind. I was sometimes physically and emotionally abused by my parents when they were mad at me because of something I did and when I’d stammer while explaining why I did that ‘something’, they would often abuse me even more. Sometimes comparing me to an older cousin who is very shy and has a much, much severe stammer than myself. I haven’t really been bullied because of my stammering at school, college or university, which is great, but still, stammering is something which is keeping me from living a happy life.

Aondreaa replies

Let me open by saying that I have no direct personal experience with stammering, but I can certainly empathize with the distress this must cause you!
After reading your letter, I went online to see if there is any helpful information, and I did find some strategies for coping with stammering or stuttering. Some of these include deep breathing before a presentation, consciously slowing the number of syllables per second, rehearsing and practicing or avoiding specific troublesome words or sounds. Perhaps you have already used these approaches. You mention that your name, and your field of study are both stumbling blocks, so some other strategy is needed. I can think of a couple of ideas; these are related to second language learning, so they may or may not be helpful.
One is called “backward buildup”. A difficult word is practiced in reverse — for example: zine, zine, design, design, ul design, ul design, ial, ial, ial design, ustrial, ustrial, ustrial design, dustrial dustrial design, industrial design!
Another idea is to break the phrase into its six syllables — in-dus-tri-al-de-sign — and practice slowly and rhythmically, counting on fingers. Gradually speed up. The finger counting can be very unobtrusive, merely pressing each consecutive finger against your leg or a desk top.

Do you want to hear my most outrageous suggestion, this regarding your name? Perhaps the utterance of your name is problematic because it is your name, not because of the particular “F” sound. However, if you have a middle name or a nickname, you might want to experiment with using it and see if that is easier. Realize that many people change their names for many reasons, and although this might feel like an extreme solution in your case, it’s worth thinking about.
I also recommend seeking assistance at your university counseling center, or with a speech therapist, or both. I hope you can get professional assistance with this problem because it is obviously troubling you. As for causes in your past, talk therapy can sometimes provide relief. I hope your university has some resources to assist you. I hope you don’t think my suggestions are frivolous. I wish you the very best success. You may wish to resubmit your letter in the hope that one of our elders with the first-hand experience picks it up. Meanwhile, best wishes.

Letter #: 445625
Category: Self-Improvement

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