What it’s like to be a young woman living with a stammer

I think that right now in my adult life I want to document and blog about my stumbled speech, as I am a post-grad emerging into the fashion/ advertising London scene with a stammer.

I want others to know they are not alone and it is okay to be scared, so scared you think to die is easier as everyday is a constant challenge.

It all started in primary school.

I remember sitting on the wooden bench in the head teachers office crying with anger and pulling my hair out. This was a constant scenario as I would get so frustrated with myself, as at this age I had no idea what was wrong with me. Why weren’t my words coming out? Why was my brain feeling like mashed potato? Why was this happening to me?

I could not speak until I was four years old, I would just pat my chest for ‘I’ and give my mum hand gestures to communicate.

In school growing up I was bullied, which ruined my confidence at just the age of 8.

I was receiving death notes through my letterbox and I never wanted to participate in activities if it meant talking or working in a group.

Quickly moving on, high school was pretty much the same. I was so shy, so quiet, I knew I was a loud, sarcastic little shit inside but that side of me no one ever saw but myself.

I used to talk to myself in the mirror A LOT to have a conversation with someone, and for some reason I would never stammer. I liked this as I could allow everything on my mind to be heard out loud without any frustration or anger coming out.

I pretty much had my small group of friends and kept myself to myself but I was still getting bullied and of course this causes anxiety, anti-social behaviour, fear and I just did not want to socialise. I would rather sit in my bedroom doing my artwork rather than ask for a bus or cinema ticket.

I remember laying in bed just before my 16th birthday and my National Insurance card came through the post and my mother said: ‘Jess you can get a job now’.

She left the room and the only thoughts running through my head were ‘Jess you have to kill yourself’.

I wasn’t prepared to live a life of misery; not being myself, not having a voice. Living day to day normal activities were such a challenge.

That day I wanted to end my life. At the time, my it felt as though my life had only consisted of self-harm, frustration and anger. It was the darkest time of my life. Waking up and not wanting to speak to the world, locking myself in my bedroom to avoid even talking to my family. It was mentally exhausting.

I knew at this age I wanted to have a career in fashion. I would spend my dinner money on Vogue magazine, and instead of asking for food in the school canteen I would rather starve and read it.

Looking at those glossy pages with the determination that one day I was going to work for Vogue. We all know it is not that easy as we grow up but I have always had my career to push me forward.

I studied art, textiles and photography in school and this was a massive window to express my anger. I did a lot of dark work such as photographing in derelict buildings and for my A level Art year I did my year studying and drawing Asylums.

I feel being creative has helped express who I am and for people to see my self-worth. When someone comments or likes my work it makes me want to cry with happiness because someone can finally see I am good at something, I am useful in life.

I went to University which was the hardest and biggest decision of my life.

Walking into that hall full of new people, the people I was going to spend the next three years of my life with. I remember sitting down and feeling numb. I would not let my stammer take over my life. I would not pretend to be someone I was not. So I sat with a group of girls and started talking.

I feel like University was the ice breaker in my life. I was pushed, shoved, challenge and bruised. I HAD to stand up in a lecture hall and present my project presentation, I HAD to do a presentation on Skype, I HAD to present to industry professionals.

All of these challenges which scared the living hell out of me actually in the long run have given me the confidence I need to now in life be able to pick up the phone and ring back companies and agencies.

Since graduating I have moved to Aberystwyth where I had to make a whole new life and friendship. This was only just another test. I then moved back to Cardiff where I now work in H&M which has again made my confidence grow.

I have over time worked on my speech, controlled my speech and now my speech does not control my life.

I still get mentally exhausted with how I have to work my mind and how to talk but I think for someone at the age of 23 to have taught themselves how to control something so major is pretty alright.

 

I wish there was more of a support unit in schools for young children who need help understanding themselves. I never once had any kind of help I was just always put into the under-achieving classes just because I would never talk up or show off my work.

But I guess this is just the surface of my story, my stammer and my journey into the fashion industry.

Today I am Jess, the Jess I have always wanted to be. Tomorrow I will be an even better Jess with more confidence, ambition and strength.

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