Dr Eddie Murphy: The difficulties and lost opportunities of living with a stammer

Advice column with Operation Transformation psychologist Dr Eddie Murphy

Dr Eddie Murphy

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Dr Eddie Murphy

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Dr Eddie Murphy: The difficulties and lost opportunities of living with a stammer

Reality TV star Gareth Gates overcame a stammer

I spoke to this wonderful lady, Martina, who wanted to reach out to others and offer support. Over my career in healthcare I have had the privilege to work with the bravest individuals, from young to old, who experience stuttering in daily life. She put her thoughts in writing they were so powerful.

The Impact

Martina writes: “I have had a stutter for as long as I can remember, and my earliest memory of this is when I was about 4 and I was in school and I couldn’t say my name or read out loud. Reading in class was a nightmare. I would stand up but the words just wouldn’t come so the reading would pass on to the next student. Through my life in school nothing changed. I knew that I was different and I didn’t know what to do so I started to avoid words and speaking situations.

“I remember thinking, what will I do when I have to get a job? I never got the job I wanted because of my stutter. My first idea was to do a secretarial course and work in an office but realistically that was never going to happen because I couldn’t take or make phone calls. If I was in a place where a phone rang, I would walk away and pretend I didn’t hear it. I never made a phone call in earshot of anyone because I was embarrassed by my stutter and if I had to make a call I was very good at manipulating people to do it for me.

“I got a job in retail in 1975 when I left school, and it was only meant to be a summer job but I was employed and loved it. I had to turn down more interesting roles that I was so capable for as I would have had to make presentations make and take phone calls and interact competently on a daily basis. I made an excuse and declined the offer. I was very upset. I felt useless.

“I could never order what I wanted in a restaurant I would point at the menu if I wasn’t in a position to point I would order what I could say at that moment.

I would always struggle making appointments with doctors etc. Booking hotels I couldn’t say ‘double room’, I would say ‘a room for me and my husband’. Life went on and nothing changed. On my wedding day I cried walking down the aisle, so that when it came to saying my vows my voice was shaky and I could hide my stutter. I had planned this weeks ahead.

“I called my daughter a name I could say. When she was young I could never read her a bed time story. It made me sad. I never left the house without a pen and paper so that if I got into a stressful situation with my speech I would make an excuse and say that I had just come from the dentist and would it be ok if I wrote down my name and address as it was usually that that I would be having a problem with.

“That was the way I lived my life for 53 years. I did speech therapy and I tried hypnotherapy and neither worked for me.

“In 2002 there was a programme on TV called Pop Idol and there was a guy on it called Gareth Gates and when he came on stage he had to introduce himself and he struggled saying his name. He came second on that show and became a celebrity. I researched and found that he completed the McGuire Programme. I did a bit of research on the programme and I joined in 2010.

“I haven’t gone back to school where reading was a problem, but I put myself forward to do readings in my local church. Saying my name is no problem anymore and we are encouraged to say our name every time we answer our phone. I haven’t changed my job but I have no problem making or taking phone calls. I have gone for interviews just to prove that I can get through one with no fear of speaking. I enjoy making appointments and ordering food in restaurants not just for myself but for anyone else there too.”

Dr Eddie Responds;

I have recommended many people to the McGuire Program. Details on www.stammering.ie. I have seen the transformation from old negative feelings of shame, embarrassment, sadness , stress and anxiety to competence, confidence, empowerment and finally freedom. Living with a stutter is very stressful. You can’t be the person you want to be and the McGuire Programme offers you a way out of this restricted life.

What I like most about the program is its organisation run by people who stutter to help other people who stutter.

They deal with both the physical and psychological side of stuttering. There is no cure or magic pill but with hard work courage and perseverance your life can be changed.

Martina reminded me the importance of raising hope for people who stammer.

Dr Eddie Murphy runs a psychological and counselling service in Portarlington, Co Laois. If you are organising a speaker or training for school, community, voluntary, sporting or work groups, call Dr Eddie on 087 1302899 or go to www.facebook.com/ dr.eddie.murphy.psychologist