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The Boy Under The Blankets

 

From the Spring 2003 edition of Speaking Out:  http://www.stammering.org/undertheblankets.html

Terry McElhinney says that developing self-esteem was one of the biggest factors in his recovery from stammering.

I want to prove that a lot of great things come from bad times and how having a stammer or disability can turn into a positive thing.

You can turn your life around. Life might bounce us around a bit and could even capsize us but we have the strength and courage to climb back into the boat and steer it towards our chosen destination.

One of the worse times of my life was when I was in the last year at school, I just could not face school and the pressure. I met with my head master who kindly informed the teachers that I didn't have to speak in school, but rather than this helping, it added to my feeling of weakness, it was a double edge sword. It relieved the pressure of speaking but made me feel so crappy when every one in turn had to read out or speak and they by passed me.

I later spent my apprenticeship as an electrician trying to deal with constant panic attacks.

Phone calls, especially to girls, were extremely hard. I would focus, relax and repeat a hundred times out loud "is Tricia in?" 'T' is really hard so if her dad answered I renamed her 'ricia'. Her dad thought she was seeing a Chinese guy.

But what do I do if I panicked and make one of those strange noises only stammers make? "ccccccan you get so and so for me" After this build up you get stuck on a 't' and try and change to a different letter. You can sound just like an incoming fax and they press 'start'.

Most of the time I coped because I was also a black belt in word avoidance. I am so good at this after many years' practice that you would never pick it up. The problem is that this coping technique made me so angry with myself because I wanted to say what I was thinking. I was having to change beautiful descriptive words for dull simple ones that made me sound stupid.

I eventually decided to beat this thing. I was still searching for what caused my stammer. Even though I was nervous of hypnosis, with all the reports of false memory syndrome, I found a therapist that used free expression, who would just listen and repeat what I remembered. I recalled many sad and painful memories from my childhood and it was extremely hard work. I had to fight to go every week. It was worth the effort and the pain; I slowly felt better once I made links and put together the jigsaw of Terry Mc.

I obtained two black belts and became a British champion in kick boxing. One of my biggest stresses even today is reading out my kickboxing certificates in my class as I can't change their names.

It has taken until I am 42 to accept stammering as part of me and to realise I am more than my stammer. My learning experiences (not failures) have made me who I am today. I still get days as we all do where I feel ugly and can't see what my partner sees in me. I learned to switch off my feelings, to survive; a learned technique that I hate now and wish it didn't come in at emotional times, but I will get there.

I am still pushing through my comfort zone. I have started another business running stress management/motivation/life-change seminars for Ford Motor Company, David Lloyd, Pilkington glass and other large companies.

The first course was the scariest; I really thought I was not going to do it. I had rehearsed my opening speech over and over and over again. But what if I froze while teaching stress management and motivation tools? I had mentioned straight away that I got involved in self-development work to cure my stammer so this took the pressure off me a lot. I walked out in front of them and did my opening speech perfectly and received great feedback at the end. I am so proud of myself. The fear I felt was indescribable. I didn't know I was going to be good, I didn't know if I could speak, I didn't know if I would stammer a bit or a lot. This is the frightening bit, not knowing.

Was the journey worth it? YES! I have met people and achieved things and pushed myself to achieve and keep achieving, I have got friends through my counselling and through my own courses that I would move mountains for, and visa-versa.

The PRESENT is defiantly a GIFT, the past is gone. It's who we really are that matters, not where were from.

 

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