I am Sudheendran, a stammerer from the time I can remember. I am living in Bangalore and am basically from Trichur in Kerala. I was born in 1975 and am the eldest of the two children. I have a younger sister who doesn’t stammer. The only family history of stammering is that of my father’s younger brother, who used to stammer as a child. He overcame this problem as he grew up and I don’t remember seeing him stammer (he passed away a month back). So I don’t think it was a hereditary one or an acquired one in my case. A relative of mine, a girl who was two years younger than me, also used to stammer. She also overcame stammering as she grew up. My parents also had a belief that I would overcome this as I grew up, but it didn’t happen.One of my father’s younger brothers was a Doctor and I remember my mother asking him about this issue and he telling that I would overcome it by the time I turn 12. I was very happy when I turned 12 as I thought my stammering had vanished only to discover to my dismay that it was still there.
My earliest memories of somebody teasing me was from my relatives, who were three or four years elder than me, when I was a small child. I remember the mother of one of them scolding them for doing this and telling them that they would also acquire this problem if they did it. There were instances in which I was teased by some of my class mates and by others like a taxi driver who once teased me for not telling the destination properly. Then, during my engineering college days, a close friend of mine told that I would not be able to get a good job because of this.
As a child I was not bothered by my stammering and it seems the teasing I received and the inability to speak fluently and the resultant fear of failure made me conscious about this problem. Slowly I began to run away from situations where I had to speak and began to take the help of others to get the things done. I am mentioning two of the incidents below.
One day I got a call from one of my friends that he would be late and he wanted to convey this to his parents. I became tensed and was worried whether I would be able to talk to them fluently. So I took my sister along with me and was going there. It was night and one of my relatives saw us and he asked me where I was going. He agreed to convey this to my friend’s parents.
When I was doing the project work of engineering college, I was part of a team of three, in which I was the only day scholar. Though I had a phone at home, I used to refuse to talk to the industrial project guide due to the fear of stammering
I have undergone several therapies like speech therapy, psycho therapy, hypnotherapy etc. All of them helped me in improving my speech a bit but it was the relapse which always troubled me. I may speak fluently for 1 to 3 months and it would come back in great force.
My first therapy for stammering was when I was in school. I began to make some distortions with the face while talking, in a bid to say the words and my father decided to visit a Doctor. At that time he used to go to Coimbatore and he took me to a hospital (I think it was KG hospital, but I am not sure) there and consulted a Psychiatrist. He taught me some breathing techniques. At that time I was not conscious about my stammering and was not interested in going for a treatment. After two or three sittings I stopped going there.
As mentioned earlier, I became conscious about my stammering when I grew up and by the time I completed my school and joined the Pre degree course (the equivalent to +2 at that time in Kerala) I really began to feel that it was affecting my life. One day I talked to my father about this and asked him to help me by finding a good treatment for me. He agreed and almost at that time we saw an advertisement in a newspaper about a person in Madurai who was doing a six days course on stammering. My father’s younger brother, the same person who used to stammer as a young boy, was in Madurai at that time and my father asked him to enquire about him. The therapist was an engineer and underwent stammering treatment in UK and was imparting the same techniques in Madurai. The fee of the course at that time (some time in 1990 or so) was Rs.1800/-. At that time our financial position was not that much good and he agreed to give some discounts for the treatment. We went there to meet him and at that time he told the discount could not be given and my uncle became furious and told my father not to send me there. Though I was sad that I could not go for the treatment, I asked my father to search for a therapist in Kerala.
Then we came to know that a speech therapist from Calicut was coming to Trichur twice a week and was doing treatment there. I went to meet him. Most of those who came there to consult him were hearing impaired and it seemed I was the only person who came there for stammering. He asked me to read a newspaper and I fumbled and after that he told me to read by stretching the words. I could read comfortably and he told me to read like this for one hour a day and describe the same to my father after that. I would go there every week for follow up. Though I used to read and speak to my father fluently, I used to stammer outside this environment. He couldn’t do anything more and after some time my father asked me not to go there.
I was still not satisfied and was pestering him to find out another person for the treatment. Then he went to Medical trust hospital in Cochin and enquired about the Psychologist there. We got good feedback about her and we decided to meet her. She taught me the muscle relaxation exercise in which we tighten each part of the body and then relax it and reading loudly after keeping an instrument which makes a beeping noise in my ear. We also consulted the Psychiatrist there. It was useful for some time, but after that I didn’t get any improvement. So we talked to her and she told she could refer me to NIMHANS in Bangalore and gave me a letter addressed to somebody in NIMHANS. We sent it to him and got a reply from him asking me to come there.
We were about to visit Bangalore, when my father came to know about the Six days stammering treatment provided by some Psychologists in Krishna Nursing Home in Cochin. I joined that course and it involved stretched reading, speaking slowly, relaxation exercise, breathing exercise etc. The attendees needed to be there from 9 AM to 5 PM and the training was very intensive. I began to speak fluently from the very first day and by the end of the course I was completely all right. This happened when I completed my Pre degree course and was about to join my engineering.
After the course the therapist told that I might stammer a bit when I went to the new college. It seems this point was there in my mind as there was a relapse when I joined the college. I went for a lot of follow up therapies with them after that and though I would speak fluently during the therapy, the problem would relapse after that.
During this time my father saw an advertisement about a charitable organization called ‘Stuttering foundation’ in Cochin and contacted them. The person running the organization was a product of the same institute from where the Psychologists who treated me in Krishna Nursing home were and he told my father to pay only if I was satisfied by the treatment, as I had undergone a similar treatment in Krishna Nursing Home. I went there and found the treatment to be the same. After attending the course, I decided not to continue the same.
Job, Marriage and further therapies
By this time I had completed my engineering in production engineering from Government Engineering College Trichur and was searching for a job. I joined for MBA with IGNOU as I didn’t want to go for a regular college and interact with the people there (I completed my MBA in 2003). My maternal uncle and two of my maternal aunts were in Bombay at that time and they asked me to come to Bombay. I went there and stayed with my aunt. I attended a lot of interviews; but couldn’t clear any of them as I used to stammer severely during interviews. In the end I got a job in a company called Gopinath Engineering Company in Ghatkopar, which was run by some Malayalees, through the reference of one of the relatives of my uncle (my aunt’s husband). I was almost at the lowest point of my confidence at that time and was really worried whether I would be able to communicate and do justice to the job. As feared I fumbled a lot while communicating and in one occasion, I could not even speak a single word over the phone.
My father was working in ‘The Times of India’ at that time and through his company I got an interview call in a company called Muthoot Ceramics in Cochin. There were questions about stammering and I told that I stammered less in Malayalam and with people I knew. Though I stammered severely during the interview, I was selected by them and they told me to join the company. I called my employer in Bombay and told that I would come back and tender my resignation. Suddenly the very next day, I got a call from the company which selected me, telling that my selection was put on hold due to some technical issues and that I should not resign from the company. They told they would call me when the situation changed, though it didn’t happen. I went back to Bombay and they told me to continue.
All these incidents made me to believe that my stammering was a hurdle in my progress. At that time, I searched Yellow pages of Bombay and got the address of a Hypnotherapist and went to visit him. He told he could cure me and his fee was Rs.5000/-. I informed my father and he contacted a Psychiatrist, who also was a distant relative of ours in Trichur. He told there were some Hypnotherapists in Trichur too. When I heard this I decided to come back and talked to my employer. They also agreed to give me leave and I came back to Kerala.
I went to Elite Hospital in Trichur and consulted the Psychiatrist. He referred me to the Psychologist and he counseled me and did some Hypnotic sessions. After that he told me to go back to Bombay and continue the job. I was not satisfied and my father consulted the Psychiatrist again and he referred me to the speech therapist in the same Hospital. He taught me a technique in which I had to take a deep breath and start speaking when I breathed out. It slowed down the speed and was useful, but that also didn’t give sustainable improvement.
Then I decided to consult the therapist in Krishna Nursing Home once again and attended the treatment. As usual I spoke well during therapy, but fumbled outside the hospital. One day he talked about practicing yoga for making the mind calm. At the same time my father came to know about ‘Art of Living’ and he went there to enquire about it. The lady, who was conducting the course, told him that she also was a stammerer and that she could overcome her problem after attending the course. I discussed this with my therapist in Krishna Nursing Home and he also encouraged me to go for it. I attended the course and practiced the techniques. Though it didn’t give any benefit as far as stammering was concerned, I was interested in practicing the exercises as I used to exercise regularly from my teenage days. I included the techniques in my regular exercise and practiced it for a long time. Now I have stopped doing that and instead of that I am doing some of the Pranayama techniques taught by Baba Ramdev.
During the same period, I saw an advertisement by a Doctor who was running a hypnosis self help course. I asked my father to contact him and to know more about his treatment. This person was practicing in a place very close to mine and we decided to consult him. This treatment also gave some relief, but again, it also didn’t last for a long time. By this time, I had spent too much of time in Kerala on leave from my company and was almost feeling low as I was not getting the benefit I was looking for. Then we came to know about Dr. Krishnan of Cochin who was doing some holistic treatments, which was a combination of electromagnetic pulse therapy, Acupressure, Hypnotherapy and Chethna (one form of Pranic healing). (His details can be had from the following site http://www.centreforenergymedicine.com/ ). He was an MBBS, DCH, BAM, FCCP and was a government doctor. He started practicing these methods after his retirement. Before this therapy my confidence level was very low and this treatment made me confident of facing the world. He had asked me to do self hypnosis after that and it was really helpful in keeping the confidence level up.
One point of his treatment which was in conflict with the basic concept of TISA was not to tell anybody in advance about stammering. His point was that it might make you conscious about stammering and it might trigger stammering. The other person would anyway come to know of your stammering if you stammered and if you could speak fluently without any blocks, that was good. He wanted me to think more about speaking fluently and wanted me to remove the thoughts of stammering completely from the mind. May be this is also one way of seeing it.
By this time I went back to Bombay and continued my job. It was the boom time for IT sector and I also decided to jump into it, though reluctantly, by joining a course in Java. At the same time my father had retired from ‘The Times of India’ and through the recommendation of his company, I got an interview call from a company called NeST in Cochin. They interviewed me for the post of an engineer in an Electronics division of theirs and since my experience was not into that, I was about to be rejected. I told them that I would be interested in IT as I had undergone a course in Java. They had an IT division and though my Java course was not good enough for them to give me a job, they decided to induct me to their IT division as a Quality Engineer as I answered some of their questions about ISO 9001.
This time there were no hick ups and I joined them. I parted ways with my Bombay firm, which was magnanimous enough to give me a job and retain me even after verbally conveying my resignation once and also after going on long leave. Words are not enough to thank them for giving a kick start to my career.
I worked in NeST, for Six years and learned a lot about Quality Engineering. Whatever I have learned about Quality Engineering was from there and it was the company which made me a worthwhile person. During the career in NeST too, I felt the difficulties of stammering and used to avoid giving presentations, though there were occasions in which I had to give them. Some of them went well and some of them were really bad. I didn’t try to change the job because I was comfortable with the job and was afraid of attending interviews. The fear of going to another state or location and the difficulties I might face in these new places due to stammering was also one of the reasons for not trying for a change.
I got married in 2005 and my wife was a Malayalee settled in Bangalore. I had made a decision of going to see the girl only if everything was matching and my desire was to see only one girl. Luckily everything went well and I didn’t stammer when I went to see the girl. After the marriage was fixed, I told her that I stammered and she told it was okay with her. After marriage she told me that they had enquired about me and came to know about my stammering even before I went to see her. I have a son who is two and half years old and he speaks fluently.
After some time I thought of changing the job as some sorts of stagnation had come to my career. I decided to try for jobs in Bangalore as my in-laws were there. I attended some interviews and I struggled a lot and could not clear them. Though I cleared the first telephonic round of a company in Pune I didn’t go for the face to face interview as it was not in Cochin or Bangalore. Then I was selected by a company in Bangalore and I rejected the offer for fear of going to a new company and having to communicate with the people there. At that time I underwent the course with Dr. Krishnan once again and it gave me more confidence. After 6 years in NeST, I could find a job in HCL Technologies in Bangalore and left NeST in 2007, though it was a job I really enjoyed and which gave me a lot of satisfaction as a professional. Currently I am working with HCL Technologies.
By this time Dr. Krishnan had also shifted to Bangalore and I underwent some more sessions with him after I came to Bangalore. Though I was not much concerned about stammering by the time I came to Bangalore, the desire to overcome it was still there with me. That is when I came to know about a Hypnotherapist and decided to consult him as Dr. Krishna had gone back to Cochin by that time. I went there and it was useful, but as with any other therapy the result was not sustainable. Now I am not regularly going there, but plans to visit him whenever required.
I still stammer, though I would say I have recovered from it by about 75%. There will still be some odd days when the blocks will be very severe, thereby making me feeling low and some days when I speak very fluently. It is at this time that I came to know from Orkut about TISA and I contacted the coordinator of TISA and am now attending the Banagalore SHG meetings, held on every Sunday in Cubbon Park at 10 AM. During the same time I came in touch with Dr. Sachin of TISA and had some very useful conversations with him. I learned bouncing and prolongation from him and am practicing them now. I am also making an effort to accept the stammering and disclose it in advance as it reduces the pressure of hiding it. I think stammering is basically a psychological issue and can be controlled well by improving the confidence level. Attending therapy from a professional and attending self help group meetings would really be useful in controlling it. In SHG meetings we would get opportunity to practice different techniques learned by us and it would also help in sharing the knowledge. I came to know from one of the SHG meetings that the treatment in NIMHANS in Bangalore is free of cost (I was planning to come to NIMHANS as a teenager).
I know that this is a pretty long article and if you had the patience to read it fully and if you got some useful information, I will be a very happy person.
(Originally written on 21-Oct-2009 at http://www.stammer.in/articles/38-cat-stuttering-related/222-ssstammering-and-my-life.html.)