My story –
I do not want to term this as a success story! But yeah it is certainly a journey of overcoming adversaries.
Childhood – Ignorance is bliss:
My stammering dates back to when I was around 8 years old, had a near-death experience when I drowned in the rainwater which had flooded my home. Post this incident I saw a slight change in my speech, started to stammer due to fear. But I was never really conscious about my stammering and the fact that I studied in the same school for 12 years and had the same set of friends made it easy for me to forget about stammering. Barring few odd instances of insult and teasing, it was all smooth throughout my school life.
College Life – A tough phase:
So I passed my SSLC and opted to take up commerce whereas most of my other classmates and friends opted for science stream. This landed me in a college which specialises in commerce education. And yes, a new set of classmates, new friends, new teachers, everything new. Initially, it was all fine as I was that quiet boy in the class. I moved on to 2nd PU and probably this is the period where I slowly started to realise that I have a serious problem with my speech. During quiz competitions even though I knew the answers were unable to quickly respond and thereby lose. This continued into my 1st-year degree and the scar started to become bigger and bigger, deeper and deeper. I went into a shell; a shell from which I did not want to come out. I always had this fear that I will stammer and more often than not I ended up stammering. Every day things like buying vegetables, grocery, books etc, became a herculean task. Like any other stammered, I started to avoid people as much as I can, speak words which I do not stammer. By the time I completed 2nd degree, I had become pessimistic, had suicidal thoughts, felt the whole world was against me, seemed like I was fighting a losing battle. This showed in my studies as well, in SSLC where I had passed with 80% I had come down to being just pass and scraping through exams. To sum up my situation at that time, would like to share an incident – I was alone at home and the landline started to ring. I picked up the phone and was blank, couldn’t even say hello. The person (one of my relative) kept calling back a few times and I used to pick up and go blank and stammer heavily. This humiliation instantly led me to think of suicide, I quickly went into the kitchen searching for a knife (thanks to some movies I thought cutting off veins is the easiest option) and suddenly the doorbell rang! My parents and brother were back, and I aborted my suicide mission. Probably the one and only time I was so close to taking my own life.
Around this time I got to know about stammering cure centre in Jayanagar, Bangalore run by Partha Bagchi. This was during summer of 1999 and the cost of the session was Rs 3000/- which my father plainly refused to give. After a lot of persuasions he gave in and I enrolled in the therapy/session hoping that it will bring a turnaround in my life. Well maybe it did, but only a tiny bit and nothing to harp about. So after around two months of the session, I was sort of hadn’t moved much further and the challenges were only mounting. And we all know in 1999 India fought Kargil war against Pakistan and this incident made me take an immense interest in joining our great Indian Army. But always at the back of my mind was the fear of stammering which might be a stumbling block.
Post-college – Harsh reality:
I decided to give a shot at combined defence services exam after my degree, being weak in aptitude cracking the exam was all the tougher. But somehow I did manage to get through the written exam and it was time to face the ultimate test, the personal interview. Again the biggest nightmare was how I will face the interviewer’s panel and this brought back all the demons into my mind. The interview was in Bhopal and I got so much scared that I couldn’t even pronounce my name properly at times. And the result was I had to return empty-handed, dejected, rejected, dreams crushed and the reality of stammering again staring down the barrel.
Somehow I never got the confidence to again try for CDS exam and thereafter began my worst possible phase. Interview after interview I was rejected because of stammering and my confidence kept on taking a beating. In one of the interview, I just froze even though I knew all the answers and had to just walk off dejected. I just locked myself in my room and cried for a few hours nonstop thinking this is the end of the world for me. Thought to myself that why I even took birth to have this wretched life.
First Job – Signs of fight back:
Just the day after I froze and got rejected in an interview, out of the blue I got a call for a job interview. It was the same place where earlier I was rejected. But as usual, I wasn’t confident and somehow picked up myself and went there (still my eyes were red with all the crying of the previous day). To my surprise, they had called me to offer a job. The CEO handed me the offer letter and asked if I can start the work on that very same day itself. I again froze, this time with excitement! I had no hesitation in accepting and the salary what they offered was not at all on my mind (even though when I look back now Rs 4000/- in 2004 was not very great). But at that time getting a job is what mattered the most.
My first job was in the Bangalore Stock Exchange and in a department where I had to constantly interact with stockbrokers monitoring their trades. This included speaking over the phone! Something which I always feared. But the confidence of having a job somehow made me think positively and slowly I started speaking better over the phone and also tried speaking more face to face with other colleagues. However this wasn’t easy at all, still stammering was present but I always tried to detach myself from stammering, at least tried to as much as I can and wherever I can. Also, I started to ignore any adverse comments about my stammering and only concentrated on looking at the positives. For example, if I speak 10 sentences at a stretch, previously I used to worry that in three or four sentences I stammer and think about it all the time. But now I tried to look at the other six sentences where I did not stammer and started to feel good about it. Trust me it isn’t easy!
The mid and late twenties – Overcoming the adversary
I told to myself that one way to overcome stammering is by putting myself in tough situations and facing it head-on and not running away. I started to opt for roles where it needs a lot of verbal interaction, face to face meetings, phone calls. I moved on from Bangalore Stock Exchange to a big MNC and this gave me that perfect platform. After completing a certain period I opted to train new joiners in the department where I have to face new people, speak the whole day, clear doubts, mentor them. Even though I used to stammer a few times, but I did not allow it to take over me as it used to earlier. I always kept thinking about the positives and ignored the negatives.
By the time I was 30, wouldn’t say stammering was gone (it is still present) but my thought process had changed and demons were gone. I had detached myself from stammering, not sure how others call it, but I call it as detaching from stammering. Previously whenever I spoke to a stranger or anyone I used to rehearse what I will speak, what words I will use, which are all my comfortable words etc, but I detached these thoughts out of my mind and it immensely helped me in overcoming the adversary. Maybe I was lucky enough to have some wonderful colleagues, friends, classmates who mostly ignored my stammering part and acknowledged the real person in me.
Present-day – Confident yet cautious!
Now I am 40, and can fairly say I am confident about my speech however I always exercise caution. I try not to get carried away and become overconfident.
My suggestion for others is to put yourself in tough situations, if you have to speak all day in your work, I would say do it. Never hesitate to take up those opportunities.
The lesson what I have learnt from my own experience is never run away from stammering, the more you run or hide the faster it follows you and more often than not it catches you! I would suggest to take it head-on, you might fall and get defeated 10 times, 25 times, 100 times, but you should always stand up to face it again. Eventually, stammering will get tired looking at your resolve and perseverance and that’s when you start to win the battle.
All the very best!