|About the author: I am Christopher Bongmoyong. I am born to a family of five; three of us stutter. Neither of my parents stuttered nor our grandparents. I am a covert stutterer and have been living in it all my life. I am a holder of a diploma in building construction and still into job seeking and believe in a meaningful employment in due time. I am a member of the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC). Today I am very excited to share my story as a person living with stuttering.|
I was born a stutterer and have lived with stuttering all my life. I come from a family of five of which three of us stutter; me, my younger brother and my sister. Neither my mother nor my father stuttered. As a matter of fact, stuttering has so much affected my life that it has affected every part of my life. We were teased and bullied as kids, but my own case was different because my stutter was more severe. My stuttering totally changed my pattern of doing things. I became a stubborn child, because no one was ever patient to listen to me, or wanted to know how I feel. I avoided all speaking situations and would be very offended when I was put under pressure to talk, especially in case I need to defend myself. Since the severity of my stuttering was perceived by my parents as a sign of guilt and stubbornness, I had no choice but to remain stubborn, because no one was helping me out. It was so horrible and my life kept on sinking and sinking in depression. Life was so difficult for me to the extent that I did not even have a dream, no life goal and no focus.
My younger brother and I were registered in school the same year, because there was no one to take care of me by then. We were very excited about going to school as we knew it was an opportunity to spend much time outside the house, which would mean no more going to the stream to fetch water, go to the farm to cultivate or harvest or go out fetching firewood in the forest for cooking. Those were our normal routines at home. Little did we know school would be a nightmare and an unsettling place for us. We were teased and bullied by peers each time we were involved in any oral exercise like reading and answering questions in class. Because of these issues we had to change our seats and go to the back of the class where we wouldn’t even see the class board well.
I remember with pain in my heart the day my younger brother was given 10 very hard strokes with the cane on his butt in a very cool morning temperature of 30o just because he was accused falsely whistling and distracting peers while the national Anthem was going on. This act of punishment was unbearable and we decided to leave school without the knowledge of our parents. We would leave the house to go to school but would divert to the nearby bushes and play all day to return only in the afternoon exactly at closing time. This continued for the rest of the school year until a hunter that knew our family saw us repeatedly and reported home. Our parents were both very disappointed with us and handed us to the school authorities for punishment. A punishment we would never forget.
We continued school the next year but because we no longer loved school, our progress and intelligence slowed down and our focus had been messed up.
My school life was on and off when I left my parents to continue school in the next town 170 miles away from home. My school environment was so turbulent, as it took me time to get use to a new environment. At the age of 13, I was already taking alcohol. This was the only way for me to cope. That remained my permanent stuttering coping strategy to help me overcome my fear of stuttering. This has all the time only helped to postpone my problem from one hour to the next. Since I needed money to buy beer and needed an source of income, I started stealing my parent`s money. I would steal money that was meant for our school fees and as poor as my parents were, they would keep us home until they raised some other funds for us to return to school. Many times I would go to school drunk with beer and sometimes during exams. I was being suspended from school several times and was finally dismissed. When I was dismissed, after some weeks, I gradually began seeing the importance of my education. Frustration was increasing as I became more of an alcoholic. All the money my parents sent to me for school fees and rent was spent by drinking. I was borrowing books and lived with friends, moving from one house to another. At some point I began attending classes clandestinely. I would jump in and out of the class through the window to attain classes with the help of some friends who sympathized with me.
My life was miserable. Our parents became concerned and began doing research for a remedy. They tried all traditional methods of treatment like drinking running water from a snail, eating a type of grasshopper and performing some spiritual sacrifices but all was to no avail.
I struggled under very hard conditions and luckily passed my high school technical certificate in building construction. I knew things were no longer going to be the same and could feel it was time for my freedom, because school life was just too terrible. I just wanted to get a job and start up a new life. I was so excited, but never knew I was getting to a more challenging part of my life. I had just won a battle, but not knowing I was to face a war for the rest of my career life. I would not even count the number of times I was sent home during interviews, because there was no way I could speak to the selection panel without drinking beer. Even to this day I have never succeeded to sit down before a panel for an interview. I have always been sent home by security or the receptionist. It was always evident when I had been drinking beer. Even a kid would know from my countenance. Red eyes and wrinkled forehead were signs everyone would clearly see and also the way I would speak.
When I couldn’t get my career going, I got into drug dealing. I was buying and selling marijuana and it got me much money which I could not even use responsibly. When people took advantage of me and started duping me I diverted and joined a friend who introduced me to the circulation of counterfeit money. These issues and many more finally got me into jail. I served a jail term for almost a year. While in jail my younger brother had started doing research on stuttering help. He fortunately got in touch with Mr Joseph Lukong, the Coordinator of the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC), joined the association, spoke to Joseph about me and began receiving help through numerous resources that the SCAC got through the International Stuttering association (ISA) and the Stuttering Foundation of America (SFA).
When I was freed from jail, after a couple of weeks I was invited to a recovery course in 2002, organized by the SCAC. I was so excited, because I thought the speech specialist came with some oral medicine that would quickly help to just get rid of my stuttering. It was not until the day of the course that I discovered it was to be another classroom affaire that was again supposed to be even be more interactive in nature. The old shadow of my past school life started running through my brain and my spirit was broken. With encouragement from my brother I decided to stay. A few minutes after the start of the course I was no longer able to hold it. The fear was getting worse. I smuggled out of the group and got into a nearby bar and immediately sipped two bottles of beer and felt geared up for the course and quickly returned. I could be seen from a distance and no one could doubt what I had just done. Eventually I was sent home. Another bad day. That was the opportunity I had and I squandered it and have never had such an opportunity again. My brother was already sick and tired of my behaviors. On my 48th birthday – the very fateful day, I had just returned home in the morning. Someone told me happy birthday. It was a surprise. I never even knew it. I sat down on my bed, soaked by alcohol I had drank at a party the night before. It was my 48th birthday already. So striking, I sorrowfully asked myself, ‘What kind of life have I got; no job, no wife, no kid, no home’. It was a terrible moment for me. I was prepared to end my life that day, but by God`s grace I had just given myself a little more time to reflect about my life. At midday I received a call I least expected through a friend’s phone, from my brother who travelled to Atlanta for the World Congress of People Who Stutter. I never knew he travelled. I was touched by the way he spoke to me for the first time in my life. He introduced a young lady by the name Samantha Gennusa of the USA, one out of 800 participants of the congress, who heard of my story and became interested in talking to me. Wow!! She had had the same life experience as me. I began having a sensation of hope running through my veins and into my heart, just because I heard someone had suffered like me. I immediately made up my mind to do something about my stuttering for the first time with all my heart. From that day I have not felt the same again. I am in communication with this lady and she is just too great. I am coming out of my shell and excited to push out this comfort zone.
My regards to all the people who stutter in the world as you look forward to celebrating the International Stuttering Awareness Day. Your concerns and questions will be highly appreciated. I will be travelling 150 miles into the town to get better internet services. Keep your concerns coming.
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