|About the Author: Hello, my name is Phyllis Edwards I have had a stammer for over 61 years and it is only over the past 18 months as I have come to know what a stammering community is and met some really neat people who really got me. I have recently realized that having a stammer isn’t all bad, and I would not be who I am or have the relationships I have today without having gone through life with a stammer. I feel like having the opportunity, encouragement and mentorship to speak up as I have found my voice. I want to continue to speak up and share with others in the hope that they will be able to discover much earlier in life than me that, although they have a stammer, they can still follow their dreams and have really neat relationships.|
Aged nearly 4, I remember feeling sad, when I was trying so hard to speak up, to get words out of my mouth and ask questions, while everybody was telling me to hurry up, but no one had time to listen. The more mum screamed at me “hurry up and talk, you stupid girl, I haven’t got all day”, the more my Tongue monster wouldn’t let me talk at all. The question I was trying hard to ask was “when is my dad coming home?”. But the answer was “he is not coming home until you learn to speak properly”.
When I was 16, I became a caregiver for my mother. I said to my family, “Oh I wanted to be a teacher, as that’s my dream, maybe I can do both”. “No,” said my family, “you can’t do that, as nobody will want you because you can’t talk properly. You are lucky to have a mum to look after”. So I became a caregiver, but still, that little seed was in my heart.
I found writing things down helped a little bit. It led me to want to share, to see who else out there has a stammer. I got a couple of things published in magazines which gave me the confidence to want to reach out to others and give and get support. I felt encouraged when the local paper rang and offered to help, but mum didn’t think it was a good idea so she pruned that idea.
After many years of being a caregiver, circumstances changed and so it was my time to follow that dream. That little seed in my heart whispered… it is your time to speak up and follow your dreams. I spoke to one of my only friends at the time, I said “I wish I could work in early childhood’’. ‘’Why can’t you”, Dianna said”. “Well, I stammer’’ I said. “So what,” said the caring Dianna. That’s when the seed was fertilised, supported, nourished, empowered, and grew.
This branch didn’t know there was more blossoming to come, branch by branch, blossoms of feelings from the pride of gaining a degree in early childhood. Increased self-esteem, love, empathy. Acceptance from parents, colleagues, children, and that yucky tongue was now well root-bound.
Another little branch that started as a seed and created lots of blossom on those branches, was my discovery of Alexis Parker, (we are now sisters from different countries brought together by God and being strong women who stutter). When Alexis was brave enough to speak up and share on the British stammering page, that she was worrying about stuttering when taking her wedding vows, I messaged back. I said I understood just where she was coming from, but don’t worry, love conquers all, and it did. This resulted in me going to the British Stammering Association national conference in Cardiff, Wales, where Alexis and I were able to meet.
I also had a seed of an idea that I hoped would turn into a branch to blossom, as I had written a poem that I was going to share on the open mic. But I pruned this branch myself by chickening out and came back feeling a bit yuk. Although I hadn’t been brave enough at the time, the seed was still there. Coming home I was lucky enough to be able to discover Anita Blom with all her experience and wise scary words that “maybe it was my time to pay it forward”. Empowerment again and the realisation that she had walked in my shoes and understood, showing me that empathy helped heaps.
How I wondered. Then I asked Laura, another wise women and Speech and Language Therapist, if she knew who I could help. Laura put me in touch with the organisation ‘Start’ and Janelle let me become affiliated with them. I was so grateful and excited.
My supportive husband added to the mortgage so I could attend the International Stuttering Association world congress in Iceland. We both knew I had unfinished business. Although I was petrified, this time I was able to speak up. I am so grateful for this humbling, amazing, liberating experience of my life which I couldn’t have done without feeling both the support in the room and the support I could also feel from friends and family. That’s you too Alexis. Thank you all of you xx
Now my barren root-bound tree has turned to full blossom because I have learned what “growing through speaking out” means to me. It is not until we do just that, that we can grow, and when we speak words, they actually come to life… Boy does that tree blossom. My barron tree would never have blossomed without the encouragement, love and support of those I met on the way and those who encouraged me to speak out. So thanks to all of you. Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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