|About the presenter: Richard Body writes, "I've been married nearly 27 years to Rachael. We have 2 boys Ashley 26 and Liam 19. I'm self employed as a cabinet maker and run an internet furniture store. I'm a Local Labour Councillor for Cradley and Wollecote ward on Dudley Council, West Midlands, UK having been elected 3 times since 2004. I've stuttered since age 4/5, my 2 boys started stuttering at the same age but thankfully grew out of it by the age of 6/7. I lost my left eye at the age of 29 in an accident at work, yet it's only my stutter that has mentally affected me. You can "meet me" on YouTube videos by searching "stuttering councillor."|
Just imagine the scene, 71 Councillors all eloquent normal speakers and one stutterer who believes he is way out of his depth. A Council chamber - English oak and red leather seat benches, stained glass arch windows, high ceilings, fancy ornate ceilings, huge chandeliers, red carpet and a balcony full of the general public, press, council directors, lawyers and knowing if I suffer one of my long silent blocks or prolonged words, all eyes will be on my desperate attempts in recalling previous words in a vain attempt to say the words that are stuck in my throat. To top it all the Council meeting is been streamed live via the web to all those people who put their faith in me and elected me as their local Councillor. They chose to vote the one that one person who can't even talk.
"ALL RISE FOR THE WORSHIPFULNESS MAYOR OF DUDLEY". In comes the Mayor and the deputy Mayor dressed in red robes and wearing their chain of honor, the Mayors Vicar (to give prayers at the start of the meeting), chief executive wearing a white lawyers wig and black ropes and being led by a smartly dressed man holding a mace.
That's when the nerves kick into overdrive; I'm now trying to find ways of getting out of giving my speech. One hundred thoughts rushing around my head and all negative. What will people think? Please God, why did I agree to this? Why do I put myself through this stress? No other PWS puts themselves through this madness?
The meeting starts, Yet I have only one thing on my mind, MY SPEECH!
My time is now approaching far quicker than I had hoped for. Here it comes, time to press my red button to inform the mayor I wish to speak. My mind is now a whirl that dreaded feeling in my chest and stomach. Button pressed, no going back now, hand and legs start shaking, I can feel my face heating up and sweat dripping from under my arms.
THE MAYOR LOOKS OVER AT ME AND CALLS MY NAME, I rise to my feet, now it's my time and all eyes are fixed on me.
All that after 9 years of putting all my energy into costal breathing.
I'm 46 and have stammered as long as I can remember. I tried many therapies but the fear of stammering had me well griped in its ugly vice. My stuttering was a mental hell. I can't and don't really want to explain how bad my speech was on one of my many bad speech days. I can't change the date of a council or public meeting so the stress was quite literally killing me. I felt alone and helpless and too ashamed to ask for help again.
What the audios showed me was that even if you have gone through all the so-called therapies and put all your efforts into costal breathing, talking so slowly people think you're simple, tapping your hand against your leg, tapping your foot, rhythmic talking, using positive thoughts, hypnosis, and praying, the adult stammerer may simply give up and let depression (hidden from everyone) take over.
For me the website was a breath of fresh air and offered renewed hope.
Listening to the audio presentations, I decided to throw myself into the Van Riper method. Hearing him speak has been priceless to me. I brought his books and the DVD from the Stuttering Foundation and haven't look back since.
I knew I had no choice but to face my fears and learn to accept my stutter, I look back on those two lonely weeks (15 hours days) that really changed my life, with pride. It was either going to make me or brake me and there were times I thought it would brake me, especially in the first few days of my self therapy. Facing ones fears squarely in the face is and was very intense. It would have been quite easy for me to have given up. The first few days I did just that after a few hours, I got through so many cigarettes in those first few days.
I learned to play with my stammer and accept my stammer. I have touched the snake as Van Riper says. I spend days videoing my telephone calls, sometimes up to 30 calls a day to hotels, insurance companies, library's and book shops asking for stuttering books. I videoed my wife and friends and watched closely how they talked and compared them to my own video recordings, paying close attention to the way I reacted to my lips and eyes. I needed the mental determination to never again change a feared word again and to play openly with my blocks in all situations on my own.
After about 2 weeks of just dealing with my fear levels, I would use the phone every other day and make calls for about 1/2 hour. Making sure my new found control would last.
I read Van Riper, Bluemel, Murray, Johnson, Gregory, Williams and Barry Guitar books out loud. I now, almost a year since I began my self therapy, always read out loud as fast as I can using what I call, the Van Riper method. I downloaded the speeches from Voices: Past and Present and also Fred Murray on Stuttertalk.com and listened everyday through my MP3 player. Going through self therapy without any support I needed that boost. I must say apart from Van Riper and Sheehan I got a lot from the speech by Lois Nelson, what a fascinating and inspiring lady, and other audio presentations as well.
Listening to Charles Van Riper is why I'm where I am now. Without the opportunity of listening, reading, and watching his wisdom, I would still be living with the frustration that stuttering brings. Now after self therapy I'm Chairman of 3 committees and groups, spokesperson for several Council departments and charities and all that with a stutter. Any therapist who believes a stutter is the way you speak and nothing to do with the way you feel and think I have no time or respect for. What comes first in the adult stutterer the interruptions in speech or the thoughts? A therapist can only understand and help to change a PWS's life by understanding what's going on before the voice. "Do what I do, not what I say" is so important. A therapist needs to know how to gain trust and how to stretch the mental boundaries without breaking them. A stutterer needs to use the telephone and push outside his comfort zones with the therapist to a point where the therapist knows that the stutterer will be trusted to use self therapy. I believe going through that stress with a trusted therapist is where success or failure lies. If only I had had that kind of support years ago, I may still have brown hair?
I still stutter and yes I probably always will, but without fear or shame and in some strange way I enjoy doing just that. My stutter has made me the person I am today and you know what, in a strange way most days I'm now glad I stutter, but I'm so glad I no longer fear stuttering. My only regret is, why did I leave so long to face up to my personal monster???????