I never stammered until I had two epileptic seizures

Richard RoafAs part of our series sharing the voices of people who stammer,  Richard Roaf from the Home Office talks about how he started stammering late in life.

My names Richard Roaf, and I’ve just turned 49.  My journey (don’t you hate that word, lol) is probably different to a lot of peoples, as I got my stammer quite late in life.

Up until I was 30-31, I never had a stammer.  I then suffered two epileptic seizures at work in a very short space of time, and I believe the epilepsy affected the part of my brain that deals with speech, and so my new life living with a stammer began.  You’ll be surprised about the number of old school friends on Facebook who all said “but you didn’t have a stammer at school”.

Simple things like answering the telephone (not my favourite thing to do at the best of times) became unbearable.  I was happy for everybody else to answer the office phones, as it meant I didn’t have to and I only spoke to people on the phone when a caller asked for me by name.  Any numbers on my mobile that I didn’t recognise, I just took the attitude of “If it’s that important, they’ll call back”.  One of my work colleagues was even told “Don’t put me through to the guy that stammers – me – as he can’t speak properly”.

Staff/Team meetings were a problem.  I always used to sit in the corner and not say a word.  Not that I didn’t want to join in you understand, but because everyone would just talk over me, and it was just easier to sit in the corner rather than struggle to join in and say my piece.

Asking people for directions was also a problem.  I always just used to follow my nose to get from A to B.  Looking back, I now realise that I was just doing this to avoid talking to people and letting them know I had a stammer.

The turning point for me was in August 2010 when I was on holiday.  I had to call my parents and, however hard I tried, I just couldn’t make myself understood.  It was at this point that I decided I had to do something about my speech.  Not knowing what speech therapy courses were out there, I was lucky to see Gareth Gates talking about The McGuire Programme around the same time that The Kings Speech came out, so decided that this 4 day intensive course would be more beneficial to me than a once a week course somewhere else.

Having made a speech at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park, came my biggest challenge, making a short speech using my new techniques in front of my parents.

I now enjoy – if that’s the right word – making speeches on diversity at work, and I have just started making disclosures to new members of my team so they know how to react when I block.

“1% of you stammer”

Charlie Barnes, from the Department of Work and Pensions delivered a talk this month about his speech and as part of our series to share the stories of people who stammer, he’s shared his speaking notes.

Charlie Barnes

Talk to Strategy Directorate, Department for Work and Pensions 14 March 2018

My name is Charlie Barnes. I’m a civil servant. I’m a scout leader. I’m a husband and I’m a father.

I also happen to have a stammer.

I say ‘also’ because it’s that first list that defines me, not that I have a stammer.

Though I have to admit, it wasn’t always like that.

Growing up in the 70s and 80s – Jesus! Yes, my stammer defined me. Every day was a list of gates to get through. And I would go to bed and it would be exactly the same the next day, forever. 35p for the bus and the ‘oy, people are waiting’. Reading aloud in class and praying that the lesson bell would go before the teacher had a chance to play to the crowd and ‘say ha ha can’t you read yet’. Registration, twice a day and the inevitable sniggering and the retribution in the playground. Children who even then were discovering a way to demonstrate their superhuman ability of being able to say words when they wanted to – even if they were unkind words.

I remember at primary school asking my mum if there were jobs where you didn’t have to talk to people, and she said only if you want to move boxes around a warehouse.

I think it was meant as a disincentive? But you know, it kind of cheered me up as at least there would be something. An ability to say words when they wanted to WAS a superhuman ability. It was quite beyond me. It still is.

However now I have a different attitude, partly because I’m now older and desensitised, but also because society has moved on a little bit.

In the 1970s though a landmark moment was when Open All Hours came on TV, starring Ronnie Barker whose comic turn was that he had a stutter. From that moment every child with a stammer, found out the hard way that they were different, and that it was alright to make fun of them. Even now if you put Ronnie Barker in front of me I have a physical reaction and I can’t get to the television fast enough. At around that time ‘The Stutter Rap’ also gave extra playground amusement. That was the backdrop to school.

But I’m lucky to have grown up in the 1970s. In the 16th century people with stammers were deemed possessed and were condemned for witchcraft. By the 1890s they’d progressed to electric shock treatment. Enlightened times… So Ronnie Barker seems very benevolent in comparison.

We do perpetuate negativity though. When you do read about stammering in the media it is typically some feel-good story about someone who has “conquered” or “overcome” their stammer. They might have made a speech at a wedding, or something. Which is fantastic, and it’s life changing. But it’s not really fact. There is no cure, and there’s a myth that being peddled that people who stammer are somehow just slightly less capable, just a little less confident, a bit less able to assimilate their thoughts into language. And that if only they try hard enough they can be cured. If you don’t you’re lazy or inept. There is no cure. If you’ve got it, you’ve got it. End of.

In many books a mad or bad character often has a stammer. It’s synonymous with ridicule and idiocy. You’ll read “ ‘n n n no’. He stammered, nervously.” Or ‘she has a nervous stammer’. I have had feedback, in DWP, from job interviews where I’ve been told I was unsuited to be an HEO because I lacked confidence. Stammering is not about ‘confidence’ – stammering is about, well… stammering!

So anxiety is NOT a cause of stammering.

However when society is negative it’s no wonder that people are anxious of stammering in public. So yes anxiety and stammering often go together – but the cause and effect are the other way round.

There is a term known as the stammering iceberg.

What you see –or rather hear – is on the surface.

You might think I’m – relatively – fluent right now. But I assure you I’ve been multi-tasking here. I’m reading some key points in notes, but at the same time also skimming ahead looking for problems, substituting words which I don’t want to take a gamble on – which isn’t a good behaviour though I can’t beat myself up about it too much – and trying to talk at the same time. It’s just what I do. It can mean I’m exhausted after talking for a long time.

There are other things going on though. What you hear is the least of it.. There are thoughts and feelings, much repressed, there is a lot of pent up anger, embarrassment, and shame in many people with a stammer.

But that iceberg can be melted, at least a little.

It’s worst in what you call a covert stammerer. That’s someone who will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid being outed as a stammerer. They’ll actively avoid situations where they’ll come unstuck. Success for them is when a meeting goes really badly, or their relationship ends, because they won’t express themselves, but hey at least no-one knows they have a stammer! Doing this is a nightmare, as the whole behaviour around avoidance becomes worse than the stammer and it can be crippling.

An overt stammerer is obvious – they stammer! They’re quite open about it. Some people can be quite militant about it. When people start to ‘own’ their stammer and see it as a key part of who they are, some find the iceberg begins to shrink. The hidden feelings of shame get a bit smaller.

Of course most people are someone between the two extremes. Personally, I don’t mind people knowing. After all, it’s me, if someone doesn’t like it, that’s not MY problem. I’ve had a lifetime trying to fit in and when I reached my thirties I had a moment where I just went ‘pfffttt.. Whatever. What will be will be’. The trigger for that was being very badly bullied by a boss, and I could do absolutely nothing about it. And I’m far happier for that moment where I just gave up and said, you know what folks, THIS IS ME.

But at the same time, yes, of course you do want to fit in. And yes society does – still – have expectations. I confess I find it more difficult around the smooth-talking corridors of Caxton than I do elsewhere. I do feel the pressure of talking with the exactitude demanded by the policy world, swift to red-pen any anomaly or word which isn’t precise.

So I also get lots of people telling me I’m…. thoughtful. Yeah. Maybe. However sometimes I’m just changing my words – just like I did then when I meant say ‘but’ .

The words that defeat me are the ones I can’t change. When I have to give my bank card details, or give my postcode. Or sitting around in those big meetings where you’re turning over your name and your business area on your tongue and wondering if it will come out, or if someone will say ‘ha ha don’t you know your own name’. You count down the people and then it’s you. If you’re lucky you say your bit and the eye of Sauron passes over you and moves on. Those are still, even now, the very worst parts of meetings. In other parts you just can’t shut me up in a meeting. I am an enthusiast and I do care about things.

And in that sense I guess you would call me an extrovert. I – eventually – refused to be put in that career path of pushing boxes around a warehouse. I don’t think I’ve had an overly impressive career, but for me, yeah I’m ok with it. My stammer is what it is and I’m not a militant who if I had a mobility disability would be demanding the levelling of every staircase in the UK.  I accept I am not going to read the 6 o clock news on BBC1. I am not going to be an air traffic controller or a barrister (although there is a traffic controller who has a stammer!). That’s too much for my stammer. But I accept that in the same way I know that Team Sky are not about to ring me to race the Tour de France for them. My heart and lungs and legs are not up to it. You are who you are.

Expectations of society do make it difficult though. A stark example was when I was 18 and I wanted to get an Army bursary to go to University and take up a place at Sandhurst when I graduated.

I did what I recently learned in a Myers Briggs session is my usual ENTJ thing and did alright in the group exercises, and the planning exercises and the group discussions over the three days, but on the strength of a 30-minute interview with a Colonel I was ruled out on the basis that I would be unable to issue commands. And that was that.

When I was 21 and in my second year of uni I tried again and did the same again. But this time a Colonel flicked through the notes from last time and the first question he asked was if I still had a stutter. I said yes, and that was that. No more interview. He said there was no point. I left early. You have two chances in your lifetime.

And of course that was how I found myself, in 2003, in Basra, as a Captain, commanding a body of infantry. And to make a nice business strategy link, it’s all down to data.

Back in those days of not being able to share data very well the regular army and the territorial army, although they had the same selection board, had slightly different administrations, in the same building but in different rooms. So I joined the TA and when later they asked me to apply to be an officer I left the ‘have you applied before’ box blank, and tried my covert stammerer best to not out myself in the three day selection. And that was the start of my army career!

I spent 2 years as a private then was commissioned 2nd Lt then later Lt, as a rifle platoon commander, then was captain at the early age of 26, when I was a company second in command, mortar platoon commander, various jobs. Although army reserve, I did several tours as reinforcement to the regular army, including a month in the Malaysian jungle, spent a lot of time in Germany and did lots of things. The Iraq war was one of those.

 And I have to say the only problems I ever had were from some more senior officers who initially would think I sounded different and not how army officers spoke. But when I showed I could map-read my men to the right little spot of moorland in the small hours of a winters night, and that my first infantry platoon trusted me enough to call me ‘boss’ as opposed to the obligatory ‘sir’, they’d eventually change their mind.

But I think that’s another point – the need to prove all the time, and overcome negative perception. People come and go, especially at work, and then it all starts again. That 1970s backdrop thing is never that far away.

We’ve not talked about what causes stammering.

So for many years no-one really knew. And there were all sorts of theories. In the 18th C it was believed that inarticulation was physical and so certain parts of the tongue were removed by surgeons seeking the perfect shape. In the 19th C the rise of the managerial middle class also gave rise to the new profession of elocution teachers, who were convinced that speech could be relearned. And here there was a ready market. Its leading proponent was a man called James Hunt. In 1930 a man called Wendell Johnson arrived at the University of Iowa and declared ‘stammering begins in the ear of the patient’. He believed that concerns expressed by the parent at an early age when the child was developing speech convinced the child that they were different and they became stammerers. This theory dominated speech therapy into the middle 1970s.

Neither Mr Hunt or Mr Johnson actually cured their own stammers though – so draw your own conclusions.

In the last ten years scientists have found what causes it, through MRI scanning.

Just above the left ear there is an area which processes what is being said and begins to form a response. This passes to an arc of so-called white matter which finesses it and draws on learned memory – words and sounds. It then draws on the cerebellum for the precision, co-ordination and the timing. Then its to the motor cortex which is where the muscles are controlled. And there are a lot. The diaphragm, the larynx, the glottis, the tongue, and so forth. The whole thing is highly complex and like any complex system a single point of failure is catastrophic to the whole.

There are two things different in the brains of people who stammer. The first is that the fibres in this white matter are organised slightly differently in the pre-motor cortex. This means the instructions from one area never quite make their destination properly and the pre-motor cortex area is underactive in people who stammer, with far less electrical activity than in fluent people. Or so I understand.

The second thing is that the listening to speech area and the areas involved in speech production are totally synchronised in fluent speakers. Scans of the electrical waves show that in people who stammer they are not aligned.

And that, my friends, is why we stammer.

So it turns out those chaps in the 18th C were right after all. It does have a physical cause. Thank God they stuck with tongues though rather than having a go at brain surgery.

So why does it differ from day to day? Well, the same as anyone else. A late night, being stressed, or being frustrated at work, or unhappy, affects everyone, with a stammer or not. But with a stammer the extra demand on the white matter can overload it to the point of actually blocking speech. Every one of you will have experienced apprehension before a job interview. You feel that in your stomach and you actually call it butterflies in your stomach. However it isn’t stomach at all, it’s the diaphragm and its muscular tension. The diaphragm is absolutely critical for speech. Talking about that job interview scenario, imagine your normal nerves and layering in over the top of that the breathing exercises and speech practice and over the top of that the extra anxiety from your uncertainty that you’ll actually be fluent at all – never mind the content of what you want to say. In DWP you’re marked on your competency evidence – believe me, that’s only half of it.

And that brings me to what you can do.

Just preserving the interview scenario a moment longer, it doesn’t take much. I was once a call centre team leader and my interview involved a presentation. In my two years in that job I never once did a presentation. If you recruit for a role, then put people through the right hoops but not unnecessary ones.

But the big thing is, just ask. Someone once asked ‘what can I do to help?’ and I replied ‘there’s no need now because you’ve just done it.’ He had effectively said it’s ok to be me’. And frankly that is the perfect reasonable adjustment.

I do now mention it at interview, not as a caveat but to explain that I have a stammer, I use a breathing technique, it might not work all the time but I don’t want you to be uncomfortable about it. The other is to not assume. Don’t assume that someone with a stammer can’t do things. Like Bruce Willis or Michael Palin or Emily Blunt. Don’t assume they can’t talk in public – look at Ed Balls. Or sing – Ed Sheeran. And Colonel whatever your name was in 1989, don’t assume that the 18 year old in front of you won’t be commanding infantry in the second gulf war.

Lastly, know this. There is no cure. The most anyone can do is to try to control it. Usually through breathing techniques and speech exercises every day. For some reason it helps, I don’t know why. But its always there, it always wanting to trip me up, and sometimes I’m the windscreen and sometimes I’m the fly. If you understand that, it helps people like us.

You will all know someone who stammers and some of you may work with one. They are 1% of the population, consistent across the world, and in the ratio of 80% male, 20% female. That’s also consistent. So that’s about 700,000 in the UK. I would doubt that proportions are evenly spread across every industry. Certainly in this team in DWP there don’t seem many of us, I knew of several when I was an operations manager, none of whom were in management positions. I suspect that many people do instead opt to push boxes around a warehouse and don’t realise their potential.

But that’s where you come in.

There is information out there you can look at. The Civil Service has a stammering network and we all support each other. This lunch and learn today is part of that.

They recently published an employers guide, quite short, which is really good for understanding how you can meet the needs of stammerers.

I’m going to leave it there, you’ll understand when I tell you I’ve had enough of talking!

However if you have any questions I’ll be happy to answer them.

Fighting stammering stigma by changing our words

trustee_patrick_edGuest blog by Patrick Campbell, a British Stammering Association trustee, who has written a paper challenging the way people describe stammering and unwittingly contribute to stigma.

A diverse and inclusive workplace is being increasingly appreciated to be vital to maximising the abilities and talents of all employees. In a recent blog post, Sir Jeremy Heywood, Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, has described it as a ‘moral imperative’ which delivers better public services.

Stigma is the adversary of this inclusivity. Stigma towards different races, religions, sexualities and disabilities can lead us to belittle colleagues, to hinder their integration into teams, and ultimately to preclude their effective contributions at work.

We all carry stigmatised views. They are the mark of living in an imperfect society. What we need to is challenge all these stigmatised views that we find within ourselves and others when they arise.

Unfortunately, stigma can be so woven into the fabric of society that it can be easy to overlook. One particularly insidious example is our language. The words we use are not innocent. They express a particular perspective, value, or preference as our language is wrapped up in culture.

The language we commonly hear, speak and read is from an imperfect society; the language we use has become stigmatised. My experience of this is as a person who stammers. Having a stammer and speaking in a way which is ‘different’ from other people, has been proven to have a significant effect on the individual:

  • Children who stammer are more likely to be bullied in school (Davis et al., 2007)
  • People who stammer are at higher risk of mental health problems than the general
    population (Iverach and Rapee, 2014)
  • People who stammer can be excluded from employment and find it more challenging to get a job (Butler, 2014)

A commonly used term to hear for a person who stammers is ‘overcome’: “Patrick, you did really well to overcome your stammer during the presentation”. At first look the sentence seems positive even inclusive but look deeper. Stammering as a disability had to be counteracted; it wasn’t simply an accepted part of the individual. It tells the individual they will only be accepted at work if they continue produce results which outweigh the negative impact of their speech disability. Not exactly conducive to an inclusive, fair workplace.

We recently produced a paper at the British Stammering Association that explores the use of language around stammering and affirms positive changes in language to reduce stigma in society against stammering: The Way We Talk by Patrick Campbell. There’s a simple table below to give some practical examples which we can all use to be more inclusive towards people who stammer, whether you’re describing someone, talking to a stammerer, or writing a piece of journalism.

But if you’re short on time, just remember the words we use are important. Reflect on the connotations the words you choose convey: they may surprise you.

From: The Way We Talk by Patrick Campbell






It’s OK, it’s my birthmark

mo-rahman.jpgAs part of our series sharing the voices of people who stammer,  Mo Rahman from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy talks for the first time about his relationship with his stammer.

As far as I can remember, I have had a stammer since I was 7 yrs old.  As I became aware of the difficulty I was having with my speech, it became progressively worse as I grew older.  I didn’t have much support at a young age and coming from a family background where speaking fluently and showing one’s wit was prized highly, you can imagine what affect that had on me.  Being a person who wanted to speak his mind and not being able to verbalise my thoughts didn’t help either.  And to top it all off, I was a very self-conscious person, and this meant that every time I spoke I became very conscious of what other people might say about my stammer.

I never got the sense as a teenager growing up that I was who I wanted to be, or rather, I was not being myself.  It felt like I had to put on an act in order to minimise the impact of my stammer; on myself and to those around me.  And therefore avoid the embarrassment and ridicule that comes with it.

So I stayed silent when I wanted to speak, pretended I couldn’t read well so as not to be asked to read aloud in class (I dreaded English despite having a love for books!), and didn’t engage as much as I should have or wanted to.   This act carried on to other parts of life; every interaction with another human being revolved around how can I minimise or hide my stammer?

Little did I know that this was having a negative psychological and behavioural effect on me.  In effect, what I was doing was rejecting myself; my intellect, my interests, my personality…my self-worth.  It was a downhill spiral.

Now, while this was going on my head, I was actually achieving success in many other things.  I was one of the best students in my class, I doing well educationally, won awards, the first in my family to attend university and well-liked by my friends and peers.   But for me success was speaking fluently, all the other things I had achieved were not enough!  Every success was tainted because I had a stammer.  I began to realise I needed help but didn’t know where to go.

My first year at university was awfully hard.  I wanted to fit in, impress my peers, do class presentations (argh) and achieve my grades!  But again stammering got in the way.  Things got so bad mentally, that I desperately needed someone to speak to.  This was when I first came across counselling provided by the university.  I learnt that speaking about my stammer to someone actually helped me offload and remove a lot of inbuilt barriers and insecurities!  By talking about my life I could put things in perspective.

However, similar fears started to creep up again at work and family life. I needed more help and quickly.  I sought help from CityLit Stammering Therapy courses.  Slowly I began to understand myself better, that stammering was a part of me, it’s OK. I should accept it…it’s my birthmark.  I am more than the speech I utter, I am my personality, the passions I have in life, my hobbies and the many things that I have achieved and continue to achieve.  In affect I slowly learnt to find my identity, my self-worth  And I began to feel at peace with who I was…finally living in my own skin.

Don’t get me wrong though, I wish I could speak fluently…but not everyone get what they want.  I need to accept who I am and be thankful for what I have.  I will carry on in life with my stammer…it’s a unique way of speaking.



New guide on stammering for employers

The Civil Service, a member of the Employers Stammering Network, is committed to providing help and guidance to all staff who have or work with someone who stammers. But it can often be difficult to know what help to give or how to approach the subject.

As everyone who stammers knows, there are many misconceptions about this complex neurological condition. Although many people would be able to recognise a stammer if they heard it, most people have no idea what is going on under the surface and how it can adversely affect working life in many ways.

To support these vital conversations the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion, and the Employers Stammering Network have co-written a guide to support employers and line managers: UnderstandingStammeringGuideforEmployersOct2017

The guide is for people who stammer, for managers and colleagues, for HR and Diversity and Inclusion teams and others to use and help open up conversations about stammering.

It includes:

  • Information about the obvious and the hidden aspects of stammering
  • Quotes from the lived experience at work of people who stammer
  • Good practice suggestions
  • Facts and figures
  • Resources/Sources of support

Please download and share this guide with your teams or publish it on your departmental intranets. We want to help spread this guidance as widely as possible across the Civil Service.

If you’d like to learn more about stammering or find out about support in your own department or agency, do contact one of our ambassadors who’d be more than happy to help.

We’re keen to hear your feedback so do share your stories of how you’ve used the guide. Simply comment below or contact Helen Carpenter, ESN Manager hc@stammering.org

How I brought my whole self to work

Paul Barrett from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, part of our network of ambassadors, explains what it means to ‘bring his whole self to work’ as someone who stammers.



The department values were launched recently, promoting inclusiveness and inviting everyone to “bring their whole selves to work”. But what might this mean?

For me it started last October. A Civil Service wide blog on International Stammering Awareness Day caught my eye. I have a stammer but I had never heard of this day (although I knew about International Doughnut Day!). The excellent blog by Betony Kelly sought to create a Civil Service Stammering Network and raise awareness of stammering.

In my career I had never had contact with stammering organisations or come across colleagues who stammered. In retrospect I think Betony’s blog was my invitation. Knowing there were others who stammered at work and that a group was being formed filled me with enthusiasm. It was all the permission I needed to bring more of myself to work.

My stammer is a covert one; this means you may not even notice I stammer because I manage it. So I took that first step, maybe the hardest for me, but the most important; I started sharing that I had a stammer. I shared with my line manager, I shared with my Directorate and now I am sharing with you.

E-mailing the Directorate certainly got my “fight or flight” adrenalin response flowing. But the response to my e-mail, which included a link to Betony’s blog and the British Stammering Association’s tips on recruiting people with stammers, was really positive and supportive. So I am carrying on, waving this flag and owning my stammer.

Gone (well, almost) are the days of worrying whether I will stammer when I present to a group or chair a meeting. Now I confidently open with “I have a stammer” and tell others “it’s OK to stammer, and if I do today, I’m not going to worry about it”. I enjoy presenting and chairing and this openness allows me to bring more of myself to the moment and focus more on the message and outcome I am aiming for.

How can we bring more of ourselves to the workplace? What is it that might be stopping us? Some may have the confidence from the start; for others, they may want to see awareness and understanding in place or wait until there is safety in numbers.

I’m working with the Civil Service Stammering Network and the Employers Stammering Network to develop awareness raising materials which I can share with the Department. Hopefully we will have something ready for the next International Stammering Awareness day on 22 October 2017.

I am also offering an open invitation to others who identify with stammering to share more of yourself in the workplace. Join the Civil Service Stammering Network or contact me if you would like to be part of an informal BEIS Stammering Network. Or get in touch if you would like to speak in confidence first. I can also provide a contact in the Employers Stammering Network.

Have you had your invitation to bring your whole self to work? What does this mean for you?


How could I encourage others with disabilities to be open when I wasn’t?

Amanda Bradbury, from Department for Work and Pensions, talks about making the choice to be open about her stammer.

It was only very recently I acknowledged that I have a disability. I have a stammer. I’ve had a stammer since childhood and over the years I’ve learned how to manage it.

If you met me you probably wouldn’t realise. Why haven’t I acknowledged this before? I honestly don’t know. I suppose part of it was embarrassment and because, lets be honest, not many of us like to show others we can be vulnerable – especially in the workplace.

There are a few reasons why I’ve decided now is the right time for me to be open about my disability. I’m involved in a Civil Service Local Diversity and Inclusion Network and thought how could I encourage others with disabilities to be open when I wasn’t? I was also inspired by the former shadow chancellor Ed Balls (I’m a huge strictly come dancing fan!) who recently discussed his own stammer on a radio show. I thought if someone in the public eye could have the confidence to talk about his own speech difficulties then so could I. Finally, age not only brings wrinkles but experience and a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger.

My hope is that by being open about my stammer, I encourage others in the same position to do the same. Some years ago I was placed in a job role that involved me delivering training courses. At the time this was my worst nightmare – even with a very well controlled stammer. Instead of being open with my then line manager and talking through my anxieties and asking for support, I worked myself into such a state I ended up paying for hypnotherapy to help me overcome my fears.

How different an experience this would have been had I had the courage to ask for help. For anyone else in a similar position, I would urge you to take the plunge ask for help. Finally, don’t let your stammer hold you back.