Finding my voice

Ayo Adesanya struggled for years with a stammer but is now finding his voice thanks to a new treatment

Ayo Adesanya

Ayo Adesanya outside his home in Highams Park

I used to be a very different man, a stark contrast to the man I have become. I was insecure, desperate, helpless, frustrated, and even suicidal.

I was a man who felt that I could only express myself by building up my body in the gym – hitting the boxing bag as hard as I could, because it was the only form of expression I knew.

Stuttering took a huge negative toll on my life and had me in a constant whirlpool of self-hatred and self-inflicted isolation for 26 years. Stammering took away my self-confidence and ambitions. I never thought I was good enough, I always thought I was a burden to others – incompetent, as though I didn’t deserve be here.

Previously I thought I could just float through life, dodging and ducking all speaking situations, but after college this strategy became harder to maintain as I had to grow up and take more responsibility for myself. At university I found it increasingly difficult to function and my anxiety was higher than ever.

I had graduated from Loughborough University with a finance degree but found myself working in security. Meeting new people was very difficult, and I would often avoid it at all costs, even if it meant forgoing a life-changing opportunity. On one occasion I had the

chance of an internship with a blue-chip company in the banking industry, but I turned it down because of my fear of speaking.

This is what stammering can do to one’s mental health if you are not supported in the right way. Stammering turned me into an introvert, when deep down I was an extrovert. I was never able to be the person I’ve always wanted to be.

I was miserable, and one night around Christmas last year I decided to kill myself. I was sitting in front of some pills and about to take them, but something told me to do a Google search one last time. I searched “stammer cure 2017” and found the McGuire Programme and I went on the website and decided I would give it ago. I didn’t really want to die.

Since joining the McGuire Programme just five months ago, I have completely turned my life around. I can now say I have gained control over my stammer through the unlimited support I have received from other students, and the great coaching staff from the programme.

It has allowed me to accept myself for who I really am. It has allowed me to develop into the best version of myself, rather than trying to fit in with the crowd by not showing my true feelings. I’d been hiding behind a mask and pretending to be happy, when all I wanted to do was cry and be honest.

Joining the programme offered me an environment where it was okay for me to stammer but I could do something about it if I wanted to. It was okay to be yourself and it was okay to ask for help. I learned that having a stammer does not make me abnormal, it makes me different – and being different is good.

The programme has made me stand out, pushing me to work hard on my speech day in, day out, and much more than the average fluent speaker ever would. Setting me the challenge of becoming more articulate, and even more eloquent, than the non-stammerers, made my journey even greater. It is a fantastic challenge to have.

I have done things that even most fluent speakers would dread to do, including giving public speeches in the middle of busy town centres, going into shops and cafes simply announcing that I have a stammer, asking strangers questions, leading and taking part in stammering workshops, helping others gain control over their speech – all in the effort to reduce the fear of speaking.

The more we speak, the better we get at speaking, which in turn boosts our confidence, thus reducing our stammer. It almost works like magic! We simply do what we fear the most, which is to talk. I genuinely think if everyone simply did what they feared the most, phobia experts would be out of business in no time at all.

Once you fully accept yourself with whatever affliction or disability you have, and own it, advertise it, and disregard what anyone thinks, your world view will change. You will do the things that make you happy. I’m a kinder, more appreciative, giving, and happier person because of joining the McGuire Programme. I have turned my stammering from a disadvantage to an advantage. I now look at it as a gift rather than a curse – I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to write this article if I didn’t have a stammer.

I hope that throughout my journey I can inspire other people who have a similar affliction. I want to inspire not only those who stammer, but anyone with a lack of confidence, who may be suffering from depression, social anxiety, or anyone who feels they can’t do what they really want to do – because you can!

I now believe in myself, and want to help others achieve this too. But the first and most important step, is to reach out and ask for help. You are the key to your own better future.


For more information on the McGuire Programme and how to join:

Visit mcguireprogramme.com

If you need someone to talk to about what you’re going through, contact Samaritans for free at any time of day:

Call 116 123

Email jo@samaritans.org

Visit samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you

There is also a Samaritans branch at 663 Lea Bridge Road, Leyton E10 6AL. Its opening hours are Monday 8pm-10pm, Tuesday 2pm-10pm, Wednesday 8pm-10pm, Thursday 5pm-10pm, Friday 2pm-10pm, Saturday 2pm-10pm, Sunday 2pm-7pm.

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