James Stewart, Chairperson of the Scottish Stammering Network is stepping down after 9 years at the helm.
When I was 14 years old, I wrote a letter to myself. I sealed it with instructions not to open it until at least a decade had past.
When I opened the letter 12 years later my life had changed massively. The letter did what it was intended to do. It provided a link from childhood to adulthood so I could remind myself what I was like at that stage in my life.
I am 35 now and I look at the letter often. It talks about lots of things such as how important my family is to me and my hopes for the future. The one thing that I did not mention in the letter was my stammer. It did not feature anywhere.
By the letter not mentioning my stammer even though it did affect me profoundly, it speaks volumes of not wanting to admit even to myself that it was an issue. I didn’t put in the letter anything about my stammer because I was convinced that one day I would just wake up and it would be gone. My stammer made me feel like I was hiding a deep dark secret that was incredibly shameful.
I was in and out of speech therapy throughout my teenage years but it was not until I went back after university finished that everything clicked for me. I learned about desensitisation to stammering at speech therapy and I started to attend a stammering self-help group as well. From this, I started on a journey of no longer caring what anyone thought of my stammer and I could move on from it and even help other people.
A few years later, I founded the Scottish Stammering Network with John Mann and Lorna Bonaccorsi-McIlreavy and I have been lucky enough to be the Chairperson since we founded it 9.5 years ago. In that time I have ran support groups, workshops, open days and learned how to run a charity. I’ve been an after dinner speaker and have been interviewed on TV, radio and newspapers all to raise awareness of stammering and the work of the Scottish Stammering Network. If I did not have a stammer, I would not have experienced these things and I am so pleased that I have as its let me grow as a person.
I am stepping down as Chairperson at the end of this month and I am really proud of and grateful to the whole team of Trustees at the charity who have always been so supportive to make everything possible that the Scottish Stammering Network does.
I look forward to supporting in any way I can our new Co-Chairs of John Mann and Megan Hart as they lead the Scottish Stammering Network into an exciting future.