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‘Nedu Ahanonu: A Stutterer’s Tale! 5 Things that Helped Me Thrive

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No, this isn’t a heart-warming tearjerker a.k.a “Stories that touch” about how I conquered stammering and soared into the happy-ever-after blue sky. Hardly. It’s a matter-of-fact tale of how I’ve achieved the things I’ve set my mind to do regardless of it.

I’ve stuttered since the age of 10. I do remember that it started from being somewhat shy, then graduated to speaking too quickly, a rush of words like I was in a hurry, and then it escalated to these painfully uncontrollable repetitions that made me feel afraid about speaking in front of large groups of unfamiliar people. I was nervous because I stammered and I’d stammer more because I was nervous about stammering. A circular dilemma…

It held me back for so long, gave me an excuse to not do things. A year after I completed a pattern drafting and dressmaking course, I started writing a well-received DIY sewing blog. Then, motivated by popular demand I decided that I wanted to teach a live class, but I procrastinated for the longest time because of the fear of being literally lost for words mid-speech while teaching. What would my students think? How would they perceive me?

I suppose we find ways to conquer our fears by testing the waters, one unsure foot after the other. Eventually, the desire to live better versions of our own lives gives us the courage to swim into the deeper end, not minding whether we sink or float, but mostly desperate not to regret never having tried in the first place.

Well, I launched the Nedoux Sewing Club and held my first live sewing class in July 2016. I did not sink. The anchor that stammering tried to tie around my neck did not pull me down. I swam regardless. I’ve held 16 monthly sewing workshops since then, and taught nearly 300 people so far. I really enjoy teaching.

We discover ourselves as we deal with challenges. In my self-discovery I’ve learned to:

Breathe
Because half the battle is the fear of ridicule. I realised that as I got older, stammering in itself didn’t bother me as much as it did when I was younger. What actually bothered me was people seeing my struggle, them observing the inner turmoil visible on my face and in my body language, whilst I mentally tried to control the spasmodic words running amok like naughty children inside me.

Well, I’ve learned that people will be alright, nobody ever died from listening to a stutterer. I own it with zero apologies. Here are some tips I’ve used to manage my stuttering.

Practice my speeches
I make videos with my phone camera; I just talk about random things and record myself. It felt silly the first time, now it’s fun. I’ve observed my speech mannerisms while watching my videos and learned how to pace myself with well-timed pauses. I’ve managed to control the struggle and it’s improved my confidence with regards to public speaking.

Identify my lexical triggers
I cannot utter certain words easily, for some reason there’s a time lapse between when my brain passes the words like a relay baton and when my mouth catches said words. So, I’ve learned to find synonyms of my trigger words that are easier to enunciate.

Address the elephant in the room before it starts break-dancing energetically
Right after I introduce myself and just before I commence teaching a class, I do something I call a “Disclosure Tradition”. With a bright smile, I casually inform my new students that I have a mild stutter, and I assure them it will be a good class regardless. This disclosure does something remarkable, as they become understanding.

I’ve done this during job interviews too. I let the interviewer know beforehand that I had a mild stutter, and they smiled in understanding. I relaxed and allow myself to be interviewed. I was hired.

Self-validate
I set the standards for my life using my personal yardstick. I know I’m good enough. Simple.

Last year, I wanted to shoot sewing tutorial videos, as I was keen to increase my audience via YouTube. Again I procrastinated for the longest time, I wondered how many bloopers I’d go through before managing to arrive at useable content.

See, I’m certain that when one has the right intentions, God will use people to remind us that our dreams are valid. I finally found the courage to discuss with a video producer and right after I told him my concerns, he told me not to worry about it. Nnamdi had a brother who stammered too, so he understood. He patiently encouraged me to focus on doing my bit, because he would do his editing magic afterwards. So, we laughed good-naturedly while we shot several takes during production.

The day I received the post-production videos, I watched with tears of joy rolling down my face, it was perfect. I did a proper video. Me! Indeed, nothing is impossible, if only we tried.

I’ve done it afraid. I’ve done it regardless of a supposed flaw. I’ve simply done it.

36 Comments

  1. Ade

    October 22, 2017 at 7:10 pm

    From one stammerer to another stammerer… great job! I started stammering from Age 4 and I still do but it’s pretty mild now and most people don’t even know that I stammer. I guess I have come a long way as evidenced by the fact that I gave the valedictory speech for my MBA class in front of more than 250 guests and it was well received. Stammering did not hold me back from achieving my dreams and I am glad that you are soaring in spite of it.

    1
    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 7:56 pm

      Hello Ade,

      Thank you for reading this.

      Valedictory speech in front of 250 people? That is awesome. Well done! ???

      I agree, it does get easier to deal with after a while. At the end of the day, what’s more important is what one is saying and not how they are saying it. ?

      Best wishes!

    • John

      October 23, 2017 at 6:11 am

      Everyone has their ‘thing’, I guess. I find stutterers kind of sexy. Is that why i’m married to one? Errr, don’t think so. But I just love her so when she’s angry and struggling to get the words out and trying to kill me same time. No, I don’t get her angry deliberately..(…I’m not an asshole like you!) Now, if she should ever read this and put two and two together, I’m toast.
      Love you girl. Glad you’d risen beyond this seeming obstacle.

  2. Nelly

    October 22, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    Nedu Ahanonu thanks for these tips, i my self is a stammerer, i think i learnt mine from my kid sis. I was not born a stammerer, sometimes i wish my words would flow as it is on my mind, but i still get some hiccups along the line. Will put these tips in practice and i pray it helps me as it does helps you too. I even put mine in prayers too, so help me God.

    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 8:39 pm

      Hello Nelly,

      Thank you for reading this. We live, we learn, we share…

      @”sometimes I wish my words would flow as it is on my mind” . This resonated deeply, I know the struggle. ?

      Stay calm and keep talking regardless of how it comes out, your words are valid.

      I agree with you, prayers reassure us, God listens when we ask for help.

      Best wishes!

    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 9:57 pm

      Hello Nelly,

      Thank you for reading this. We live, we learn, we share…

      @”sometimes I wish my words would flow as it is on my mind” . This resonated deeply, I know the struggle. ?

      Stay calm and keep talking regardless of how it comes out, your words are valid.

      I agree with you, prayers reassure us, God listens when we ask for help.

      Best wishes!

  3. Honiilols

    October 22, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I never knew this. And you took up the daunting task of teaching a large no of people, regardless. I admire that.

    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 9:37 pm

      Hi Oyin,

      Thank you reading this. 🙂

      I almost didn’t but I’m so glad that I took the plunge and did. Teaching has been a good method for speech practice, it’s helped me overcome my fear of speaking to large groups of unfamiliar people.

    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 9:38 pm

      Hi Oyin,

      Thank you so much for reading this. 🙂

      I almost didn’t but I’m so glad that I took the plunge and did. Teaching has been a good method for speech practice, it’s helped me overcome my fear of speaking to large groups of unfamiliar people.

  4. FifiLa

    October 22, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    Hi guys,
    I also have a mild stammer….I have a covert stutter. I ACTUALLY made my stammer a big bad monster for too long. I seeked therapy and the bulk of my sessions focused on the emotional aspects.
    Imagine loving to talk and having a stammer, that’s me. Having my mom come to one of my sessions was life changing. She didn’t think my stammer required therapy… I didn’t know until recently that she has a well hidden stammer. Sometimes just talking about it to those you trust helps with dealings with this emotional issue.

    I wish all you joy & happiness?

    • Nedoux

      October 22, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Hello FifiLa,

      I enjoyed reading your comment. Lol @ “Imagine loving to talk and having a stammer” 😀

      With time, I’ve mastered the art of masking my stammer by identifying my trigger words and stepping around them gingerly, by substituting with synonyms. Still, I’ll admit that I don’t always win the “Game of Control”

      You are right, talking to those who you trust and who understand your experience really helps.

      Best wishes & blessings!

  5. Tilooo

    October 22, 2017 at 8:47 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article. This is the most helpful article I have read on BN and it came at the right time for me, as I was just thinking about this my speech wahala last night. I have been thinking of how to control my speech better cos I stutter for no reason at all and I know mine stems from the need to talk fast fast. The way you explained this thing ehn, it’s as if you are in my head, This gives me hope and I can’t wait to use these tips

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 10:25 am

      Hello Tilooo,

      Thank you so much for reading this.

      Lol @ “The need to talk fast fast” . I can relate 100% .

      For me, that rush of words is what comes before I lose control, and then the involuntary repetitions take over. I’ve learnt to slightly elongate the words which relaxes my speech process, effectively making the vocal cord spasms “Dead on Arrival” and I win back control. 😀

      Best wishes!

    • Regina

      October 22, 2018 at 11:11 pm

      And I thought I was the only one in the world with this!

  6. Nene

    October 22, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    Dear Nedu,
    Thank you for this! I also have a stutter, It could be quite embarrassing tbh, but I have come to know that stuttering is an Art. You just need to know how to be creative with it when those blockages come up while talking. I’m still learning my art. 🙂

    Also, please watch “THE KING’S SPEECH”. It’s about King George VI who also had a stutter.
    P.S. have some tissue with you while watching it. Here is the link below

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1iQJyZu8-_o&list=LLEbh6q3L-UKxpzSqe4HKg2g&index=65

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 10:50 am

      Hello Nene,

      Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed reading your comment. I’ll watch the movie.

      Indeed, it is an art. Creatively sidestepping triggers like a boss. Lol

      Yes, it can be very embarrassing, but eventually one realizes that other people will be alright. No one’s tombstone has ever read “Here lies so and so, who slumped and died after listening to a stutterer” Abi? 😀

      Best wishes!

  7. ijebujesha

    October 22, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    My younger brother was a chronic stammerer and my heart would get totally devastated when he would break down in tears when trying to talk. By God’s grace, it has not held him back. With time and support and encouragement from all us, he got back his self-esteem and confidence and we have all forgotten about that episode now. This piece brought back those memories, with feelings of gratitude to God.

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 11:38 am

      Hello,

      This pulled my heartstrings. The struggle, which is actually both physical and mental, can be rather frustrating.

      I’m so glad your brother had the support and understanding of loved ones, makes it easier,

      Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  8. beryl

    October 22, 2017 at 11:00 pm

    Hi nedu..I love ur videos n truthfully want to b a fashion designer..n save enuf money to purchase that your sewing matching I like..this is off topic,but I need help…I embarked on a sewing training exercise,DAT I really didn’t want to; I love fashion,but not necessarily d sewing aspect I am more in love with designs,details n fashion illustrations ( I can barely draw a tree).. My problems is ,I feel stuck in this whole sewing process. I am losing interest fast,although I v to learn a skill,hence,my still being in d game..any words of advice pls..it will b much appreciated.. Tnx n God bless

    • Owen

      October 23, 2017 at 11:04 am

      My advice is to ask you to please start working on your spelling and written communication.

      If you wish to be taken seriously….I’m just saying…stop the childish abbreviations.

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 11:49 am

      Hello Beryl,

      Thank you so much for watching my tutorial videos.

      I understand what you mean. The garment production process is actually made up of a series of tasks, from ideation to execution. Designing>> Illustration>> Pattern Drafting>> Grading>> Fabric Cutting>> Sewing>> Finishing/Quality control etc.

      It’s perfectly fine if one simply chooses to specialize in one role. I can recommend an excellent Fashion Illustration tutor who can teach you how to draw and design. Check out @OmonighoImonah on Instagram.

      Best wishes!

  9. memebaby

    October 23, 2017 at 3:21 am

    haven’t read the post but as soon as i saw the headline my eyes got wider! Nigerian blog and stuttering? i cant wait to read
    i am a stutterer.. struggled with it all my life. still have shameful moments with it …growing up in nigeria, everyone thought I would outgrow stuttering. so here i am 25 and still stuttering and all..
    I think mine is related to stress and when I feel anxious.. it is well 🙂
    going to read your post now 🙂

  10. Serene

    October 23, 2017 at 3:58 am

    This is so helpful. I always have a lot to say but panic and not say it because I stutter. I’m gradually learning to own up to this part of me. Thanks for sharing

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 2:12 pm

      Hello,

      You know it’s somewhat funny how the panic precedes the repetitions and the repetitions fuel the panic. 😀

      @”I’m gradually learning to own up to this part of me” Well done, that’s the spirit! . Owning it helped me to be a little less self-conscious about it and more self-accepting.

      I wish you the very best!

  11. memebaby

    October 23, 2017 at 5:04 am

    I have always avoided anything that would single me out.. public speaking, presentations.. i try to avoid it all. I never dealt with my stutter until this year. I started reading articles and I realized that I am a covert stutterer and using the term ‘blocks’ (didn’t know thats the definition of what I experience). I am slowly making progress (?) as I am trying not to be ashamed of it. I have allowed my stutter take control of my life..from being extremely nervous at interviews even when I have practiced and I know what to say..words don’t come out.. do you know how embarrassing that is ?
    I know I can do so much more with my life but I don’t know why stuttering has taken over me
    Anyways, i have decided to see a speech pathologist and I am still thinking about trying toastmasters because the jobs I would like to have would require me to give presentations and just for personal growth.. i need to fix this or at least change my perception on something..
    but this was a nice article.. thank you 🙂

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 2:48 pm

      Hello dear,

      Thank you so much for sharing your experience, I admire your honesty., I have walked the same mile in your shoes, your concerns are valid. You’ll be fine, trust me.

      Ah, I know how embarrassing it can be! Especially when you have so much to say, when your head is brimming with your well-composed thoughts, but you feel SO powerless to articulate eloquently, or push the words out fluidly. Then you worry that people would assume that you are inadequate and then judge you. 😀

      Don’t be ashamed, everyone has their challenges, some are less obvious than others, but they are there nonetheless.

      I have thought about joining Toastmasters too, I believe it would help.

      I wish you the very best!

  12. Temitope

    October 23, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Nice article, quick question. Is it possible to become a stutterer at 30? This is because I find myself stuttering these days. It’s like it takes a while for my mouth to translate the words my brain is saying. I deliberately speak slowly now because of that and it is starting to affect my work.

    • Nedoux

      October 23, 2017 at 8:15 pm

      Hello Temitope,

      Thank you for reading this.

      Although a good number of stutterers have a childhood history, I’m certain there are no age restrictions on when the condition can first present itself. It is what it is…

      Try out the phone video method, pretend you are a glamorous news presenter, it’s a fun way for speech practice. ?

      Best wishes!

  13. AceOfSpades

    October 23, 2017 at 2:49 pm

    This article made me feel bad about myself. I once asked a girl that stutter in secondary to let me take picture with her and she declined. It hurt me so bad then so I started taunting her. When she wanted to talk, I’d giggle, she’d lose her confidence and try to talk more but her speech would be so messed up and everyone in class will laugh making her cry. It got so bad she couldn’t even talk when I was around and she always tried to avoid me. I’d make stuttering sounds to even taunt her more. The teachers did little to help her as I wasn’t committing any offense.

    I got to know later that she declined that day just to show her friends she’s not soft(girls do this a lot that year) but she’d love to take that pic. On our VS day back then, she asked that we take a pic but I told her No as a payback. This made me feel so bad reading about the struggles of stutterers.

    Banke A, I’m sorry for those days. I hope we can have a secondary school reunion so I can personally apologize.

    • Olayemi

      October 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm

      Look for her and apologize.

  14. purplesivy

    October 24, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    this brings back memories.
    I stutter, thank God its mild now.
    i had difficulty pronouncing Daddy or Mummy as a kid and my lil brother will make fun of me always. it made me very temperamental.

    i can remember trying to sing a special number in church as a kid one day and i stood infront of the whole church to sing and stuttering made a fool out of me. No word/sound came out at all.. i cried so much that night when i got home.

    my dad taught me the breathing technique and it worked magic for me always.

    Nedu, thank you for this article.

  15. Donald Lockwood

    October 24, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    Great article! I think Nedu puts a human face on stuttering. Two uplifting things for stammerers to read are on the website of the nonprofit charity The Stuttering Foundation (www.stammeringhelp.org). There is a “Celebrity Corner” section with biographical articles on famous stammerers like Noel Gallagher, Paul Young, Gareth Gates, Emily Blunt, Rowan Atkinson and Bruce Willis. Also the site has a list of “Famous People Who Stammer” ….. I was astounded that Kim Philby is on the list. This is a link to the fascinating biographical articles……

    http://www.stutteringhelp.org/celebritycorner

  16. FifiLa

    October 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm

    It felt so good reading these comments, knowing that there are people out there who completely understand the pain & hurt associated with stuttering.

    It would be great to form a support group of sorts. To encourage each other daily……

    1
  17. Clarissa

    October 22, 2018 at 7:04 pm

    Nedu, thanks for sharing this amazing and empowering words of validation.

    Doing it afraid …is a journey; win or lose, lessons will be learned along the way.

    1
  18. TAS

    June 6, 2019 at 8:16 pm

    Hello guys, just in case anyone is looking for more information. I dont think stuttering is talked about in our community, that is why I have created a podcast called the african stutterer ( i have a link on blog too).
    also check out my blog.
    https://theafricanstutterer.home.blog/

    thank you.

  19. Oliver

    January 12, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks alot

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