Lorraine: “I’ve loved attending the Open Space sessions. Mostly I’ve really enjoyed meeting people from different walks of life and being able to openly discuss some of the issues I face as a person who stammers. I was anxious about attending at first and think I found it difficult to identify myself as someone who stammers as my stammer is often not apparent to those around me. I think attending the groups has been part of a much bigger journey for me around cultivating a deeper sense of acceptance of myself and the difficult thoughts and feelings that show up when I stammer. At the end of the day I’ve met a great group of people with different professions, personalities etc. who all happen to stammer at times. We discuss issues related to work, new therapies, discussing stammering with loved ones, and sometimes just have a good old chat and a laugh over a cup of tea! I’m so glad I worked up the courage to attend and I’d encourage anyone who isn’t sure to go along and see what it’s about!“
Dale: “Attending the open space after months of contemplation, I was initially met with some levels of anxiety and although I didn’t say much at all on the first session, I still left feeling somewhat liberated because for the first time in a long while I felt hope. I have been stammering since the age of 11 and it was only at my final year of university, at 22, I decided to seek help. More than a decade of struggling with speech anxiety where I was harbouring this internal conflict between wanting to be out there, to be seen and to be heard and at the same time wanting to hide away in shame and embarrassment, had left me feeling very cynical about building new friendships, of my job prospects and my future in general. However, at the open space I met people from all walks of life and many had had successful careers despite their stammer. I have found that we all have different degrees and intensity of stammering, but we still connect through our struggles with speech and wanting to understand it on a deeper level. It has definitely been an eye opening experience for me and has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone bit by bit – because as they say (and it’s true!), that is where life begins!”
Jeffrey: “I found the open space sessions very helpful in addition to the one-to-one sessions I was having. Where the one-to-one sessions developed my confidence to talk about my stammering with some friends and colleagues, the open space sessions provided a really valuable extra dimension by providing a ‘safe space’ to discuss stammering experiences with other people who also stammered. This helped put my experiences of decades of stammering into context, and showed me I was far from alone in the feelings I had towards my speech and fluency – although everyone’s feelings were different, getting to know about this variety was very helpful to me. There was no pressure on anyone to discuss anything they didn’t want to, but the safe space made it feel much easier and more natural to share.”
May: “My stammer is mostly covert – I’m not sure whether that’s because I’ve become so accustomed to hiding it, as recently, since avoiding less, it’s felt more overt. When I met Sam, I despised my stammering, I was ashamed, I was hiding it as much as I could. I didn’t want to talk about it, nor admit that I had it. I saw it as something that was holding me back, that stopped me from being accepted for who I was, that defined me as a person more than all my other characteristics. In the early spring, Sam invited me to Open Space to connect with others who stammer covertly (she had invited me from the start of us working together but I hadn’t taken the opportunity). I wasn’t sure what to expect but having begun to see my stammer differently, I was curious to speak to others who knew the same frustrations, fears, situations and, yes, successes, just everything that comes with stammering.
I’ve attended three Open Space sessions so far where we are usually between 4 and 6 people – a great group size to feel comfortable, to have the opportunity to participate and to discuss. I’m usually not a big fan of group discussions, especially with people I don’t know or where I don’t feel I have subject matter expertise. I tend to not participate much, as it takes time for me to think about how I say things. Open Space is a great way to voice your opinions, to learn to be part of a group discussion, as you’re given time to say what you want and how you want it! And it doesn’t matter if you stammer. In fact, it’s totally okay, it’s welcome. Your opinion is valued. You’re accepted. There are no looks of impatience, pity, awkwardness. Because everyone knows how difficult it is to get those words out and everyone gives you time and space. I find that so comforting.
And on top of that, I’ve met some really interesting and fascinating people. People like me who know what it’s like to stammer. Not just the visible signs of stammering but the invisible: the doubts, fears, frustrations, anger, the courage. People who have accomplished so much and are true inspirations!
We’ve had great discussions on research into stammering from different angles – angles I wasn’t aware existed. It’s helped me accept my stammer more (although I’m still a long way away from being totally ok with it!). We also had one mindfulness session, which I’m now exploring more. Overall, I’ve found Open Space hugely beneficial. As it says in the title, it’s an open space to be who you are with your stammer, to be encouraged by others and to encourage others.”
The Stammering Open Space takes place every other month on alternate Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. For more information see: http://www.intandem.co.uk/clients-families-and-friends/service-map/groups/ or email Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.