‘My stammer won't stop me’

Megan Gribben, a first-year student mental health nurse, didn’t let her stammer prevent her from securing a place on the degree course she always wanted

I’ve had a stammer ever since I was small, and it always held me back from what I really wanted to do.

School was a real challenge for me, I couldn’t speak in front of a group and I felt quite alone with it all. Initially I did a degree in social psychology because you didn’t need to speak to do that, so it felt like the best option.

But deep down I really wanted to become a nurse.

As the years went on my speech worsened. I did some speech therapy, but I found it hard to accept my stammer – I used to think, why me? It didn’t seem fair. At the time I didn’t want to accept it. 

One day a few years ago, my mum discovered the McGuire programme, which helps people with a stammer, and suggested I join. I did but the public speaking element made me feel very nervous and I gave up.

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Above: First-year student Megan

A real turning point for me was when I couldn’t read my little niece a story. I wanted to be able to show her that obstacles can be overcome and to be able to read stories to her. I wanted to have a good life.

Two years ago, I took the plunge and signed up again. This time I was determined to finish.

The course was hard work, but it’s ultimately changed my life. It is a three-day intensive programme where you do phone calls and one-on-one sessions and then go out and meet people. You’re asked to talk to 100 people. On the final day you’re required to give a speech in public.

The more I worked on my stammer, the more confident I got

The support I got on the course really pushed me on – everyone has a stammer and you don’t feel so alone. The more I worked on my stammer, the more confident I got, and since completing the course I finally had the confidence to apply to do nursing.

My mum was a nurse and I spent a lot of time in hospital when I was younger. The nurses were amazing – they inspired me.

Due to COVID-19 I had to do the interview online. There was no way I could have done that before I did the programme. I couldn’t believe it when I got in.

Starting university

My university offered me support but I didn’t feel I needed it. I just wanted to be treated the same as everyone else. 

I am really enjoying the course, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. It’s been quite an adjustment doing online learning at home, but I feel supported and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.

I think my experiences will help shape me as a nurse going forward.

I know how hard it can be for people who might struggle to communicate – I have that first-hand knowledge and understanding of what it feels like.

My advice to others in a similar situation is to reach out. Don’t suffer in silence.

Don’t give up on your voice –  there is help and support out there so make sure to ask for it. Don’t let it be the elephant in the room or a secret, and certainly don’t let it determine the future you want.

I never thought I would be where I am today, but I did it, and others can too.

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