Having been a stammerer since infancy, I have had my fair share of teasing and bullying – something that kind of developed an early sense of inferiority complex in me. Let me just share a few instances.
Primary and Junior High School
Colleagues would poke what they felt was harmless fun by trying to repeat whatever I said and how I said it. They loved this “kpanlogo dance” they claimed I did anytime I wanted to speak. You could imagine the discomfort and embarrassment anytime it happened.
Then there were those teachers who would make those insensitive statements; statements about stammerers and how “useless” they were and how they wouldn’t amount to much in life. They would claim I only pretend to stammer when I am in trouble or wanted to tell a lie. Can you imagine?
Senior Secondary School
My first night at school, I was beaten black and blue; because a senior asked my name and I stammered to mention it. It was alleged that I was imitating another senior who himself was a stammerer. That night, they took me to one of the Form 3 cubicles and doled out lashes to me with belts. The more I pleaded, the more I stammered, and the more offence heightened, thus, the more I was beaten.
Then there were the classroom experiences. There was a certain teacher who loved the way I would throw pens and handkerchiefs into the air in a bid to get the rhythm to speak when asked to answer a question in class. So he would keep asking me to answer questions, and then ask me to throw pens and handkerchiefs. That was sickening. My young heart didn’t see the fun in it at all – it only saw humiliation, especially when my mates would be laughing their ribs out.
A Stammerer at University
Sometimes some lecturers would not allow that I do presentations because “we don’t have the time to wait for you to stammer!” Other lecturers were more civil though. Crazy friends would pitch you against ladies in order to have a good laugh – because they got to know that my stammering becomes intense when I am emotional (angry, happy or shy, and apparently being around ladies made it worse).
Oh, how I dreaded a new semester, with new lecturers – especially those who would like to know members of the class by way of introductions. Yiaakk!
Related: True Story: My Uni Life
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Whilst waiting for one interview with other shortlisted applicants, the manager came out to have a word with us. He asked names at random. Random fell in love with me and chose me. I stammered to mention my name.
“Gentleman, as a rule of the thumb, we don’t interview stammerers. Please leave!”
Maybe the ground opened and I entered!
Related: My Story: Unemployment In Ghana
Some interview yawa bi o
I have had reports from my employers saying my colleagues come to complain that being a stammerer in a teaching/talking environment affects them as staff and the students as well. Then anonymous letters flow apparently from students asking for my dismissal. I later get to know these to be from colleagues.
Then you wouldn’t be allowed to have a say because the time left for the meeting is not sufficient to be wasted.
Twice, in two relationships, I had met the family of my partners. One uncle of one girlfriend said,
“My daughter, I thought you said you were bringing us a man to marry you?” Yawa kraa o.
Another’s dad had said,
“We don’t have stammerers in our bloodline. We won’t accept any stammerer in our house!”
Twice, partners after a breakup had said,
“I was only having pity on you – I didn’t really love you!”
Related: True Story…I Tasted True Love
Related: Confessions Of A Girl In Love
The bullying followed me to church
The Christian faith’s primary duty is evangelism. That has been my problem since becoming a born-again. Once in a while in the church, they would poke “harmless” fun, asking during a service how I do my evangelism with my stammering. Sometimes, during evangelism, those I would be evangelizing to would break forth into laughter with sarcastic comments, asking why a stammerer like me would be evangelizing.
I would normally not speak at church and associate with people. Well, some churches I had been to best interpret it to be the pride and would choose to embarrass me sometimes from the pulpit – victimizing me for not associating with members of the church as expected.
Even At Home hmm
Well, I don’t want my siblings to beat me up so I will ignore this one. But one apparently harmless joke a relative made during my teens still rings in my head.
“Oh, Mike? Which lady would marry him? Unless he gets filthy rich, else the lady who would accept to marry him would be doing that out of pity for him!” Nice joke.
Consequences and Resolve
Due to these things, I would generally:
- Not greet people I meet. This is seen as disrespect. Meanwhile, I had started trying to say “good morning” about a 50m-distance before getting close to the person. Trouble is, the “good morning” never came out!
- Not defend myself against accusations and rumours. Because it gets me more angry and emotional, and hence I stammer the more. They wouldn’t believe me anyway, so why waste my breath?
- Not liking to meet new people or change environments. I am normally more comfortable with persons who know I stammer and are used to my stammering, than meeting new people and embarrassing myself (gathered from expressions on their faces and comments they make then or later).
- Choose to be indoors. Yes, I find it more fun being indoors than going out to meet people who feel they are better than me because I have a stammer.
- Turn down opportunities to speak at seminars, on radio, etc. Well, this is for obvious reasons.
- Hardly pick phone calls because the stammering is more profound on the phone, and once in a while you hear comments like, “Chai, as for your voice on the phone – it’s a not not! “
In these experiences, not even a single person has ever approached me to ask how I feel about the teasing or how I cope with things around. And yes, like the little boy in the video, I had also wished to take my life on several occasions those early years!
I have only developed my own strategies to help deal with these things. It has always been a battle for ACCEPTANCE!
Well, life brings to us unexpected things. People are born with little defects once in a while. They didn’t choose to be born that way. We should teach our children to show respect to such persons and avoid teasing and bullying them. If they fail to, punitive measures should be put in place at both home and school to serve as deterrents.
Teasing or poking fun at people’s inabilities and disabilities isn’t funny. It is insensitivity. Teasing is fine, but should not be concentrated on things people are struggling with.
Let us join hands to stem out unnecessary teasing, discrimination and associated bullying from our society.
Let us say no to bullying.