My Personal Transformation

nagao.jpeg About the presenter: My name is Masaki Nagao. I am eighteen years old, first year student of university and a member of the Osaka Stuttering Project. My first contact with the Japan Stuttering Project was ten years ago when I participated in the summer camp for children who stutter, and their parents. I was in the fourth grade of elementary school. I have been participating in this camp every summer since then. This experience made me realize that I was not alone and gave me a lot of encouragement and opportunities to think about my stuttering. .

My Personal Transformation

by Masaki Nagao
from Japan

I do not remember exactly when I began to stutter, but I was already stuttering at preschool age. After I entered primary school some of the other children started to tease or make fun of me when I stuttered. This made me feel sad and it was really hard to deal with.

During the summer when I was ten years old in the fourth grade of elementary school I had a chance to participate in the Summer Camp for Children Who Stutter, and their Parents, organized by the Japan Stuttering Project. Through my experience in this camp I learned that I was not alone, and I was encouraged by the fact that there were many other children, who stuttered and suffered from stuttering like myself. The experiences during the three-day camp, in which the other children and I shared with each other our experience and talked about our problems and feelings, has changed my outlook on stuttering dramatically. I was able to gain a positive attitude about myself and a different approach to stuttering to such a degree that I was able to even think "I am lucky to stutter".

Since this wonderful experience at the camp I found myself less troubled by my stuttering and thinking "it is all right to stutter." I also found my school life more enjoyable. I was determined to live positively and happily whatever hardships I might face because of my stuttering. I also thought I would be able to have a happy life as long as I remained positive, without being overwhelmed by my speech disfluency.

However, when I entered junior high school I began to resist stuttering openly in public. One day when I was in the second year of junior high school I stuttered severely while reading a text in a Japanese class. I felt ashamed, frustrated and depressed, blaming myself for not being able to read the simple text normally like the other children. This experience made it difficult for me to remain positive and cheerful. Then I realized that I had forced myself to become positive and happy and disguised my real feelings. I just pretended to be positive and internalized my true feelings deep inside simply because I did not want to admit that I had been ashamed of my stuttering and envied other children who spoke fluently.

When I realized this I said to myself that I should be open and honest about my feelings and face my fears. I realized that it is hard to keep "holding in" what is really on my mind, so I decided to accept and live with stuttering. Since then even though my stuttering got in my way many times, I did not avoid those situations and found solutions on my own. I was thus able to finish junior high school without letting stuttering control my life.

During the last term of junior high school, I had to decide which high school to go to. It was the first time for me to make an important decision. I chose a school and passed the entrance examination. The fact that I had paved my own way to success increased my self-esteem. I actively participated in club activities and school events and enjoyed my high school life fully. I felt I was capable of doing anything I wanted to do. I also thought that I was no different from other people except that I had trouble speaking. I was then less preoccupied by my stuttering. I was not embarrassed, even if I stuttered badly in public. This made me believe that I had achieved personal growth and gained emotional strength because I accepted and faced my stuttering without avoiding it.

However, one day my music teacher made me realize that this was not true. She said, "You are setting up an invisible barrier of self-containment. You never speak your mind. Are you going to avoid facing yourself all your life?" I did not really understand what the teacher meant. I never imagined that I had closed myself because I faced my stuttering, and believed in my strength. However, while listening to my teacher, I felt penetrating pain and I was crying. I realized for the first time that I had a strong inferiority complex because of my stuttering.

Since early childhood I never liked being a loser, and particularly hated being looked down upon by other people. Therefore, I acted as a respectable person and pushed my inferiority complex deep inside by gaining the recognition of other people as a fine character. This is not true strength. I was only acting as a strong person. I used to believe that I had been open to myself and been able to accept and live with stuttering, but I was dishonest to myself, thus avoiding facing myself and my stuttering. When I realized this, I was completely lost, not knowing how to deal with my stuttering. I became apathetic for some time, but at the same time I noticed how peaceful I felt in my heart, even though I was still confused. I understood that this was because the barrier behind which I had pushed my feelings had been removed, which gave me freedom. I said to myself, I should take it easy and take time to think about my stuttering. I was happy to learn that opening oneself gives us a lot of freedom.

In the third year of high school I began to think about my future. Upon listening to my inner voice, it occurred to me that I have wanted to become a dubbing artist since a young age. However, when I thought about this occupation seriously I had a dilemma about my dream because I was concerned that my stuttering would not allow me to become a dubbing artist, because the job requires fluency, but I did not want to give up my dream.

I am now eighteen years old and in my first year of university. Until a little before I entered university I was preoccupied with an idea that I should be able to control my speech 100 %. However, the result was that the more I used the control technique the more severely I stuttered. My frustration increased and I could not stop myself from hating my stuttering which, I thought, would discourage my dream.

However, even if I hated my stuttering, nothing changed except that I only suffered more. This made me realize that hating my stuttering is equal to hating myself. I also realized that denial of myself restricts my potential, and I did not want to become a dubbing artist using a controlled voice, which is not my voice. I no longer hate my stuttering.

Now I am free from controlled speech, but I must admit that I am still tempted to use it because I still think it might be difficult to realize my dream, if I cannot manage my speech. However, I do not want to force myself to control my speech, I want to learn to control it naturally by opening myself to many experiences and things that I hear and feel. By accepting my stuttering, without avoidance, I believe that I will be able to grow and live with stuttering.

I believe that my thoughts and attitude toward stuttering have changed through my contact with the members of the Japan Stuttering Project and my friends whom I met during the summer camps, which I have attended every year since I was ten years old. These people gave me a lot of courage to face both my stuttering and myself. Whenever I was troubled by my speech and feeling down, they were with me and listened to me attentively. They also helped me to listen to my inner voice and organize my thinking. Without their support my personal growth would not have been possible.

September 1, 2004