Braving my bullies: My stutter won't stop me from talking

Daniel went a year without saying a word. He's lived with a stutter his entire life, but at high school relentless bullying pushed him to a point of exhaustion. It became easier to stay quiet. And he questioned the point of going on. This is a story about finding your voice.


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Narrator 00:00 - 00:15

Just a heads up. This episode features a personal story of mental health and contains themes of suicide. If this brings up distressing feelings for you, please contact the Beyond Blue support service.

Daniel 00:20 - 01:03

I tell my story to share with others that it's okay to not feel okay. It's okay to ask for help if everything's overwhelming and it's okay to have bad days, months, or years. And there's always a light at the end of everything. I went a year without saying a word and today I'm as vocal as ever.

Narrator 01:10 - 01:27

Welcome to Not Alone. Incredible stories from everyday Australians talking about their mental health to help you with yours. This episode is about living with a stutter and the impacts of bullying on mental health.

Narrator 01:48 - 02:08

Many people would say they know what a stutter is. But when you ask them to explain it, they pause. They think. And they realize they can't give you an answer. For Daniel, living with a stutter is something he's had to navigate his whole life.

Daniel 02:12 - 02:53

Yeah so, a stutter is a neurological misfire in the brain, like a normal person will automatically link up their brain with the talking. Whereas I have to manually remind myself to breathe every single time I talk. And if I don't, then it causes a block. Sometimes that can last up to three or 4 minutes until I breathe.

Daniel 02:57 - 03:17

A, um, stutter is something that you're born with if it's inherited or it's just a muck-up of the cells in your brain and there's no cure. There's just therapy and treatment.

Narrator 03:18 - 03:35

Growing up, Daniel realised that life for people with speech impairments was different. Speech impairments weren't really discussed in the public consciousness. They weren't featured on TV or in the news. And even today, it's not common.

Daniel 03:36:20 - 03:55

Growing up, I was an awkward kid. I was anxious. I just lived life on the fly and I said the wrong things and did the wrong things all the time.

Narrator 03:59 - 04:12

When Daniel started primary school, things didn't get easier. Making friends was hard, especially when the other kids didn't understand him or accept him for who he was.

Daniel 04:13 - 05:29

Starting school was daunting. It was scary. It was a whole new world having to meet new people on my own, introduce myself on my own, which wasn't something I ever did prior to school, because I always had someone to help me with that. That was the most scary part of school. And that followed me through to adulthood. When I first went to school, I was fortunate that my mum had created a network around us and I went to school with friends I already had and so I already had a little friendship group in school, which then continued throughout primary school. But meeting new people outside that group was hard.

Narrator 05:41 - 05:50

Daniel had a voice but felt like he couldn't use it. And when the bullying began, it was relentless.

Daniel 05:56 - 07:12

My first experience of bullying was being ostracized for my speech impairment, not being able to vocalize myself as easily as other people, and being the only person in the school that had anything like this. Bullying throughout high school was a daily occurrence that would follow me home through social media and the internet. All night it would continue and then in the morning as well, all through the school day. It was just a never-ending cycle. When I'd walk into school in the morning, it came to the point of just complete exhaustion.

Narrator 07:13 - 07:24

Lonely and isolated, Daniel's daily struggles with bullying left him feeling like he had nowhere to turn, and the anger started to build up inside of him.

Daniel 07:25 - 08:29

Feeling lonely throughout high school is an overall sense of isolation, watching everyone else in their own friendship networks. And I'm on my own. It’s the most isolated I've ever felt. The constant fighting for friendships had resulted in some deep anger within myself, and would at times be uncontrollable. At home and at school. Although I’d always internalize that anger, which would then flip onto myself and being angry at myself for who I was, who I am.

Narrator 08:38 - 08:53

Internalizing these feelings took its toll on Daniel. Physically, he started having panic attacks and mentally, an inner voice entered his head. And this internal monologue wouldn't leave him alone.

Daniel 08:54 - 12:27

Throughout my late primary years and early high school years, I developed an inner voice. It's unknown if that was my inner critic or an almost psychotic sense of hearing voices that would constantly remind me and convince me that I wasn't good enough. That everything I did was wrong and that I wasn't enough of a person to live, and that I should end my life because of that.

To have a voice that you can’t use is a really trapping feeling, it’s an isolating feeling and it’s a worthless feeling. For 12 months I didn't speak. I felt isolated and trapped and worthless without a voice to express myself.

My lowest moment was the 21st of June, 2016. I planned this as the last day of my life. The only reason I'm here today is because my mum ran after me and held me down and convinced me that I'm worthy, I’m loved, I’m respected. My mum and my partner, Andrew, convinced me I had to seek help. They convinced me I was unwell because I believed I had nothing wrong with me. They supported me and encouraged me to make the first phone call for help.

My biggest turning point for healing was being able to hop on the train on my own without the thoughts taking over. When that happened, that was the most amazing thing in my life at that stage. I thought, I can do this, I can live, I can overcome anything.

Narrator 12:29 - 13:37

With the people he loves firmly in his corner. Daniel took his first steps towards recovery. He rang his local GP clinic, booked an appointment and was referred to a psychologist. Daniel was finally able to open up about how he was feeling. About how living with a stutter affected his confidence in social situations. About how the years of bullying affected his sense of self. About everything.

After being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, Daniel started taking medication and began cognitive behavioural therapy, sometimes referred to as CBT. For our listeners who are new to CBT. It's a treatment which recognizes that the way we think and act affect the way we feel. In Daniel's case, a therapist worked with him to identify the thoughts and behaviours that he found unhelpful. His therapist then supported him in replacing them with new ones that reduced his anxiety.

Daniel 13:38 - 15:38

I was now, for the first time in a long time, I was actually living rather than surviving. I was noticing the positives in life and not just dwelling on the negatives. One way I was able to move through the negative thoughts, which helps me today, is just imagining all my thoughts, bad and good, as clouds in the sky just passing by. And they can be light and fluffy or dark and horrible and that's okay. But it just puts everything into perspective and just reminds me that I'm more than my thoughts.

Recently, I've accepted my stutter. Not as who I am, it’s just a quirk. It's just a small part of me. I tell my story to share with others that it's okay to not feel okay. It's okay to ask for help if everything's overwhelming. And it's okay to have bad days, months or years. And there's always a light at the end of everything.

Daniel 15:40 - 15:51

I went a year without saying a word. Today I'm as vocal as ever and about talking in public and sharing my stories.

Narrator 15:53:21 - 16:25

A big thank you to Daniel for sharing his story

with us. We've covered a range of mental health issues and if anything has been upsetting

for you, please contact the Beyond Blue support service on 1300 22 46 36. We've also listed a number of resources in our show notes. This podcast was recorded and produced on Wurundjeri Country, and we pay respect to the traditional owners of these lands. Thanks for listening to Not Alone.

Our theme song is Friends With Feelings, written and performed by Alice Skye, produced by CAAMA Music and published by Sony Music Publishing Pty Ltd.

Helpful resources

Suicide and crisis support:

  • The Beyond Now suicide safety planning app helps you stay safe if you're experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings, distress or crisis.
  • The Suicide Call Back Service provides professional 24/7 telephone and online counselling to people who are affected by suicide. You can access this service by calling 1300 659 467.
  • Lifeline provide crisis support and suicide prevention services – they can be contacted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 13 11 14.
  • If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000


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Crisis support

If you are in an emergency, or at immediate risk of harm to yourself or others, please contact emergency services on 000. Other services include: