Hi, my name is Gabriele and I’m from Italy. I just want to take a moment to explain my backstory and how I have lived my stutter so far: when I was a child my stutter wasn’t a problem at all and people around me were extremely nice and supportive. Well, that was until middle school. At that time I could hide my stutter, so some classmates didn’t know it but still, I was suffering; I only spoke when I felt I wouldn’t stutter. I realized I was the only one who had this problem and I began to feel uncomfortable with myself, so I started to become introvert, speak less and do nothing, even the things that I wanted to do. I even had depression back then (still have it but less, fortunately) and, of course, suicidal thoughts.
In High School things got worse, I was stuttering in front of my new classmates and teachers during oral tests. That was so humiliating. When I had to speak to people I was always in anxiety and I got the feeling of shame. So I felt like I was the only one fighting against the world, the feeling of loneliness was hurtful and every single day was horrible. I still had some people supporting me but, I mean, the one who had a stutter was me, so the thought “they don’t know how I feel” was constantly in my head; at that time, I felt envy for others, for people who could "speak normally," and I ended up hating people and myself.
Time passed and I decided to see a speech therapist since I got a job and, thanks to him, I discovered this community where all the people stammer. I was shocked, I had never met people who stutter in my whole life. So I accepted with doubts and fears because, you know... I had never been to Holland, I had never taken a plane and I had never spoken English with english speakers. But I did it and I regret nothing.
Gabriele with other Youth Exchange participants
Maybe this Erasmus+ was the best experience I have ever had. I had never felt this sentiment of freedom, of speaking without shame or fear of stuttering; I met incredibly sweet, funny, inspiring people that helped me during that week. I found the true me, the person under the “negative emotions” mask (I even surprised myself, I gave a speech in front of 48 people). I’m extremely grateful for this opportunity and knowing that a place for stutterers like this exists on the planet makes me really happy. I will carry this experience and all the memories made in my heart.