Robert O'Brien

The Road to the Audiobook: Part 1

The Road to the Audiobook: Part 1

I am about to begin recording my audiobook edition of 'Just One More Drive: The true story of a stuttering homosexual and his race car'. I thought it would be a good idea to chronicle this adventure as it will be a totally new experience for me. As a stutterer, reading from text (even if I wrote it myself) will be a challenge and I am wondering how I will sound and perform in the studio over the 10 hours or so it will take to record.

All that being said, the dates are booked and I will post more short videos as I complete the project and launch the finished audiobook in 2023.

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Media, News
Belfast Men’s Health Group Podcast: Stuttering & Mental Well-Being – Live!

Belfast Men’s Health Group Podcast: Stuttering & Mental Well-Being – Live!

A huge thank you to Paul O'Kane and the Belfast Men's Health Group podcast for featuring me on their latest episode.

Paul and I discuss issues around stuttering and homosexuality and the implications they can have on mental well-being. I get to share me story and experience and what I have discovered for myself around resilience and acceptance.

Link to the podcast episode:

https://www.podbean.com/ea/pb-mdmne-1301af2

You can hear more podcast episodes around men's health by checking out the group's website at:

https://belfastmenshealthgroup.podbean.com

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): The Storm

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): The Storm

Vancouver weather is similar to Ireland’s in that it is usually wet as the city is located in a natural rainforest. Locals jokingly call it ‘Raincover’, but I wasn’t laughing last week when Dorrit and I got to spend three and a half hours in crawling traffic as a sudden storm battered the city with high winds and torrential rain.

9:30 am - I teach a morning class out in Surrey once a week and it is a brief thirty-minute drive on the Trans-Canadian Highway (Highway 1). Last week, I headed off as usual and the weather appeared dry and pleasant enough. Sure, there was a nip in the air and it has been getting darker progressively sooner, as we are now well into fall. I got to the school and all was still dry and calm.

12:05pm - After I was finished I jumped into Dorrit and began to head home taking my usual route. To be fair, Google Maps did highlight a delay along the Port Mann bridge of twenty minutes. I could have found a longer route home, but I impatiently started driving away figuring twenty minutes wasn’t that long. I regretted that decision as soon as I came onto the highway. There was a massive tailback and I had no choice but to merge with it as I couldn’t turn around.

1:05pm - The twenty minutes quickly turned into sixty minutes. Thankfully, I had used the toilet before setting off but I was frustrated, hungry and hot after sitting in crawling traffic for so long. I could hear Dorrit’s fan come on at regular intervals to cool the idling engine. Had she not been a Toyota, I would have been worried about overheating and being left stranded on the side of the road. Dorrit doesn’t have any sort of ‘Stop/Start’ technology. I had half a tank of gas and hadn’t been too concerned about it until I found myself sitting in this traffic. I tried turning off the engine and started it again when the traffic began to move and this proved to be even more frustrating. The traffic was crawling slowly, but it was moving and stopping and starting the car constantly could do more harm than good in terms of fuel economy and mechanical wear. All I could do was sit and stew. I remembered that famous scene in ‘King Lear’ where the elderly king ranges at the storm and how it was an exercise in futility.

2:40pm - After two and a half hours I finally reached the epicenter of the tailback. The highway was closed at the junction at Brunette Avenue. TOTALLY CLOSED. Not a single lane was open and this extreme tailback suddenly made sense. The cause turned out to be fallen electricity lines on the road. A storm had been raging in Vancouver all morning apparently. It had drizzled over the last two hours on the highway, but I could see dark storm clouds on the horizon in Vancouver. Traffic was directed off the road and Google tried to put me onto the Lougheed Highway, which by now was also highlighted in red. I didn’t have the time, patience or fuel to sit in more traffic. I had to get the car home and take the train downtown for my evening class which was due to start at 4:30pm. I decided to be brave and hit the suburbs of Burnaby, the city in between Surrey and Vancouver.

3:00pm - I was making good time through Burnaby and following Google Maps for dear life as I had no idea where I was going. I knew the direction I should be heading but the rain was now pouring down. I had the fan on full and the wipers on their top speed. The female navigation voice coming from my phone was drowned out by the rain drenching Dorrit. I was so focused on just getting home that I didn’t really have time to be too worried about the various pedestrians running around, both on the sidewalks and across the busy roads to escape the heavy rain. Rain terrifies me for that very reason. People do stupid things and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stop suddenly on these wet roads as Dorrit doesn’t have ABS. Drivers in Vancouver also never seem to slow down. It’s crazy. In Ireland, I was taught to reduce speed when it rains, but here people drive at the same speed as when the roads are dry. To not actually cause an accident, I forced myself to keep pace with everyone else.

3:15pm – I was finally on Kingsway, which is a familiar road. I turn off onto Victoria Drive and I know home is a mere five minutes away. I was starving and now needed a toilet. I got to my front door as the rain began to ease. It has just gone 3:20 pm and I have a few minutes to eat and pee before I had to brave the weather again and catch a train downtown. Dorrit had about a quarter tank of gas left and I was grateful to the car for getting me home safe and sound. The storm raged on for the rest of the day and I was walking home in the rain at around 7:30 pm that night.

I have never been in such a bad traffic jam in my life. The M50 tailbacks back home had nothing on the delay I endured. The funny thing is if I had gotten a bus and train home from Surrey I would have missed out on the whole adventure and it also showed me that I have finally begun to settle into driving in Canada. Sitting in Dorrit for that length of time got me accustomed to the sounds and feel of the car in the wet too and that is valuable education as we head into winter.

I just hope the snow holds off for the next few months.

 

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
‘Being Seen, Being Heard’ – Speaker Series with the Irish Stammering Association.

‘Being Seen, Being Heard’ – Speaker Series with the Irish Stammering Association.

I have been invited by the Irish Stammering Association (ISA) to speak as part of their Speaker Series this Friday October 21st on the topic of 'Being Seen, Being heard'. This is to help mark International Stuttering Awareness Day 2022 and highlight the importance of people who stutter being seen and heard in society.

This invitation has been a wonderful opportunity for me to connect with the ISA and share my story. A huge thank you to Stephen Greene, Jonathon Linklater and Naill Walsh for making this speaking event happen and for the two very favourable reviews of Just One More Drive: The true story of a stuttering homosexual and his race car. 

Our conversation will take place online this Friday from 7:00 - 8:00pm Irish time and 11:00 - 12:00pm PST. It is free to join and you can register at the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/isad-speaker-series-tickets-397003196247

Review by Stephen Greene - Current Board member and past Chair of Irish Stammering Association.

"Robert’s book was an excellent and engrossing read. His account of his life of coming to terms with and understanding of his identity as a gay man who stutters was an honest and authentic exploration.
What stood out was the effect of suppression and masking of these identities could have on one’s life and the need to make up for lost time after coming out and how is one equipped mentally and emotionally when they are immersed in the communities of stuttering and LGBTQIA+ and wider society. 
Another stand out from the book was the theme of love and support Robert had from his family and allies. As a person who stutters I am very thankful that Robert has shared his story with us and that allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and embracing our identities can lead to happiness in our lives. Thank you Robert."

Review by Niall Walsh - Current Board member and Company Secretary of Irish Stammering Association.

"I was so entranced by this book, it is a wonder I can drag myself away from it for long enough to write this review of it!
Yes, it’s very subject matter (and book title) is a draw in itself, but that hardly guarantees anything.
This book guides the reader through Roberts personal journey from child to adult with all the ups, downs, blockages and stutters in between.
Robert writes with a brutal honesty about what it’s like to have a stammer in Ireland as a child (we’ve all had that one teacher, regrettably!..) to young adult life struggling with self-confidence and identity which, as I would imagine, resonates with many readers.
This book is told through the eyes of a young stuttering gay Irish man with a disarming honesty and a wicked sense of humour. However, under the relatable sci-fi references and wit, the author gives us so much more: he explains, educates, inspires, and shares his stuttering story."

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
Drop in  workshop to celebrate International Stuttering Awareness Day 2022.

Drop in workshop to celebrate International Stuttering Awareness Day 2022.

To mark International Stuttering Awareness Day 2022, Dan Dumsha, Wendy Duke and myself will be running a free drop in workshop of 'The UnBlockables' from 1-3pm PST on October 22nd. This will be online and is a great way to celebrate stuttering with improv games, fun and laughter.

For anyone who is interested just resister by emailing rosemary@tightropetheatre.com

We hope to see you there.

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Rolling Podcast

The Adventures of Rob and Dorrit (the Toyota Echo): Rolling Podcast

Being a podcast guest is always exciting and slightly daunting, because every one is its own beast. The tone, content and even variables like time of day can play a part in defining the overall experience. In the past year, I have been privileged to be featured on a number of stuttering podcasts to discuss my memoir and various topics I raise in it. As my experience has grown, I would like to think that I have relaxed and become less focused on selling myself and rather offer my own unique perspective on being a stuttering homosexual.

In July, during my trip home to Ireland, a family member messaged me about a therapist they knew who had a podcast. The podcast was focused on mental health and they were interested in hearing more about my story. Wanting to strike while the iron was hot, I messaged the therapist, a psychologist called Allan Clarke with an introductory email and dropped a copy of my book in the post for him for good measure. As I researched Allan I was intrigued as he is a gamer as well as a highly experienced clinician. Within 24 hours he responded and we agreed to keep in touch and set something up in the near future. Fast forward a month and I am settling back into Vancouver life (with a crazy new work schedule) and he messages me about doing the podcast the following week. This would mean juggling my work schedule and Dorrit would be my mobile podcast platform for the discussion.

I have worked as a ESL teacher (English for foreign speakers) in downtown Vancouver for many years and this has been a short Skytrain trip from my home. But recently, my school had expanded with a second campus opening in Surrey. I found myself giving classes at that location once a week and was a little perplexed when my boss initially offered to collect me at the Skytrain station before my first class. He had obviously forgotten I had a car and I hadn’t volunteered that little nugget of information right away. I wanted to see where in Surrey the school was as it is a big city! It turned out that it is located just off the Trans-Canadian Highway, which is a thirty-minute drive from my house vs. a ninety-minute trip on public transport. I asked if I could do my podcast at this location as it has a better internet connection than I do in my own home and I had to work around the eight-hour time difference.

Thankfully, the answer was ‘yes’ and I was excited. Not only for the podcast, but also because this would give me my first opportunity to test out my new microphone. My friend Rory had gifted me with a rather expensive microphone that he had gotten from an equipment sale. This not only made me feel like a professional but helped me sound like one too. I took him out to dinner to say thank you and told him that I'd be using it on this upcoming podcast. It went into Dorrit's trunk along with a tripod, L.E.D. lights and laptop on the day of recording. I had also packed a shirt and jacket to change into as well as my lunch, some powder make-up and water. It is crazy the amount of preparation that goes into these podcasts and I have learnt to bring everything I might need regardless of if I end up using it or not.

Dorrit and I arrived in Surrey early as I needed time to unpack and set up all my equipment in a back room in the school. The class I was teaching flew by as I was slightly distracted trying to anticipate questions that Allan might ask me. I know there are no right answers as such, but I wanted to sound intelligent and clear in my responses. All Allan had said to me in his email was that it would be an informal conversation but that could mean anything. I ate, changed and waited for 1pm PST (9pm Irish time) for Allan to log on.

The first thing I noticed when we connected was a PlayStation 5 on a shelf in his office. He really was a gamer! We spent about ten minutes before recording talking about games and how fast the PS5 is with its build-in SSD (Solid State Drive). I knew I would like this guy. Unlike other podcasts, this one very much focused on mental health rather than stuttering or writing my book. It was a nice change of subject that allowed me to revisit aspects of the book I hadn't spoken about in a while. He specifically asked me about how I coped in my teenage years with my speech and sexuality. I told him that I avoided life and stated that it was far safer to play videogames and watch sci-fi television than face the outside world. I was very proud of the fact that I could describe the starship Enterprise deck by deck, but I knew that knowledge was hardly going to help me navigate adult life. He asked me about my perspective on suicide and that was definitely more uncomfortable. It was my rock bottom point and that feeling of despair is something I would not wish on anyone. I have learnt to make my peace with it, but it still lingers in the quieter recesses of my mind. I don’t want to make it sound like the conversation was all doom and gloom though. There were lighter points around coming out later in life, my first crush and how the experience of writing my book had ultimately brought me closer to my family and father in particular. We talked for over an hour and a half and I was ready for a cup of tea when we stopped recording.

I had never done a podcast in the afternoon before, and certainly not in between teaching classes. I had to quickly pack up Dorrit and drive home to make my evening class in the downtown school. As I drove back into Vancouver, I could feel the post-podcast high kick in. Driving on the highway was actually rather relaxing. This was in stark contrast to when I started driving a year ago. Reflecting on the podcast, having the correct equipment and a car to transport it in helped make the whole experience feel easy. Being more relaxed and confident in my own responses also felt easier than in the past. Allan was pretty cool too and I hope to collaborate with him again in the future. Finally, getting home in record without having to carry bags on public transport was the icing on the cake. Walking into my house, bags in hand, I looked back at this little Toyota. Dorrit was not flashy or fast, rather unassuming and dependable. I find it reassuring that this is car that is helping me share my story and help others dealing with similar circumstances. That is one of the best feeling the world.

The Podcast I recorded was ‘Straight Talking Mental Health with Allan and Aisling:

Podcast Link on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/1pLfva6EnPkV65oCMqEIOQ?si=ddede3be04b84967

Episode Link: https://stmhpodcast.com/2022/09/19/105-stuttering-coming-out-robert-obrien/

YouTube: https://youtu.be/Zs9pPMHN62E

Twitter link: https://twitter.com/stmhpodcast

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Blog
Straight Talking Mental Health Podcast with Allan and Aisling

Straight Talking Mental Health Podcast with Allan and Aisling

Recently I had the opportunity to connect with psychotherapist Allan Clarke and arranged to appear on his podcast ‘Straight Talking Mental Health’, which he co-hosts with his partner Aisling. I have to say it was a challenging and confronting conversation for me, but also cathartic.

With the focus being on mental health and straight talking, Allan and I had a frank discussion around my experiences with stuttering , coming out and my failed suicide attempt. Talking about these topics was a chance for me to revisit those memories and discuss my emotions and mindset at the time. Allan was a wonderful host and despite the topics, we certainly did have a lot of craic (Irish slang for fun!).

The podcast is now live and the various links are listed below:

 

Posted by Robert O'Brien in Media
Straight Talking Mental Health Podcast: Now Live!

Straight Talking Mental Health Podcast: Now Live!

Recently I had the opportunity to connect with psychotherapist Allan Clarke and arranged to appear on his podcast ‘Straight Talking Mental Health’, which he co-hosts with his partner Aisling. I have to say it was a challenging and confronting conversation for me, but also cathartic.

With the focus being on mental health and straight talking, Allan and I had a frank discussion around my experiences with stuttering , coming out and my failed suicide attempt. Talking about these topics was a chance for me to revisit those memories and discuss my emotions and mindset at the time. Allan was a wonderful host and despite the topics, we certainly did have a lot of craic (Irish slang for fun!).

The podcast is now live and the various links are listed below:

 

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News
Some Stutter, Luh! – Podcast Episode Now LIVE!

Some Stutter, Luh! – Podcast Episode Now LIVE!

A huge thank you to Greg O’Grady and the Some Stutter, Luh! team for having me on their podcast recently. Greg and I got to chat about stuttering, homosexuality and my inspiration and experiences writing  ‘Just One More Drive’.

Some Stutter, Luh! is Newfoundland and Labrador’s first podcast about  about living with communication differences. Greg and his team speak directly to people living with speech and language challenges, and others such as speech language pathologists, researchers, educators and family members. They use inclusive language and aim to rebuild confidence and hope by dismantling myths, stigma and stereotypes.

You can view our video episode below:

 

You can also listen to the podcast episode on various websites. The links are below:

Some Stutter Luh! website: https://somestutterluh.ca/2022/09/04/S03E13.html

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/6dOls1a7HTqxP6AuiPjkDg

Apple Podcasts episode link: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/interview-with-robert-obrien/id1554770147?i=1000578315260

Posted by Robert O'Brien in News