Yesterday I was having a chat with one of my writer friends about putting your face online. He has just launched the second novel in his series about Ardamin, a clone inhabiting a dystopian future (check the series out here on Amazon) and he has been promoting the latest novel on Instagram, including showing himself with his book.
So far, so normal. Unless you’re me, or someone like me. I’ve been running this blog since April 2013 (with some gaps for life events) and I’ve never put my face, let alone my body, on view. Over on my Instagram account there are maybe three instances where I’ve revealed myself as an adult. That’s out of 581 posts I’ve put up over there. And… to be honest I fight every day not to take them down. I may yet do that.
When I was nine, we moved house, from a big city to a village. I was The New Girl. And some boys in the class below me immediately started calling me Superfat Seven. Until this point, I don’t think I’d ever thought about how I compared to other kids in my class. I was just me. That name would follow me everywhere I went, and I dreaded walking home from school if they were on the same street (which they often were) because the name calling would follow me home. I’ve seen photos of myself at that age and I can’t see why they chose that name, looking at it objectively. I had pudgy cheeks, but I wasn’t the huge lump that I very quickly saw myself as due to this name. Looking back, I guess the sole reason I was bullied was because I was The New Girl. That was it. But, the name had life-changing consequences.
I’ve never been diagnosed (I’ve never sought it out), but I’m almost certain I have Body Dysmorphia. I will do almost anything to avoid having my photograph taken. Even with family photos as I was growing up, I desperately wanted to grab the camera and throw it to the floor. But I was a well-behaved kid and knew that cameras were expensive so… I didn’t. I can’t bear to look at myself in the mirror. The only thing I focus on when doing my hair in the morning is the hair itself. When going somewhere where I have to be presentable, I focus on the neatness and cleanliness of the clothes themselves and whether what I have chosen is objectively ‘good enough’, not how I look in what I am wearing, because I will never accept how I look.
I have learned to mask the depression and anxiety that this has caused, but it has become entangled in other issues over the years. Unravelling it all seems like another lifetime’s work. Masking is what we do to get by in life, isn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one minute think that anyone else is bothered by how I look, nor do I think I am the focus of their attention. This is all about my inability to accept myself.
What has this got to do with writing, with being an author? A hell of a lot, actually. Marketing your novel when the perceived wisdom is that you will be more approachable, more memorable, more relatable (I hate that word so much!) if you show your face, is a huge problem for someone like me. I know so many other authors who have their Instagram account filled with themselves. Their posts are bright and engaging and… relatable.
The upside is that I used this crushing mental health issue (because it is a mental health issue, let’s be honest) to my advantage when writing Callie, the main character in Anti-Virus. The cause of her situation is very different and entirely more violent than childhood bullying, but I was able to build on my personal experiences to create her story. So, there is that.
They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It may be true. Sometimes though, it would be such a relief to be strong without having to go via Superfat Seven Highway to get there.
2 thoughts on “Superfat Seven”
Wow, that’s kind of powerful that you shared that with us. 💙 It’s so unfortunate that certain things in our childhood can carry over into our adulthood and damage us the way it does. I also speak from experience but for different reasons, some good but also many bad.
There are some that shape our values, whether it’s what not to do or what not to be (I have a bunch of those) or whether it’s someone that showed you you were meant to be more than you were.
The bad experiences, while horrible in their essence, can also shape you into a better person, a more cautious person, a more loving parent, a better parent, a person who protects others and tries to help them not experience what they did.
But that doesn’t mean that you are always a better person inside, that you don’t experience those memories over and over for the rest of your life, that you’ll ever “get over” what happened to you, because we won’t.
For me, I’ve learned to deal with things internally (I have a few coping mechanisms that work most of the time), I’ve learned how to handle the memories when they creep up — not always well, but I have realized that nothing that happened in my childhood was my fault, but unfortunately I do have to live with it. And sadly it doesn’t always stay internal.
I’m so sorry that happened to you at such a young age. It’s terrible what children can do to other children’s psyche and then how it can follow us for so long. 🤗💙
Thank you Remy. Yes, children can be unwittingly more cruel than any adult, and of course, because you aren’t yet blessed with the coping mechanisms that adults possess, the hurt can be so much more magnified than it would otherwise would be.
I’ve developed coping mechanisms for many things that happened in my childhood (because we all have things happen to us), but that one thing has haunted me far more than anything else ever has. It must have happened at just the wrong point in my development – and of course when you’re a fish out of water, in a new environment, your world has been turned upside down as it is, without the bullying! So I guess I was wide open to struggle really badly with it.
One of the boys concerned did apologise to me a few years later (his twin brother didn’t!), which was quite a surprise. It helped build some fences, but the damage was already deeply embedded by then. Not that I had the vocabulary or the inclination to tell him that! I accepted his apology though.