Please find a full audio transcription of ‘Episode 5: Nikki, Hannah and Jenny discuss #AntiBullyingWeek’ below.
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M: Welcome to Changing Faces, Voices of Visible
Difference. The podcast where we talk about having a scar, mark or condition
that affects our appearance.
Nikki: Hello, my name is Nikki, but you may also
know me as Nikki Lilly online and today we're talking
all things bullying and the impact that it has on young people who have a
visible difference. I'm joined by the lovely Hannah
and Jenny who are going to share their experiences and personal stories of
living with a visible difference. So, first off, let's
get it out of the way, Jenny, would you mind starting off by sharing what your
visible difference is?
Jenny: Yes, of course. So, I was born with the birth
defect called gastroschisis, which is a defect of the abdomen wall, and I had
to have several surgeries as a baby to combat those problems. So, I was left
with a large scar across my abdomen and I don't have a
belly button. My mum actually used to say that I have
a belly zip instead.
Nikki: And, Hannah, would you mind doing the same?
Hannah: I've got a port wine
stain birthmark on over 50% of my body, and I've had that my whole life.
Nikki: Thank you very much for sharing that. And I
have a condition called AVM, which affects the right side of my face and it
causes swelling and veins. I was born with that, but it only starting
showing its appearance when I was six years old. I first wanted to start
off by asking what your personal experiences of having a visible difference are
and how you felt when you first realised you looked
Hannah: I've always known
that I've looked different, but it only really started affecting me when I went
to high school.
Nikki: Yes, I felt like there was a massive change
between primary school and secondary school. I instantly felt more aware of the
way that I looked. And even though I knew I looked different, it became more of
an insecurity and something that I saw as, like, a negative thing when I first
started secondary school.
Hannah: Yes, definitely.
Jenny: It's interesting
what you've both said about the fact that primary school was alright for you
because, actually, I started getting bullied when I was seven.
Nikki: Oh my gosh.
Jenny: It definitely got worse at high school but it did start when I was seven and I think that's
when I first realised, 'Okay, maybe this isn't just
something that's different about me, but maybe this is also something that's
wrong.' You know, it was the first time I'd viewed the
difference as a negative even though I'd been aware of it the whole time.
Nikki: I mean, that's crazy
to think that, you know, even as young as seven, you're having to deal with people
making negative comments, and a lot of the time I find kids will be the ones
that are staring when I'm out or are the ones that I find looking at me. And
although sometimes it does come from a place of curiosity, other times, you
know, it can be unkind.
Jenny: Yes, I totally agree. I think that's my main
experience was I knew that kids are going to be curious about something that
they've never seen before, maybe, but in my experience
it was more than curiosity. It was kids being mean, and it was verbal abuse
thrown at me on the bus and things like that in the morning or I was dragged
around the playground by my hair for it. I was forcefully held up against
walls. I had clothing removed without my consent so that people could see it
for themselves and see if it was true and touch it for
themselves and all this sort of nonsense that went on. But, yes, looking back
now, I think the one thing I would say to anyone that's
in that situation at the moment is please do not feel guilty or ashamed if what
people are saying or doing to do you is getting to you, you know, if it is
affecting your self esteem, if it is getting you
down. That isn't your fault. You know, you're not doing anything wrong, it's not that you need
thicker skin or you're letting the bullies win. It is just that you are going
through a difficult situation and you are dealing with it the best that you
can. You know, a lot of the conversation around bullying centres
on the idea of, 'Don't show them that it's getting to you,' but you should be
showing someone. You're allowed to tell someone that
it's getting to you, and if you don't have someone in your personal life that
you can share honestly about the impact that it might be having on you, please
do reach out to charities like Changing Faces, because so much of us have been
there ourselves. You know, we get it, and no-one is going to judge you for how you're reacting the situation that you're in and you're
never in it alone. There's always someone else that is
there is to listen and can understand.
Nikki: Yes, I totally agree with that, and I think
Changing Faces really, really helped me, especially when I first found them and
spoke to them. And it really helped me feel less alone as well because I was
able to meet so many other young people that had visible differences. So, even
just with that, it helped me feel so much less alone. You should never feel
like like you, like you said, Jenny, have to put up a front.
Jenny: Yes, definitely.
Nikki: Because, you know, we're
all human and comments do get to us, and it's so important to feel like you
have someone that you can speak to and that you know that you're not a burden
to anyone and that people are there to listen. Especially, like, your parents
or your friends or a teacher, just anyone that you trust
and you feel comfortable speaking to. And what about you, Hannah? Did you find
anything helped you when it came to opening up about
your feelings around looking different or having a visible difference?
Hannah: So, I've been called
a lot of names and bullied as well. Some of the things that I've
been called are purple monster, freak and also once I was in school and I had a
baguette thrown at me.
Nikki: Oh my gosh.
Hannah: When I got the baguette thrown at me, my
friends all decided they were going to crowd around me so that I would be
hidden away from everyone because everyone was staring and laughing, obviously,
at me, so that made me feel a bit better about it. Having someone else that has
a visible difference also helps because then you can, kind of, talk it over
with them as well and support each other.
Nikki: And did you find that speaking to someone
about it, so, like, even your parents, when you were growing up, before you met
someone that had a visible difference, helped you?
Hannah: My good friends at school, they, sort of,
support me in a way that if I want to talk about it, they'll
talk to me about it. But if I don't want to talk about
it, they'll just leave me be, really helped me.
I'm so sorry
you've had to go through that. That is absolutely awful,
and it's obviously something that none of us three have control over. You know,
we don't have control over the way that we look and it obviously makes us who
we are, but often, a lot of the time, even though you may not be able to see it
in the moment, a lot of what the bullies are saying, actually, when you turn
bullying on its head, it's more reflective on them because they feel, deep
down, so unhappy within their lives and within themselves, whether you can tell
or not, they decide they're going to project that onto someone else.
Unfortunately, it's usually someone that has a visible
difference like us. I know, when I was growing up, that I really struggled with
seeing no one that looked like me in the media and no one to look up to, and so
it almost, again, made me feel like the way I looked was not normal and I was
the only one, and I felt so alone. How did you feel growing up and not seeing
someone that looked like you that you could relate to?
Jenny: Yes, I felt the exact same. I think logically
I knew, 'Okay, I'm not the only one to be born with this condition. I'm not the
only person with a scar.' But because you're not
seeing it anywhere, it does feel like that at the time, particularly in a
situation like school, I wasn't around anyone else with a visible difference
that I knew of. It's quite isolating going through
that and even if you do have a really good support system in place, which I
did, my family and stuff were great, but if they don't have that personal
experience, there is a, sort of, disconnect there. Just knowing, seeing normal
people with visible difference going about their normal lives and they're not portrayed in any sort of dramatic way, it is
just a person, you know, I think that really would have helped just normalise the whole thing for me and for others.
Nikki: And, Hannah, what did you think? Did you
notice when you were younger and you were growing up that there wasn't really
anyone with a visible difference that you saw in the media or, you know, on TV?
Hannah: I did notice, and I thought it was quite
strange. I was quite confused as to why there was no one that looked like me.
And I, kind of, wished there was because it would have
helped me just follow my dreams because I quite like acting, but there's no one
that really looks like me, so I didn't really think I could do it.
Nikki: Yes. Unfortunately, having visible difference
and feeling alone holds you back from a lot of things. I can only think that
having someone before us that we could look up to would have really helped us
just push ourselves to achieving our dreams from an earlier age.
Nikki: You both have had a really
tricky time at school, and I myself have had a tricky time at school,
and so from your personal experiences, what do you think are the particular
pressures that young people face at school?
Jenny: I think because I've
been out of school for (TC 00:10:00) quite a few years now, I think now looking
back I can really recognise how much of a bubble it
is. I know everyone says that but it is such a, kind
of, pressure cooker environment. And when I was at school, social media wasn't really a thing, so I'm quite glad I didn't have that
on top of everything else because that's another pressure cooker sort of
situation in itself.
Nikki: The stress, yes.
Jenny: I mean, that sort of time is difficult for
everyone, I think, regardless of whether or not you
have a visible difference. It's, you know, a time of
change, and it's difficult for a lot of people for a lot of different reasons.
And then if you add visible difference in, and particularly add in the
reactions of people to that, particularly all the negative ones that
unfortunately we have had to deal with, I think it just amplifies everything
and it makes it harder.
Nikki: Definitely. I mean, Hannah, obviously we're the same age, we're both sixteen. So, we're both in school and we're still going through school,
and social media is, like, one of the biggest things ever, and so how have you
felt with trying to navigate social media and dealing with the pressures at
Hannah: If you go onto, like, Instagram or something
and you see all the adverts of people looking like they think you should look
like, you don't really see anyone that looks
different. It's quite hard.
Nikki: Yes, when I first started social media, I had
to really change who I was following and alter it because, you know, that whole
cookie-cutter image was really getting stuck in my head of what I thought I had
to look like. But then I was really struggling to accept myself because I knew
that the way that I looked was not something that I had control over.
Jenny: I think a lot of it comes down to education
on these sorts of things. You know, we all look different, don't we? And everyone's different in different ways, and I think it's
important that people realise that they are going to
come in contact with people that look differently to them or look differently
to how they're maybe expecting. And it doesn’t always
require some sort of comment. You can just leave it. And I think also I would
just make sure that people understand that your words are powerful, and I know we've all made mistakes and, you know, we've all said
something at some point or another that we maybe wouldn't say now, but I think
people really need to be aware of the fact that something you say to someone
can stick with them for years. I mean, I remember some of things that people
said to me when I was twelve, and I'm 26 now, and even
though it doesn't impact me in the same way because of the work that I've put
in to get past that, I still remember it. So, there's power in words and people
need to be really aware, of that with what they're
Nikki: I totally agree with that, Jenny, and unless
you have walked in that person's shoes, I think people need to really, really think about what they say before they say it.
The world would be such a different place if people were kinder, and us having
visible differences, which can be really, really hard
at times, would be so much easier to live our daily lives with if people were
just kinder and thought twice about what they said.
Jenny: You know, people get comments everyday, all day, whenever they're
just trying to go about their lives. So, I think even if you think you're being
well-intentioned or it's not that bad, what you're saying, I would
just maybe encourage people to just think a bit about what would happen if you
only ever heard that sort of thing, and it was put towards you everyday, all day. It would get to you, and I think if
people were more aware of that, then the world would be a better place.
Nikki: No, that is so true. And I just want to
finish off with asking you both what are your hopes for the future?
Hannah: My dream job would be to work with animals.
Hannah: Yes. I just think that animals are, like-,
they understand you so well, especially people with visible differences because
they don't really treat anyone different.
Nikki: There's no judgement, yes.
Hannah: And also for
Changing Faces, I hope to, like, carry on just raising awareness.
Nikki: I'm really hoping
that so many more people who have visible differences who are still feeling the
way that we felt, especially when we first noticed that we looked different and
didn't have Changing Faces as an amazing charity to help us, I hope that so
many more people that were in our situation can find Changing Faces and that it
can help them as well. So, thank you so much for both being on.
Hannah: Thank you for talking to us.
Jenny: Thank you so much for talking with us. I
think it's such an important topic, and I really hope
it will help people to know that they're not in it alone and, you know, there
are people like us that have been there and have either, like me, gone through
it in the past or are going through it at the moment and there are people out
there that do understand.
M: You have been listening to the the Voices of Visible Difference podcast from the charity
Changing Faces. If you would like to get in touch, share your thoughts or find
out more, you can contact us via the Changing Faces website or follow us on
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