Why “The Girl Who Whispered”?

Hello, my little demons! 😈

I don’t get many questions about why the name “The Girl Who Whispered”, but I have had a few comments that have been made in poor taste, so I want to just explain where the name comes from, why I use it and why some of these jokes are in bad taste.

Short answer: I had selective mutism as a child.

Selective mutism is defined as “a complex childhood anxiety disorder characterized by a child’s inability to speak and communicate effectively in select social settings, such as school. These children are able to speak and communicate in settings where they are comfortable, secure and relaxed.” – Referenced from https://selectivemutismcenter.org/whatisselectivemutism/

I had no idea there was even a defined term for this until only a few years ago!

Long answer:

When I was a young child, I was bullied. I had red hair and freckles and I was quite reserved and quiet. There are a lot of other complex situations that made me the way I am, and I don’t personally have all the answers, nor do I feel completely comfortable explaining them.

But I will explain that I think it started after a particular issue in Primary School. I remember it quite well, considering I was probably only about 5 at the time. I remember being in a classroom with a load of other children, we were all playing, having a down time or something. There was a particular child, a boy, who decided to rearrange the tables and chairs, but he was deliberately trying to trap me in them, deliberately singling me out. It was at this time that the teacher called us all over, but this boy kept moving the tables and chairs so I couldn’t get out. I think I was the one who got told off for not listening to the teacher, but she failed to notice I wasn’t ignoring her, I was being trapped by this bully.

Somewhere in my little brain I decided enough was enough, after all the years of adults not listening to me, I went into remission.

I stopped talking.

I refused to talk to the teacher. My friends.

Even my parents.

I went home that day and my mum didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking to her. My dad got home from work and he didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking.

I had developed selective mutism.

My parents tried in a few ways to help me, one of which was to send me to a different Secondary School than the other kids. Most of the kids, after completing Primary School, went to one Secondary School. I went to a completely different one. It didn’t work though.

And by then, because the issue hadn’t be addressed properly, it evolved. As a pre-teen and eventually a teen in Secondary School, I had difficulty trying to express myself because of my selective mutism and in the end I found a new way to communicate; by whispering.

I had become The Girl Who Whispered.

Of course, this had it’s own issues. A lot of times people would assume I just had a bad throat and lost my voice – not that I corrected them. I had more children bullying me because I was now different. I had teachers trying to fix me. I had my parents and friends trick me into talking. I had issues with communicating still. Issues with grades. Social issues. And I developed a few bad habits from the social issues (avoidance for example).

My selective mutism didn’t really go away until I became a young adult, when I was about 17 years old when I left school and went to college. All the kids in the class were new, no one knew who I was (until I met one kid who was at my old Primary School, which I remember vividly, but I just hoped he didn’t remember me!)

But I finally had a voice. And some really bad social skills!

Meeting up with old friends, or bumping into those I went to school with was extremely awkward, but I eventually “grew out” of my selective mutism and started talking to them all properly.

A lot of my newer friends didn’t even know about my previous issues. It’s only until recently in the last few years that I started talking about it and opening up.

Also, my selective mutism not only gave me issues with social skills, but I also developed depression and anxiety. Most of my life has been difficult. Even now I get bad days. But the bad days are easier to deal with now, because I kept fighting. I learn to recognise when days got bad. Found healthier coping mechanisms. And grew emotionally.

The ironic thing is, when I was a child, if I got passionate about something you couldn’t shut me up about it (even as an adult). But when I had selective mutism, I lacked that basic need, to have a voice, to speak up for myself.

It still haunts me now, my past, what happened to me as a child. And I’m slowly getting over it, learning social skills, communicating properly, and finding ways to get over my weaknesses (social situations for example).

This is one of the reasons why I write. It’s a silent voice. Because when I was a child, not only did I love reading (as a form of escapism from the real-world I hated so much), but writing was my way of communicating easily. When computers became popular, I used to sit for hours on Instant Messenger, MySpace and Chat rooms, it was a way of being normal for a change – no one knew I didn’t talk properly. I would also write stories, build my own little universe to escape to.

I, one day, would also love to do something where I’m not sat behind a computer screen with written words. I actually love to sing and I have a huge interest in acting.

I remember the first time I actually got to “stand up” and sing to an audience, and although it isn’t as glamorous as it sounds, as I just stood on a tour bus in Brooklyn. But, my goodness, I will never forget that. And I’m so glad my friend got that picture (see below).

10553422_10152376625330938_5388833987590551101_n
This is me singing on the tour bus. For more photos of me, scroll to the bottom of the post! 🙂

Acting is another thing I wouldn’t mind to do – although I’m realistic, I can’t see it really happening, everyone wants to be an actor! – because not only are you speaking out, saying your lines, but you’re also pretending to be someone else… something I wished a lot when I was a child. I wished so often to be anyone else but Penny. (Update: Since writing this blog post, however, I am planning a tour of America, for charity… and I will be filming it!)

Now, though, I embrace it. I embrace who I am and what I went through as a child. It made me who I am today. Okay, I still have a few quirks and flaws, but I hate to imagine who I would be now without it.

I may never have travelled to Australia. I may never have abseiled Forth Rail Bridge. I may never have walked across Sailsbury Plain. I may never have got my Bachelor’s Degree or my Master’s Degree. I may never have met all the interesting people over the years. I may never have flown a plane. I may never have fired that brown bess musket.

And, of course, I may never have become a writer and an author and I may never use my writing to help others.

I am Penny Hooper.

And I am The Girl Who Whispered.

I use this designation to hopefully inspire people.

Keep fighting, guys! ❤

P.s. If you think you know someone who has selective mutism, please try encourage them to get professional help. Do not try to “shock” them into talking. Do not simply assume it “will go” that “it’s a phase”. If it’s lasting more than a few weeks or months, then it could develop into something more serious. Unless you are a professional who understands selective mutism, do not attempt to fix it! I wished my parents or teachers did more, they didn’t, and it got worse and had a negative impact on my life.

P.P.s The song I sang on the tour bus was “Innocent Eyes” by Delta Goodrem.

~~~

Here are a few other photos of me over the years:

~~~

As always, if you liked this post, please do give it a like, and feel free to comment. I’m always happy to hear from people, old and new! 🙂

And do check out my other posts:

I’ve started blogging about my trip to Australia:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

My post about my 34km trek across Salisbury Plain tank training ground for charity:

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

A few posts to see my writing:

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

New Story idea! – Butterfly House

My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

My website:

thegirlwhowhispered.com

Standing up to Bullying – don’t stop the dreamers!

I found out this morning that people in the village have been talking about me (I’m not surprised, it’s what they do best; gossip). But what made me laugh was that someone mentioned I’m writing a book. I am. But I am doing so much more than that. And I don’t mean my university studies either. I mean my scheming. I have ideas. Ideas that I want to turn into plans. I am using my time to not only write (and finish my studies) but to come up with a plan for the future. The future isn’t exactly set in stone. But I have an outline of what I want it to look like.

In the past I have spoken out about my ideas, my dreams, some haven’t worked out (most of them actually), either because I changed my mind or because other things have got in the way (like my studies getting in the way of my plan to travel the world for charity), and I’ve had people ridicule me (including family) and try to push me down, but I haven’t let it deter me. It just makes me stronger. I don’t care what people think of me, think of me what you like, but I know who I am and I’m going to keep pushing to be the best version of me as possible.

Do you think Marie Curie would be in history books if she gave up when she was refused entry to Krakow University because she was a woman? She was later given two nobel prizes. She was the first woman to recieve one. The first person and only woman to win twice. The only person to win in two different science fields.

Do you think Galileo Galilei would be in history books if gave up when the church tried to thwart his ideas that Earth wasn’t the centre of the universe and revolves around a sun?

Do you think Thomas Edison would be in history books now if he gave up when he tried thousands of failed attempts to create the first lightbulb?

I’m not saying I will be in history books, or find the cure to cancer or even do anything worthy at all, that’s a bit pompus, but I am saying that people doubt people who may one day be brilliant all the time. That’s what keeps me going, when it feels like everyone is against me. I’m not interested in getting into a history book, I’m not even interested in being formally recognised for my efforts or possible future accomplishments. But I am interested in proving a point. Proving that people shouldn’t look down upon others, don’t push them down because you think it’s funny, to fit into a crowd, or because you think they’re just ‘talk and no action’, those people, with the dreams and the ones we should be supporting.

I am also interested in pushing people to follow their dreams, no matter how silly they feel they are (unless they’re morally wrong, then I have a problem!) and being the best version of themselves.

Yes, I am writing a book. I would love nothing more for it to inspire people. But I’m not building my hopes up that it will. I’ll push really hard for it, but I’m not setting myself up for a fall just in case. I am also studying psychology, and want to push hard to get a PhD one day, contribute in some way in the world of knowledge.

I also still want to do things for charity, it might not be that round the world trip, I did a charity abseil (found my weakness is in lack of support though thus not much fundraising happened, so am finding other avenues to help instead) but I also have the idea to set up a business, a social enterprise to bring people, companies, charities and the community together to make the world a better place.

Feel free to think “She’s all talk and no action”. I might not accomplish everything, but I’m going to still damn well try to do my best! But I don’t care what you say or think about me. I care about helping others. DONT push other people down to make yourself feel better, THEY might be the next Marie Curie or Thomas Edison!

No one likes you! – A short story.

A short story,
Based on a true events.
By Penny Hooper (aka The Girl Who Whispered)

Early 90s

“Are you okay?” said a big scary woman in her strange blue clothes said as she bent down to look at me.

I nodded viciously, hoping she would just leave me alone. It was easier to just sit here quietly. I wouldn’t get in trouble if I sat and stayed quiet. What if I wasn’t allowed to speak to strangers? I didn’t know this woman. Even if she looked like she worked there.

She smiled at me and just walked off. I sighed. And tried to calm my beating heart as I sat on the hard plastic chair in the corridor of the hospital.

But I didn’t know what to do. What do I say? Do I say something? Do I sit and wait? Do I find him? Or had I been left here? I had no concept of how long I was sitting there panicking. I knew I was there to think about what I had done. Dad was angry with me the moment he burst into my room. I hadn’t even got in his way yet. Or said something wrong to him. But I had an idea of what it was I had done. He tried to get me to speak. I refused. He got angry.

But I couldn’t think about what I had done. I only sat, tried not to cry – I wasn’t allowed to cry – and hoped that he would come back for me. Eventually.

I couldn’t forget what happened to me though, even though I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. I hoped one day I might forget. A kid at school had trapped me in tables and chairs. The teacher had called us all over, I think it was reading time, but the kid, he was ignoring the teacher and was instead moving the tables and chairs to trap me. I don’t know why. Was this a game? He was laughing. Or had I done something wrong? But the teacher had called us, she wanted us all over to her, we would get told off if we didn’t!

I got told off. For not going over to her. For playing. I didn’t know I was playing. I was trapped. I couldn’t go anywhere. How could I explain that to her? But I just wanted to go home. I didn’t want to be there anymore. What did I do wrong? How could I have done that differently?

I had decided not to talk anymore. The grown-ups didn’t listen. They didn’t see and they didn’t listen. I was just a kid. But it was okay, that kid was a boy. Boys will be boys after all!

But why did I feel so bad?

I had gotten home after school and refused to talk to mum. Mum didn’t like it. But dad was angry at me. I don’t remember exactly what happened, it all went by in a flash; he took me in his car and drove me to the hospital, told me to sit, I obeyed and then he walked off. Taking a cigarette out and walked off without even looking back at me.

After what felt like hours, I saw out of the corner of my eye, dad was coming back. I felt a little relieved. I hadn’t been left here. I wasn’t going to have to live on this plastic seat for the rest of my life. But I was also nervous. What if I did that wrong? What if I sat here wrong? What if I was supposed to do something? What if he yelled at me again? What if he forced me to speak again?

Early 2000s

I sat in my class, staring at my book and scribbling notes hurriedly, trying not to look at anyone. I didn’t want to grab someone’s attention and then they pick on me. If I ignored everyone, maybe they’d leave me alone. I already had a bad day in my previous lesson. Physical Education. PE. I hated PE. It meant changing in a room full of other girls and playing sports that I hated and wasn’t even good at. It was a good lesson to have others laugh at you too. At least if you’re writing and got your head in a book, the other students can’t see how terrible you are. I was stupid after all.

PE was up there with Drama. I hated Drama too.

“Oi, you talking yet?” I heard someone whisper behind me. I felt every muscle in my body go tense. I hadn’t been small enough. Someone was talking to me. I pretended I didn’t hear.

“I thought you had a sore throat?” another kid said from behind me, I recognised her voice, “Been going on for a few years now hasn’t it? Faking it much?”

I gulped as I felt the tears in my eyes again. I had already fought the tears back after my PE teacher told me off for having an attitude. I didn’t have an attitude. I didn’t hear her call my name and then turned round to see her staring at me angrily. I got called into her office. The smelly PE office. She told me off for ignoring her. I wasn’t ignoring her. I crossed my arms, not knowing what to do with them. They felt suddenly heavy and in the way. I got told off for crossing my arms.

I can’t do anything right.

“She’s such a looser,” said one of the girls behind me and the other one giggled as if it was the funniest thing her friend had said.

I stared at the same word on my page in my school book, attempting to control my shaking and my beating heart and blinked away the tears. I wasn’t sure what was worse, the popular kids name calling me and throwing things at me or the kids that weren’t popular, the smart ones, calling me names now too.

I sat and pretended I was somewhere else. Anywhere else than here. Well, maybe not home.

Late 2000s

I heard whispering and giggling from behind me as I sat on my computer. I looked round at the two girls that used to be my friends. They stopped and turned round as if suddenly getting caught doing something wrong. They had.

Were they upset with me? What had I done? I know I was hanging out with my two guy mates more. I got on with them better. We had more in common. It was cool to hang out with them. But I had no idea that the girls didn’t like me anymore. I still said hello to them, asked them how they were. Although one of them completely ignored me that morning. I didn’t know why.

I looked back round at my computer, I was trying to figure out this problem. I was starting to think college wasn’t for me. My two mates sat next to me were happily tapping away on their keyboards, they looked like they knew what they were doing. But I couldn’t get past this one bit. How could I do a whole two years of this?

I sighed just as I heard whispering and giggling again. I turned around and noticed the two girls were looking at me again.

“Do you have a problem?” I said loudly, everyone in the class looked round at me.

But to my joy, the two girls stopped, went pale faced and looked back round at their own computers. They left me alone from then on.

I felt proud. I’d spoken up for myself.

I found out a few days later why they didn’t like me. I had said something to one of the girls. Apparently she took offense. I didn’t mean to be nasty, I was just joking with her. Had I of known I upset her, if she told me, I would have apologised. But instead she decided to pick on me. But I had enough of that at school.

College was supposed to be different.

Sometime between 2012 and 2013.

My heart dropped when I saw the text message that my boyfriend had been deliberately trying to hide from me. I know he had. He said he didn’t. But I wasn’t stupid. But when I read the text message over his shoulder I saw why he was trying to hide it from me. His brother had text him to tell him that I need to suck it up and go to the New Year party because he wanted to see his brother.

I snapped. I was angry. Hurt. Upset. Both at his brother and at my boyfriend too.

“That’s it, I’m not going now!” I said.

He looked at me in shock.

“I’m not taking that!” I said, “I’m sorry! But that is just an asshole thing to say! I’m not going to make a scene there! I was just worried about that guy being there, he doesn’t like me, and you know I’m nervous in big groups of people!”

I remember the day I met the guy in question. It was about a year ago. I was at my boyfriend’s parents’ house. He at his brother had decided to have a few friends over for a barbeque, I met a load of his friends for the first time. I was stupidly nervous. I was trying to fit in, feel included. A song came on that reminded me of an ex and I told my boyfriend’s brother he was a chav if he listened to that song. It was a joke. He thought it was funny and turned it over. His friend didn’t. He had a go at me. Thought I was calling him a chav for liking the song. What was worse though, I went inside feeling stupid and all eyes were on me. Everyone hated me. My boyfriend followed me in, asked me what was wrong. He was there, he heard what went on. But had no idea why I was upset. He even told me that I was being rude for calling him a chav. I never called him a chav. I called his brother a chav. It was a joke.

But we had been invited to a New Year party at my boyfriend’s brother’s house, only that guy was going to be there. I was nervous. I was worried that he was going to have another go at me. I also wasn’t doing too well. I was lonely, missing my very few friends back home who were slowly forgetting me. I had moved far away from my hometown. I was upset too and struggling to stay happy, I had lost two grandparents and another grandparent was seriously ill and my childhood dog had died. I was tired too. Always fighting battles.

And now, I felt even worse because I felt like I was the bad person for not wanting to go to a New Year’s party and my boyfriend was starting to resent me and none of his friends liked me.

This was supposed to be a happy time of my life. I had escaped my parents. I had moved in with my boyfriend. We were living together in our first house. It was supposed to be new and exciting. But I was still miserable. I was starting to believe that I was supposed to be miserable. I must have done something really bad in a previous life to deserve this.

I just wanted to be happy.

Present day

“Why you taking your phone? To take a selfie in the bathroom?” my dad jeered as I stood up to go to the toilet. We were in a bar.

I looked at him in utter shock. Did he really think I was one of those girls? Who goes into bathrooms just to take a photo of herself? I wasn’t one of those girls.

“She doesn’t have any friends to show it to anyway!” my mum commented and I snorted and just walked off.

Any normal day, it would have been funny. It would have been me that said instead of her.

But today, it wasn’t a normal day. I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to take those jokes. But I couldn’t complain. I couldn’t fight back. It was best I just said nothing. Or just made a joke back, pretend I thought it was funny.

I walked into the bathroom and sat on the toilet, staring at my phone.

It was true. I don’t have any friends. Aside from the odd one or two I sometimes speak to. I looked at my last text message on my phone. The last text message was just an automated message with a code to log into a service. Probably PayPal. That was two weeks ago. The last text message I actually got from a friend was six months ago.

I sighed and locked my phone up. It was pointless having a phone. No one called. No one text. It was my parents’ choice that I had a phone. I was happy without one. At least if I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t have a constant reminder that I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have anyone that cared. I was alone. A loner. A loser. Billy no mates.

Even my dad didn’t like me. Didn’t even know who I was.

Maybe I should have changed those settings on Facebook. Then I’d get a few people who would notice me today.

Today was my birthday. No one remembered.

No one liked me.

~~~

Check out my other works:

Read Chapter 1 of ‘It’s My Mistake’ here.
Or buy on e-book here or paperback here.

Read Chapter 1 of ‘I Fell in Love with a Psychopath’ here.
Or buy on e-book here or paperback here.

Check out my Prologue for Rose Garden Sanatorium here.

Read how I come up with character names, here.