For those of you who follow me on social media (see the links below if you’d like to follow), you may have noticed that I did a podcast interview recently and was waiting for it to air.
Well, it all started when I was approached by Megha on Twitter, asking me to do a podcast interview and I jumped at the opportunity. Not necessarily because I love supporting fellow authors and creative minds (which I do), and it’ll be good publicity for me, but because I will be getting out of my comfort zone HUGELY.
If you don’t know, I had Selective Mutism as a child, you can read my previous post on ‘Why “The Girl Who Whispered“‘ here, which explains more about it, and as silly as it sounds, talking is something I have always struggled with.
When we scheduled to do it, I was very nervous, I could literally feel my heart beating in my chest. Megha was so lovely though, so understanding and I eventually felt myself calming (okay, a little).
I’ve been waiting for it to go live with baited breath, although the hard part was over, I was still really nervous about it going live. All those years worrying about speaking and I was going public on the internet. But the podcast went live today at 14:30 BST and I couldn’t be happier. It came out great!
If you’re interested in listening, here it is on spotify:
Huge thanks to Megha for the opportunity, it was great to make such a lovely connection too, and thanks everyone who has already listened to it – I was told Megha’s listeners love it (I think it’s my British accent!)
If you’d like to support Megha and her podcast, please check out her links:
A few friends will remember that I had planned a trip around America and Canada for a charity. I was going to go to Canada first, find some work, save up, and then travel around, maybe even visiting other countries. All doing this to raise awareness and funds for a charity.
I was deadly serious about it too, I had bought my Working Holiday Visa to Canada, got police certificates for it, set up a page, I even got a few people invested, including a few celebrities – at least they shared my posts.
But, due to personal reasons, I had to cancel it all. And I felt defeated that I failed and let people down.
I was also met with a lot of negative criticism from friends and family. “Why don’t you do something smaller?” “Do you even have a plan?” I had lots of people think that I was just after money from them when I asked for support, but in reality I just wanted them to help share the word, to show that they were rooting for me and wanted me to succeed.
I lost friends over it. And I felt like I had proved them right; I failed.
I never stopped thinking about it, what I missed out on, the friends I lost, it still eats away at me. But I also never stopped believing that one day, I would do it! I’ve always been one with big ideas, and yes, a lot of times they don’t work out, but I also believe that people can do big and amazing things if they work and persist. And I want to be one of those that didn’t give up, and made a different!
So, I am planning it all again!
This time I plan to go to America on a food, bike and car tour, raising awareness and funds for charities that support world hunger, mental health and/or child abuse.
Most people know I love my cars, having tinkered with most of the cars I have owned, from basic maintenence such as services or timing belt changes, to going mad and stripping it for track. I also love my bikes, having wanted to get my bike licence for years but keep putting it off due to the costs. I love the naked, deep sounding Harley-Davidsons and Triumphs (the Triumph Bobber Black is on my Christmas list!)…and of course, who doesn’t like food?
As for the charities, mental health is extremely important to me, as I have had, and to some small extent, still suffer with mental health issues myself. I had selective mutism when I was a child (to read more about this, I wrote a post about it here), which caused no end of probelms growing up, even to this day it causes a few issues. I then developed depression and anxiety because of it.
And of course, stopping world hunger and child abuse are both important to me too.
For this trip, I plan to set up a YouTube channel to document it, setting little challenges for myself along the way, so that people can watch my progress. I plan to visit sites of interest, places like the Harley-Davidson Museum, the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, watch a Monster Truck show, try out an electric motorbike, eat at the best food joints, whether that’s street food, restaurants, maybe even try wild hunting, I plan to find the best roads to travel down – yes, Route 66 may very well be on the list, maybe even meet a few interesting people – I have a few in mind, if I can pull it off.
It’s going to be big, requiring a lot of planning and it’s going to cost a lot, I know that. It might not work out the way I plan, but either way, I plan on going one way or another. I have to.
I also may not be going alone. As I have been discussing the idea with a friend of mine who is also very interested in going. He’s a massive foodie and car nut himself, and loves America!
Planning might take a while, as there is a lot to sort, and I have just signed a 12 month contract with work (that’s a story for another day!), so I have plenty of time to plan, make contacts and save. I also have yet to get my bike licence! I also plan on getting a few sponsors, such as travel companies, bike/car companies, even clothing companies, if I can.
Either way, I am extremely excited to start off this new adventure, to visit more of America, experience new things, meet new people, and most importantly… make a difference!
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!
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).
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 Alex. (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 Alex Damion.
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! 🙂
So, a small update before I begin which my Christmas Special blog post!
In 2009, at just 21 years old (ten years ago!), I went to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa. With my ex-boyfriend. It was both an exciting trip and a nightmare!
Looking at the above photo of me (yes, this was on Christmas day!), you would think I was a happy person, but Christmas back in 2009 was horrendous.
It hadn’t even been a month into my Australian Working Holiday Visa yet I already had lost a lot of money, had a nasty break up with my boyfriend (I talk about this in my previous post), my relationship with my family in Australia was on edge and was now starting to question what to do with my life.
My ex and I had a small plan to build a new life in Australia, my Aunt and her husband had done just this, so we questioned whether we could too. But after finally realising the person he was, I knew that new and relatively young plan we had was crushed.
Now what do I do?
Over the Christmas period my mood was low, not only had I broken up with my boyfriend, I didn’t know what to do with my life, I was unknowingly suffering with depression and I was away from my close friends and my parents, whom I had never spent a christmas apart.
Christmas day 2009 was spent at the house of my Aunt and Uncle’s friends’, along with my step-cousin and a friend of his. It was a very hot day, as unlike the northern hemisphere where we hope for a white Christmas, Australia is in the peak of their summer. It was that warm that a couple of people took a dip in the pool.
(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: A selection of prawns freshly caught for Christmas.
Christmas dinner was a BBQ, mainly focusing on freshly caught seafood, including some rather large prawns and playing a few silly games like this fun spin on Russian roulette which involved a plastic gun which would fire a pin into a water balloon
I remember having a phone call with the other side of the world with my parents at one point. I went off into the dark garden to take the private call and at the time feeling a little upset at the thought of what had previously happened, but then my parents opened the flood gates when they rang.
Luckily the day wasn’t a complete waste with my low mood and homesickness, I do remember a few laughs and good times. I remember my step-cousin’s friend disappearing and someone found him in a bedroom asleep. I took photos as my step-cousin and one other person started drawing something obscene on the side of his face, I remember him waking up and sitting down in the garden again, with a few people making puns, all the while he had no idea what was on the side of his face.
(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Secret santa present from my step-cousin.
I remember my step-cousin had me as a secret santa and had bought me a remote controlled lamborghini and I was extremely happy with it, not just having a cool gadget and a cool car, but the fact he knew me well enough to know I’d like it.
(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Side-show Penny.
I remember someone had the bright idea to stand underneath a hanging plant and looked like Sideshow Bob from the Simpsons, and a few others, including myself took part in this ridiculous photo opportunity.
I also remember someone bringing out their pet rat and I instantly fell in love.
So, although it wasn’t the best Christmas I’ve ever had, it certainly was one to remember.
If you liked this post, please do give it a like! And feel free to leave a comment!
~Penny (Aka The Girl Who Whispered).
If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:
With only 4 days left until I pick up my hire car and drive down south to start my Master’s Degree, I had to help my parents put boxing in the loft today.
My parents wanted their spare room back so all my stuff, that I’m not taking with me, had to go into boxes and up into the loft out of the way.
However, one of these boxes, the heavest one, which we had to take a few things out in order to get up the ladder, fell out of my mother’s grasp and hit me in the side/back (right into my rib) and knocked me over.
As a result, and the stress around getting these boxes up into the loft, my mood suddenly plummeted.
I’ve been fine for a while, with my mental health. But for me, it’s vital I DON’T get low, because if I do, it take a lot to get me back on my feet again. I don’t have a huge support network and as such this makes me feel worse. On good days, it doesn’t bother me, I feel independent and don’t care, but it’s not good on low days.
This is also difficult for me as a writer too. How can you pick yourself up to continue on? When you feel like everything is shit, you feel like there’s no point. It’s days like this that you could really do with someone to give you compliments, praise, well wishes, etc.
As well as the low days, having this mental health issue (I suffer with depression and anxiety), it can affect even every day things. I worry about saying something wrong and upsetting someone, I don’t do well in social situations and putting myself out there can be difficult (not just with my writing, but interacting with people) and as a result of the support network (or lack of), this also affects how I interact with people.
And low days… makes it so much worse!
So, I’m writing this post for awareness, so people out there not only know a little more about me and my stuggles at becoming an author, but anyone who reads this will know… you’re not alone! Please do connect with me if you, like me, need that little bit of encouragement because you suffer with mental health issues or would generally like to know more!