It took me a while to realise I was living an extension of the past. Sometimes, we tend to think of different decades of our lives as separate parts of ourselves. Still, all our changes belong to the same extension. We are one in contradiction and time.
If that wasn’t true, the notion of consequence couldn’t exist – there’s no consequence without time. Trauma is a consequence of your time being wasted in the wrong environment. And it’s important to understand that the wrong part of this is the environment, not you. The difficulty resides in this, it’s a mirror problem.
I came from a poor background, but intellectual nevertheless. For some reason, my parents wanted me to be in a wealthy area public school and, of course, that created a huge gap between my colleagues and me. I certainly couldn’t shop weekly at Benetton, I didn’t have a signature perfume, and I didn’t look trendy. I was too tall for my age, too thin, had a cartoon voice and, worst of all, I wore shoes with a tracksuit – which was the ultimate lack of trend. My parents couldn’t afford proper trainers back then – I had flimsy sabrinas to wear in sports class. That was the poor people’s lack of style, and so some kids in school would beat me up – it was a group-identity guarantee for them. No one would have the courage to defend me; easy target, easy gratification.
To try and keep up with the standards, my dad bought this very old white BMW from the 1960s to pick me up at school. But poor dad didn’t get it, our car was an entertainment for the kids. They used to follow us running and laughing because it was actually quite laughable. The holes in the car paint were covered by skull & crossbones stickers and my dad, by most peoples standards, was a complete weirdo. He had a Brian Ferry goes Goth type of look – a tall, dark crooner with crow hair, always in a suit. He was unaware of it – which made him very innocent (but also charming). But my dear dad thought he was making a heroic statement. He wanted to make me feel I had a father who could pick me up too. We were poor, but he said it was even more unfortunate to have a lack of aesthetics.
He was a jazz drummer, professional photographer and studied to be a priest to relieve his disappointment about the world in general. Then gave up on it because he was disappointed with the church). Finally, after that he studied medicine…. so I grew up with laboratory items, science books, a skull and other pieces of bones scattered around the house. But he kept me in excellent humour about things. He would wake me up every day pretending to be in a spaghetti western shoot-out scene, and he taught me how to fix radios and walkmans. Me and my dad were always together, we were the gang!
Unfortunately, after my parents divorced, custody was given to my mother. There are some myths about motherhood that don’t correspond to the truth in our society that I won’t go into here. At home, as at school, I had no experience of being a girl. My mother didn’t raise me like one at all – I was someone that resembled a girl by accident and by culture.
I grew up sexless. I fixed radios, I played football on the streets, and Sunday dresses looked out of place on me. This, of course, excluded me from the girls at school. That lead me to depersonalisation symptoms, confusion, and, with daily bullying events, trauma. I feared to go to school every day. My brain shut down to the point that I lost a significant amount of memory, and I couldn’t function normally. I was eleven. My mirror reflection was shattered.
Well, life went on as it usually does even if we don’t notice it. I went to college, graduated twice, scholarships shaped my intentions, and a master degree is on the horizon. But then I met Crispin, my husband, and I came to London.
A sudden childhood revival started here, and the fact was that many people behaved exactly the same as when I was 11 years old. It was precisely the same behaviour – but this time disguised as ‘adult’ behaviour. And as a result of the same situation, I started to develop the same reaction. Still, this time not being a child helped me to understand both sides of the same coin: victim and non-victim. I’d been there before, and the damage was no stranger. This time I’m the winner.
For those who are aware of Starsha Lee, you’ll know what I’m talking about. It started around five years ago and still continues.
I was reported so many times on Facebook that as a result, I’m not allowed to promote my band material anymore. I’ve had endless Facebook and Instagram accounts deleted because some bullies decided to target me. For years now, I’ve had to start accounts from scratch, lost contacts and followers and had to set my accounts private to stop people reporting me. And when direct bullying is not enough rumour via word of mouth can be even stronger.
So I have a reputation out there that’s like a surreal movie script: supposedly I’ve made people homeless, broken up bands, used drugs and so on, you name it. Low budget movie style!
I’ve had a death threat on Reddit, defamatory Facebook posts, texts messages and emails. I’ve kept it all in a file, and I sought legal advice. The internet is a new tool, but there’s now cybercrimes that are recognised by law and tracking down abusers is a reality.
I’ve been struggling for nearly five years with a dissociative disorder, anger attacks, and a numbness state that makes it very difficult to concentrate. As for the anger – I put it all into my band and perform it for everyone to see. It suits me, it saved me.
The consequence of bullying is that the mirror you see yourself in is twisted, it’s not positioned correctly. It reflects an intentional ill will point of view about yourself. It’s essential to understand how it works to protect yourself from damage. Reasoning is a tool – psychology uses it as an awareness process to make the patient look at the problem as an external object and not as an internal subject.
That shattered self-perception casts shadows and missing links all over your identity. And it’s challenging being a victim and self-diagnosing simultaneously. It’s a high demand, not only for children but also for adults. We need to understand the perception we have of ourselves is never innocuous or untouched, it’s always a reference to our social experiences. It’s like a net of relationships, and you’re the epicentre of that net. You have to choose your own satellites. Realise it, target it, and then act upon it. Seek help if needed, either legal or medical.
Other people have a mirror-effect on us, and we should be cautious in giving them that capacity. While that effect is not something we can erase because of our intersubjective nature, you can regulate it if you’re aware of the mechanisms of how it works. Again, reasoning is a tool. Bullying is a mirror-error, it’s not your reflection but someone else’s.
You know, we have this Portuguese saying “no one kicks a dead dog” which means if you were not relevant in some way they wouldn’t hate you. Hate is a very personal thing, and the excuse of you being “terrible” or “shit” is just a disguise for something else. We don’t hate people we think are not that good, we just don’t pay attention to them, and that’s it.
But don’t take my word for it! Marcus Aurelius told us in his ‘Meditations’: “You have a good way to defend yourself from them – don’t act like them”, so I put my sporadic anger into performance. We don’t need more bullies, so why turn into one of them? Exclude yourself from what you are not.
Keep going, you are not alone.
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Sofia Martins is also the lead singer for her band, named after her alias Starsha Lee: