Scarlett Moffatt: ‘Trolls made me want to disappear, but I want to help them’
I’ve struggled with my mental health from a young age.
I was quite heavily bullied in school and I remember the teachers letting me out five minutes earlier so I could run home and not get beat up.
I used to walk around the Asda car park, so that I could time it so my mum and dad wouldn’t realise that I got let out of school early.
One time my dad saw me as he’d got dropped off from work early and asked, ‘What are you doing just walking around the car park?’
I even ended up having to move to a different school when I was in the last two years because I wanted to do well in my GCSEs.
Looking back, I lacked a lot of confidence in myself and felt quite sad. I was into metal detecting and aliens, which meant I wasn’t ‘cool’. I felt like I didn’t really have anyone, so I would throw myself into my other hobby, dancing, as that was where I could be myself and be ‘different’.
My dad would try and comfort me by saying: ‘Bullies are like sandpaper; the more they weigh you down the more polished you become’.
While it’s true to a certain extent, when you’ve been bullied you can’t help but hear what those bullies say in your head sometimes.
It was when I went to university that I realised I had anxiety. I’d think: ‘I’m good at this’, but then I’d hear voices of those bullies coming back saying, ‘You can’t do this, you’re not good enough”.
It was only when I got offered the opportunity to do Gogglebox, I started gaining a lot of confidence – but as that happened, I began getting trolled.
I don’t even like the word ‘trolls’ because it makes them sound like this mythical creature that lives under a bridge when, really, it could be the person next door being nasty really.
Some of the things I’ve seen people write are just terrible. One of the worst messages I read was when my little sister was 12 at the time and they wrote: ‘I hope your little sister gets raped by a paedophile’.
I’ve also had someone tell me to kill myself and people commenting on my weight, or saying that I’m ugly or that my boyfriend’s only with me because I’m on the telly.
My dad will always say they do it ‘because they’re just nasty people’, but I don’t believe someone is just nasty; they must also be going through something.
Which is why, when I’m trolled, I reach out to the person and actually send them the Samaritans number. For me, if we help someone who trolls, it might just stop this domino effect of everyone getting hurt.
Sometimes I’ve messaged to ask them why they do the trolling and a lot of them tell me it is so that they feel part of a community.
They join this community of hate because they’re not part of anything so that’s their way of getting a reaction and attention. It’s really sad, I just feel for people and that’s what I want to reach out and say you’re not alone.
When I first started Gogglebox, everyone was always really kind to me. I’d go to Asda and pay for my shopping and people would stop us and we’d have a chat and ask about telly stuff.
But then as the series went on, there began to be a lot of focus on my weight – and it was a time when I actually liked what I was seeing in the mirror.
I saw comments on Twitter with people saying, ‘Her nose was awful and she’s had plastic surgery on her nose.’ (Which isn’t true, by the way.) Until then I’d always loved my nose, it was like Belle’s from Beauty and the Beast, but all of a sudden I hated it.
I remember being up at 4am some nights, Googling surgery on how to make your nose larger. I’d ask friends who were drag queens how to contour to make it bigger because I was just getting so much hate for something that I actually liked about myself.
I would even sit in certain positions on Gogglebox.
I would sit right at the end of my seat so I was up straight and I’d put cushions in front of my belly. Anything where I thought this was drawing less attention to myself, which looking back is so sad, I feel like I lost myself a little bit.
Eventually, I lost all confidence and I didn’t have a boyfriend for two years during that time because I remember thinking, who’s going to want to be with me?
I even stopped going out for a while because I didn’t want to get photographed as I know the headline the next day will be about my appearance.
And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed out on fun things with my family and friends because I was so obsessed with things people were saying. I once didn’t go on holiday to Ibiza with my friends because I was that scared of how people would see me when I was in my swimming costume.
When I did lose a lot of weight in 2016, I thought, I’m doing what people want – this is the slim Scarlett they’re asking for. But then I just got trolled for being too thin.
They said I’d lost my personality, that I was a bad role model, I looked awful.
I just thought, I can’t win. I remember screaming and crying at my mum: ‘What size? I wish they’d just tell me what my measurements need to be.’
When I went in the I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here jungle in 2016, I had around 50,000 followers on Instagram, then I came out and it was about 1.2m. At first I thought it was great but then I also discovered that with more followers comes a lot more hate.
I discovered just how much two years after I’m A Celeb, when I appeared on ITV2’s Love Island: Aftersun.
It’s only now that I don’t cry about that time – even just a year ago if you’d asked me about it, I would have burst into tears as it was one of the worst months of my whole life.
When I was asked to go on I remember thinking that if ever there was a show where I can wear something that shows a bit of cleavage, it’s Love Island. After all, it was a programme where women weren’t penalised for showing a bit of flesh, it was actually encouraged.
But of course I soon discovered that you’re not allowed to show cleavage if you’re fat. If you’re not a certain size, you shouldn’t show skin because it ‘offends’ people, which is ridiculous.
I remember feeling really happy and taking loads of selfies beforehand and Iain Stirling coming in and saying: ‘Go on girl, you look great.’ Same as Caroline Flack, so I remember feeling really good about myself.
After the show, I found out people were saying I should go and die, that they’d had to turn the TV off because I upset them so much because I was ugly. There were thousands of comments.
Loads of my friends rang me asking if I was OK – that’s how I knew it was bad. I remember my mum and dad ringing and crying, telling me to ignore them. My nan rang me crying saying: ‘Please don’t listen to them, you’re beautiful.’
it was just horrific, I didn’t want to leave the house. I was in Palma Nova where it was filmed and I didn’t want to get on the flight back home. I remember feeling so embarrassed and going to the trailer after we finished filming and Twitter just exploded. All these nasty comments and articles.
I remember being with Caroline and just crying and her saying ‘just ignore them’. It was awful.
That night, I remember standing in front of the mirror at my friend’s place nearby, and literally grabbing my skin as if I was trying to rip the fat off my body, vowing never to eat again. I even threw out the dress I wore on the show – even though it was one of my favourites.
I felt actually embarrassed because I thought, is this what people think when they look at me? Do they think I should just go and kill myself because I’m that ugly?
I started believing them, thinking I didn’t deserve to be on TV as I wasn’t this beautiful thin person. I even told myself, you need to think of a different career, as the trolls actually made me feel like I couldn’t do my job.
But then, in that moment I also remember thinking, if I can help anyone never feel like this again, then this is why I’ve been given this platform because I would never want anyone to feel a tiny bit of this.
That night I reached out to the Samaritans and it became a big helpline for me.
I’m really close with my family and one of the things that I know people with mental health issues have is they don’t want to feel like a burden, which they’re not. The people who love us want to take care of us.
But for me, it felt easier talking to a stranger. It gave me a way to rant, to cry, to ask for help, for trying to rationalise how I was feeling.
WARNING: Potential suicide triggers
It’s such a weird feeling. I remember not wanting to be here but not wanting to die. I rang them saying I don’t want to be here, I just want to disappear for a while then come back when everything’s OK.
I talked to a woman for about 45 minutes on the phone, and I just felt so calm. The thoughts that I had at the beginning of the conversation, of wanting to disappear, compared to the end.
After the call, I packed my things, got on a flight and didn’t check the internet once. I realised that I wasn’t being weak, I was just taking myself out of the situation.
When I did go back online, I unfollowed everyone that made me unhappy on Instagram – why was I putting myself through all this torment of seeing people who seemed to have a perfect life?
The Samaritans really helped me with things like this, especially when it comes to social media and giving advice about limiting when you use it and detoxing and approaching with mindfulness about why every morning I’m going on Instagram and doing this to myself.
I started doing affirmations and watching videos about how I was going to have a great day – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s better than tormenting myself.
I feel, as time’s gone on, I’ve learned that I don’t really need validation from anyone else other than myself.
I know I’m a kind person, that I do nice things for my family and friends. I know that I never try to make somebody feel bad about themselves intentionally, therefore that’s enough for me.
My boyfriend Scott [Dobinson] has also been a big source of support. He’s a good listener and sometimes that’s all you need. Just by him listening, I actually figured out the issue myself.
I love Maya Jama and watching her Instagram stories, too. There’s a lot of things she says that have resonated because she’s in the industry. I do chat to her and she’s always saying, ‘just do you because everyone’s doing their own thing’.
Maya once said to me, ‘If you think about all the posts you share on Instagram, are they really a reflection on real life all the time?’ I remember thinking, no they’re not, and therefore everyone else’s Instagram isn’t a reflection of their real life all the time. I just love her attitude.
Now – and I know you’ll think what am I doing?! – when anyone is portrayed as a villain on Love Island, I message them on Instagram straight away.
I remember contacting Kem [Cetinay] and Amber [Davies], saying if you ever need someone to talk to, I’m here for you. Because I think sometimes it’s hard being in the industry, especially when lots of your friends aren’t, so it’s hard to understand what you’re going through.
My advice to everyone is to definitely detox social media sometimes, don’t take everything personally, look after you and surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself.
It’s taken me a long time, but I realise now that when we’re all lying on our deathbeds, no one’s going to say: ‘I remember Scarlett when she had that wonderful haircut but she had no hip dips’. They’ll only remember the times I made them laugh or were kind or we went to the beach.
Now, as a Samaritans ambassador, I feel like I’ve come full circle – I can help others.
If people can see that I’ve been through all of this, they also think “if Scarlett can get over this, maybe I can as well”.’
Scarlett is taking part in Samaritans’ virtual fundraising marathon Samarathon, click here to find out more (www.samaritans.org/samarathon).
Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover
This year, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Metro.co.uk has invited eight well-known mental health advocates to take over our site.
With a brilliant team that includes Alex Beresford, Russell Kane, Frankie Bridge, Anton Ferdinand, Sam Thompson, Scarlett Moffatt, Katie Piper and Joe Tracini, each of our guest editors have worked closely with us to share their own stories, and also educate, support and engage with our readers.
If you need help or advice for any mental health matter, here are just some of the organisations that were vital in helping us put together our MHAW Takeover:
- Mental Health Foundation
- Rethink Mental Illness
To contact any of the charities mentioned in the Metro.co.uk MHAW Takeover click here
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