Anastasia Sverbikhina, a psychologist from Saransk, took part in the reality show “Little” on the “Yu” TV channel. The program tells about the life of people with abnormally short stature, so that viewers can look at the familiar world through their eyes. The girl shared with “RG” her secrets of survival and experience of fighting stereotypes.
To school – ten kilometers away
Puppet appearance, half-childish voice and … iron character. They used to say about such people: “She should command a regiment.” A rare congenital disease of achondroplasia (violation of the process of bone growth. – Ed.) From childhood taught Nastya to endure pain and go to her goal, not noticing obstacles.
– In our family, everyone – mom, dad, younger sister – is of normal height. Except for me, – says the girl. – My childhood was spent in the village of Nikolaevka, Dubensky district. I think I was lucky: in a village where everyone knows each other, I didn’t have to face negative feelings about myself. Friends of my parents were representatives of the rural intelligentsia, it never occurred to them to tell their children not to be friends with me. And, for example, actor Peter Dinklage – the performer of the role of the dwarf Tyrion in the television saga “Game of Thrones” – learned about his diagnosis at the age of five. He recalled in an interview how, at this age, he was pointed at in the streets, humiliated, insulted. Indeed, in an urban environment you cannot explain to everyone, you cannot reach everyone. What I encountered in my village childhood was ordinary school teasers, like everyone else: someone with glasses, someone with freckles, someone fat … But even then my parents managed to convey to me that everything people are different – and that’s okay. We had a nine-year school in Nikolaevka, and in high school I had to study in a neighboring village – ten kilometers away. Every day it took two hours to walk to class. Several other guys walked with me. When it was warm, we rode bicycles, and in the rain and frost we sometimes managed to catch a ride. Classmates understood that it was more difficult for me to overcome this path than for them. If a car stopped where there was only one free seat, they put me there.
Through pain to a dream
Little Nastya underwent the first surgery to lengthen the bones at the age of ten. Then the parents for the first time went with their daughter to the National Center for Pediatric Traumatology and Orthopedics. Turner near St. Petersburg. This was the only chance to win at least a few centimeters of growth from the disease.
– The operations and treatment took six years. One operation took a year in total. In the fall, the Ilizarov apparatus was installed, the process of bone lengthening took two or three months. The next stage is fixing: they applied a splint or plaster cast, it is no longer so painful, – says Anastasia. – It is clear that you still cannot catch up with the norm, but they managed to “pull” me by as much as 30 centimeters. Therefore, when I starred in a reality show this summer, I was the highest among people with the same diagnosis, because they did not undergo such operations in childhood. Now my height is 145 centimeters. I know that now such devices are placed on both legs or on both shoulders at once. They say that it’s faster this way, but I can’t imagine how painful it is …
Even this difficult time she remembers with warmth. Little patients studied at the school at the hospital, and in their free time, together with their parents, they visited the famous parks and museums of Tsarskoye Selo. It was then that Nastya fell in love with St. Petersburg forever. He became a place of power for her. The views of this city still adorn her small room in the hostel.
I chose the profession of a psychologist myself: my openness, sociability and desire to help people played the main role here
– When I, having become a student, moved to Saransk, at first I compared it with the Northern capital. I remember I was indignant in local minibuses, why drivers stop only at stops, and not where you want, as in St. Petersburg: it’s a taxi! – the girl laughs. – I chose the profession of a psychologist myself: my openness, sociability and desire to help people played the main role here. Already during my studies, I learned that thanks to the acquired skills, you can help yourself …
Nastya graduated from the University with honors, entered graduate school. But getting a job in my specialty did not work – prejudices and stereotypes interfered.
– They said to my face: “But where are you – with your appearance, with your disability.” This attitude was even in state institutions, – recalls the interlocutor. – I will say as a psychologist: when a person does not accept something, despises it, these are his internal complexes. If he is not confident in himself, he will broadcast it to others. To stay afloat, I taught, conducted excursions. And years later I realized that I was grateful to those people who refused me. This made me go my own way – to start working for myself.
“Failure? I don’t remember …”
Now Anastasia Sverbikhina is a well-known psychologist in the city. Conducts private consultations, trainings, and also works as a volunteer in the organization “Many Children”, which unites large families, single mothers and parents of children with disabilities.
– My first client? Of course I remember! We were afraid of each other, – she laughs. – In general, I first turned on the psychologist with my loved ones, and then word of mouth started working. There were no problems at work due to stereotypes. A person visits the site, sees my photo, makes inquiries about me by mutual acquaintances. After that, he is no longer embarrassed by my appearance. Although my methods are considered harsh by some. For example, a person has made a bunch of mistakes and wants a psychologist to handle everything painlessly. But it doesn’t work that way! Sometimes even two-meter heroes cry. I remember one friend asked for a consultation. And then he says: “Nastya, you will break any man” – “But you and I have found a solution?” – “Yes!”. I am happy when I manage to help a person understand himself, save him from suicidal thoughts, solve the problem of relationships. I remember that in St. Petersburg my friend and I went for a walk on the Field of Mars. A man came up to us: “Hello, Nastya! Remember me? And my wife and I were at your reception. One consultation was enough for them. Although, I remember, I was also tough with them.
The fact that she managed to get into her profession from the first call, Nastya considers the greatest victory in her life. The main problem remains the notorious stereotypes – this is a barrier that she has to overcome constantly. The girl dreams of her own psychological care center. And when asked about failures, she flaps her long eyelashes in confusion, and then confesses: “I don’t remember. I learned so long ago not to pay attention to them …”.
“Actually, I’m probably the wrong psychologist: I don’t like it when people come to see me for a long time,” Anastasia smiles. – Although there is an opinion that representatives of our profession try to make sure that the client visits them all his life … And for me this is an indicator of my inefficiency – it means that a person has not learned to live without me, to cope with difficulties. I think that 4-5 consultations are optimal. Then – yourself!
About filming a TV show
With a proposal to participate in the reality show “Little” I was approached from television – they wrote to my Instagram. On a general shooting in Moscow, I first saw really small people – a little over a meter tall. It is very difficult for such people to do without help even in their own apartment – to open the window, use the bathroom, reach for the switch.
After the TV show, people began to recognize me on the streets. The first such incident took place in Estonia. My friend and I were there when the show was released. I remember we decided to go to the supermarket at midnight. The saleswoman, seeing me, was shocked: “Is that you ?!” And then she asked to be photographed together.
In Saransk, people react more calmly. Therefore, I do not feel like a star.