So life was hell. I could stand the situation even less than before. My father was violent, but he was my father. Violence from a total stranger was even less bearable. I was at war.
This man had a shop in Milan, but his goal was to work as a healer. I know, it sounds like a poor joke. He believed he had healing powers! That’s how he had met my mum. For reasons I’ll never know, he opened an office in San Remo which is about 300km away from Milan. I guess healing people with a beach view is easier? Naturally, he didn’t go alone but took my mother with him. My mum obviously thought that leaving alone a fifteen-year-old depressed girl with a violent father who still stalked her was a great idea.
I was alone from Monday morning to Friday evening. Loneliness was both heaven and hell. Heaven because I was free of toxic company, hell because I was deeply sad.
But I had my life savers.
Ever since I was a kid, I had a passion for books and for drawing. I could spend hours with a pen and paper, illustrating the stories that I wrote along in my mind. I also enjoyed very much sewing doll clothes. And even though I had a lot of Barbie furniture, I loved constructing all kinds of things out of leftovers. No box of cookies would go without spending a second life as a piece of furniture for my Barbies.
At ten years old, I discovered my heroes.
I read about how Beatrix Potter lived her life. And then I read about Tasha Tudor. I decided right there and then that I was going to be an illustrator. Feeling like a bird in a cage in Milan, I also decided that I would not spend my life in a city. My love for animals had been strong from the first day of my life, so I knew I wanted to have a mini farmhouse with rescued animals. It had to be yellow, and on a hill overlooking the lake or the sea, because I loved swimming.
It was a bold dream, too bold for a stupid kid. Only special people could have lived like that. The most I could aim at was becoming a sales assistant and find someone who married me. My father repeated this to me, constantly. While my mother stayed silent.
When negative things are repeated to you daily, it gets into your system. Even if you don’t want, and especially if you are a kid. There was one side of me, the one that fought my father, who rebelled against those words. But the other side was still too young and too lonely to have the means to think differently. So, even though all I wanted was to become an illustrator, when the time to choose what to study came, I studied fashion design. Since I wasn’t good enough to do what I wanted, I thought I could at least learn how to make clothes. I loved sewing and learning to do it well could have granted me a job right out of school. It felt like giving up, but it also gave me an escape plan.
My father disappeared.
One afternoon the phone rang. It was him. He told me he was starting a new family with another woman, and to forget about him. He wanted nothing to do with me anymore. This was part liberating (see ya, fucker!) and part nightmare. My father had never really helped me economically, and I had to get jobs here and there while still studying. But now and then I could get a little money from him. And it helped me. My father’s disappearance brought some peace, but also more money issues.
I was a teen and I couldn’t do all the things my friends were doing.
All I could do was going to school in the morning and work in the afternoon. I spent my evenings studying. During the weekends, I had to babysit. I couldn’t go out with friends. I couldn’t even receive phone calls from my classmates. My step-father was trying to isolate us so that he could have full power. As all violent manipulators do. And of course, he wanted to drive me crazy so that I’d move out and he could be alone with my mum. And use her as he pleased. Again, I’ll spare the details.
I suffered from depression as a child.
And during my teens, my depression hit me harder and harder. Thank God for my love for books and for public libraries. The self-help/spiritual section at the public library next to my school became my second home. I’ve read everything in that section. Books helped me to react. I began writing lists to clear my ideas. I meditated, visualized, and learn how to control my mind.
The stronger I got, the harder my step-father fought me. The stronger I got, the harder my mother fought me, too. My strength was perceived as evil by her. There was no way that a teen was finding a way out and an adult couldn’t. She wanted me to stay with her in that pain. She felt abandoned by my reaction.
But I refused to see myself as a victim, and I refused pain as a lifestyle.
Right out of school, I began working. After the few odd jobs that everyone has to experience, I landed a position at a record company. Then in an advertising company. And then in both. By the time I was 22 I worked 16 hours a day but I was making enough money for both me, my mom, the expensive rent of the apartment we had moved into, and the car. The story repeated itself when I asked my mom to leave my stepfather. She asked me to do it. So, one day after lunch, I kicked him out of the apartment. And everything was just as it was with my father: violence, threats, stalking.