My story is how I denied fate and made my fate by fighting for love and self-love after decades of fighting for everything else.
I don't want this to be some sympathy-grab Misery Memoir, but I had a really shitty start in life. My parents had no boundaries. My dad once tried to have me declared legally insane to get a house. I was born with a genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. I became seriously ill when I was 12, having to leave school. I never went back - there was no one around to pay attention to my basic needs, much less something as sophisticated as education! My mother could make wonderful gestures of love and kindness - driving me to Camden at 2am for ice cream when I couldn't sleep; sneaking a pet rabbit into my sickroom - but these were bright twinkling stars in an endless night of loneliness. Once my dad left, home stopped being a safe place, and so I ran away from home when I was 16. For years I was focused on surviving from one day to the next. I lost everything, and most importantly, I lost myself. I turned into a person I didn't like, care about, or even recognise.
I became a non-person, homeless, a squatter, despised in the eyes of the world. I couldn't love myself on the inside, so I focused on the outside. I became anorexic and then a workaholic. I did a thousand different jobs and wound up travelling all over the world. But I was still alone. I wanted to save myself without relying on men. So I enrolled in an online class to gain the qualifications I'd need to apply for university, working during the day and studying at night. Despite being out of school for more than a decade, I managed to cram four years of study into 18 months and got all As. Then, on a whim, one August night, I filled in a London university clearing application form, writing my personal statement in twenty minutes flat at 3 am, wired on tea and no food. I received my acceptance email two days later and immediately accepted. I'd figure out the details later. Three years later, I graduated with a joint honours degree in Anthropology and Journalism and a newfound passion for theatre. A year later, I'd completed my Masters dissertation in the gendering of mental health, gaining both an MSc and the feminist theatre company I'd founded. I wrote my first stage play while I was doing my PhD. The first theatre I sent it to accepted that play for professional production, later transferring to London and winning awards.
Overnight I was a playwright and soon quit being an anthropologist for the bright lights of the West End. But I was yet to have my first serious relationship, not even sure of my sexual orientation, and deeply unhappy. So as my career progressed over the next few years, I did fundamental work on myself. I got into therapy and focused on building a solid group of friends and learning how to open up to people.
Three years after my first play opened, the worst and then the best things in my life happened within a month of each other. First, I received a phone call telling me my mother had died after a fight with an abusive ex-boyfriend. However, the degree of his involvement will never be known. The first non-death memory I have after that phone call was receiving another phone call from one of the most famous playwrights in the UK, asking me to co-write a play with him. I had no way of knowing how important he'd be to me, and how much that one job would keep me going when grief flayed me raw and demolished all the defences I'd spent a lifetime building. Spending those first six months of bereavement in the sanctuary of the writers' room and the rehearsal studio saved me - I called it going to Narnia.
It's still hard. Perhaps only an equally broken person could see the good in me. But I'm still alive. I eat a lot. I love swimming in rivers and feeling the cool water over my skin. I can hold and be held. On the outside, I've achieved a lot, and people often tell me they admire me. But the journey I've been on the inside has been a thousand times longer. My life has been an insane soap opera, but finally, I'm the one choosing where the story goes. I don't know what's in my future, and it's probably not marriage and kids. Maybe a kitten one day. But I've finally learned how to love myself and possibly accept a little love from others.
Noemi x the anti-casting
All the womxn featured on the underargument have been selected based on the personal story they shared with us which was inspired by one of our collections' themes. We only receive stories, no photos and no measurements. This is what we call the anti-casting and it is our way of reclaiming the representation of women's diversity and utilising the power of storytelling to empower ourselves and others. Find out more and maybe submit your story too here.
Noemi is wearing collection no.13 For heartaches // Against broken hearts