Foreign in London: Alex

Hi, my name is Alex and I came to London at the end of August 2011.
6585I finished university in Romania in Geography of Tourism. I did a master’s and I found a good job as a travel agent. The job was in the field that I studied which was nice. It was an office job. I was learning a lot but in Romania even with a job you can’t afford to live in a rented house so I was living with my parents. I was 24 years old so it wasn’t that bad.
6564My ex-boyfriend at that time had a sister living in Italy and another one in London. We wanted to leave Romania so we picked UK because we both speak English and we thought it’s going to be easier.
A friend of his was living across the street from a pub. When I arrived to London we first went to his flat to leave the luggage and then we went straight to this pub for a pint. It was the first place I have been in London and it turned out I will be working in that pub for the next four years and a half.
2045At some point… I think it was about three months since I have been here, my ex-boyfriend and I broke up. I had about 3 pounds in my account and I didn’t have a place to sleep. There were lots of people that helped me – surprisingly – because I only knew them for a few months.
Most of the friends I have in London now, I met them through the pub. All my life was there.
We were having fun and we felt comfortable, like a family. It was fun and that’s why I stayed for 4 years and half, and also you get in a routine were you lose yourself. When you work in a pub you work late shifts, you finish late and then you want to drink because you were serving people the whole day and in the end you need a pint. You stay up till 5 in the morning. Go home. Sleep and then wake up, take a shower and go back to work. It’s a different lifestyle which is hard to get out of, and quite easy to get into. It’s fun but I knew I didn’t want to do that for the rest of my life. Plus time passes really fast… A problem with everybody in London I think.
4146Once I was in the pub on a morning shift and I was feeling a bit frustrated. I was cleaning the candleholders and thinking “What am I doing with my life?” I decided I want to do something I am going to be passionate about. The idea came with forensics science. You are doing something that’s going to make the world better, I know it sounds a bit pretentious but you are helping to solve cases and catch bad guys. Justice. I applied but I thought I would never get in. But they said yes. At the same time I found a part time job as a receptionist for a private student accommodation. Of course I quit working in the pub.
2030Now… Now I am on my last year of studying. Still working part time as a receptionist in the same place. With the people I was really good friends I’m still managing to stay in touch even if we don’t text every day or every month. I see them and it’s like we didn’t see each other from yesterday. It comes naturally. With others I’m a bit sad we lost touch but it does happen. People come and go and you are busy as well… but I think the good ones just stick with you. No matter what happens in life. It’s like socks in a washing machine. Some of them get lost on the way while some others stick to the tumbler.
2026I think that life gives you things even if you don’t see it and then when you have all these things together you kind of need to make that step, even if it’s scary. So if you want something hard enough, you have the power to make it happen.

Behind the Rainbow: Katie

My name is Katie.
I am from London ish. I grow up partly in Romford and partly in Mitcham and then I left London when I was 18.
I went to University in Warwick and lived in Coventry for six years. And then I lived in Cornwall for two years. I moved in there with my ex girlfriend. I had this idyllic picture of living in the country side and doing loads of writing and being inspired but I had a job where I was driving a lot and on the road a lot and so, connecting to the country side, it didn’t happen. There wasn’t enough there for me plus the relationship ended and I just thought: it’s the time for me to go back to London.
3112
When I came back to London I said to myself: “One thing that I want to do when I’m here is get a gay social life”, cause I didn’t have that. So I thought I like sports, so I decided to look up gay sports teams. I found a softball club. That was my first door opened in the gay community.
I started to really understand and I’m still learning what an LGBTQ community means. How important it is and how important the place of that kind of community is to people who don’t have access to LGBTQ life anywhere else.
3411I realised I fancied women when I was about 14. Once I realised, I was like: ok, this is alright. I didn’t have a problem with this but I understood that other people might have a problem so I didn’t tell anyone for quite a long time. I wasn’t ready to talk about it either.
When I was 16 I started to tell some people. My friends gave me a really safe space. I was very lucky. They took me for who I was.
I told to a couple of teachers. My mum. Mum… mum didn’t have a problem with it but at the time I think she thought “I wish you weren’t”. Now it’s not a problem at all. It was just a shock to her. She needed some time to adjust and process but that was cool. She had her time and then she was fine about it. My parents always have been supportive with me and my siblings. Finding our own path. Making our own decisions.
My grandparents… they were the hardest because they were just… my grandma was obsessed with when I would get a boyfriend… classic grandma. So having to cover that up, that was the hardest. Especially when I had a girlfriend. Eventually I told them. They accepted it straight away.
3008
At one point my life got bad cause I got cancer. I was married at that time. I don’t have a lot of good things to say about this relationship. Towards the end it became… I guess what people call “emotional abuse”. When something like cancer happens to you and you survive it you make decisions about choosing happiness in your life.
So I left and this was two years ago and we are now divorced. I came out better than when I started. I am managing my time and my schedule and putting my health first so… after a lot of stress… I come out alright in the end. If I didn’t have cancer and hadn’t left my marriage, definitely I wouldn’t be in this place now. It inspired me to take the decision to pursue my creative side which is writing.

I am proud I have such amazing people in my life. We have been in and out but we have cultivated incredible friendship. I have so much love in my life. I am proud of putting myself first in the last two years. I am proud I am doing my writing now and it’s starting to get traction so It’s a long process. Anything creative tends to be long, writing in particular. Things don’t happen overnight. Persistence and perseverance are really important. I understand that in a way I never did before.

Behind the Rainbow: La Cher

I am La Cher from U.S. I am in London because It’s my destiny to be here.
When I was 16 years old someone said “La Cher, based on your personality and who you are, you would like to come to London to visit and live” and I just remember thinking I’ve got to go over there but at that time I just never did it.

1

I moved now because it was meant to come now. I just said to my kids: “In three weeks I’m leaving!” I put my house on the market, sold my motorcycle, and my father who was my biggest connection, and I was worried to leave him, he passed away a couple of weeks ago, which confirmed even more that it was meant for me to come because there was nothing really for me to worry any more. Everything worked out for me to get here.

I am a certified personal trainer. I know how good it feels to go to the gym to workout, to exercise. I know how it can dig you out of depression. I know how it can make you feel so much better about yourself, and why not be able to show other people that? This is why I got the qualification for personal trainer.

4

When I was young I felt attraction for females. I would probably go back as far as my teens. But society is man and woman, man and woman. So you get brain washed. You try to make it work but you are never happy.
I realised that I was being who I thought other people want me to be. Two years ago I actually came out. I released the inner woman to inner me and that was the most beautiful thing in the world. I found true happiness. I was free to be me.

6

A friend from the gym where I was working gave me a card cause I was leaving to come to London. On this card there was this rainbow. She didn’t know about me being lesbian and inside the card she wrote this nice message “I wish the best on your journey. It was great working out with you” and at the bottom of the card “P.S. Your father will always be with you. You will always be daddy’s little girl”. I never told her my father always called me daddy’s little girl.

That card was from my father. You can’t tell me no different! So he knew about me being lesbian and he was telling me that he was always going to be with me and I will always be his little girl.

3

“They want to have sex with all their gender”. That’s what people think when people are gay or lesbian. It doesn’t mean that. I look at you but I’m not attracted to you. I still have preferences. That’s people’s mentality. We have to change that. Hopefully.

Everyone in the world wants to be accepted for who they truly are, but we hide parts of us and we put stuff down because of society, family and friends telling us “You’re wrong. You shouldn’t do that” or “Something is wrong with you. You are strange. You are weird”. But things are only weird when people don’t understand things. Once you understand something you get rid of depression. You feel better. It doesn’t mean you have to accept it, but understand it.

5

If you try to hurt my heart it means my heart is not for you and it’s ok. It’s not a big deal. When it comes to love you don’t need to ask “Do you love me?” You do know if that person loves you. You don’t have to ask that. We try so hard to hold onto something we want but it’s probably not what we need. So just let it go. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Whoever happens to come in my heart is going to be an amazing personality because you know…I become amazing. Took me a long time to get here, but I’m here.

2

It’s ok to be who you are. Don’t worry about what people say. People look and stare and say shit about you even if you are doing what you are supposed to do. That’s what people are. So at least be happy by doing what the hell you love to do because people are going to talk regardless. My motto is…I’m free to be me!

Foreign in London: Miriam

I was wrong as a human. My body was bigger than the other children. I was really shy.

I was going often to my grandmother, the mother of my dad. I had a good relation with her. She wasn’t living too far from us so I could go on my own. My uncle, the brother of my father was living there too.

Miriam

In the afternoon when I was 9 years old I was having naps. My uncle was sleeping with me. I can’t tell you how it did happen the first time cause I don’t remember it. It was my fault. I was feeling disgusted of my self. I don’t know how. I don’t know why. I was going to him.
During the abuses I was putting all my feelings on food and you know how grandmothers are, until you are eating everything is fine.
At one point I stopped to eat. The way I look is always been a problem for me because I always been bigger than other kids. I lost a lot of weight really quick. It wasn’t good but people were saying that I was looking good.

Miriam

When I was 16 my father died. I started to put all my feelings again on food.
I remember a feeling of anger. I was as well feel uncomfortable to stay in the same room with my mum. I decided then to go to Terni to study patisserie. It was the first time I was independent. It has been a good experience. After the course I tried to find a job in Italy. I couldn’t found anything.

I came to London a bit pushed by my mother too. “It’s going to be a good experience for you and you will might found a job” she told me. At 19 years old in December I left for London. A month after I left my grandmother died. It has been a huge pain for me. She was somebody I was admire and I will always do. She was an example of life.

Miriam

My uncle died in September 2016. It was like everything I passed through when I was young came back to me. I understood I wasn’t happy.

I went back to Italy for holiday. I was having a conversation with my mum. At the end of it I told her. She started to cry “I knew there was something wrong. Don’t think that’s your fault. Why didn’t you say it?” I didn’t want to destroy all the sacrifices that my father, my mother and my grandmother did. Family come first. They are the only people are going to love you. No matter what. For me this is the most valuable gift. At the end of our lives what does stay are not money or material things but the experiences you had with people. These experiences are the treasure of our soul…I think.

Miriam

Now I said to my self I will do things better. I will try my best at list. I’m on a diet. A proper one. It does helping me feel better with myself. London saved the relationship between my mother and me. Be far away from each other helped. I understood and learnt a lot cause I am on my own in here. You become independent. It wakes you up. I recommend it. Not only here in London but…well anywhere.

 

“My journey” the story of AM.C

I had the privilege to meet this amazing person AM.C and had the opportunity to know her story.
I am glad she opened with me and wanted to share her story with the world.
As her wish I will not publish her name and show the face

IMG_0016 BW

It’s hard to say what happened. I think it was numbers of things to lead me to not like who I was. So it wasn’t just one thing it was lots of things and the feelings of self hate that was so strong I didn’t know what to do with it.

Started of just using blunt things and then it progressing to piece of plastic that were broken.
The feelings, the emotions and thoughts, everything I had while I did it. Didn’t exist. It numbs the emotional pain. For me these were more unbearable than physical pain.
I started to pull the sleeves down. It was really slow to start of with and the thought to use really sharp object haven’t passed my mind. Not at that point.
Then I had a friend that also self harm who gave me a raiser. Once I got that it was an obsession. Constant. I couldn’t be a day without doing it.

IMG_0017

My arm was the start. My legs, my stomach. I got one point where I got to choose a part of the body that wasn’t already cut and that’s why I progressed to the other parts of the body. I liked to find new flesh cause I liked to see it. I liked to watch it. If you do it over already cut flesh… for me wouldn’t have the same impact.

In my brain I deserve it. I’m a bad person. It was numbers of emotions and feelings. All of that became addicted. I supposed it’s the same way you start smoking. You know it’s no good for you but you want a cigarette.
Because I hated my self I really enjoyed hurting my self. So there was enjoyed in it. I was fascinated with the human body. If I was feeling really really bad I could push really hard. When I pushed really hard as I swiped the raiser you can literally see the flesh open up. You can see what is inside. It doesn’t instantly bleed. It takes few second. One it starts it’s really hard to stop…

IMG_0004

I cut my wrist. Cause I wasn’t living at home I was always trying to build a relation ship with my mum. Cause I loved her and missed her but I don’t know. She wasn’t able to have a relationship with me. There was often visits organised by social workers and staff. She just wasn’t show up. One time she basically told me… I can’t even remember what it was. To me was a rejection. It was like she didn’t want anything to do with me and I was 16. The rejection from my mum was… I think was probably one of the only time I cut to die if that make any sense. All the others time it was cuts to relieve. To make living bearable. It was one of only time I remember cutting cause I actually didn’t want to live and that’s why I did cut my wrist.

I remember people telling me “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” and I was just like “there is no light. I can’t see it. It’s too fucking dark”

I never completely stopped until I felt pregnant.
I guess once I felt pregnant and my experience been in care. I knew if I didn’t stop then my child would be probably taken away from me and put into cares and it’s no something I wanted to. So it was having my first child that made me think “ok, I need to stop”.
Not for me but for my child.

IMG_0023 BW

Maybe I did few times in a year after my mum died and then stopped again until I separate from my husband. I didn’t do it straight away after we separated. Must be a year or so after. I guess I was just trying to hold it together and I couldn’t hold it together for much longer. To deal with the pain I had to make pain.

Now i’m not doing it. I don’t feel I need to. I have moments. It’s a pattern when things are difficult it’s the first thing I think to do but just because I think to do it doesn’t mean I do.
I just tell my self now it’s going to pass. The feelings are going to pass. I guess. Tomorrow is a new day and you might not feel the same tomorrow.
Life can be really really tough but it can be also really really nice.

IMG_0014

Just talk. That’s all I say to anybody I know or I come across.
It’s not something you opening discuss. It’s something you hide it like something to be ashamed of. Just find somebody to talk to and don’t give up.