When I met Teresa, it was a joy. She is a joy.
She’s a woman full of energy, words, intense eyes, and a consciousness that doesn’t hide a fragmented journey, in constant evolution, but whose primary focus is self-acceptance, the pleasure of silence, and the beauty of being “messy”, while still feeling comfortable.
With Teresa, I got lost in a chat that lasted almost one hour and a half, talking about the boundaries of our body and how the latter can be both our friend and enemy, and how our perception of it can sometimes be weird, wrong, and painful. But we’ve also talked about how essential the philosophy of body positivity can be for this very reason, and how important it is, in our life and in our job, to be able to openly speak about mental health.
And in order to do so, sometimes, we need to learn to reflect upon ourselves, by looking inside of us. Or maybe, by filling our bedroom with mirrors.
We’ve created this format on mental health because we think that it’s always important to talk and let people talk about it. You, on social media as well, are very free, you have a very natural way of expressing yourself, you talk about your body, your decisions, and not because you want to “influence someone”, but because you think that there’s someone who could benefit from it.
I’m happy that you’re bringing this up, it’s important to be filterless. Every time someone tells me that, it makes me happy, I’m glad if someone meets me and says: “I follow you on Instagram, but you’re exactly like you show yourself!” and not only aesthetically. I, for example, discovered some stuff from podcasts and posts and realized I’m not the only one to think in a certain way or believe in certain things. Speaking of my post about egg freezing, you can’t even imagine how many people have written direct messages to me, even a long time after I discussed that topic on my feed. I’ve gathered lots of people, even people I didn’t really know, talking about something I’ve really done, with a specific thought behind it.
So, I like that you’re mentioning this because I don’t feel like I can influence anyone at all, as my life under certain aspects is a disaster, but if I have some opinions, or get to some conclusion, or I have a thought that I guess could add something to the vacuity of Instagram, which is a world full of vanity and sharing things that are always “cooler” then what the others do, although even if sometimes I do things that are “cooler” then what other people do and I’m a bit vane, I think it’s right to share it.
For example, when I saw that very post you published, I spent quite a long time thinking about it. I don’t know if I’ll ever have children, it’s not something I’m pondering at the moment, but many times I’ve said to myself, “You’re not a blooming flower anymore” [laughs] and your post made me aware of the existence of a choice, so it will never be too late.
You know, in Milan, when they called me for a reading at a literary festival, I met an actress who, at some point, asked me how old I was, I said I was 25, and she said: “You need to freeze your eggs”. I was shocked [laughs], I immediately thought, “What do you know about me, what if I don’t want kids?”, but then she explained that she has had two children with artificial insemination, which took a long time to work, and that if she had had my age, she would have froze her eggs to make the process quicker.
This choice originates from the same reason why you tell me, “I want to interview you”: the doctor who assisted me me told me, “I saw that on Instagram you express your opinion on a series of important topics, so would you feel like talking about this one theme? The more we talk about it, the more people will know what it is”. I was a bit skeptical about this theme, and not for religious reasons, but because I felt a bit uncomfortable thinking about surrogating something. When I met her, though, I realized how cool she is, she’s a genius, and after thinking a lot about it, I understood that freezing my ovules was the best thing for me to do. It’s the very principle of communicating that’s vital, I think, which is different from telling someone, “Do it”, from planting a bug in their ears. For example, I was skeptical, and I didn’t want to do it, but then I talked with someone who was sincerely interested in the people and the topic and I understood so many things: it’s prevention, and it’s a very strong form of female empowerment because I am in the position of stopping my biological clock.
In this way, moreover, I discovered wonderful things about my body. It was a journey during which I got to know myself, thanks to which I discovered my limits. I’ve always been afraid of needles, but despite this, every night I injected myself on my belly, all alone, and in the end, it was beautiful, that moment was all mine, in my room, with my night light.
“It’s the very principle of communicating that’s vital, I think, which is different from telling someone, ‘Do it’, from planting a bug in their ears.”
How important is it for you to talk about mental health and normalize the discussion about mental health in general?
I started to go to therapy when I was 16, and it was my choice. Back then, I struggled with anger management, maybe because I was a teenager, but also because of some family dynamics. My dad lives in Florence, so as a little girl I had to get on a train and go visit him with my brothers, so I was like a postal parcel, a beloved one, but still a postal parcel. As a consequence, as a teenager I was always angry, so one day, chatting with a psychologist who managed a cultural group I was in, I asked her if I could meet her regularly to start a journey together, and she gave me the phone numbers of some colleagues of hers (because she couldn’t do it firsthand). I met a few therapists, and in the end, I fell in love with one of them. When I told my parents about it, because I needed them to meet her and guarantee for me, they said: “It’s the best-spent kind of money”. My journey with this therapist lasted 11 years, and I’ve always been talking openly about how much she’s helped me in my life. It was very painful when she told me that our sessions had to end, which is the reason why right now I struggle with finding a therapist who can compare to her. Anyways, I’ve always spoken openly about my therapy, I would say, “don’t count on me at this time because I have to see my therapist”, for me it’s always been very important to underline how vital it is to take care of your mental health.
If you go to therapy, it doesn’t mean that you’re a psycho: there are specific facilities that host people suffering from severe concerns, while those people with no “particular” problems should all try therapy because even the most serene ones, underneath, have something to sort out. There was a time when a friend of mine and I would share thoughts on certain things but then end up exchanging the phone numbers of psychologists [laughs] because even in friendships there are limits beyond which we’re not able to reach.
Are there any rituals/habits you have every day to “get in touch” with yourself, or is it something that comes naturally to you?
To start the day, I always need to have a hot shower, even in summer: I take about 7 minutes for myself in which I’m not able to do anything but think about how I feel, how I woke up, whether I feel good physically, whether my eyes are swollen, whether I’m worried about some work stuff or about some issues with my father, brother, or friend that I have to deal with, or some trip I have to organize… It’s a moment for me to align everything so that my day can start.
At night, instead, I can’t go to sleep if I haven’t had my chamomile or herbal tea: I watch a movie or a TV show, or I read a book, and on my nightstand, there’s always an infusion of something. Now that I’m thinking about it, these two rituals are connected by hot water: at the beginning of the day, I dive into it, while at the end of it, I pour it into me.
Water, indeed, is my element, I’ve always loved being in the water.
Your Instagram bio says “body positive”. What’s your body for you? Have you ever fought against it?
“Body positivity” is a mentality I started to embrace in 2019 when I learned about this expression and all its derivatives through a million podcasts that talked about it. It’s a “medicine” and something on which I need to work every day. I suffer from dysmorphophobia, at very high levels in some periods; there are moments in which I relapse, and it’s terrible. I’ve tried everything to find a compromise with the acceptance of my body; when I was 21, I got rid of all mirrors in my bedroom, the only one that was left in the house was the bathroom’s one, which only reflected half of my body, so if I wanted to look at my whole self, I had to use the mirror in my mother’s bedroom, whose judgment I was afraid of, but mostly I was afraid of my own, so I tended to avoid it as much as possible.
I embraced the body positivity mentality also because in 2019, after ending a toxic relationship, I lost lots of kilos in one month and a half because, as I felt so bad, I didn’t want to eat. What pissed me off was that whoever I met would tell me, “You look great!”, but I felt all things but great. I was pissed that that approval that I’d always hoped to get from other people came in a moment of pain. I liked the fact that my clothes were big on me, but I didn’t like the reaction that this would trigger in the people. So, I understood that the foothold is to be found inside because if I started to eat again and gain weight, I couldn’t have feared disappointment in other people’s eyes: so, I started to learn and accept the way I am. In September of that year, I moved to another house and now my bedroom is full of mirrors, huge mirrors, and the same goes for my bathroom so that I can look at myself in a million different ways. Now, I spend a lot of time in front of my mirrors, naked, every day, after my hot shower: I look at myself, measure myself, get an idea of how I’m feeling, and based on that, I decide what I’m going to wear if I’m headed out.
Both a blessing and a curse, this body.
Deep down, in my personal life, it’s never been a problem, I think I’m very sexy. If only there wasn’t a social context telling us that Gisele Bündchen is perfect and we should all look like her, it wouldn’t be a “problem”. I’ve never had problems with the people I liked, and if they didn’t like me, it wasn’t because of my body at all. The external response has always been positive; the problem is me, I’m my own enemy. To help myself, I have a series of tools: I eat healthy food, or sometimes unhealthy food but always cooked by me, and not because I want to be thinner, but only because I want to feel healthy and better.
I really believe in body positivity and have felt better ever since I discovered that there’s a way to feel good, that is by accepting and loving yourself for what you are and improving as long as you want to.
“Both a blessing and a curse, this body.“
I envy you very much, it’s a big deal, the place you’re at now.
Look, every day is different for me, as well, it’s all ups and downs. For a long time, I can be serene, and then, in a matter of nothing, I can relapse into my old dynamics. Last week, for example, I was very uncomfortable in my body, it took hours for me to decide to wear a pair of jeans, although I was no different from the night before. This conflict has stuck with me for four days, where I’ve always put on the same clothes, oversized pants with an oversized sweater, high-knee boots, and a long coat, and this, for those who know me, is a signal that something’s wrong. Then, though, I pull a plug on myself, thinking about the past times when I’d run aground and given up.
In those moments, in my head, if I think about myself, I don’t see myself the way I really am. In spite of this, I tend to look at people’s eyes and faces, but oftentimes I don’t realize what their bodies look like, and this is something I’ve been working on a lot; in fact, before finding out that every kind of body must be respected and embracing this mentality that’s been saving me, the first thing I would think when I’d see someone was: do I look like that?
I would feel the same, I’d wonder: am I more or less than that? Sometimes, as we don’t have a clear idea of what we look like, we tend to compare ourselves to others. I’ve spent years and years of my life coming across some person and then turning towards the friend who was next to me and asking them, “Am I more or less than that person?”, and if the answer was not what I wanted to hear, it was the end of the world, I would enter an abyss of sadness.
Exactly! In the past, I found myself clinging to crazy things; for example, I once saw a woman with a wonderful body but a tiny hint of cellulite, and thought: “Poor thing, I’m better than her, as I am but with less cellulite… because I have less cellulite, right?” [laughs]. This is so sick, it comes from the society that makes us compare our bodies to that of other girls.
I learned that one of the most important things for newborn babies is that their parents touch them, making them understand what the boundaries of their bodies are so that they can become aware of them. As a consequence, now I touch myself a lot: when I say that I “wake up in the morning, have a shower, and measure myself”, I do that to become aware of my boundaries, of where I really am at, without lying to myself.
All this to say that, despite I love myself and think I’m pretty, sometimes I have to fight against a tendency that’s stronger than me and rooted, so my body positivity is more of a cry for help than the proclamation of someone who’s made it [laughs], but I put a lot of effort into trying not to fall!
Sure, I think what really matters is not to show your success, to say “I’ve come up here, I accept myself, I’m super cool” and so on… what matters is rather to show that you really believe in what you say and what you do because even just believing in it, you have more tools to overcome some difficult situations.
One thing I’ve learned, on this note, when coping with dysmorphophobia and feeling like shit, is no more destructive diets, no more “smashed liver”, no more, I’ve promised myself that, I’d rather go slow, but healthy. Since October, and this is one of my greatest achievements, every morning I have a healthy breakfast, I prepare my lunch and take it out with me, I eat healthy for dinner, but if I go out with my friends, you know what? I eat meatballs and smashed potatoes because I want to! I’m compelled to rewarding myself with some treats and not to fall victim to my own obsession.
There was a time when I would punish myself with fasting. During quarantine, for example, as I had started fasting again, at some point, I started looking for information on other kinds of fasting that could be “healthy”. So I discovered and tried intermitting fasting, eating healthy things only at established times. I’ve never felt so good in my whole life, but I had to vehicle that thing too because not punishing myself was part of my self-love process.
In my most private writings, which are some sort of songs, poems in prose, I often talk about my body and the way it feels, to the point where I told myself, “Teresa, enough!” [laughs].
What does “home” means to you?
It’s a place where I feel comfortable, in confidence, both with the place and myself and obviously with other people. When I travel, my luggage is basically my home: I take with me everything I could need not to feel uncomfortable.
When I know I can count on myself and when I don’t have to weigh on others, this makes me feel at home because home is where I keep the things that make me feel good. This is mirrored in my relationships with people: at my friends’ place, for example, I take showers if I want to, and when I can leave a little piece of myself everywhere I go and feel comfortable, that’s home; for me, home is when I’m confident with a place and a person and do the things I would do at my own place.
“Home is when I’m confident with a place and a person”
What pisses you off the most?
Lots of things piss me off.
The most commonplace things: racism, homophobia, and everything that has to do with limiting someone’s being, this makes me sick. I hate presumption and arrogance, I hate those who diminish other people, and I don’t like those who’d be up to doing anything to obtain something, even on the job, I think that respecting yourselves is essential, so if you put some effort, you’ll still achieve what you want without necessarily elbowing or crushing the others, both at work and in relationships. It’s something I really care about because it’s not a skill I’ve learned, I’ve always behaved like this, it’s innate in me. For example, when I would participate in swimming competitions, before starting, no one would speak to anyone, and everyone hated each other a bit, but I, who was very shy when it came to sports anyways, would sit quietly and not speak with anyone no matter what, and win the race. Why? Because I had talent and put a lot of effort into my training.
When I was 13, I was really into this boy I met on vacation, and my best friend liked him too, so I went to talk to him, and while chitchatting, he gave me the worst news, when I asked him, “Is there any girl you like?” and he said, “Yes, your friend”. So, my reaction was to organize their first kiss because if we were friends, what was the point in hindering her? I was sincerely happy that she was happy. I didn’t think about it, not even a second; I’ve never betrayed myself by giving up self-love.
This is why I don’t like people who make war on each other.
Even when an actress compliments herself with another actress, or a woman recommends a colleague for a job, that’s not female solidarity, in my opinion: it’s normal to respect your own ambition and recognize the talent of other people. And this also goes for the male world because it’s not true that women are the worst enemies of themselves, men can be as cheap.
With your acting job, I guess that every time you get into a new character, you work on yourself, discovering new things about yourself. What’s the latest thing you discovered about yourself?
Some time ago, I acted in a short film about human relationships, entirely set in a bathtub: it was me and another actor playing girlfriend and boyfriend who, despite being physically close, were experiencing a huge sentimental and emotional distance. There, I found out that I can be naked without fearing my body because I’m putting it to the service of my job. It was the first time I took all my clothes off on scene. I asked for the situation to be somehow carefully handled, and I realized that I wasn’t afraid of putting my body at the service of a job; it was a big discovery because I spent three days in a bathtub, naked, in front of a camera and people I’d never met and had no difficulties, I did it without feeling uncomfortable. Although many times my body feels like a problem in my head, at that very moment it was the least of my concerns: I let that character be peaceful during her bath time.
Have you ever felt lonely? If so, how do you cope with loneliness? Do you ever look for it?
This, too, is a very linear path in my life. Until some time ago, I was really scared of being alone and felt alone even in the company of people, especially as a teenager. So, I wanted to be with people I felt very comfortable with, so as to feel less alone. When I was 20-25 years old, I started doing literally everything I could because I was afraid of being alone, I would get out of the house at 9 in the morning to go to university, then once out of there, I would go have a drink with some friends, then at dinner with other friends or to the movies, then I’d meet other friends waiting for me, and in the end, I’d be back home so late, and I was so tired, and then I’d wake up at 8 and repeat all over again. At some point, I told myself: “I can be alone, I need to be alone”. Now, my loneliness is an incomparable company. When I go back from a trip, I need to be alone, or even during trips, I need to take some time for myself. I basically live on my own, I have a housemate but she’s hardly ever at home, so when I manage to take some time to be alone, it’s so beautiful: I watch the movies that I’ve missed or the series I’d left unfinished, I read books, write my things, I tidy up my bedroom, cook some food.
Now, I don’t fear loneliness at all, and this also relates to the fact that I’m single, even though I know that when I’ll meet someone I’ll like, they will be someone for whom I’ll be up to giving up a piece of my alone time. Anyways, it’s crazy, I’ve never thought I would have loved loneliness.
“Now, my loneliness is an incomparable company.”
Me too, even though I have a partner, I haven’t given up my alone time, and I think this is very important in our relationship and it was hard for my partner to understand it. Anyway, it’s a journey, like you said, although, at the beginning of every relationship, there’s a need to spend every second with the other person, then, if you grow up together in the relationship, I think it’s essential to preserve your alone time even only to charge up.
Exactly, I’ve been single for a long time, and even though I don’t fear the idea of meeting someone and think it would be nice, I wonder how hard it would be to let someone into my everyday life.
Of course, because now there are things about yourself you don’t want to change, you’re your own person.
Yes. I’m not one of those people who wakes up in the morning and is in a bad mood and doesn’t want to speak with anybody, not at all, but there are moments in which I want to be by myself.
Do you write your own things?
Yes, I do, especially projects that I start and never finish. For a lot of time, I’ve been writing poems in prose, and then I also write short stories. One day, I’m sure I’ll complete my projects, but I need to find some time for that, maybe using my alone time to do different things than reading, cooking, seeing my friends, and watching a film. I realize that I have less free time now compared to a while ago. I would write as a little girl, too, I found nice stuff, when I was 12, I would write stories from the point of view of Disney villains, like about why they’d become villains. The most heartbreaking was the one about Maleficent [laughs].
When I write, it’s mostly adaptations of personal stuff, I also followed a course at Scuola Holden to learn how to transform a journal into something that everyone can enjoy. However, I’m not very self-disciplined, I’m a disaster at administrating my time to cultivate my passions.
Are you reading any books in particular? If so, which one?
I’ve just finished “I miei stupidi intenti” by Bernardo Zannoni. I’ve cried a lot, just talking about it makes me cry. I gave that book to my grandma who’s 88, and now my mom is reading it because they’ve exchanged it, in fact, the three of us have a sort of book club together: we always exchange books. It broke my heart because it talks about injustice and justice in life, human relationships, love, necessity, it’s intimate and raw, at times, and it talks about everything and from the point of view of a 25-year-old author, who’s a weasel in the narration!
Now, I’ve started “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara, it’s been on my desk for a long time and I couldn’t decide to read it because it’s a huge book of over a thousand pages. During these days, as I had to travel by bus, I read a lot because I had more time. As of now, I’ve read about 150 pages, and I know that the further I’ll go, the more I’ll cry.
Anyway, I’m a weirdo when reading, as well: I’ve had a phase when I only wanted to read Italian authors or romance novels, or sometimes I choose an author, look them up on the Internet, visit the “Works” section and read everything that’s on the list, I did it with Ammaniti, Ferrante, Sally Rooney, I’m crazy because I force myself to do things sometimes.