It is my pleasure to introduce Lisa Eskinazi, author, adult phone actress and social advocate. Lisa has been writing since she could pick up a pen. Sharing her experience of bullying and mental health issues to bring comfort to others and advocate for justice is her dream come true. She lives in a cosy apartment in Melbourne, filled with as many baby pink and faux fur accessories as she can afford and battles bedtime procrastination.
Her book, Out of the Well, is described by Evelyn M. Field FAPS as follows: Lisa tells us what it is like to be the victim of extreme school bullying; what thoughts filled her mind during her bouts of manic depression and what it was like to be hospitalized, institutionalized and homeless … Lisa also had the courage to stand up to those who bullied her and the school that failed in its duty of care to protect her, by taking her case to court and winning.
I hope you enjoy Lisa’s interview …
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to help people. With hindsight, I realize that even as a child, I must have been very sad, and so, I presumed others must be too.
Why did you write Out of the Well?
After I took my school and bullies to court, I wanted the world to know how much I was hurting and that bullying is not okay. I decided to write a book, but had no idea how to do it. When I sat at the computer and typed, it poured out.
When it was done, I went to the library and noted the publishers listed inside book covers. I sent ten publishers a copy of a couple of chapters in big white envelopes. At the time, I was homeless, living in a shelter, so when one of them requested the rest of the book, it felt surreal. A few days later, they mailed me a contract and I was signed.
I was so unwell that I couldn’t experience great happiness. To go to my book launch, I had to get permission to leave the psychiatric hospital. It was a huge moment and it felt unreal. It still does.
Was writing the book therapeutic?
Having a book with the words neatly printed and bound is satisfying. I can say THAT is what happened. It is a relief.
What have you done since then?
The trauma at school triggered Borderline Personality Disorder. To survive, I relied heavily on unhealthy coping mechanisms—binge eating, online dating, enduring toxic and abusive relationships and isolating myself. I was hospitalized regularly.
My first job was as a kitchen hand in a local health food shop. Then, I dabbled in telemarketing, sex work, childcare and mental health. I couldn’t stay long in a job, because I became overwhelmed, but I did complete a Certificate IV in Community Services Work.
At 30, I hit a turning point when I got my own apartment through a housing agency. I realized I was looking for someone or something to soothe me instead of soothing myself. Therapy, medication, grief work, Facebook support groups, professionals and life experience combined with relentless persistence are finally paying off.
What are you doing now?
I am now strong enough for regular work and it feels wonderful. My official title is Messaging Admin although I prefer Adult Phone Actress—I provide phone sex. As a sex worker, I felt exposed and damaged, but phone work empowers me. I love playing different personas, setting my own hours and never having to talk to a boss. I work from home in my pyjamas and I really do feel as if I am helping people. Many customers just want a connection they can’t find in their lives—someone to talk to, who listens to them. I know how that feels.
You are seen as an advocate against bullying. Will you continue this role?
Until recently, I found the role of advocate overwhelming. People asked, “How did you cope?” but I don’t know how I coped. I just didn’t want to give up, so I kept asking for help. When I couldn’t try anymore, I accepted hospital admissions. I am very black and white—a symptom of Borderline Personality Disorder—so, I thought I had to be this big superhero self-help guru, or hide in my house. Now, I realize it’s all about balance and as I am recovering, I am ready to take on this role in baby steps. I have so much left to write.
Why did you start writing poetry? Would you like to share a couple of your poems?
I think I became a poet when I read the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. As harrowing as the book was, I absorbed every word and then the words started to flow.
I will continue adult phone work and start writing freelance about bullying and mental health and LGBT erotica. I have always been fascinated by the adult world and I have always wanted to help people. This way I can satisfy both.
Next time: Back to Lagos in a Countdown to Show Day