Celebrating Asking For Help: #RenegadeActsofKindness

This blog post, as part of the #RenegadeActsofKindness campaign by English sparkling wine Renegade & Longton and just after World Mental Health Day, is an occasion to thank my network for the help in getting me out of a difficult time. Even just last year, when I was less sure of the validity of my own feelings and less self-confident in expressing my needs, asking for help would have been a no-no. But things have changed, I am not sorry for how I feel, and this post celebrates the kindness of friends and the importance of seeking help.

Special thanks to my friend Chris for essentially being a food stylist

Win A Bottle of Bubbly With Renegade & Longton’s #RenegadeActsofKindness Campaign

This post is sponsored by Renegade & Longton, an English sparkling wine brand who this month are launching the #RenegadeActsofKindness social media campaign, all about celebrating friendship and acts of kindness.

I’m a sucker for bubbly and my friends have dragged me out of the depths of some emo times recently (and always), so taking part in this campaingn exchange for a bottle of Elderflower Pure seemed like a great idea. Plus, the brand’s style of winemaking and aesthetic are inspired by Victorian England, and you all know I’ll take any good excuse to put on a corset and celebrate.

If you would like to take part and be in on the chance to win a bottle of Renegade & Longton’s elderflower sparkling wine, post on either your Facebook or Instagram profile about why a friend deserves a free bottle of bubbly based on an act of kindness. Then nominate and tag two friends to say thank you to someone else.

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We’re feeling generous! ‘The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention’ To reward those who go unnoticed for their acts of kindness we will be giving a bottle to a deserving individual every week. To enter all you need to do is comment below on this post, nominating anyone you think should receive a bottle, explaining why and also tagging two other people to nominate someone else for a good deed. One person will be selected based on their act of kindness every week to receive a bottle, the person who nominated them will also receive a bottle. #renegadeactofkindness #thankyou #britishbubbles #bestofbritish #summerwine #winelove #sparklingwine #instawine #drinkstagram #wineoclock #englishwine #englishsparklingwine #englishsparkling

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Pole Therapy and Filming

As soon as I heard about #RenegadeActsofKindness, I thought it was the best occasion for Renegade & Longton and I to work together. On the week I met Brendan, the founder, to discuss working together for this blog post, I was trying to accept I had feelings for someone who didn’t love me back. I was wondering whether feeling so strongly about certain things made me crazy. I don’t know if I’m just very Italian and dramatic, or if I love and feel pretty hard in general, but my head is more often than not exploding. The help of friends is crucial in keeping it in one piece.

I wrote this blog post in my snuggly cat PJs after a very intense day of filming one of the final scenes of a documentary about me that has been in the works for a year. That day of filming inspired me so I thought I’d write about part of the journey towards accepting my feelings, sharing them with friends and asking for help to show how the kindness of one community has had a positive impact on my life. Which sounds like a bunch of new age bollocks but if you are a pole dancer, you know we are essentially a really lovely cult so you’ll get it.

On Saturday 5 October, my two fantastic directors Monika and Maria, who have been following me around and bearing with my anxiety and quirks all year, hired Pole Fit London for my friends and I to have a training session. The goal of filming was to understand the bond that is created among pole dancers when we train together. Essentially, when someone you know more or less well holds your butt up close to their face to 1) make sure you get the move 2) prevent you from crashing down and breaking your neck, the trust bond that is created is incredibly powerful.

What was even nicer about that day of filming was that afterwards, Maria and Monika asked us to get together in a circle and to discuss some of the main issues related to pole dancing, such as our perceptions of nudity and outsiders’ tendency to fetishise us. Being able to do that in a community that sees the multiple facets of your personality felt incredibly cathartic and liberating.

Having such intimate discussions with people I met less than a year ago would have sounded impossible to the person I was just a few years back. Now, thanks to my friends from pole, I feel safe when discussing difficult things. I feel ok with asking for help, whether that’s physical or mental support. Some people I only trained with have now become my best friends, because the bond that is created by being physically and mentally vulnerable in front of strangers is incredibly powerful for your mental wellbeing. And after that filming session, we’re actually all considering a pole therapy circle: training and then sharing. Trade-marking that shit, brb.

Why I Started Asking For Help

It was thanks to therapy and to friends in the pole community that I decided to stop suppressing my feelings. I had been doing it for years. I wanted to be the “cool girl” who didn’t bother anyone, who didn’t cry, who wasn’t high maintenance and who didn’t need to be emotional.

Except that I then realised this prevented me from moving on in all situations, sometimes even stunting my healing from my worst traumas, because I realised my fear of being perceived as crazy prevented me from realising that there was a problem to solve.

To deal with my anxiety and depression, last year I went on a very intense cycle of therapy made of talking therapy with the brilliant Mind Charity and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with the NHS. It was a harrowing process where I had to relive traumas but also understand my feelings, sit with them (no matter how uncomfortable they were) and accept them. I learnt how to ask for help when I needed it, and that asking for help or sharing my feelings doesn’t make me less worthy of love or less badass.

Then I realised that my emotions were part of the reason people care about me, and that showing them, and asking for help, didn’t make my friends love me less. While before, if I felt uncomfortable about something, I would bottle it up and mull it over so much I’d make myself get a panic attack, now I face problems head-on and ask for help if needed. And, luckily, help has been coming from friends across different walks of life.

It sounds obvious, but it took me 26 years to realise it. So now, following my CBT therapist’s advice, instead of over-thinking something for months and then exploding, I try to solve the problem straight away, even if it means sending an uncomfortable email, or making an awks phone call, which is what I did.

Making Sparkling Wine Cocktails

Because of this new-found openness, I was able to ask my friends for help in getting closure with a person who didn’t have feelings for me, instead of just suffering in silence. So naturally, I did it by pole dancing during the day, and with a pizza and cocktails night, expressing my feelings and moving on.

My friend Chris – who is way better at food styling than I am – helped me try and take pictures of a raspberry Bellini made with Renegade & Longton’s Pure Elderflower sparkling wine.

I don’t drink cocktails anymore because they get me drunk in a second, and I don’t enjoy mixing different spirits together. But a Bellini is essentially a fruity bubbly – healthy? ish? – so I made an exception and used simple, few ingredients. This is the recipe we used, except that we were lazy and bought raspberry puree in the local supermarket:

  • 1 tablespoon of raspberry puree
  • 1 glass of Renegade & Longton’s Pure Elderflower
  • Stir gently
  • Done! (With raspberries to garnish)

More Info About Renegade & Longton

This is the bit where you can learn more about Renegade & Longton before taking part in #RenegadeActsofKindness. The brand wants to revolutionise people’s perception of sparkling wine, creating an English bubbly inspired by the Victorian tradition of winemaking.

The founder, Brendan Thompson, used a family recipe with his brother for their first batch of elderflower sparkling wine. He then partnered up with Richard Neal to create a market version of their non-grape sparkling wine.

Renegade & Longton harvest the flowers by hand, then separate them from the stalks to process and render them stable for use in wine-making. What’s special about their brand is that the wines have a primary fermentation, coming up with a sweetened aqueous suspension of elderflowers, and then a secondary, in-bottle fermentation with additional sugar and active yeast. This second fermentation gives the bubbles a little more alcohol and lasts from one to three months, followed by riddling and separation of yeast and balancing.

I tried the Renegade & Longton Pure Elderflower wine, which has an ABV of 12% and tastes dry, light and floral. It works great on its own or with canapes and cheese, but I personally love it in a raspberry Bellini (recipe above).

Closing this emosh post with a video I shot while at home and a post where I share my feelings and touch myself. As you do. K BYE

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This song gives me all the feels so let’s talk about #feelings. 💜🖤💘Back in the day, I thought I was cool because I didn’t cry often, and because I thought I wasn’t “difficult”. But lately I have been trying to understand where my feelings come from and what my strong emotions make of me. When you’re in an abusive relationship with someone who gaslights you, it’s easy to feel crazy and that’s what I thought I was every time I would try to have a difficult conversation that wasn’t what my ex wanted to hear. Lately I’ve started to notice I sometimes policed myself even outside of that relationship, for fear of being “crazy”, too emotional, needy or clingy. Thing is, I love and live very hard. I AM emotional. I cry a lot, when I am happy, sad, moved. And when I fall for someone, I feel very strongly about them. I am so grateful to have so many female AND male friends in my life who keep me in check when I start to apologise for my feelings and tell me I am not crazy. I am not sorry for being super emosh. I don’t care about being the “cool girl” anymore if being cool means denying that I’m feeling strongly about something. Hiding your feelings, not dealing with them is easy in the short run, but damaging in the long run. So even if it’s harder to admit to yourself you are sad, in love, angry, upset, what’s more difficult? Coming clean and risking to face the consequences or keeping it in? For me, in these past few years, coming clean has been difficult each time, but I’m proud of having done that. I am proud of my feelings, I won’t apologise for them, and if people aren’t ready for them it’s not my fault, or theirs: they just aren’t ready. Thank you to all the lovely people in my life who love me for the crazy bitch I am and who tell me not to apologise for my craziness 😝 also thank god for Beyoncé, Cardi B and Lizzo for talking about #selflove and loving hard and being emotional while still being a bad bitch. Happy bumday, over and out. Song: Young & Dumb, @cigsaftersex. #floorwork #flow #cigarettesaftersex 🍑🍑🍑

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