Thankfully, I no longer feel like a visitor in my own life

To: Those who feel like they don't belong

From: Alexandra Mazzola (As told to Lauren Brill)

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To those who feel like they don’t belong, 

I know exactly how you feel. 

Growing up, everywhere I went, everything I did, I always felt like a visitor. 

I tried so many different activities: dance, gymnastics, soccer, and cheerleading, but I was not good at any of them. Repeatedly, I felt broken down.

Even in my own body, I didn’t feel as though I belonged. I had low self-esteem because I didn’t know who I was as a person. So, for a long time, it was easier to try and be like other people. 

When I was in seventh grade, one of my friends, who was very popular, dyed and cut her hair. She had a lighter complexion and lighter hair than me. Even so, I went to the salon and asked for the same cut and color. Practically everyone in school started making fun of me for copying her. 

And that’s not all. 

This same friend had a small button nose, much different than mine. At night, I would go to sleep, putting pressure on my nose, hoping I could change its structure. And my body was, as people would say, “bigger boned” than other girls in my school.  As the boys complimented many of my peers, they made fun of me, calling me annoying, ugly or even stupid. I not only didn’t think I was beautiful, but I felt disgusted in my own skin.

Growing up, everywhere I went, everything I did, I always felt like a visitor.

There was so much pain inside me that I developed poor coping mechanisms, including self-harm and eating disorders. 

Thankfully, during my last two years of high school, I had a lot of classes in the art wing and started taking pottery, painting, sculpture, and drawing classes. At first, I enjoyed hanging out in the art wing because it was away from my locker, where other students often bullied me. But then, I started to realize I had talent.  

I drew a lot of still lifes, with charcoal and pencil. There was one pastel drawing that gave me so much pride. It was a lion with the Leo zodiac sign hanging from its mouth and wrapping around its paw. 

My interest in art grew so strong that I decided to pursue it in college. That’s where I drew a self-portrait of a professional photographed picture. Leaves partially covered my face, and I was staring through them. Literally and metaphorically speaking, it was as though I was beginning to reveal myself, to see who I am and what I like. My teacher displayed the portrait, and people commented how much they liked it. 

That’s when I began to realize I needed to stop copying other people and instead ask myself, “Who is Allie? Who am I?”

Through art and writing, I began to express myself, which led me to put in the work to live a better life. 

Three years ago, I went to a psychiatrist who suggested I had autism, which explained a lot to me. Also, these last few years, I have been diagnosed with several physical and mental illnesses, including problems with my heart, anxiety, depression, personality disorders, and complex PTSD. Ultimately, doctors recommended I get a service animal, which I did. His name is Leo. He serves many purposes, including medical alerts and helping me with my social anxiety. He’s amazing. For example, if I have an anxiety attack and am crouching over on the floor with my hands over my head, he’ll come over to me and push my hands away from my face.

Learning more about myself has allowed me to embrace myself more, see my beauty and take the initiatives necessary to live a healthier life. 

At 27 years old, art remains a huge part of me. When I first started painting, it was strictly roses. Then, I moved on to random landscapes. After that, I drew a couple of dogs, and I loved it. Sure enough, people started requesting commissions.

Alexandra and Leo

Now, I sell portraits of animals. 

I create art that brings families happiness and a timeless way to remember their beloved pet. It makes me feel good to add joy to people’s lives, 

While I still struggle with depression and self-esteem issues, I have so much more self-confidence than I once did. Recently, I gained the courage to send a video of me painting to music to America’s Got talent. 

Art has given me a healthy coping mechanism and an avenue to heal from my pain. It is helping me discover who I am and making me proud of the woman I am in the process of becoming. 

And I know art can do the same for others. Currently I am pursuing a master’s degree in art therapy. I want to be an art therapist so I can help children and adults with disabilities express themselves, cope with their challenges and discover their true selves through art.

With love and hope,


P.S. Check out my art here!

Alexandra Mazzola
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3 thoughts on “Thankfully, I no longer feel like a visitor in my own life

  1. Ally,

    I just read your story again from when it was 1st posted. Since then I was able to be in the Zoom meeting and hear you tell your story in person, got to see your skyline project that night, and understand the challenges you face as you build yourself and your business. I’m proud to say since then we’ve got to know each other better and I placed my very 1st pet portrait with you. You did an outstanding job as only you can do! I can’t wait to see my daughter’s face when she receives this as a gift this Christmas. I’ll share the picture and video of her opening it with you. Always remember that your gift is our gifts. I’ll always appreciate this. Any member who reads this I highly recommend you place an order with Ally. Her attention to detail, creativity and beautiful eye for capturing the moment and applying it to a canvas is absolutely amazing. Keep blessing the world with your talents.

    Thank you!

  2. Allie,

    I love this letter. I relate to this so much. I was bullied a lot in school. In 5th grade I started taking art classes where I learned how to draw still lifes with charocoal. From that moment on art became a huge part of my life. I was always creating something whether it was a drawing, a scrapbook page or two. There is something so beautifully healing about art. When my anxiety and depression are bad I give myself permission to be creative. It really helps. My mom says when I’m creating I get in this zone where I’m really focused and have not a care in the world. And she is right.

    I am so glad that you have found a place to belong. I am so proud of you for inspiring others, giving to others, and your desire to help others through art in the future. Keep creating and keep being the beautiful person that you are!


    Hannah G.

  3. Allie this is astonishing!! You look so happy and healthy and your craft??? IS TOP TIER!! How life life your paintings/drawings are illuminates!
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I have never heard or looked into art therapy, now I am wondering if something like this is offered in my city.
    I loved that you label your amazing craft as a healthy coping mechanism. That takes strength, accountability and realism.

    Keep soaring and drawing pictures of animals!! If you have any of some purrr-fect cats share them in the Unsealed community! Cats are so awesome 🙂

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