Deni Todorovič called Lifeline from a park at 5am. It changed the course of their life.

The following is an excerpt from Love This For You, How to Rewrite the Rules and Live Authentically by Deni Todorovič - a guidebook to being your best and most authentic self.

My post-breakup reinvention didn’t come all at once. It happened over a long period, by way of many magical Sundays. I used to call Sundays my ‘dates with myself’ or ‘Deni Dates’. They started with a curiosity to discover London in my newfound single status and developed into a fundamental part of my self-love journey. Those Sundays laid the foundations for my relationship with myself.

I would set my alarm, no matter how hungover I might have been from all the dancing the night before, and I looked forward to choosing an outfit to impress only myself. I would choose a borough in London I had not yet visited and I would walk. I found quiet paths and canals to stroll along, and where there was little to nobody around to watch me, I would dance, with great vigour, to the songs of Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster. That album brought me joy, and with every beat, I grew closer to myself.

I shopped in vintage stores and at H&M. I took myself to the cinema, a highly underrated solo activity. I even took myself to dinner; sometimes I’d bring a book and other times I would just sit and watch the bustling crowds go by. I treasured this time where I was truly alone and, if I’m honest, I often miss it. The thoughts and endless hope that got me through what could’ve been a very dark moment actually moved me towards the light.

On Sunday afternoons I would daydream of where my life might take me. To a career in fashion, to accomplishments fulfilled and healthy relationships relished. I didn’t know what manifesting was back then, but in retrospect I can see that what I was doing on those Sundays was unwittingly manifesting so much of the future course of my life.


My friends used to make fun of my solo Sundays, asking questions like, ‘How can you go to the cinema by yourself, doesn’t that make you feel sad?’ In truth, I felt sad for them – sad that they couldn’t stand the silence of their own company. But I find it interesting that spending quality time with yourself can sometimes be considered as lonely or even *gasp* sad by others.

That’s not to say I haven’t had my own share of loneliness. I’ve felt it often and for various reasons in my life. Sometimes it’s when I’m most surrounded by people that I’ve felt the loneliest. In my experience, however, the key has been to become incredibly comfortable in your company. When you truly love your own company, you will seldom feel alone.

Why do we fear such loneliness? As children we grew anxious of being alone, not being hugged when we needed it most, not being one of the chosen kids in the sandpit, not sitting at the right lunch table, or not being invited to the cool parties, etc. I mean, the list is long. As young adults, the feeling of isolation creeps in when we’re presented with the choice of defining our career path regardless of whether it’s something we even want, when we submit an application for that summer job, or discover that all our friends are coupling up and you haven’t even kissed anybody yet.

As for our adult lives, we live in a world that declares any single human over a certain age ‘sad’. There are marketing campaigns and dating apps rolled out every year to help you FIND THE ONE.


The potential for loneliness is limitless, and that’s exacerbated by the messaging we receive from the culture at large, which blames us for being alone, and tells us we need to pay money to fix it.

But there’s no easy solution. And I’d suggest that we need to reconfigure the way we speak about loneliness. There aren’t nearly enough social movements to celebrate the power of being alone: the power of working on yourself, in sitting in the shadows, to truly fall in love with who you are. Don’t wait around for someone else to complete you, honey. You’re a whole damn person.

What happened to me through many years of healing, a healing that is constant and infinite in its motion, was that I arrived at an understanding that there is no such thing as ‘the old me’. My mindset was different, and I was living with a renewed sense of joy and was ready to find strength within me, but the reality is that that strength had always lain dormant within me. While I knew that Wounded Deni would always exist within the history of my heart, I paved a new road for growth. A releasing of the old, with great reverence, to make way for the new. Because I was finally ready to be true to myself. Not without struggle, of course.

As I’ve said, therapy was where it all truly began for little broken Deni. My first dalliance with the therapist’s couch came after my breakup with Ben. I was back home in Geelong and suddenly remembered every street corner and bar we had ever walked on, talked in, kissed on and fought in. The number one takeaway I got from my therapist was the following advice: ‘Think of your life like a ruler, Deni: over the course of your life, different people will walk in and walk out. Some will stay for a centimetre, others may stay for five, or ten, or two or twenty, but no matter how little or long they stay, they all make you grow.’


My second stint in therapy was during my years in Sydney, when I was into my third relationship.

After one tremendously difficult weekend, I was left locked out of my apartment at 5 am. My keys were with my boyfriend who had stormed out on me a half-hour earlier, on the way home from the club. I didn’t want to make the eight-minute walk over to his house to retrieve them, because pride and stubbornness are a combo no one asks for. It was too early to call any of my friends or family, so I made my way to a nearby park in Paddington.

I sat in that park and stress-smoked cigarettes, one by one. I despised cigarettes until I met him and his gaggle of gay friends; we spent most of our weekend nights out, the evenings punctuated by gossip and D&Ms as we chain-smoked in the smoker’s area aka ‘Trash Alley’ at Arq. It was either get with it or get left behind, so I gave in.

As I was crying into my third cigarette, a voice inside told me to google Lifeline. I’d seen the ads before, but I’d never thought I’d find myself in a scenario where I would actually need a service like that in my life. Can you hear the stigma attached to my thoughts? ‘You come from a family of love, Deni. Why would you need to turn to a stranger at a helpline?’

I called the number and the angel on the other end of the phone talked me through and out of a true mental spiral. She made me aware that I was shaking not because I had been locked out in the cold. I was shaking because I was worried about my boyfriend and the problems in our relationship. She advised me to go seek counselling to give me an appropriate emotional toolkit.


I made the call that Monday. Then I walked into my therapist’s office the following week. The main takeaway I got from my six-month stint with them went as follows:

‘Deni, you have an inherent desire to fix people. It’s the reason you’ve dated variations of the same person over and over and it stems from your childhood. Your parents raised you to believe that love cures all. For this very reason, no matter what trials and tribulations a relationship presents you with, you believe that your love will always conquer. Even when that love is detrimental to your wellbeing and crosses the lines of the boundaries you’ve yet to set.

It was this sentence that stood out to me. Your parents raised you to believe that love cures all.

Let’s assess the evidence, shall we?

Yes, my parents had a happier-than-most marriage. However, their origin story did not come without drama. Or trauma, for that matter. Theirs was a story of village folklore that was so famous, we often said it should be adapted for the silver screen. They met and ‘fell in love’ at the age of nine years old. Mum was the good girl from the somewhat poorer side of the tracks. Dad was the ultimate bad boy from the slightly wealthier side of the tracks.

They dated in secret, and at sixteen, were separated because my mum had to make her way to this place they called ‘The Lucky Country’. They kept in touch via letters for five whole years, until Dad proposed in one of them. When Mum, aged twenty, packed her bags to head back to Serbia to marry her ‘one true love’, her mother was not so approving. Dad had developed a reputation as a ladies’ man, and my grandmother wouldn’t approve of this union unless it was on her terms.


I’m giving you only top-line information here, but essentially their parents couldn’t settle on a wedding date. The wedding was called off and my mother locked in her room. My grandmother slapped her (because remember, ‘ethnic discipline’) for the way she had embarrassed their family, and informed her that she would be flying back to Melbourne the next morning. Not even a goodbye to my father was permitted.

So, like something out of a Danielle Steel novel, my mother managed to convince her favourite auntie to let her out briefly to say farewell to my dad. Upon my mum’s arrival at his house, my dad locked them in his room and declared to my mother that tomorrow they would wed, at the town hall, with no formal ceremony and no family present. Because THEIR LOVE WAS ALL THEY NEEDED. My mum got married in a white silk jumpsuit she used to wear nightclubbing. After they said their ‘I dos’, her mother didn’t speak to them for three months.

I’d listen to this story, time, and time again, for most of my life, oohing and aahing in awe. Is it any wonder I put up with so much drama in my own relationships? I thought drama was a required ingredient for the making of successful unions. It was for my parents. It was for the couples on Days of Our Lives, Melrose Place and The Bold and the Beautiful, and for countless other Hollywood rom-coms that informed my mind for OVER A DECADE.


Drama is not a necessary ingredient; it’s a toxic roller-coaster that, by my late twenties, I wanted to get off. What my second therapist made me realise was that love is simply not enough.

Image: Booktopia.

Love This For You, How to Rewrite the Rules and Live Authentically by Deni Todorovič is now available for purchase, here.

Feature Image: Instagram @styledbydeni.

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