DOCTOR DOCTOR, PLEASE

Woooooooaaahhh it’s been ages since I wrote something here. I feel I have neglected my blog a bit lately, but my life has been one hell of a rollercoaster and my brain just went completely blank. I tried to type something, however I either felt like I had nothing to say or, worse, that the few bits I could have talked about were not interesting enough to be written down. You see, to me the inspiration to write has to come naturally: I cannot force myself to write if I don’t feel like it, and my “feeling like I could write” comes and goes in waves. There are days where I could write all day, if left undisturbed to do it; when the inspiration goes away, I could stare at my whiter than white word document for hours, basking in the complete emptiness of my brain.

I am having quite the busy weeks; aside from personal things (I did another amazing photoshoot with the incredible ladies at Dollhouse, but I’ll talk about it in another entry), work went from “busy but quiet” to “working 24/7 because sleep is overrated”. I live with my work phone glued to my hand, I booked more flights in the last two weeks than in the last 6 months, everything is extra urgent, there is a new drama every five minutes, plans change at the speed of light, you can’t even take a breath without getting an email saying “oh my gosh I need help I need to be (insert remote city on the opposite site of the world) like right now aaahhhh”…. And yes, I am the anxious assistant that sleep with one eye open, waiting for her boss at 2:45 am to text her “yes, I made the connection to London, see you tomorrow” before being able to switch off her brain.

Unfortunately, I potentially have bad news on my horizon. Apparently, my rebellious shoulder suddenly has decided that all my physiotherapy sessions and good behaviour are worth a bloody zero. I’m back in pain. Terrible pain. Pain as in “wakey wakey bitch, say adios to sleeping and welcome to hell” in the middle of the night. It felt like someone turned the “pain” switch on – one night I was ok, the other one I had to stuff myself with paracetamol to be able to vaguely entertain the idea of sleeping. As soon as I told my physiotherapist about it, she looked at me with sincere concern… and told me to ring my (very handsome) orthopaedic, because surgery may be next.

To be honest, I’m not even upset. I’m here, waiting for Monday to see my orthopaedic like any other day. I just want a solution, that’s it, and if surgery is the one, so be it, so long as I get rid of this pain as soon as possible, for fuck sake. Ok, in fairness, I’m so chilled for two reasons: the first is that I already had surgery with my orthopaedic, he literally saved my elbow and changed my life for the better; I trust him with all my heart and I know that, should he make that call for my shoulder, it is because I will be truly better afterwards. The second reason is that I have learned how good it feels not being in physical pain after years of aching, and now I’m not in the mood for suffering more than what is necessary (oh and did I mention that, in that hospital, they serve you THE BEST ice cream bowl ever once you get out of surgery? HELL YEAH).

See, I generally have a high pain threshold. I’m one of those people that go to the doctor only when shit hit the fan and I’m literally about to be hospitalised in pain. I never liked hospitals, or doctors, or medicines, and I have never been too bothered about my health. Every illness has been met by me with a “yeaaah… whatever… it’s ok… could be worse” (and I still kind of do the same now). I have been a bit reckless too, at times: I once merrily turned up at my GP surgery in a kind of anaphylactic shock (I was swelling like a balloon, but it progressed slowly) and my doctor yelled at me every swear word he could have thought whilst I was increasingly unable to breathe because I didn’t feel it was THAT URGENT to ring A&E… I thought I could simply sit there in his surgery like any other patient and wait for my turn; when I had a motorbike accident, I not only took my own helmet off by myself (NEVER DO THAT, EVER, lesson learned, trust me on this), I held it with my very much broken hand and I walked with a mega sprained ankle to A&E because “yes it kind of stings but I’m more sad about my beautiful helmet now completely ruined”; I was supposed to stay on medical leave 5 weeks after that accident, I came back to work after one because I couldn’t bear hearing my mom nagging all the time. I never minded being in (physical) pain, it was one of those things. I just keep going, no matter what. Then, when I started to not only being in (a lot of) pain, but also to lose the ability to use my right hand, well, things became a bit scary, and since I had the post-natal depression drama and all that hell of a pain behind me, I decided to not being interested in playing the martyr anymore.

I tried to find a solution for my pain for a year and half. The NHS doctors kept pushing me from pillar to post to no avail. Frustrated, I decided to take my company’s medical insurance benefit (the best salary sacrifice I have ever made) and to go private. I researched my orthopaedic with great care, and by the time I went to see him, I had a massive folder filled with referrals, diagnosis, tests, GP and consultants’ letters. He pushed all those papers aside, looked at me in the eyes and asked “now, how about YOU tell me what is happening”. I felt a bit taken aback. I started mumbling about having pain in my hand, and then a bit here, and there. He made me do various movements, looking a bit unconvinced. He asked me whether someone, in that year and a half, made me do a nerve conduction test: I said yes, and he scrolled through all the letters to find the results of that. I will never forget what came next: he said “could you please put your arm like this?”, which I did; he put his finger straight in my elbow, where my badly damaged nerve was.
It felt like he just stabbed me with a knife.
He then said “THIS is why you are in so much pain, you have nerve damage and it needs fixing as soon as possible, you should have had surgery ages ago!”.
I must have looked totally shocked. I tried to whisper “but…. But….. they said…. Too young for…. Surger….” But he was not having it. “Listen, surgery is not pleasant and scary, I get it, but you are young, your damage is worsening by the minute, surgery will solve your problem like nothing ever happened, I don’t see why a young woman like you should be in pain for ages just because a bunch of doctors convinced you it’s something you do when you are old. What about quality of life!!”.

Three weeks later, I was in my hospital gown, all alone, ready for surgery. It was the first time I stepped in an hospital as an in-patient after giving birth and I was scared to death. I had a total meltdown before anaesthesia: panic attack kicked in, I was freezing, scared, crying, I couldn’t stop shaking, I felt like an animal in the slaughterhouse ready to be made into steaks and the only reason why I didn’t do a runner (which, if you read my previous entry, it is something I’m capable of…) is because I had no contact lenses or glasses so I couldn’t see shit. The anaesthetist has been ace: he distracted me by making me talk about food, whilst his assistant started plugging me in to all the drips and stuff, and when I felt the needle pricking my hand, before I could even dare to panic again it was game over already: the assistant quickly administered me some very relaxing pre-anaesthetic stuff, I went from panic attack to “holy shit I feel soooooo much better….” and the last thing I remember was the anaesthetist saying “imagine: a massive pizza with lots of mozzarella…”

BOOM!

I opened my eyes after what felt like a second and the first thing I saw was a nurse laughing till tears saying “no my darling, we don’t have pizza here, you just came out of surgery, I can’t bring you one!”.
I had a good few seconds of “da fuck did just happen? where am I? what the fuck? I was… the dude who plugged me… WHAT?”. Then, like a toddler who abruptly woke up, I started sobbing because there was no pizza.

aaaa
the first picture I took after surgery to tell my friends and family I survived. Horns up!

“Roll me back in, this is so unfair” I kind of yelled whilst the nurse rolled me back in my lovely room. My mood improved immediately as soon as the nurse brought me a massive plate full of sandwiches and a mega bowl of ice cream: ok, mind you, I was totally drugged up, but when I saw it, so shiny and icy, I felt like someone handed me a million pounds cheque. No joking! My arm was all wrapped up, I was high as a kite on morphine, steroids and god knows what, I was all snuggled in bed and spoiled rotten by all the nurses and the hospital staff, I felt so pampered that, to this day, I consider that surgery as a spa experience, and I’d let my orthopaedic chop my other elbow too to do it again. When I got discharged, later in the evening, my orthopaedic said “all the good stuff will wear off in the middle of the night probably. You may feel some discomfort but shouldn’t be too bad ok?”.

I did indeed wake up in the middle of the night.
I moved my arm.
I couldn’t feel anything.

aaaaa
blissfully spending my medical leave sleeping in my bear blanket – can’t wait to do it again soon

No pain, not even a little one. I sat in bed, holding my elbow thinking “I have never experienced this”. After almost 10 years of pain (with the last two spent in constant pain), I didn’t know what not feeling anything felt like. I went back to sleep thinking “I’m sure the pain will kick-start again very soon”. The pain never came back. That was my first ever pain-free night, and almost two years later I am still immensely grateful that my orthopaedic made that call which allowed me to live a normal life ever since.

I’m telling you, if on Monday my orthopaedic says “yep, surgery again”, I’d be in my hospital gown before he can even finish the sentence. I’m so done with this pain.

I AM MY OWN WORLD

Since I’m here trying to stop a panic attack before it hits me in full force, even though I’m telling myself that iron supplements won’t kill me, that I have to take them because my blood test results are stuff of nightmares, that it’s normal, it’s fine, you’ll get better soon etc.. etc.. let me try and distract myself from these feelings to write about a recent, amazing discovery I made that is leaving me feeling “wow”. (by the way, iron supplements are the worst, I feel like I have a brick in my stomach….).
Ok, before you say anything, let me be clear: to normal, average people, this will come as a boring thing. No, better, as a “so you just realised that? Really? Jeez you are dumb”. To me, owner of a brain who is not exactly normal and with a tendency of being “not healthy”, it is something that left me totally and pleasantly shocked.

I’ve finally (!!!) discovered that doing things for yourself, because you want them, for your own pleasure, it’s not only wonderful in itself, but it’s also empowering and sets yourself free. Free from judgements, free from external disappointments, free from pressure, free from expectations, free from anything that doesn’t fit with your inner self desires. It’s such a powerful thing! I have never, ever realised that. I always acted (or, better, reacted) depending on others: if I made others (you name it: colleagues, partners, friends, acquaintances, neighbours etc) happy by doing / not doing / changing / not changing / things, then so be it. When I didn’t make them happy, or satisfied, or if I didn’t meet their expectations, or whatever, and maybe received critics and rejections as a consequence, it’s drama time, and then I would have felt useless, stupid, shit, ugly, idiot etc…. Yes, I was my own enemy of my state of mind by relying my happiness, my self-worth and self-esteem on others. I know, I know, it took me a while but now I know.

When this journey started, I was miss rescuer and Olympic gold medallist of “others before me martyrdom”. When I started psychotherapy, the questions that my therapist forced me to focus on, all the time, after everything I discussed, no matter what I said, were “but what about what YOU feel?”, “what about what YOU think?”, “what about what YOU want?”, “what about what YOU prefer?. Most of the time, my mind went blank, as if I just got asked the most complicated question on planet Earth, a bit when in a computer you input the wrong data and the computer give your fuck nothing back, no matter how much you slam your fists on your keyboard (been there, done that). I never ever experienced the ME before OTHERS so I didn’t know what the ME in all of this wanted, felt, preferred, thought. OR, better, I knew, but I never allowed it to be out in the air, own it and stand up for it because I thought I would just make myself lonelier, more unaccepted, more stupid, probably arrogant, and selfish.
It has been a massive learning experience that I’m still digesting, and it is harder that what it seems when you are reverting a behaviour that has been with you all your life.

I had this massive revelation, like a moment of total brain clarity (and if you are affected by mental illness you know how these moments feel like suddenly the world stops and… WOOOOOOW…….), when I was walking home, I don’t even remember what I did but I felt so… great, and the first thought was “it feels so amazing making myself happy”. Immediately after this thought crossed my mind, I had to stop: this has never been me? No checking if I get external approval? No “but what if someone doesn’t agree?”? Just “I’m happy, who cares about the rest?”. Yes, who cares. Who gives a shit, to be honest!!!

An example of this is my gym work. I started to work out to get “a revenge body”. My ex has always been very vocal on how he liked women to be very fit and yes, I was skinny but fit? No way in hell. I was too ugly anyway and I thought that I was better at drinking men under the table, ending up shitfaced in pubs, spending four days in hangover hell, eat crap and repeat. When he dumped me, I thought “now you’ll see what I’m capable of” so I started my journey as a vengeance, not for me, but to have him back at my feet crawling because “I’ll be fit as fuck and he’ll want me desperately”. Do I have to repeat again how much I’ve hated going to the gym? I don’t think so. It took me ages, and lots of tears, to shift the “I’m doing it for him” to the healthier “I’m doing it for ME”, but when this happened, my results went from nothing to “bring it on Personal Trainer, we are in for a ride today”. I started asking advices, ensuring my nutrition was correct, putting the real efforts, feeling “the weights” and seeing the muscles developing, correcting the bits that I was not doing properly, pushing myself further, and then some more.
Wednesday, with my trainer, we increased basically all the weights, but it wasn’t a case of her stating “oh now we add 5kg” and me being “OK (eyes rolling) FINE (fucking hell)”, rather a case of me telling her “I think we should go up, I know I have it in me” and her being “I agree, and I think we can add a bit more too on the last set” “yeah, let’s do this”.
I was doing glute bridges with 30kg and feeling fine. At the end, I looked at her and said “remember when I started with 6kg and I was struggling? Not bad eh?”.
Zero thoughts about vengeance or having anyone crawling back. It was a “me me me me” thing. I just can’t think anything but “Silvia, you are getting stronger by the minute! WOW! You rock bitch! Keep going! Can’t believe what you did!!!!!! Ohhh I love this body look at these quads! Looks at these legs! Look at where you were not long ago and what you are now!”. My colleagues say that, at this rate, I will soon have a mirror next to my desk so that I can constantly bask in my own gym-body glory. ME. The one that didn’t own a single mirror up till few months ago.

It is not only in the gym that I changed perspective: it is in everything in my life. I quitted living to meet other people’s expectations and it is the best feeling in the world. I am now focussing on meeting mine, and mine only. I know that “this is how it should have always been”, but hey, better late than never right?

I was walking my way home the other day and I was just thinking “for the first time in my life, it just feels good being me”. Don’t get me wrong, the long is still veeeeery long and difficult, but slowly I’ve learned to make myself happy. I’m now more self-sufficient. Whatever the world says or thinks, it doesn’t get to me anymore as it used to. I know I have the power to get wherever I want to get to. I don’t need to be saved, I’m not waiting for a Prince Charming, I am my own world, I am my own fan, I am me and it’s good. I have never experience that. I don’t dwell on my insecurities or physical defects anymore: yes, I have them, and plenty too, but who’s squatting with 20kg dumbbells now? Who’s been in therapy and actually putting the mental work to improve? Who’s beating panic attack after panic attack? Who’s quit drinking, eating healthy, taking care of herself? Who is not cheating, lying, diminishing, insulting or hurting herself anymore? Who proved that change is possible, once the real efforts are made? ME. Therefore yes, my boobs may be ruined, my teeth may still need fixing, my mental health is still a work in progress, but the person I was six months ago is a distant past compared to the one I am now, and who knows what amazing progresses I’ll do in the next six months!

THE ENDLESS JOURNEY

I had a very productive chat with my psychotherapist yesterday. I told her a lot of (positive) things that happened to me, we discussed in depth about how the gym and her sessions are helping me massively with my mental health, all in all it has been a very positive and pleasant session, one of the best so far. Of course, I’m not writing this entry to gloat about what a lovely time I had with my therapist, because nobody would be interested anyway. What I want to write about today is something that came out during our chat, a trait that I always had but that I have never been quite conciously aware of, and that has haunted me almost all night yesterday. One of the things that I came away with after my session is my inability, so far, at having some bloody good patience.

See? I can’t even write it without a glimpse of frustration showing, and I can assure you, if you want to drive me up the wall in anger, you only have to tell me “come on, be patient!” (Also, to be honest, I can hear Gary Barlow in my head singing “have a little patieeeeenceeee” and now it’s Take That all day in my head).

My insecurities, mixed with my forever annoingly friend anxiety, meant that my life has been so far an “I’ve done it” box-ticking exercise. I have never enjoyed the journey of anything I have done, from start to the end. To me, all that has ever mattered was to get to the end, as fast as possible, it doesn’t matter what happens or not in between, or what learnings I can gather from the experience: I have to get there, right at the end, say “done!” and move on to the next box to tick, in the hope that the list of ticked boxes would improve my self-esteem and solve all my issues in one go. There is not time to reflect. The end is there and I will get there. If someone says “it will take X amount of time to achieve that”, you can rest assured I won’t be the one thinking “ok, let’s start and see how it goes” but, more likely, the one that thinks “ok how can I achieve it in half of the time? How can I make it faster? How can I finish it sooner?” and work just focussing on that, not in what I am really trying to achieve and what is the overall goal. All my efforts are only to get to the end as soon as possible.

In all this rush, I always thought that seeing “the list of ticks” would have made me a “better person”; I was sure I would have felt more accomplished, better about myself, my self-esteem would have hit the roof, ohh the mega massive beautiful things that will happen to me! Of course, it has never been the case. The only thing that happened is that I didn’t enjoy anything I’ve done. I only accumulated frustration after frustration. I never got the results I really wanted because I never put the effort to do things correctly, since my focus was mainly on reaching the end result at all costs. I didn’t take my time, I didn’t just enjoy what happened on the journey, or focussed on the immediate, it has always been a stupidly fast race.

I see it applied in anything in my life so far: my law degree? I still remember when the prospect was to finish it in six years, it drove me up the wall; of course, I stupidly studied day and night, taking on board all exams I (legally) could do in a year, so that I could wear the “badge of honour” to say that I did it in half of the time, but my end result was a total disappointment because I didn’t care about what I was studying, all that mattered was vomiting enough knowledge to pass my exams quickly. My ex-boyfriend? I didn’t take the time to enjoy what we had, whether big or small, whether we saw each other for just a hot booty call that turned into an hilarious night watching Netflix and laughing our asses off or if there were any foundations for something more, in my head all I had to do was to tick the box of “I have a relationship” as quickly as possible and nothing else mattered. Gym? If by session two I’m not Instagram fitness model, there is no point of me going. Reading a book? No matter how big or small, I’m going to read it all in one go, maybe skipping few bits and pieces of descriptions I don’t care about. I could go on and on and on and on. My physiotherapy sessions? Who cares, as long as I can show that “I’m cured” asap and move on. If someone said to me “it will take ten (TEN) years to see the end of it”, you bet your ass I’d be exploding in total frustration.

I had this exact crisis just a week ago: all felt like “OMG I AM WORKING SO HARD AND NO RESULTS!”. I’m in therapy and I’m still struggling mentally at times. I’m working my ass off at the gym and I’m no fitness model yet. I’m working on my skin etc and my face has (AAAHHH) couple of spots that just don’t want to clear. I’m eating healthy, increasing portions, killing myself with proteins and still I struggle to keep my weight above 50kg. I am dressing differently, wearing makeup, looking nice and still I’m single as fuck. My debts are still all there, I am still living paycheck by paycheck and don’t make me start on saving money for my boob job! My blog has not yet achieved billions of followers. Why my life hasn’t magically transformed from hell to heaven? Why, with all the work that I’ve done?????? Call it if you like “an exercise in killing my self-esteem, undermining myself, shit all over my achievements so far and raise the flag of self-hate once again”.

You know what? this is another massive mental shift that I decided to do, starting from now. Instead of focussing on the goal, I’m forcing myself to focus on the “here and there”. The “now” vs “the end”. The moment vs the future. For once in my life I want to just enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes. I don’t want anxiety to push me to do things just because I desperately need to put them behind my back. I don’t want to drive a fast car at a foolish speed towards my “goals”: I just want to chill, cocktail on my hand (ok, sparkling water with a slice of lemon, or, better, a protein shake), and if it’s going to take “a long time”… so be it. I will see the results, I know I will, but this time I won’t just “tick a box”, I will get there with a baggage of ups and downs, failures and successes, learnings and experiences, and an overall million times more fulfilling journey. Heck, with an anxiety attack looming just thinking about it, maybe I won’t even see the end of some of these journeys, and it will keep being a revolving process (I’m seriously feeling my heart racing as I write it, and my old self going “YOU WHAT? NO END? YOU CRAZYYYY?”). From today, I want to put an end to that negative chain of thoughts and transform it into a positive one. As Rick Watten said, “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be”. Isn’t this so beautifully true?

c84c566cfc69748ab686d099cd7fbd38I know that my therapy sessions will keep going for quite some time. How much will that be, I don’t know and I want to just think that it is fine as it is. No “when will I be fixed?” anxiety. My gym body? It is happening, it will happen, it will take time and it’s fine, no “why I am not a model yet” anxiety. Whatever happens with my relationships? I don’t want to care about the future, I just want to focus on enjoying the moments, the laughter, the hugs, the fun, the chats in the middle of the night, that’s all. Whatever will be, will be. I am working hard for a better future for myself, I’m slowing benefitting from all the positive seeds I’ve planted everywhere in my life, but when that future will be? I don’t know, I don’t want to know, because the “now” it’s all that matters, and like Freddie Mercury beautifully sang at the end of “Innuendo”: “yes we’ll keep on smiling and whatever will be, will be, we’ll just keep on trying till the end of time”.

I’M STILL “JENNY FROM THE BLOCK”

After surviving a very miserable week, last week I decided to do my best to snap out of that dark cloud and put myself back on track: clean eating, no cheating, the whole lot. I had a very gruelling gym session on Tuesday, the first proper bodybuilding class, it went down like a treat: I felt super strong and on top of the world, but boy oh boy, my legs hurt for three days solid. Work has been a madhouse, emails fired at me left, right and centre, I barely ate or slept to keep up with the drama, and it ended up on Friday night answering emails from A&E where I had to take my son because he went from “mummy I’m feeling great” to “40C temperature, rash on his face and shivering” in the space of an hour. The joy! I had amazing plans for the weekend: attending a very special wedding in my hometown, finally visiting my parents’ new place, stuffing myself with Italian food…. It ended up cleaning vomit for 2 days non-stop. Yet, despite being very upset at ending up being stuck at home, I feel good, like I carved a little happy corner in my mind and I’m wrapped in a warm duvet inside it.

You know what? I think the gym, and my amazing personal trainer Farrah, have been the best thing ever happened to me since going to psychotherapy. I had to break down, mentally and physically, to the point where I became just a clean, white piece of paper, before I could re-write who I want to be in this new chapter. Believe me, my old gym-hating self put up a massive fight, MASSIVE, in order to stop making me change. I have been on the verge to give up so many times. I am so grateful I never did – thank goodness for my resilience!

People have started to properly notice my change. What at the beginning seemed like a temporary gimmick, now it is a rather established “norm” and I’ve left few people a bit unsettled. The main moans I got are that I may be showing off a bit too much, and that I’m not “the metalhead I used to be”. Yes, I am not scared of showing off myself and my hard work (after all, as my Personal Trainer says, we are not putting the hard work in just to go back at hiding, right?). Yes, I may not be all black, metal band t-shirts and leather as I used to. Yes, I may be “in your face”, I don’t do hiding or holding back anymore, but I’m still me. You know, the tomboy woman who swears like a sailor when Formula 1 is on, who would rather roll in the mud than do shopping, who prefers going to the stadium than a club, who likes to be “one with the boys” and all that.

Jenny-From-The-Block-Video-jennifer-lopez-26797479-600-400
Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got, I’m still – I’m still Jenny from the Block

However, like a snake, I’m changing my skin, embracing my entire self, not just few bits and pieces because I struggle with the rest, and instead of basking in my own self-inflicted misery at my numerous flaws and issues, I am learning to enhance and celebrate my strengths and either embrace my issues or work hard to get rid of them. Not wearing my Slayer t-shirt anymore doesn’t automatically mean “I betrayed the metal oath”: I have a nice body and I rather squeeze in a bodycon, colourful dress now, but you bet your ass I’ll still be raising hell next week when I’ll be at Slayer’s gig with my friends. Again, I just changed my skin and I’m working hard on being the best person I’ve always wanted to be, but at the core “I’m still Jenny from the block”.

I’ve heard it multiple times lately: “wouldn’t it be better at being more like this – more like that – less exposed / like you were once”; then again, when I was exactly those things, I should have been something different anyway, and I was negative, and I should have been more other stuff. I’m breaking out of all the labels that I have put on myself, or that people put on me without me even asking, and this is very destabilising for some. Hey, I used to be a total rescuer and a people-pleaser: whatever made people happy, I’d do or be. No question asked. It didn’t go down well, did it? It backfired spectacularly, actually. I ended up just as lonely as I was, with all my unresolved issues still there and with the additional “I have been such a dumb idiot” feeling making everything worse.

Lesson learned here: do what you think it’s best for you. Listen to your inner voice. Stay true to yourself. By all means, improve, experiment, test, try, fail, re-try, give it a go, challenge yourself, but do it in your own terms. You know what is right for you, and if you feel that something is too much / too little, well, if it is right for you then so be it. The truth is, you will not be liked by anyone anyway, not matter how much you try, and anyone will have an opinion about who you are, what you do etc, but you are the only one living your life. My ex-boyfriend always used to say “when someone points the finger at you, he is pointing one at you but three back at himself”: I never ever listened to him (and he loved upsetting me by calling me every name under the sun to teach me a lesson on “listening to your inner voice only”, and thank you so much I finally learned it!) till only recently and it has been a life-changing moment.

16fbabd310762143e12c9418dcfa844aHow many people objected my daring photoshoot? A lot. What do I think of it? Best day of my life (that I will replicate in a week). What opinion matters? Mine. How many people are telling me (my mum included) that I am training to hard, too much, that I will become a manly muscle monster etc? Do I care? Not one single bit, especially when I look at myself in the mirror and I see the potential starting to show off, which makes me want to train even harder. My friendships, my relationships, who I keep in or out of my life, I do what I feel good doing, and if I’m disappointing people on the way, well, tough luck for them. Whoever truly appreciates me and my efforts will love me even more and stay because they want to, not because I’m going above and beyond the call of duty to make them stay. Whoever feels the new me doesn’t meet their standards, well… I wish them well, but our journey together ends now.

IT’S OK, I’M NOT OK

You know that feeling when you have spent a week being very, very happy… the world is smiling at you and you are smiling back, it’s all rainbows and unicorns, nothing could be more perfect than this… and then…. It takes just one little thing to send you back to hell?
That is the way I can sum up my weekend of doom.
I’m trying (hard) to kind of rationalise it into a little setback that can happen, it’s fine, everyone has a bad day, don’t stress too much over it but… I felt like the world crushed on me in one go.

Suddenly, all my achievements felt like absolutely nothing at all. Abruptly, I looked myself in the mirror and I saw the ugly old Silvia back. I felt sad, I felt upset, under the weather, nothing cheered me up. Two amazing friends (Claudia and Lilla, I love you so much) came to the rescue and we even decided to embark on a “seven days butt challenge”: honestly, without their help, I would still be in that very dark cloud of thoughts I was on Saturday, though I’m not completely out of it yet.

Ahhh, I feel so frustrated. I was so loving the happiness and the “being on a high” as I was in the last few weeks. You know what I think? I probably relaxed a bit too much. My diet, from very healthy and carefully planned, went a bit out of the window (I had two days of Indian food binge feast, and I may have indulged in fried food a bit too much….). I felt invincible, on top of my game, nothing could have bothered me. Needless to say, I got caught totally off guard, which is probably why it stings more than what it should.

me-im-finally-starting-to-feel-happy-my-depression-app-31215677Lesson learned: don’t think you are safe just because you are enjoying a nice spell of happiness: depression can hit back at any time. I feel like I did one step forward and three steps back. I even had a proper, massive sob at the thought of being alone and with almost next to zero chances of landing in a loving relationship anytime soon. I have on the pipeline a lot of beautiful thing to look forward: tomorrow I start the bodybuilding program with my personal trainer, my dearest friend and partner in crime Rosario is coming to visit and we’ll go to see Slayer together (a gig I’ve been looking forward since I booked the tickets many months ago), I have another trip at Dollhouse for a photoshoot, a meet and greet with Kreator in December, a lot of amazing events at the office, probably a trip or two back in my home country…. And yet, I’m in such a mood that I don’t really “see” a good day happening anytime soon.

This is something that always buggers me about depression: you can fight it, you can even win a battle or two, but all of the sudden BANG! Your brain is clouded with this horrible illness, you are almost powerless and, no matter how much you try, nothing seems to really work to cheer you up. You can’t flush away the darkness just like that. It takes time. In addition, this feeling of doom and gloom took a very big toll on my workout: I managed to go to the gym and exercise, but to be honest, I felt so tired and lethargic that I didn’t push as I usually would have done it.

You know what though? After all the work I’ve done on myself, I’ve learned one big lesson that is massively helping me cope in this upsetting time: I’m kind to myself. In the past, I would have blamed myself, hated myself, told myself I’m stupid, dumb, deluded and called myself any offensive name under the sun I could think of because I “failed” at being happy. As we speak, I’m upset, yes, I’m a bit angry at myself for not thinking that this could have happened at some point, but at the same time I’m thinking “hey… you know what… fuck it, it is what it is”. I’m ill. I will always be mentally ill, it is part of who I am, and instead of fighting against myself, I should embrace this moment and do my best to let it slip away with as less damages as possible. It is a bit like when you are physically hurt, and you relax on the sofa surrounded by pillows and cushions to feel as comfy as possible: I’m mentally doing the same.

Also, I’m not hiding. Enough of this. Whoever is in my life right now has been carefully selected to be able to take the hit should I “go mental”, so I am free to say “hey, can I talk to you right now? I have something I need to get off my chest because it feels about to crush me”. Of course, it doesn’t mean I consider it a free pass to moan all day, every day, but it is mentally extremely relieving knowing that, when you feel like opening up, you have understanding people that will not only listen to your rants, but that will also try and help you: maybe they won’t put a smile back on your face, but they’ll definitely make you feel less desperate.

So yes, this is what is happening to me as we speak. I’m in badly need of a hug and a cuddle!

THE POWER OF GOODBYE (TO MY OLD CLOTHES)

It all started a month or so ago, when I wore one of my favourite pair of jeans and I noticed they didn’t quite fit anymore. They were not exactly big, but they definitely required a belt to make sure they stayed put. It didn’t take long before everything not only became “slightly too comfortable” but “ffs this is at least a size bigger than what I am”. It ended up being quite the cathartic experience: I decided to go through all my clothes and set aside anything that I don’t like anymore or, better, that doesn’t fit anymore, and after couple of hours trying to wear the next pair of jeans that became too big to be worn, I realised I ended up with only two pair of trousers and three jumpers that I purchased in the last few weeks. Everything else, and I mean my whole wardrobe (which ok, it wasn’t massive, but still…) is now for sale on my eBay page (who knows, maybe I can save some money for my boob job?).
Even though my weight is finally back on track and growing (thank you muscles, I love you!) I’m in fact two sizes down compared to three months ago, and my old clothes make me look like a total clown.
Not only that, if you want to know the truth: size aside, I don’t feel them anymore. They belong to my old me, and that person is someone I can’t relate to anymore. These clothes remind me of things I don’t really want to remember, they make me feel things I don’t want to feel anymore, I just hate the whole lot. Still, when I had to pile them up on one side, it felt a bit bittersweet: I was (physically) saying goodbye to my old self. Part of me wanted to hold on to some of this stranger self, but the new self though “what’s the point?” I worked too hard, I’m still working hard, that’s not me anymore, let it go”. Now I need to buy everything. I mean everything, from underwear to trousers and tops.

It is so strange looking at my past, even the recent one, and not recognising the person I was. I can’t relate to that woman anymore. I sometimes talk to her, trying to understand why I was who I was, why I didn’t do the things I’m doing sooner, what the hell was I thinking when I was thinking those things, but you know what? it all served a purpose in the end: I needed to go through all of that to then finally decide to change.

I’m trying to use this chance as a way to figure out what this new me can wear. Before I met my ex-husband, I was living in Milan and, like a proper Milanese, I loved fashion and I had very lovely clothes. He made me chuck away everything because he was jealous, and he made me feel like a whore ready to jump on every man’s lap the very few times I tried to wear a nice dress. I had a collection of stilettos that I loved, and those went too because he was too embarrassed of me being taller than him – to him, it was offensive, and disrespectful. I will never forget when he ruined my birthday, the first spent together: I went back to Milan to celebrate it with all my friends. Before going to the party (a dinner at a pub, for the record), I decided to wear a very plain and simple pink & black dress. Seriously, I bought it in a charity shop, it wasn’t anything special, I mean, I was going to a pub, not to a catwalk, right? He had a massive hissy fit, because I didn’t warn him I would wear a dress well in advance so he could have prepared psychologically, then complained that I was dressed like a hot hoe (?) and he was looking scruffy and dumb, it was definitely a plan I made up to ensure I’d embarrass him in front of my friends (who were just happy to meet him, they couldn’t have given a remote shit of what he was wearing and some of them he knew them already because they were his friends too)… In the end, I convinced myself that he was right, I put a metal band shirt and pair of trousers on and, in no mood to celebrate, I went to my party. He sulked all.night.long because of course, now I was dressing like shit and of course, I did it to make him feel guilty, not because I wanted him to stop fucking moaning. I hated that night. Every single minute. He didn’t utter a word, he looked pissed off from a mile, and instead of enjoying my friends I spent an evening making excuses for him. What a fucking idiot I have been. So yes, when we came back to the UK, I basically chucked everything away and made sure my wardrobe was full of tracksuit, black clothes, and stuff like that. It changed once I got rid of him, but not too much. Yes I dared some bodycon dresses, but still, having spent a lifetime considering myself ugly and unworthy of wearing nice things, it’s not like I had this wow stuff that I’m now desperate to keep.

So, I now would love to go back to my Milano years, only this time I know for a fact that I have the body to pull those clothes off. Going to the shops it is a weird experience: I always begin by heading towards clothes that are within my “comfort zone”, but then I force myself to try something new, and when I find something that seems interesting enough, I grab three or four different sizes because I seriously don’t know what is the one that is right for me. I even recruited two of my friends/colleagues to have a trip to the shops with me and make me try what they think I might look good in: I trust them dearly, so I’m sure it would be a very fun experience.

gym2Somehow, this process must have triggered something in me because I have never been more driven than now. This week I went to the gym every.single.day. I didn’t feel tired, I didn’t moan, I didn’t think “maybe I’ll skip it…”. Every day, whether rain or fine, happy or sad, I have been there completely in the zone, focussed and determined like I have never been before. I feel absolutely great. I feel like I could lift the whole world and not even sweat a bit. I even told my Personal Trainer that on Tuesday, after we close one of the two programs I’m on (finally, cause I bloody hate that with all my heart and soul), she better prepare me a total killer for the next one: I want something that will push me physically and mentally, I want to feel so much pain that I need to fear I ripped my glutes for good. I want something that will make me want to go to the gym every day to nail it and not feel like I need to urgently purchase a wheelchair. She smiled big time, and by the few bits she let slip, I know I’m in for a very lovely treat.

I am so committed and loving it that, when a friend showed me a video of a very (ok extremely) hot bodybuilder, my first thought has been “fuck it, I want to train and lift big like him”. All my colleagues who saw me training have been quite shocked and surprised. One of the mangers told me she never saw me so dedicated. I know, my dear, that’s because I’ve never been dedicated! The best bit? Looking at myself in the mirror, seeing how I’m shaping up and feeling so proud of myself. I have never, ever, EVER felt proud of myself. Not even on my graduation day. Not even when the CEO of my company thanked me for my work on a worldwide company townhall. Yet, I now feel I’m doing great. My mood is great, my body is becoming great (I can hear my psychotherapist in my mind saying “why just becoming?” and well, that’s because I can see where I am going and I’m not there yet, but I will), I’m on a roll here and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

gym3
not really appealing, no…

I even managed to beat a panic attack! Ok, it is marginally my merit and all credits go to my colleague Elena who, unknowingly, helped me big time. So, because I’m going big with my training, I’m going big with my nutrition, my protein intake, and supplements to help recovery etc. I had a sample of amino to try and I decide to give it a go – that is, before I actually poured it into my water bottle and I came face to face with this very Chelsea FC blue liquid… I tasted it, it was just… no. NO. I was ready to pour it down the sink, no way Jose I’m drinking that, when Elena came round, had a taste, said “oh, it tastes like medicine! Come on, let’s drink it”, poured a glass for her and one for me and chucked one down like nothing ever happened. My jaw dropped. My brain went into “bitch, the challenge is on, if she did it, you do it too”. Well, we managed to drink the whole lot. I kept my panic attack at bay, and I think those amino worked a treat for my muscles too because I didn’t feel remotely sore. Friday I did the same, only this time it was a special whey powder. I chucked it down like if it was water, and whatever stupid thing my brain was trying to tell me, I kept it as far away as I could because hey, if my muscles need this shit, my muscles will get it.

gym1Today I’m resting as much as I can. My week has been a crazy rollercoaster and who knows what is going to happen tomorrow. One thing is for sure: not matter what, I’ll be at the gym lifting, you can bet on it!

 

POST-NATAL HELL? THIS ONE IS FOR YOU

I was reading the news today on my journey to work and I suddenly stumbled this very sad story about this woman who killed herself because post-natal depression made her psychotic, and even though she asked for help multiple times, everyone dismissed her or treated her like a lunatic nuisance. She worried social services would have taken her daughter away from her, and even though her family rallied to help her and kept asking her doctor for help, she didn’t see a way out from her hell but by committing suicide. I knew I should have steered clear from that article as soon as my eyes read the title, but… I just had to read it. It hits very, very close to home.
My heart breaks for this woman, for her family and for her daughter. I’m sitting here writing this and crying, for her, for me, for all us women who have been ignored, dismissed like stupid hoes trying to get attention, mistreated and made to fear for our children’s wellbeing because of the actions of doctors and health providers.

I know what it feels to be in her shoes.
I have been in her shoes.
For three good years.
Fair to say I have quite the experience learned directly on the field.
I know how painful it is to be badly brushed off like you are a stupid idiot wasting doctor’s time with your stupid, irrational fears; didn’t you read the books? Weren’t you paying attention to antenatal classes? It’s baby blues for fuck sake, get a grip! Bloody first-time mum…
I know what damage a badly-mannered health visitor can do to you: I was a very fragile woman, caring 24/7 for my son with my mind spinning and my body aching, and I got treated like the worst mother in the world, I got made to feel guilty for stuff that wasn’t even under my control: for example, my son developed jaundice soon after birth; the midwife who came round told me off in a badly manner for not taking my son out enough for him to benefit from the sunshine to ease his condition; however, since I came out of the hospital, the weather had been rainy or dull and grey nonstop for weeks. Bitch, I ain’t no Storm from X-Men OK? The fact that I’m in my pyjama has nothing to do with my depression but all to do with the stupid shitty weather that is almost the norm in this bloody country of yours, and I can’t do anything about it or else I would have made the UK as hot as a Caribbean island all year round, you dumb twat. I’m Italian, I like sun, I hate freezing my ass, I’m not stripping my son naked when outside is barely 10 degrees Celsius.
I got told everything I was doing was wrong, I got yelled at and treated like a I was the dumbest person on planet earth. I got threatened with social services paying a visit to my house when I dared to mentioned I kind of was feeling a bit suicidal.
I wish the person I am now could go back in time and be present in the same room where the old me was being treated like scum by these midwives and health visitors because I’m telling you, shit would hit the fan at the first word uttered by those witches from hell. I would slap the shit out them and boot their sorry asses out of my house. No way I would have let them treat the old me like they did. Heck, I’d even ring the police and then we see who’s the bad bitch in here, you prick. You watch me.
Then, I’d make the old me a lovely cup of tea, give my old self a massive hug and tell myself “bitch, you will go through shit, I’m telling you, it’s going to get worse from now on, but hold on tight princess, you will get through this. You’ll be stronger, you’ll become a strong a fierce Queen, but before that happens, you need to see how deep the hell inside you is… and believe me, it is almost bottomless. But you will win, because you don’t know it now, but you are so, so strong, and that strength will keep you alive. By the way, you are doing, and you will do, a great job, don’t let these shitheads make you believe otherwise”.

I don’t want to read these news ever again. I don’t want other women to go through the same shit I did. I’m tired of hearing stuff like “The NHS is stretched already as it is and be grateful you get what you get”. Fuck off. Myself, that poor woman, all other women going through this hell, we need HELP. We need to be taken seriously. We need to be made to feel like we are not idiots. We need someone to truly listen to what we are going through, to care for us in those delicate moments, to hold our hands and reassure us, not to fucking being threatened with social services. What the hell! We are not bad mums, if anything, we want to be great mums.

I’m furious. This news brought up feelings I kept bottled up for years. I’m crying, I’m shaking and I’m raging. Oh my gosh I’m furious. FURIOUS.

If you are a new mum, and you are going through something that it is not exactly adding up in your brain, if you are a mum going through this hell, please, please, please, listen, because these words are for you:
I know you are scared.
I know you can’t seem to think straight.
I know you have this gut feeling that something is getting worse by the minute.
I know you feel like you are not supposed to feel the way you do: after all, everyone has filled your head with this impossible idyllic maternity ideas such as that you should be feeling happy, blessed, serene and peaceful, and that is all but anything you are feeling right now.
Oh, forget to compare yourself with those impeccable, incredible, super yummy mummies who knows it all, who make you feel inferior because your baby should be sleeping eight hours a night like an angel, you should snap back in shape like a model two weeks after birth, you should be breastfeeding, eat organic shit, go to yoga “mum & baby” classes, but the only thing you can barely manage to do on a daily basis is getting out of bed.
You are doing you.
You are going through an extremely delicate and difficult time of your life right now. You need help. Don’t hide, speak up. There are people who will listen to you. I would listen to you because I’ve been there, and it is a very lonely place to be when you are on your own fighting that monster who is eating you inside.
Please, listen to me: don’t surrender. I know the temptation is there. I know at times it is so strong, so… so seductive, that it seems the only way to go. It is not. There is an end to your hell and it is not necessarily the end of you. There is help out there. Scream if you have to, don’t keep it bottled up inside you. If you don’t have the strength, make your friends, your family, whoever you trust, make them fight that corner for you.
If your doctor is not listening go and find another one. If that doctor is not listening too, go and find another one, and another, and another. If only I managed to meet my current therapist years ago, my life would have been so much more different. I am sure there are amazing midwives and doctors out there, unfortunately the rotten apples cause damages which put everyone under a bad light.

You are an amazing human being, I know you are. I know you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do, it is unfair, why you? Why me? One thing is certain: it is NOT your fault. It is not a sign that you did something wrong, it is not because you are a bad mother. It is very bad luck, it is a fucking shitty lottery and you got the (un)lucky winning ticket. As hard as it is to believe it right now, I can assure you it will get better. It will take some time, but you will come out of this.
Stay strong my sister.
You are not alone in this.peony