JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN

Oh, dear Mary Poppins, I wish it was that simple for me!

Ok, I guess it’s time to talk about it, because the clock is ticking, and it will soon be the time where I won’t be able to run away from this massive issue I have. I have been working hard to avoid facing it, because it causes me a lot of mental pain; however, thanks to the incoming surgery procedure, dodging this bullet again won’t be an option… so I better do everything in my power to get ready before the storm will hit me in all its fury.

Unfortunately for me, I have been living with quite a nasty phobia. It is a massive one, a “wonderful” gift from post-natal depression: I am totally, absolutely, completely, and undeniably terrified of taking medicines other than the odd paracetamol. The thought of having to do it triggers quite a severe anxiety attack, the act of taking one… well, it’s a full-force panic attack with its horrible aftermath. Not a pleasant experience, believe me. At times, even vitamins and supplements can trigger an anxiety attack. Even cosmetic treatments!!! My gosh the day I had a fake tan… sheer terror (by the way, I’m having another one because I’m brave). Unlike my love for mushrooms, that disappeared during those three years of mental hell only to come back as nothing ever happened once I made it to the other side, this phobia overstayed it’s welcome and I’m still battling it to this day. When people joke about phobias and the impact they have on people, I become quite angry: you don’t know how frightening it is living with one till it happens to you, and even if for you it is stupid or inconceavable, for that person is a trauma, so be kind – nobody wants to have to deal with it!

The thing is, this medicines phobia it’s not something that is easy to challenge in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy style (which I hate with all my heart, by the way), like I did with most food (at my worst, during my post-natal depression, I survived only on plain rice and plain pasta): I can’t just pop pills randomly to get used to them and don’t be scared of them anymore. Besides, even if I were crazy enough to do it, what medicines would I pick? I’m scared of all of them and there is a plethora available over the counter alone. What should I try? And why, since I’m perfectly healthy? My liver appreciates me treating him nicely and keeping him on a (almost) permanent state of relax. I rarely take medicines anyway, unless I’m really, really sick, so even when I could have the chance to challenge myself, I just don’t feel the need to.
I thought I had to face my phobia when I had my elbow surgery two years ago, but once the anaesthesia wore off, I found I had no pain at all, or nothing that a tiny bit of paracetamol would not solve, so I dodged that bullet at that time. However, it seems now that my next surgery won’t be a walk in the park as the previous one: my lovely surgeon wrote, on the pre-admission letter, that I am to expect considerable pain till two (but likely four) weeks post-op, and that pain will be considerably higher than what I experienced with my elbow. Yep, the odd paracetamol would simply not be enough… and my phobia is already waiving hello in the back of my head, feeling like an annoying acquaintance that you rather walk the long way round than crossing his path and having to wave hello back.

I always have been very blasé about my health and medicines. Not that I ever took a lot of them, but I guess it was the same as for any normal person: if your doctor says you need it, you take it, if there is anything over the counter that would solve your issue, you just buy it, take it and end of the story. My mum, her sisters and my grandma had a very… let’s say interesting relationship with medicines: for them, it was like exchanging shoes or clothes!
“Did you try this? Oh my gosh best painkiller ever”
“Really? Because I was using this other one and I can assure you this is so worth the money, you should totally try it!”
My dad, every time he saw them chatting away like that, he used to raise his hands and say “the drug dealers are in a meeting”. One of my mum’s sister used to be a nurse, and I will never forget that time I had food poisoning with egg pasta: she gave me a massive shot of Brufen that basically knocked me out for the whole night.
I took all the medicines I have been prescribed without a single problem, including a round or two of antibiotics. Before I got pregnant, I re-took my MMR vaccine, and all was going fine in my own little world.

Unfortunately, towards the end of my pregnancy, I had an allergic reaction to the hair dye I was using to cover my very dark roots (I was a proud bottle blonde), and something cracked in my brain: I was suddenly scared of any chemical thing. I coped kind of ok till I had to be induced, and I had a panic attack straight away: from that moment onwards, I descended into a spiral of pure terror at the thought of taking any medicine whatsoever.

It has been 6 years and counting now that my phobia gives me a panic attack hey pronto as soon as I’m required to take any medicines. This is also the reason why I am deeply ashamed to admit that I skipped, for the fifth year running, the flu jab: I rather take the risk of having the flu rather than having to face the guaranteed panic attacks I’d have before, during and afterwards (but, before you yell at me, my son has been vaccinated). The only medicines I do not have an issue with are paracetamol and Gaviscon (a heartburn medicine); however, overcoming this fear has not been easy: it took me few panic attacks and ultimately a very kind nurse on the phone who stayed on the line when I took them, and talked me out of the raging storm in my head. To this day, I’m eternally grateful to her and she is proof that a bit of care and kindness do change people’s lives: it certainly changed mine for the very better.

I know, for normal people, this phobia is quite stupid, but believe me, I can feel the anxiety building up as I write about it; I can already picture myself in pain, with a box of ibuprofen in my hand, petrified at the thought of either keep being in physical pain or to dare and alleviate it at the cost of causing myself mental pain. It’ a horrible, vicious cycle, I know.

To be honest, I am a bit fucking done with this phobia. It doesn’t mean that I wish I could walk into a pharmacy and swallow every medicine I could lay my hands on without an issue, but I just want to be able to take what I get prescribed without spending hours (or days, or months) of my life completely terrified. I told my therapist that, in a weird and masochistic way, I’m ready for the challenge: like a wrestling match, it is about time I get in the ring and start punching my way to victory, rather than just seeing my phobia holding the championship belt and yelling abuse at me to scare me away from even daring to get near it.

Will I be able to win this one? Any suggestion is more than welcome!

RUNNING OUT OF FU@%S IS MY CARDIO

Another week has gone, I haven’t been writing, I have been extra, extra busy at work and at home… aaaahhh!! I’m doing great though. Actually, I never felt this good. I dare to say it, I’m even happy at the way things are progressing. Unfortunately, though, being busy means little to zero time for the blog, and on top of that I have been in an out of the hospital a bit because of my shoulder. In this chaotic times there has been some stuff boiling up at work that made me think of how I changed, thanks to therapy and my own self-improvement. I basically went from “caring too much” to “caring ZERO”.

I think I said it already so many times that I used to be a rescuer. I thought that all I had to do in order to be loved an appreciated was to focus and spend all my energies, money and time on others. There was never a “me” moment, because if that chance happened, I would have used it to please someone else but myself. Imagine: 24/7, every single day of your life, working your ass off for others and feeling grateful for the opportunity of doing so.

Learning to curb this behaviour and attitude towards others has been a real struggle. You’d think “oh, I’ll just stop right now, cold turkey”, but when you are trying to terminate a behaviour that has been present throughout all your life, and that you most often trigger automatically because that is how you have always done, quitting it is as hard as quitting smoking or any other bad habit, with withdrawal symptoms in the form of pure guilt and fear: guilt of “not being as useful” and fear of “now nobody will ever love me because they will learn to not need me therefore I won’t have a purpose in their lives”.

I am facepalming myself as I write this tripe.

1335298036781_3013300I am doing so much better now, I have learned to say no (even though at times it feels like a violence against myself), to manage my guilt and to be less dependent on my need of being needed at all times, but the other face of this behavioural coin is that now…. I kind of not care that much. Actually, I don’t care anymore at all. Worse: I feel guilty of not feeling guilty about not giving a single fuck. My friend Marge always laughs when I say “my fucks bucket has now an extremely limited capacity and this thing is not worth any of those precious fucks that I could give”. Unfortunately (or, maybe, not unfortunately) it is what I feel at the moment. What do you expect anyway? When you’ve been used and abused for years, and you are done investing feelings and your emotional wellbeing only to be treated like scum, you raise your walls and make sure they won’t come down that easily.

I reached the limit of my self-imposed martyrdom a while ago and I’m so, so fed up. Now I don’t have time or care for (almost) anyone but me. I don’t chase, I don’t beg, I don’t ask. I don’t force my help down other people’s throat, I don’t do my all to be there for everyone at any time of the day or night, I don’t put myself down to make someone else feel better. The new rules are: if I don’t care, then I won’t force myself to pretend I do to please someone else, and I will act and only go the extra mile if I want to do it because I’m happy anyway, whether it is appreciated or not.

Another thing that I stopped doing is pandering to other people’s needs just because I don’t want to hurt / upset them and, most importantly, because I fear I will lose them should I dare to say things how they are. That has been outrageously difficult to implement, but once I ran out of fucks to give to everyone randomly, being able to just express my true feelings proved to be such a relief. To be clear, I’m not saying I’m offending people or being a bitch for the sake of it; simply, if I feel like something does not sit well with me, I won’t be putting up with it for the sake of “not rocking the boat”. Examples? I had a very long and deep chat with someone close to my heart that yes, as much as enjoy this person being in my life and all the things that are happening, if I’m just nothing but a cheap entertainment then I am not interested in investing my time, energies, and feelings. This is a deal-breaker and I’m ready to walk away should this be the case. It felt incredibly hard to “lay down the law”, but you know what? In this new chapter I only want people who want to be here because they love me, anyone else can go waste someone else’s time. Zero fucks given. I have no time, nor interest for those permanently offended, for the narcissists, for the soul-drainers, for anyone who’s only a taker and never a giver. I gave them my whole life, I got only negativity and pain in return, I think it’s about to time I move on.

You don’t approve what I do? I ran out of fucks, sorry.9c312a5ef7b685543862e1c9b9cc56ef0672819f8bf650e2fa4c307e6e115d17
You don’t like my opinion on the matter? See above.
You don’t like that I refuse to put up with your shit? Aaand again, see above.

I had a very interesting talk about this aspect with my therapist, because my surgeon made the dreaded call (7th of January… how to start my new year in style) and I was chatting about how this time, compared to when I had my elbow surgery, I’m actually pretty chilled and looking forward to it. I ran out of fucks to give about what anyone would think about the call I made, what impact has on me, my son, my life, whatever…. You should have seen me when the surgeon said “ok, so, your choice: you either put up with the pain for life or we do surgery but expect to be in pain and recovery is going to be long” and I yelled back at him “NO WAY I’M PUTTING UP WITH THIS BOOK ME IN!!!!”. Put up with what? You crazy man? Hell no! Anyway, I was telling my therapist how happy I was that, one way or another, I would have solved my problem and that I was looking forward to some blissful time at home, high as a kite post-op, to just be with myself. She asked “would you need help though? Have you thought about asking someone to help you? I suppose you won’t be able to move, or cook, or lift stuff…”. Suddenly, I felt extremely uncomfortable: what? someone around the house to help me? No no no no no no.

She started digging into my refusal of getting help… till the point when it came clear why I am so against that: I see help as the old me would, as a “put up a smile, pretend it’s ok, entertain who is pretending to help till you finally go back being alone”. We discussed in depth at why I see it that way, and why I just don’t accept honest, heartfelt help from those who really want to give it. Why my “ran out of fucks” attitude crumbles when faced with me being in need? Why do I feel the need to hide my true feelings, and why I can’t just let the helpers in and, instead of “entertaining them”, I just lower my guard, let them take care of me and just be the person who had surgery and needs resting? We both agreed that this surgery will be a pivotal moment in this journey: it will be a personal test for me to see how much progress I made, I will have to face few phobias (like taking medicines to cope with the pain) and to see if I indeed have “run out of fucks” about rescuing others when all I have to do is recovering. Guess what? I already made the (I must admit, painful) effort to ask for help on the day of the surgery. Oh boy, uttering those “would you please sleep with me the night I come home? I need help, and this would mean a lot to me” words took me a massive amount of stress and anxiety… and I’m trying hard not to regret saying them!!!!!

See? progress!!!!

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.