THIS DAY WE FIGHT

I rolled my eyes at an incoming panic attack.

I know, it sounds weird, but this is exactly what happened, and it happen so quickly and automatically that I felt more concerned about my reaction than of the panic attack about to strike.

Bit of a background: this Thursday I’ll be at my Company’s Christmas party, and this year I decided that, to celebrate all the good work I have done on myself, I am going to look spectacular. No more saddo clothes, no more blending with the furniture, nope. I will wear a very sparkling sequin bodycon dress, I’ll have hair, makeup, fake tan, mani & pedi professionally done, everything will be spot on. Yes sir, tomboy me will become smoking hot barbie.
So yesterday I was sitting in bed, catching up with the Premier League’s results, when I though “you know what? I’m going to pamper myself up a bit”: I decided to treat myself with a face masque. Simple as that.
Of course, as soon as I started applying it BAM! I could feel a panic attack creeping up, with all the fake weird sensations and the general “I’m on a high alert for danger, I just need to find the perfect trigger….”.
Now, the old me would have quickly washed her face, felt totally stupid for doing something that comes with a complimentary panic attack and then spend the whole night sulking and feeling like crap (“I’m stupid, I’m so dumb, why did I do this, the list goes on).
The new me? Well, the new me is fucking fed up, to put it mildly. I had a massive eye-rolling moment, I rolled my eyes so much that I saw the inside of my brain, and the first few thoughts were, amongst other inappropriate things that I better not write here, something along the lines of “how predictable….Jeeeez the fucks I don’t give about you, stupid brain, right now”. Yes, the panic attack was still trying to lure me in, but I soldiered on for twenty ( T W E N T Y) minutes as per masque instructions and sorry you little shit, there are no panic attacks in between this woman and achieving a pre-party glowing skin.

Eyes rolling.

I’m bored of you, stupid brain thinking weird stuff, misinterpreting shit and giving me panic attacks! I’m BORED.
B O R E D.
Enough already! I am done with it.
At the end of those twenty, eternal minutes, I proudly sat firmly on my bed, with my face looking like a very angry red tomato (it was a bit of a peeling, a bit of god knows what, a “facelift in a jar”, I’ll look normal soon… I hope) not giving a single, infinitesimal fuck.

I had a horrible nightmare last night: I dreamt of my surgery and it was all incredible distressing and scary. My brain re-interpreted the moment before I got put to sleep by the anaesthetist back two years ago and I could feel the fright of my life. Worst was, I knew it was a dream, but still, I couldn’t just manage to keep it under control. Yet, instead of waking up crying and projecting negative thoughts to my incoming surgery, I yelled (in my mind, because I care for my neighbours) “FUCK NO” and cut the crap there and then. No way I’m going to live till the 7th of January in distress because I’m scared. Yes, I will be scared, of course I will. I’m not exactly about to pop a bottle of Prosecco and celebrate Formula 1 podium style at the thought of being put to sleep, but at the same time, I won’t let all of this useless and counterproductive anxiety rule my life. This shit ends now.

I feel like a revolution has started inside me. It is something that has slowly crept up over time, with therapy, with my confidence growing, with my work at the gym… It’s… it’s like the tests and achievements so far have paved the way for something bigger, something that I haven’t consciously noticed till now. Like the little drops of water that over time erode a rock, the same has happened to my brain: something has eroded my brain slowly but steadily, to the point where I now feel not only that I am not bloody scared of facing this war, but also that there is a big chance I can win it.

For example, in order to start testing how much I can push it, I switched Iron supplements today: no more taking the “safe option”, which by the way, it gave me a panic attack the first time I took it. As I write, I just took it for the first time and needless to say, I have a panic attack waiting for me to let him in. I can feel my brain trying to find a way to trigger hell; my senses are on a hype, trying to find a reason, a slight weird feeling, a little glitch in the system to make me go in full panic mode. I refuse to let it happen.
Fuck off already.
I’m sitting here, eating my (very sad, I must admit) lunch, writing this entry and working really hard to keep my precious fucks to myself and not give a single one to what my body is trying to tell me, because these feelings that I think I’m feeling are NOT REAL. They are not, and I should stop pandering to them, just as I don’t pander to my son when he puts up a tantrum display in shops.

I know, I sound totally lunatic and ready to check in to mental unit, but… listen, I always saw myself as a victim of my mind; I always thought there is nothing I could do to make me be better; I always surrendered without even trying to fight back and I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, not for me anymore at least. For the record, even if I’m all here bold and courageous, I’m not having exactly an easy time, and I bet all you want that once this storm settles I will feel absolutely drained. If you know what a panic attack is, and if you ever attempted to fight it, you know how tiring and exhausting it is. However, I want to think it as a mental gym: the first time I went to the gym, the next day I begged to die as everything hurt and I could barely breathe; now I could squat till my arse is on fire and I’m happy when I feel that burning sensation – it means my muscles are growing and I’m doing something right. Well, dear brain, now you and I are going to squat the shit out of these panic attacks, and yes, today I will feel like my head is about to explode, but soon, with good training, I’ll get you nice and muscly and strong enough to cut the crap before it even starts. You just watch me making it happen!

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.

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.