How long does it take to stop grieving the past, accepting the present and look forward to a better, brighter future?
I am seriously done with my heart for feeling the way I feel.
I know, I know, I’m blaming female hormones raging on today for the way I feel, bear with me, I need these things out of my chest or else I will explode.
I am probably demanding too much from myself, as usual. I can’t accept my weakness, and this one is the worst.
In my head, I should have bounced back in a matter of days, couple of weeks at best. I thought I was doing it all right:
– Gym? Checked
– Loving myself? Checked
– Meditating? checked
– Trying new things? Checked
– Embracing therapy? Checked
Well… it’s been more than couple of days, and unfortunately even more than couple of weeks. Make it more like months, and counting…. And I’m still… well… the fact that I am writing about it whilst drying my tears says it all, really.
I am not even sure what I truly miss here.
The guy? Ok, he was good, but, to be honest, he wasn’t exactly Prince Charming. Yes he was fun, yes he was cool, of course we had a jolly good time. Was he really worth of all this love and hurt that I am feeling though? No, not at all. He barely did the minimum required to be considered “committed”. I worked my ass off, and some more, because I wanted to believe in “his love”. Because I wanted his love, and he never made me feel worth enough to have it.
See, the thing is, I knew I was in love with an idea of him that I had in my mind. I was in love with the man I knew he could have been, because that man is somewhere inside him, rather than with the man I really had in front of my eyes; he preferred to keep his demons close than loving me, and I have been stupid enough to think that I could have fought them for him. You can’t fix something that doesn’t want to be fixed, right? Technically, it is not even my job to fix other people, but then again, I’m a rescuer and I always thought that this is what “makes me special”.
Heck, I even told him one night that I knew that what we had was probably just me loving for the both of us, and he tagging along because it was convenient. Worse: instead of realising “dude, you are one dumb ass bitch and you should tell him to go”, I felt like I had to hold on to him even further, because if he were to leave him, I would have been crushed.
Excuse my language, but what a load of bullshit!
Where is my self-love? My pride? My dignity? Hel-loooooo, anybody here? No?
I can’t let go. I just can’t move on, and before you ask, fuck yes, I tried.
If someone came round to offer me a lobotomy, I’d take it. A pill to forget him? Give me two, no, wait, three, just to make sure. Selective amnesia? Yes please.
It seems that no matter how strong I am, no matter how hard I push myself, no matter what I do, or don’t do, in the end nothing works.
It feels like there is always something that brings me back to square one, no matter how far I push myself to go. Take today, for example: I was about to do my usual Saturday grocery shopping. I called an Uber, because I wasn’t feeling well (me and this heatwave don’t really go along). The car arrived, I sat, and as soon as I closed the door I realised what song was coming out of the radio: the same one he made me listen on the last night we spent together. I just froze. I didn’t have the guts to tell the driver “could you please turn it off? This song is like a knife through my heart”. Instead, I sat there, trying not to cry, seeing the film of that night in front of my eyes. I felt so broken.
I still feel broken.
Oh, my god, you know what is even worse? That the brain, instead of thinking “fuck this shit Silvia, time to blast Kreator out loud and move on”, it goes into “maybe it is a sign that you must not let go because maybe, who knows, at some point…”
Mental unit, that is what at some point I will need to go! I’m FED UP!
I just want to be loved. Is it too much to ask for?
I just want to feel that… feeling.
The text message that makes your heart jump with joy.
The sweet kisses.
The falling asleep listening to the sound of him breathing next to me.
The waking up, cuddle-up in his arms and just have few minutes of relax before my day starts.
The excitement on the train to home that takes me straight back in his arms.
I want to feel desired, appreciated, cared for. I want to feel that I mean the world to someone. I want to be able to not be afraid of being dumped every second and just be, in the moment, loved.
I keep telling myself “how come you are here, all moody and tearful, crying like a baby, for someone you know full well that he doesn’t give a remote, single shit about you. Not only that, but he is out and about, jumping at every girl who throws herself at him, and yet, you are here “hoping he will change his mind”. He won’t bitch, enough is enough, he wasn’t good enough and he didn’t want you enough, so get a grip, you deserve better than being used for your money and your kind heart”.
Rationally, all it’s easy and clear. For a split second, it works: I’m even convinced! I’m in a “yeah bitch, of course, you go girl!”.
Then, something happens (like my Uber ride) and I fall back in my dark place, alone, with no one else to turn to but me. And it sucks.
Whad did you say? RE-SPECT! WALK! Are you talking to me? ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?!? Aaaah Pantera. They way they said it has always been spot on! If you fancy hearing where these lyrics come from, here is the link (headbanging will be required)
Don’t ask me why it is happening.
It’s been a while now since I’ve been on this path of personal changes, growth, and improvement. I’m seeing incredible things happening both physically and mentally: my abs are finally shaping up nicely; my body is getting sculped muscle by muscle by my beloved (and sadistic!) personal trainer; I’m moving to a happier, more confident, stronger place. Yes, I still crave love from a man, but I am loving myself an awful lot more and I am also more appreciative of the love I’m receiving from everyone around me.
Yet, there is something that, right now, seems beyond my control: I have no filters and I’m having a proper “HELL NO!” attitude: at work, at home, with myself.
Mind you, I’m famous for losing the plot quite easily (after all, I’m my mum’s daughter, the apple and the tree etc…), however I have also been quite famous for being able to pretend to calm down, leave the situation that’s making me furious, tell myself “yeah, I’m fine, besides, what can I do?”, go home and then hold on to resentment for days (or months, or more).
I feel like my brain is in a “dude, we just ran out of f*cks to give” mode and, since I jumped the fence to go from “I hate myself so you should too” to “if you don’t respect me, you’ll regret it”, I am in no mood to be the diplomatic looser anymore and to re-fill my f*cks-to-give bucket.
The way this all started can be compared to a tap that started to break up, slowly but steady. At first, it was leaking a drop or two here and there. Then, it became few drops per minute. Before I realised, the valve on my brain snapped for good and water came out non-stop. However, unlike for a real tap, where I would have closed the mains, rang my good friend & Chelsea FC fan plumber to get it fixed, here I’m just…. Going with the flow. I cannot hold back, and if I do, it gets only worse. Have you ever tried to stop the water flow coming out of your tap in full force? Yep, that’s exactly what happens to me.
Beyond my control, I began voicing aloud the fact that I was not having any of the shit that I was gladly suffering not long ago anymore. Once I mastered talking the talk, I began walking the walk and I started to proactively stop the crap before it reached me. The first times, it was quite a surreal experience: I could feel the “old me” pulling her hair and begging the “new me” to reconsider, stop, please, at least be kinder, and the “new me” going “fuck no!” An example? A colleague tried to make me do something he could have easily done by himself (namely: calling facilities to fix the printer). He came towards my desk with the attitude of someone who believes he is owed everything in the world and demanded that I’d do it. Before I could come up with my old ways (“of course, let me look into it, I’m busy but I suppose I’ll do it”), the new me gave him a taste of his own medicine:
“Sorry – Why should I do it? Can’t you see that I’m busy?”
“Well, I don’t have the number so you do it”
(sent the number via email)
“Now you have it”
“I don’t have time”
“Neither have I”
“How about you do it it?”
“What? First week with new fingers and still getting used to them that you can’t dial a phone number? Ask Siri to dial it for you, that is why is there for”
Confidence started growing exponentially. Whenever someone tried “to put my back in my place”, making me feel worthless, instead of lowering my head and say sorry, I stood for myself. People started getting the message: this woman is not a doormat anymore. The training course that someone was thinking of forcing down my throat because someone else messed up and these people had to cover their mistakes up by making us all pay for it? “nope, I don’t I need to spend an hour of my time to learn how to click on an icon on my screen, besides, since the mistake has been done on the other side of the world and by the IT people, maybe you should train them? How about that?”; the ex-employee chasing me for things he should have been responsible for? “Nothing I can do, leave me out of it, deal with HR, you knew when you were leaving, if you didn’t take care of it, it’s no one else’s fault but yours”; the UPS guy trying to make me pay for their mistake? His ears are still ringing.
If something is not right, I’ll call bullshit as I see it, without being able to stop it and maybe be less brutal. If I get challenged, instead of stepping back, surrender and maybe apologising for something I didn’t do, I’m jumping in the fight tooth and nail, and boy, I will make sure that shit will go down. If someone tries to bully me into doing stuff I don’t want to do, I will stand for myself and will make sure that they won’t try to do it again. If someone is being a twat with me, I will return the favour and I won’t even feel remotely guilty about it. If there is something that I want, or deserve, or that I don’t want, I will say it as it is, without trying to make it sound pretty. I ran out of patience, excuses, and fear.
Even worse: when the situation for lashing out gets taken away from me, I go ballistic because I feel like I lost a chance to test myself and get my anger out. Last Friday, for example: something happened at the office and a colleague ended up being very offended. She was storming around the office, yelling at everyone she could have yelled at. I was out, doing something for my manager, but colleagues warned me about what was happening (otherwise I would have been none the wiser) and told me to brace myself for my turn. I came back to my desk and I waited, smiling like a psychopath. Just like when you order your favourite dessert at the restaurant and you see the waiter coming with it towards you, I saw the moment coming. I was ready.
I was in a “calm before the storm” mood. She arrived, she (angrily) asked few things to establish the facts that made her angry, then, just as the momentum was building and my brain was gearing up for a fight…. She left me there and then to go and yell at someone else.
I felt so disappointed.
I rehearsed the fight that never happened in my head all weekend. I just couldn’t shake off that feeling of “I just missed out on one of my finest moments of the year”. How silly is that? I am trying to come up with explanations on why I am acting this way: what is it that is making me “unleash the beast” inside? Where are these feelings coming from? Why I am so… like this, when I used to be the opposite? So far, I came up with two explanations:
Explanation number 1: I have to “blame” the fact that in this new, more confident, good self-esteem person, I am like a “reborn Silvia” (thank Marge for that definition) and, just like babies learning and growing, I’m trying to learn who is this new self and how it feels to be in this new personality. I am therefore subconsciously pushing the boundaries of what I can or can’t do, what I can get away with it, how far can I go before being told to do one.
Explanation number 2: up till recently, I have always allowed people to treat me like crap, because ultimately, I thought I was crap and therefore I deserved to be treated as such. Now that I realised that “hold on a second here, I’m actually amazing, how dare you!”, I am not only subconsciously (and a little less subconsciously) imposing myself to demand respect at all times, but I suppose I am also extremely angry that I let people (and, ultimately, myself) to get away with murder all my life. I have these feelings inside me that are desperately trying to get out, but since, somehow, they can’t do it on their own, my brain is using every chance that life throws at me to just release the pressure.
I am going to be completely honest with you: I don’t feel, at the moment, that I want to “fix it” because I don’t think I have anything to fix. I don’t want to “tone it down”. I am not interested in going back at being a frightened sheep. I don’t want to be accommodating anymore. I have spent all my life being “the people pleaser” and guess what? Nobody gave me a medal for it. I guess I would like to find a way to let the anger out, yes, because that has to leave this body asap (any anger exorcism please?); I don’t want that the confident-me ends up becoming the asshole-me. But standing with my head held high and not giving in without a very good reason? Oh yeah, this is going to stay, because I am loving it. After all, if I don’t love, respect, and protect myself, how can I pretend that others will?
I am going to state something that it is so incredibly obvious when you think about it, and yet it is so unbelievably hard to believe in it, especially when the person who is going through it is you.
Ready? Steady? GO:
IT IS OK TO NOT BE (MENTALLY) OK
If you are going through something that it is currently making you feel low, sad, depressed, or even worse, suicidal, let me tell you something: as upsetting as it is, it is ok to not be ok.
I swear, it is absolutely, 100% ok to feel the way you feel.
I’m not a happy guru trying to feed you some positive garbage for the sake of looking good: I have been thinking about ending my own life for three good years in recent times. It is fair to say I know a thing or two about not being ok, alright?
I don’t know why there is a stigma linked to mental problems, I really don’t. Surely the brain is just like any other organ of our bodies, albeit a very special one? Why our kidneys, our stomachs, our eyes, our lungs are allowed to have issues, but not our beloved brains? Yes, yes, I get it, when you end up being coo-coo in your head, it is not the same as if you get gastroenteritis. Ok. But still.
You know what drives me mad with anger? When mental problems, which are not “as severe as” dementia or Alzheimer, gets brushed off not only by friends and family, but also by doctors: it feels like nobody has, or want to have, the time to just listen to what is going on in your head. The common “suggestion” you’ll get is “don’t be a pussy and put up with it” as “there are worst things in life”.
You know what?
F*CK THIS SHIT
I have suffered with anxiety all my life. At intervals, I had spells of depression, and panic attacks here and there. To be honest, I can consider myself lucky I “only” had that to deal with: in my family from my mum’s side, we cover the whole spectrum of mental illnesses, from “depressed”, via “multiple mental breakdowns” to “in and out of mental unit with no hopes to lead a normal life ever again”.
Things have been ok-ish, up until I gave birth, and then things went very, very, very bad. VERY bad. Calling what I had “post-natal depression” doesn’t really describe it. I wasn’t necessarily depressed. I constantly had panic attacks. I am not exaggerating.
I was scared of going out, because “what if I drop dead in the middle of the street? What will happen to my baby?”; but at the same time, I was also scared of staying in, because I was alone, and what if something happens to me? What will happen to my baby?
I tried to speak with my (at the time) husband about it, and it didn’t go down well. When you have to deal with someone who likes to always be “the one worse off” (“my foot hurts” “HA! Not only my food hurts as well, but I also got pain in my leg AND my arm, plus, I think I may have the flu”), telling this person that you are not quite ok is a recipe for disaster.
One day I was in the middle of an excruciating panic attack. I was running around the house, I was mental, I was scared, I was crying, it was horrendous. My son started crying for an unrelated reason. My ex-husband started chasing me around the house, with the baby in his arms, yelling me to stop behaving like a lunatic, my son needed me, WTF are you doing, get a grip, you are not the only one with issues, I am VERY depressed too and I don’t sleep and I go to work, you should consider yourself lucky, now stop this hit and be a mum, and so on.
In hindsight, I can tell you that my marriage finished there and then.
I ended up feeling even worse than before, because now, on top of my issues, I had the “I’m not a good mum”. I decided that, every time he was around, I was going to hide whatever I was going through.
What a dumb idiot I was!
But that’s not it! I wanted to prove that I could handle shit.
Even if I couldn’t spend 3 seconds without my brain spinning, I cut my maternity leave short and I went back to work after 4 months.
Before I got pregnant, I was studying Law at university. Even though I was in a total state, I kept studying. Not only that: I doubled the courses. I Increased the challenges. I managed to graduate!!! I made my life a living hell, on top of what I was already going through. I pushed my problems deep down inside my bran, as far as I could. I hid my panic attacks at work by suddenly rushing to the toilets or having a very long walk to the printer 3 floors down. Nobody saw my pain, partly because I was very good at hiding it, and partly because they simply thought I was just quirky. I lied, I lied like a pro, everything was FINE, OK, YEAH, ALL GOOD, COOL.
If you are about to ask: “but what about your doctor?” well…
When I felt that something wasn’t right, the doctor I saw brushed it off with “it’s just baby blues, you gave birth, it’s fine, it happens, it will go away”. But it never did.
So I went back. This time I got told “well, you could take antidepressant, or you can just put up with it, I’m sure you’ll be fine”.
At my worst, I finally managed to dial some sort of mental support. I had to wait for 2 weeks to get a triage call, and once the call finished, I got told “ok, now, the waiting list to see someone is three months long (!!!)”.
I sat on my bed, phone in my hand, completely shocked.
“THREE months? I… I cannot live like this for three months, this is not life, I…. I rather die!”
“well, if you are suicidal we may need to call social serv…”
“no no no don’t worry it was just me exaggerating, I’m fine, yeah, don’t you worry”
Now I was also scared that, if my secret got out, social services would have come knocking on my door to take my son away from me. Thank you very much, that was exactly what I needed.
I not only survived in my mental hell for those three months, but for two long years afterwards. Then it started to get better, but it took another year before I could feel “ok”. Which was not good, but at least it was something.
I spent an awful lot of those three years hoping to die, and when the hope was not enough, I thought about actively doing something to end it. I never attempted to kill myself because… I didn’t want to leave my son alone, motherless.
At the ned of those three years, something incredible happened to me. A friend of mine read a book that Randy Blythe, singer and frontman of a heavy metal band called Lamb of God (that I absolutely LOVE), wrote to share his experience of when he got wrongly accused of murder and ended up locked in prison. In Prague. For a month. Scary stuff. Since I was (and still am) a fan of the band, he told me to buy and read it (if you are interested, the book is called “Dark Days“)
I started reading this book a bit unconvinced – generally speaking, very few of these autobiographies are good, some are barely ok and the rest it’s pure tripe printed on what could have been an amazing, beautiful tree. What I wasn’t prepared for is that Randy not only wrote about his jail time, but also about his demons. How he suffered with anxiety and depression for years. Like me. How he turned to drugs and alcohol in his youth to cope. Like me in my youth (in my case, it was cigarettes and alcohol)! He described his pain, his mental state, his suffering in such a raw, uncensored way… It was beautiful, but so, so painful to read.
I started crying. I couldn’t stop. I cried all the tears that I didn’t allow myself to cry for 3 years. Seeing my feelings, my demons, my pain, so…. In front of my eyes… has been a revelation. The more I kept reading, the more I kept crying, and when I finished that book, I spent a week completely empty. I then had the (lucky!) chance to meet Randy at a gig. I thanked him for the book, and I shared a little bit of my hell with him. We both got emotional and he gave me the biggest hug ever. For the first time, in those three long years, I felt loved, understood, not alone.
A tiny, little thought started creeping in my brain.
The thought was “if he had the balls to be so open about these things, to share them with THE WHOLE WORLD…. Why are you hiding yours?
I slowly started to open myself up.
I wanted my pain out of my head and into my reality.
I wanted that dreadful weight to be lifted from my shoulders.
I wanted freedom of not having to lie anymore.
I started talking about it, and some more, and more, till it became “yes, this is my story”. And here I am talking about it again. I’m not scared of it. It is part of who I am. It is what made me the person I am now. You can either accept it or not, I don’t really care. I lost people along the way, whether because they chose so or because I pushed them away (including my now ex husband). I took an oath with myself: no matter what happens, I’ll never hide again. EVER.
Seems like life decided to test my oath and three years after that, this breakup arrived.
It hit me hard. Oh gosh it did. Ok, nothing compared to THOSE three years, I grant you that. But still, it is an awful time and it deserve respect. And I am not hiding it.
I am in pain. I am suffering. I am crying like a baby. I am grieving the man I loved to bits. I am desperate to have that love again in my life. I am not strong in this moment, and I DO NOT CARE IF IT UPSETS THOSE AROUND ME. I asked for help. I am seeing a therapist to just get things out of my chest. I took a break from some friends because I couldn’t handle their happiness when inside me I was (I am) so broken. I am doing everything that I feel beneficial for ME and no one else, including writing this blog. Selfish? You bet. Ashamed? Not at all.
Whoever you are, wherever you are, no matter what you are going through, please, listen to me: don’t hide your pain. Don’t put a brave face and tell everyone (and yourself) that you are fine if you are not. Don’t pretend, with others and / or with yourself. Don’t keep everything inside you.
You are NOT alone in this.
Don’t be scared of what other people may or may not think. Fuck that! Those who love you will do their best to help, even though you may need to guide them a bit. Those who don’t, well, good riddance. Think you’ll end up alone? You’ll find new, better friends.
Speak up! Tell those around you how you want to be helped, even if it is “sorry I need a break from this because I just cannot cope”. Own your “not ok-ness” because there is nothing to be ashamed about it. Is it your fault that you are that way? No, it is not. Would it be your fault if you were to get the flu? Of course not. It happens, unfortunately. Also, there is NO FAILURE if you don’t bounce back in a matter of a second. These things take a lot of time and a lot of effort. There are ok days, good days, extraordinary days, shit days, I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed days. If someone tries to push a deadline on you, including your very own self, well, tell them to do one.
I can assure you, there is strength inside you. Maybe you cannot see it now, especially if you are too deep into the painful stage of what you are experiencing. And it is OK! But believe me, it is there. Hold on to it. Cherish it. Grow it. Little by little. Find a therapist that will listen to you. Try and try and try some more until you find the things you feel ok with. Use Google to find the help you need, or the people to talk to. Buy yourself flowers, a slice of cake, a nice dinner. Cuddle yourself and love yourself through the pain. And if you end up going back to square one? Guess what? It is not a problem. It happens!
The light outside your dark, horrendous tunnel is there. Believe in it, even if you don’t see it.
Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?
Learning to be more selfish.
Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.
I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.
I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.
The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.
The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.
Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!
How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.
I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.
In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra
Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….
There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”
Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”
It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked Jen Sincero, You are a Badass
I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.
Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.
You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”
“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”
You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.
“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.
Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.
What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.
There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.
In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.
There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.
I must admit, I have never truly appreciated the power of meditation till after my ex broke up with me. Before that, it was just an exercise I used to do (when I was arsed enough to do it). I used to sit, spend 5 minutes or so trying to clear my head, get bored to death, decide I was done for the day, tick the box of “I did it”, the end.
One day, the shitstorm happened. Meditating quickly became the only resource I had to preserve my sanity. My brain was in overdrive with all the negative emotions, my heart was bleeding, my body was in pain, I was in the eye of the storm and hell was breaking lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted. I needed a mental break. I clinged to this practice like my life depended on it and I never abandoned it since.
Let me set the record straight: meditating is HARD. It is one of those things that everyone brags about doing, it is so hipster it hurts. Everyone will try and shove it down your throath:
Be more mindful!
Mindfulness is the secret of success!
Meditate or die!
And so on. So, you think “yeah, why not, lemme give it a go”. You google “how do I start meditating” and you find a mammoth amount of all these coaches and teachers that explains what to do, making it look so damn easy: sit there, breathe, clear your mind, see your thoughts as clouds passing by, imagine this, imagine that, visualise stuff, add a mantra or two and job done!
Believe me, it is so fucking hard. Do not believe who says it is a piece of cake. REAL meditation requires training, dedication, and an unbelievable level of discipline. You must practice it over and over and over again, every day, and you won’t get the benefits of this practice till you master the art of it. Proper meditation means that you have total power and control over your body and your brain. If you have an overactive mind like mine, where you just cannot stop thinking and overthinking, meditation won’t come naturally to you.
It will be a struggle.
Couple of minutes after you sit down and get into it, you’ll realise that everything is actively conspiring against you to make you fail. The more you’ll try to clear your mind, the worse your chain of thoughts will become. If your brain will not succeed into making you give up, your body will work against you and you will start becoming restless. You’ll feel the urge to scratch a sudden itch on your foot or your head, a song will pop up on your mind and you won’t be able to make it stop, then you’ll be thirsty, or your throat will feel dry, you’ll feel too cold, or too hot, your clothes will be too tight, or too loose, then you’ll need to scratch yourself again; if you are in the lotus pose (I beg you, from the bottom of my hearth, do not attempt to do it or meditate in that pose unless you have few months of yoga under your belt), pain will drive you to the brink of madness and then you’ll think “mmmm maybe I should move a bit so I can feel comfier…that’s it… so… what was I thinking about anyway?” and you will give up shortly afterwards. Oh, did I mention that you’ll feel like it was a very stupid idea and a waste of time? Yeah, that will happen too.
Don’t surrender. Please, don’t. If you stick to your guns and impose yourself to keep going, I promise you, meditating will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It took me a while, but now I consider it a pampering session for the brain. My days are less stressful, less emotional, less chaotic and I am much more relaxed that what I used to be. I try to do it first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.
My morning meditation gets me all geared up for the day: I go through a list of my tasks, I visualise them in front of me and I’ll prepare myself mentally to face them. It really helps if you struggle with anxiety like me. Then I add few positive affirmations: these acts like an injection of power and strength. I know, it seems totally dumb telling yourself stuff like:
“you are strong”
“you are fierce”
“you are beautiful”
“you are full of love, and energy, and power, and you can accomplish everything”
“there is nothing that you won’t be able to face”
I swear though, it works. BUT! You really must BELIEVE that those affirmations are true for them to work. Just saying them for the sake of “there, I said them, ok?” with a “this is just bullshit” attitude it’s a no-no.
STOP IT: I know what you are thinking right now. It is something along the lines of “yeah right, because I’m going to sit there, telling all this shit to myself, right? How embarrassing is that? Only losers would do it.” How do I know it? Because I thought exactly like that too. I was “better than this bunch of crap”. Until I ended up with my arse on the floor, desperate to try anything to feel better.
I gave it an honest, humble go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I chose to believe. I chose to re-wire my brain with positive messages. It is SO.DAMN.HARD. But. It works wonders. The more you do it, the more it gets easier, and at some point, you’ll realise that you won’t need to force yourself into believing those affirmations: you will own them, and saying them will become a “reminder” game to keep you in the positive loop.
To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearances
Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich
My bedtime meditation is my decluttering, release-all-the-stress session. This is the moment where I let go of everything that happened during the day. If there are lessons to be learned, I will acknowledge them. If something pissed me off, I will analyse it, I will take any positive thing (if any) and then I will let it go. If something made me happy, I will cling on the beautiful feeling I experienced. I will say another round of affirmations, then it’s sleep time, goodbye world, see you tomorrow.
I am, by no means, an expert on meditation, so what you just read is nothing more than my ritual; of course, I invite you to try it and do the same, but you may find out that you’ll need to tweak a thing or two (or everything!) to make it work for you. And that’s the beauty of meditation: once you learn “the basics” and you get the hang of how it works, you’ll make it work for you, there is no right or wrong, good or bad: whichever way you’ll do it, so long as you’ll do it and you’ll do it seriously, you’ll experience the benefits of the practice.
If you are a total beginner, I suggest to start with some guided meditation. Having someone talking you through the process it’s incredibly helpful: it takes away the stress and anxiety of “I don’t know how this shit works, what do I do now. Am I doing good? Am I doing anything meaningful?”. Plus, it makes it easy to learn how to focus and how to deal with all the thoughts that will run around your head, since you basically have to follow the lead and do as told. I still use guided meditation, especially when I’m tired, or sick, and I need to be dragged into my subconscious because I don’t have the strength to do it by myself.
For your meditation resources, Google is your friend, and in Amazon (or any other shop, virtual or physical) you can find books, CDs etc… and then, you got YouTube. Speaking of that, I want to close this post with a bang and share with you the BEST meditation ever. Marge, my close friend and partner in crime, found it and shared it with me. Disclaimer: it is rude, so if you get easily shocked by swearing, maybe don’t click on the following link…
We listened to it so many times that now we know the words by heart, and to thank her I bought her (and myself) the book version. We love it! I even got the app! The best bit? If one of us is feeling a bit low, or is having quite the day at the office, the other one will start reciting this meditation… and we’ll be laughing our assess off till tears.
“..and as you slowly open your eyes, greet the world and everything in it with a new, beautiful breath… of fuck that!”
Jason Headley, F*ck That, An Honest Meditation