BODY (AND MIND) BUILDING

RED ALERT! RED ALERT ! This entry is going to be long and will touch various mental health issues, even though it is all about positivity. Bear with me because I need to get this out of my chest.

Out of all the things I fell in love with in my life (Formula 1, football, heavy metal, the New York Yankees, the colour purple to name a few), there is one thing that I never, ever, not even remotely expected to become so passionate about: bodybuilding.
I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help thinking about how ridiculous it sounds me saying it since:

  • I spent a lifetime shouting to the world my loathe for any physical activity and how unable I am to do anything sport-related;
  • I have always looked like “a stick with clothes” due to my hyper-metabolism and (medically certified) lack of hunger;
  • I have always had issues with food, exacerbated during my post-natal depression to the point I was barely eating;
  • I still have major panic attacks just thinking about medicines and supplements, let alone if/when I (have to) take them;
  • I hated myself to bits and I never possessed any self-confidence whatsoever so much that I never owned a mirror till recently;

As I wrote in my previous entries, I have always been quite sporty in my teens (whether by my own choice or pushed by my parents).
I played various sports in my life (although I have rarely enjoyed any of them), but me and any physical activity have never been quite a good pair: I have always being famous for being clumsy, lacking coordination, lacking self-esteem, and, most importantly, not believing in myself enough to think “if I really put an effort into it, maybe I will actually get better at this”.
My brain was constantly stuck on “I can’t do it” mode before even starting, and of course, this belief got more and more reinforced every time I’d start playing something and – surprise surprise – I’d discovered I was not good at it.
Whether I was truly shit or not though I can’t tell, but I bet that if I were less “I’m hopelessly shit” and I’d put some real effort, maybe I would not recall my “sporty years” in embarrassment. But hey, it has always been easier, mentally and physically, to just say “naaaa, not for me, I’m too shit, fuck it, I rather stay in bed”, so I never really bothered changing.

My gym-journey has been well documented in the past, but what I was not expecting was that “being fit” became quite quickly not enough for me: once I curbed my self-inflicted negativity and I found it easy to do workouts and be committed, I became eager to push myself more. After I put the surgery ordeal behind my back (and what a hell of a ride that has been!), I began craving something more that just a bit of training here and there: I needed another stimulating and empowering challenge to really push myself beyond my limits. I felt ready, I got bored of being “a recovery patient” mentally and physically, I needed a proper new adventure – and boy oh boy, didn’t I found exactly what I was wishing for.

The very first step in this new journey has been joining a new gym and enroll in a membership contract: believe me, this in itself was a challenge for me. Not sure I said it already, but I have never been able to enrol in a gym membership and actually go for the whole length of the contract; I think my record has been three months at best, then I just kept paying the fee without going, feeling stupid for yet again another failure in my life. However, if I really were serious about this, I had to prove to myself that I was not that person with the looser and “pity hungry” mentality. Four months on and I’m still going strong (yey!).

On the day I signed my new membership, I asked the gym manager to find me the most badass personal trainer he could think of, one that was an expert in body transformation and bodybuilding, that would turn me from “skinny, post-surgery extremely weak and out of shape” into “bad bitch muscly super woman with JLO ass”.
You know when they say, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”? That is exactly what happened to me.

The day Margarita, my now PT, texted me, I freaked out: I put so much expectations into this moment that I was desperate to make sure “she was the one”. When I met her, I literally bombarded her with all the “this is my goal, this is what I want to do, this is what I hate, this are my issues etc…” speech: I wanted to make sure she understood where I came from and where I wanted to go, because I was ready to commit like I’ve never done it before and I was in no mood to waste time with the wrong PT – been there, done that for years and years (though it is also fair to say I have never been truly interested in working hard anyway).

Margarita is everything I ever wanted in a PT and even more. She revolutionised my life from the get-go, so much that I feel my life (and my body) can be described as “Before Margarita” and “After Margarita”. No joking. Her training sessions are truly of another level – I spend the hours before I see her marinating in a mixture of anxiety, fear, excitement and anticipation of what new torture she has planned for me.
I have never been pushed so hard in my life, hand on heart.
It’s not just the physical strain of what she makes me do, though sometimes I feel “this is it, another squat and it’s paralysis from the waist down”: the best part of our training session is that she is massively helping me curbing my mental “oh no I can’t do this”, and even if I have a good moan here and then (ok, all the bloody time!) and I start “begging for mercy”, she doesn’t give in (no way Jose!) and keeps me going no matter what – and rightly so, as I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I never experienced being physically unable to sit without feeling like my ass is on a barbecue on fire. Best of it is, I can already see big results!
I am loving this so much that, in the space of a month, I went from “Margarita please make me have a Jlo booty” to “I want to do fitness competitions just like you!”.
Me.
Ms shyness and clumsiness, ex hyper-skinny, 10+ years of experience in slouch sitting at the office, who can’t hold a pose not even if her life depended on it. How about this for a personal challenge!
I am not allowing myself to think “will I do it?” though: the only thought that is authorised to linger in my brain is “how far I am from actually doing it”. Oh, yes, and try not to drive Margarita crazy if I can with my moaning!

Aside from the physical aspects, the real love for bodybuilding is due to its impact on my mental health.
For me, it’s more than just simply “lifting weights, growing muscles and transforming my body”: it is most and foremost an excruciating mental training like I’ve never experienced before. It is scary and at the same time empowering. Turns out, the weight-lifting part is it actually “the easiest one”! Forget the physical strain: that is a piece of cake compared to the mental weight lifting bodybuilding puts me through every single day without a break, without a safety net, without any remote possibility to avoid it – the price would be giving up on my goals, and I already gave up way too many times on my life.
The more I dig deep into my fears and face them, the better the results are at the gym, the stronger I am to challenge what happens in my head. As hard as it is at times, especially when I’m one panic attack after the other, I know that once I will be out of that (and notice the “once” rather then “if”), I will be rewarded ten times fold.

Let me give you some examples.

I have always been extra-skinny and underweight, “blessed” with a high metabolism and a medically certified extreme low appetite. In my head, I was eating LOADS OMG SO MUCH FOOD. I had my protein shake, my big portion of pasta, how on earth I can’t get any weight on and grow big, my body must be faulty for sure. Margarita, with the help of MyFitnessPal, quickly made me realise how my diet was not “omg I’m eating like crazy”, but more likely “how on earth have I survived just on that”. I will never forget the first day I recorded my food diary, thinking “I bet I had bazillion of calories”, only to realise I was a thousand calories under my intake goal. I felt absolutely shocked.
Like Alanis Morrissette used to sing, “isn’t it ironic” that I am now “happily” resorting to force feed myself, plan my meals, think about food and how to get all my macros etc every single day of my life, when not only I have always been known for eating very small portions, but also few years ago, in the worst part of my post-natal depression, I couldn’t eat more than a spoonful of plain rice or pasta, frightened and tortured by panic attacks if I attempted to eat anything else? And this, my friends, is trauma number 1 that bodybuilding is making me face (and overcome).

You see, once I started living alone and being the master of my own universe, the first thing that I absolutely loved has been the ability to eat as much (or as little) as I wanted without having to endure a meltdown at the dinner table, with my mum yelling at me for not eating, telling me I was anorexic and therefore ending up hospitalised and dying. At time she’d stuff me with hunger-enhancing medicines too – the thought of which gave me nightmares for years. It is not fun staring at the plate full of food in front of you and feeling like you’d rather be whipped than put any of that in your mouth, and yet you got to force it down somehow because your parents are yelling at you.
Every.single.meal.of.my.life.
No matter how hard I wished, hunger never blessed me with its magnificient presence, and I spent a lifetime being mocked by my parents, their friends and everyone for being too skinny / eating like a bird / not eating / being too think / looking like a skeleton and so on.
I know most people would think I’ve been very lucky to have “my condition” and never to worry about gaining weight, but believe me, having to eat when you don’t want to it is just as hard and mentally challenging as the opposite, especially if you lack the hunger in the first place.

Of course, as soon as I got out of this hell, I enjoyed (not) eating without that pressure and scrutiny – and I actually started loving food.
Well, that freedom of “not eating” is now gone, and the one who took it away it’s me. Mercilessly.
It has not been easy.
I kid you not, there has been times during the first weeks where, chucking down food whilst holding back tears, I wished I could have had a shot of that medicine my mother gave me to help me cope. I went back to that very horrid place of being yelled at, only this time I didn’t have “my parents to blame”: it was me, I was inflicting this to myself willingly and, no matter how hard it felt, I had to keep going for my own good.
A month or so later, I’m more adjusted and, even though it is still a struggle at times (my cheat days are those where I skip few snacks and potentially even lunch), I shifted my mindset from “oh no, torture again” to “it is what it is”: I pile food in front of me whether I like it or not, I have my alarms set to remind me to eat, and it doesn’t matter if I am hungry or not (more likely not), the food gets eaten.

The other shock horror, panic attack inducing, mega mentally hard thing I am doing is taking all the supplements I need whether I crap myself in fear or not. I wrote about my phobia for medicines in the past, and this is linked to that. It doesn’t matter if it’s natural, 100% guaranteed that nothing bad will happen, billions of doctors swearing by it, you name it: my brain is not wired just like that. If it’s something I never had before, if it’s a pill, a powder, whatever, it’s panic attack. Anxiety builds up as soon as I start thinking that I have to take them, and when the moment comes…. you know the drill.
Oh, when couple of weeks ago I decided to treat myself to creatine to give me a bit of edge and allow myself to push more!

Four days solid of never-ending panic attacks.

On one hand, my brain was spinning at the speed of light.
On the other, I was doing my best to try and pull the fucking handbrake and not let shit hit the fan. Gosh, I felt I was surely on the brink of a proper mental breakdown. However, I didn’t give in. I didn’t allow myself to let my fears take my goal away from me. I imposed myself to go through the storm, head held up high, no matter what scary outcome my brain was desperate to make me believe in. You cannot imagine the pure joy, a week or so later, to be able to say “I’ve done it” and to see the actual benefit at the gym. Yes, I know, I could have just said “I could do without it, it’s not important anyway”, but creating excuses to avoid things won’t get me that far, whether for bodybuilding or anything else. Keep pushing problems away don’t make them magically disappear, you just hide them in a corner, but they are still there – and growing. It’s like video games: you can’t get to the next level if you don’t beat the monster at the end of the lever you are in first.

I am sure than, in due course, I will find many other “mental monsters” that bodybuilding will make me fare – especially when the time will come to work towards my very first competition (though I think it’s going to take me at least a year, since my shoulder is still not trainable). I know I’m on the right path, even if it’s quite the hard way up: like one of my favourite Italian journalists, Tiziano Terzani, wrote in a book called “La fine e’ il mio inizio” (the end is my beginning): “The rule, in my opinion, is: when you are at a crossroad and you find a road that goes uphill and one that goes downhill, chose the one that goes uphill: it’s easier to go downhill, but you’ll find yourself in a hole. There is more hope going uphill. It is tough, it is a different way of looking at things, it’s a challenge, it keeps you alert”. For once in my life, I’m eager to see what’s at the top of this hill, rather than being miserable down in the valley telling myself “I’m too (insert insult of your choice) to hike my way up”.

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I’LL BE THERE FOR YOU

Admit it, as soon as you read the title of this entry you started singing Friend’s song (I know, because I did the same and now I can’t stop it playing in my head. AAAHHHH!!!). Here is the link in case you feel the need to blast it out loud!

I have a very big issue with trust and relying on other people, developed in years and years of having to fend for myself, of being surrounded by irresponsible, unreliable, childish people, of being extremely disappointed at the answer of a simple “could you please do that for me?” and, generally, because I have always portrayed myself as the strong, can-do-everything-anytime woman who mothers everyone around her because “if I don’t do it then nobody will or they’ll fuck it up, so I might as well put up with this shit now”.

If there is one thing I’m extremely grateful to my parents is the way they drilled in my mind the importance of being independent, strong, fierce and ready to face anything in life. It took me years to discover that, like any other medal, even this one has two faces, and even if one is very positive, the opposite…. Not so much. My mother always said to me “whatever happens in your life, good or bad, make sure you can always walk with your legs only, should you need to: this is the essence of freedom. If you know that you can count on yourself (especially financially), you don’t have to worry about relationships ending, work not being there, illness striking etc”.
“Hope for the best but prepare for the worst” the famous quote says, and this has been my attitude in life so far. I worked my ass off to always be in a position where, whatever happened to me, I was able to handle it, whether it was an extra bill I wasn’t expecting, a problem suddenly exploding on my face, any issue whatsoever, you name it. I think that this is why, ultimately, I ended up being in relationships with reckless and irresponsible people, because not only I was trained to sort my life, I was also convinced I could handle their shit without breaking a sweat. Also, I was totally fascinated on how they managed to survive, living day by day if not hour by hour, without a care in the world whilst I was frantically thinking of ways to cope with life.

And here is the opposite side of the medal for you… and I soon discovered how nasty it is by marrying the Chief Reckless and Irresponsible Officer of the world.

I can tell you, hand on heart, that I rarely have been more frustrated than having to fuck my credit score up by getting extra cash from those short-term loan sharks to pay for mortgage and food, all because my ex-husband was a “misunderstood talent”, or “this job is not for me”, or “they are all cowboys and don’t get fine dining” in yet another restaurant, meaning that he was yet again jobless and with no income, our household was again one salary down and we were big time fucked up. I ended up maxing out credit card after credit card, I lived payday by payday, spending endless sleepless night thinking “ok what bill can I delay this month? What service can be suspended without being too much of a hassle? What credit can I put my hands on to drag my family till the next salary” and I’m telling you, fighting post-natal depression plus being in a permanent state of anxiety was not a piece of cake. In all of this, he has been totally, delightfully at peace because to him, a life of constant struggles was not an issue and, anyway, he knew I’d fix it eventually, so why worrying?
I sat down with him so, so many times telling him “for fuck sake, you are on the brink of being forty years old, you are not a teenager, you have a family, you need to be responsible, you need to get yourself in a position where, should anything happen to me (and I was suicidal when I said those words, mind you), you’d be able to provide for you and our son! You cannot rely on me, what if a car hits me and I cannot work for months because I’m bedridden in an hospital room?” and so on. The answer? “yeah, you are right, but it’s not me, it’s them, they don’t understand me, I’m doing my best, but, but, but…”. And just as he predicted, there I was, fighting to live another day, counting pennies in my pocket and praying to survive another month with food on the table and a roof above our heads, eventually managing to putting a patch on yet another issue, giving him freedom to fuck it up again and again until, eventually, I left him and he almost ended up in jail (and, as far as I’m aware, his problems are all still there and counting).

After all of this, I became wiser and savvier, right? Do you think, after my marriage finally broke up for good, that I have learned my lesson? Of course not.
So there I was, bailing out people from their issues just because I hoped that, by doing so, they’d love me and fill the void I had inside, and maybe, just maybe, return the favour once. Yeah right, if I had to get back all the money I’m owed, I’d could easily repay one of my credit cards and cut it for good. What a dumb ass I have been.

Eventually, I toughened up, and especially after being dumped and, consequently, starting therapy, if anything I became extra super duper closed up in my own world: there was me, my son and no one else. No fucks given, no taking care of anyone else’s shit, your issues are not my issues, go beg someone else, goodbye, good luck, fuck off. Just like any other day in my life, it was me against the world, fighting all these wars alone, scarred but undefeated: all these experiences taught me once again that, unless I was by myself for myself, I would only end up in more mess than what I already was in. There was no trust, no ability to rely on anyone but myself.

For the record, this applies (and still does, to a certain extent) at work as well: if I start a list of all the shit I decided to deal with because I couldn’t trust anyone to do it by themselves, with a “I rather work 73485728 hours a day and do it correctly once, than having to then put up with the aftermath of a mess caused by incompetent people” mindset, oh boy, I would be able to fill the biggest encyclopaedia of the world and more. If it wasn’t for my dear friend and colleague Marge, who I know she has my back just as much as I have hers, I’d still be doing meaningless stuff to this day, end up pissed off big time, then frustrated, then miserable because “I have so much to do and I’m underappreciated”. This is one of the first thing I managed to get rid of, because now I’m so “I don’t really care if you fuck it up, it’s your problem not mine” that I managed to finally keep the bullshit away from me: I don’t care if your corporate card gets blocked, it’s not my responsibility if you can’t dial a phone number on a phone, I’m not your event planner so you can go to the pub by yourself, I’m no Michelin restaurant guide so you can book a restaurant by yourself and so on. Leave me out of it, thank you.

Things have changed in my personal life quite dramatically when my boyfriend came back in my life, moths ago, as a brand-new person, and being a brand-new person myself as well, we started to get to know each other again and, once we re-discovered how strong we are together (this time, in a positive way), we started to lay down the foundation of our relationship step by step. Amongst the things I’m having to learn now there’s trusting him to not only be there for me, but to also take care of me and my son. I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I don’t have to fight anymore, that there are no enemies of my physical, mental or financial wellbeing out there, just few clouds passing by, annoying me a bit; we are walking together in this journey, side by side, strolling through this journey of life. I have never experienced such thing (aside from Marge and few other people in my life). Old me and new me are having a war of words against each other, with the old me trying to take me back to perceive the world as a threat, and the new me thinking how it’s so blissful to be able to shut down the noise of “did you think about that? What about that issue? How about that bill? How can you pay this or that? The nanny? The school? The house? Etc…” because I know, deep inside, that I can rely on him whenever I can’t do it by myself; it feels like my brain can, at times, be on a little vacation, stretch a bit and relax.

This week it’s going to be a challenging one and my boss already came round, asking me to be a good girl and not bite the head off anyone… I couldn’t promise him that, but whatever will happens, I know now there is help at hand.  

THE ONLY WAY IS UP BABY

You can see I istill have “the shoulders” and some abs, but the rest? bye bye……

I promised I’d do it, I feel ready for it, so here we go: this is me, right now, no shame or hiding, two months and something without stepping foot into the gym and one big surgery procedure to my shoulder later. There is no sugar-coating the truth: I lost all my body definition, all the muscles I had are practically gone, some of the weight I worked hard to gain is gone too, I’m very far away from the body I would love to achieve and yes, even though I know that everything is just dormant, ready to snap up back again as soon as I put some work in it,  I feel like a jelly who has never set foot in a gym since the day she was born. I know, I’m so dramatic at times!

Having said that, I’m ok with it. I really am. If this happened to me a year ago, I would have been on the brink of depression and I would have hated myself even more for “putting the effort and then look at you, you failed again, what’s the point of even trying if you are not capable of continuing, you stupid idiot”. I would have massively regretted the journey at the gym, treating myself like a deluded fool for even starting it in the first place, all because I didn’t manage to achieve (as usual, I would have specified) what I set myself to achieve so fuck this shit, let me go back at hiding under the covers to hide, let me get those black baggy hoodies and trousers so that nobody sees me ever again. I’m so glad that the music in my head is very, very different right now!
Yes, I don’t look exactly like I want to look. Yes, I am not exactly a mega fan of my body right now. Of course, if instead of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and surgery I had other two months of training, right now I’d be very fit and happy, but you know what? It’s ok. I am really not (too) upset.

I have learned during these months of therapy and hard work on myself, physically and mentally, that it’s ok to not be ok, and that I have always two ways to see things happening in my life: a negative one, and a positive one. Now, if I were the old me, I’d see this situation I am in now as I explained above. The new me, right now, prefers to think “ok, it happened, it’s a bit upsetting, BUT: I had a massive thing happening (surgery), that I had to have it, because if I didn’t, my body would have stopped me anyway down the line, probably with a ruptured tendon, and the dream about deadlifting and shit? Oh, forget about that. I’d be in constant pain all my life and maybe, maybe, I would not be able to hit the gym period. Yes, it is a stop, but it’s only a pause on a bigger, more fulfilling journey”. It’s just that. There is no hating myself, no holding a grudge, no banging my head on a wall in total despair. I’m on a pause to recover and be better, and just like any pause, once you press “play” again, everything will go back to normal, even if in my “gym-body” situation it’s like I press “rewind” a bit and now I have to re-live the beginning of my journey to progress further.

Another very important factor that changed my mindset is that I learned to love and be more caring towards myself. It’s so weird how I’ve always been able to do so for everyone, but never for myself. I could have never had a down moment, I have never allowed myself to be sick, to be tired, to be unwell, and to “cuddle” myself to feel better. No: I was a failure, I was stupid, I was weak, I was useless, I was proving to the world I was fighting against that I was not worthy, that I couldn’t make it etc… Even when I had my post-natal depression hell, and I was suicidal, I didn’t think “I need caring, I need help, it’s a medical condition and I must help myself rather that fight against myself”. There was no empathy or anything. I’m so glad things changed in a very positive way for me, because now I’m here, staring at myself in the mirror thinking “oh well, next challenge is now officially on, let’s see what I can do now…. And what I will be able to do once my shoulder heals!”.

You know how much energy you waste when you hate yourself? Uuuuh, let me tell you, an awful lot. And you know what you gain out of that? Nothing. Actually, you only lose. You lose self-esteem, you lose self-respect, you lose confidence, you lose yourself. Yeah, ok, you (just like me) may not be the exact replica of Charlize Theron or Jason Momoa, but who cares? It’s what you have inside you that will beautify the way you look outside. Ohhhh, let me tell you this, because this has been the bane of my life for years and years.

This is so true and yes, I was ugly to the bone too for a long while

You know that horrible, negative way of seeing the world and relationships like “I can’t believe that those ugly people there have beautiful relationships and me, meeeeeee (!!!!!) I am all alone, and nobody wants me (insert sad, grumpy face, and attitude like “I don’t get why the universe hates me so much”)”. I raise my hand in shame and include myself in the people who had that thought (more than once), and who have voiced it out loud too, only with the slight difference that I was sure I belonged with the “ugly people” and therefore why this miracle of “being loved” never happened to me? Boo-ooooh. You know why that “miracle” never happened? Because first, it is not a miracle and second, because I may have been average-looking on the outside, but I was such a negative, ugly person on the inside that, of course (duh!) I was not attracting positivity! Of course the “ugly people” were not at the receiving end of miracles, they were just smart, funny, loving, caring, beautiful people, no matter how they looked or I chose to look at them (with infinite jealousy), and they were shining so much of their positivity that they attracted exactly positive things and nothing less. It took me more years that

I’m happy to admit in realising this simple concept, and only after I experienced it myself I was able to see how truly important it is to focus first on what’s going on inside you, and then act on the outside, rather than doing the other way round. Because of this, I’m not too bothered about my body being a bit off at the moment, and being at the stage where I have to start again my quest on being “the Italian version of JLo”. I’m still the beautiful person I was two or three months ago, and with this positive, strong attitude, I’m sure I will quickly bring my body back to what I left it when I had to stop, and take it even further to achieve more and more. Negativity must not have a place in my life, I don’t want it to drag me down and cloud my head any longer. Besides, I LOVE a good challenge, I love when I test myself and I beat all my odds so…. Dear body, bring it on!!!

BEACH IS NOT JUST A PLACE, IT CAN BE A FEELING

What happens when you mix a crazy woman like me, hydrotherapy (which sounds like a spa treatment but, unfortunately for me, it is just physiotherapy done in a swimming pool) and the funniest hospital staff in the world? I tell you what happens: the most hilarious, hysterically comical shoulder rehabilitation session in the world. I’m still laughing 24 hours later!

like me walking into the hospital

How on Earth I ended up floating in a swimming pool singing Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” (uuuuh I love Nicki Minaj), pretending to be in a beautiful beach at the Bahamas rather than at a therapy session?

My shoulder has been quite bad for a week up till last Tuesday, the kind of “forget about sleeping” and “it reminds me of all the championships Sebastian Vettel lost so far with Ferrari” that has seriously taken a massive toll on my physical and mental health. When I saw my physiotherapist on Tuesday, I almost begged her to rip my shoulder off for good – fuck it, let’s finish this torture right now! Luckily, she is not as drama queen as me, and after she did her massaging and stuff, she referred me to hydrotherapy to help me loosen my shoulder up and get a better range of movements in. I didn’t take the news gladly: physiotherapy is a pain in the ass as it stands, even though my physiotherapist is amazing, and I love her dearly, let alone having to do it in a swimming pool! Having sad that, at this point in time anything will do to speed up this bloody recovery, so I booked my appointment without moaning and there I was, bathing suit in my bag, ready for this new experience.

how I pictured my hidrotherapy session… needless to say, it wasn’t like that at all!

I woke up in quite the good mood yesterday and I decided to pretend I was heading to a 5-star resort at the Bahamas rather than at the hospital for physiotherapy. I arrived at the physiotherapy department with my sunglasses on and my scarf on my shoulder like if it was a beach towel, and I gave the receptionist a big, big smile; she knows how crazy I am, so she wasn’t surprised when I said to her “hi I’m here for my spa retreat at 11:00, I hope my pink flamingo is already inflated because I don’t like to wait”. My physiotherapist was there and she facepalmed herself, shaking her head. Then the receptionist asked me if I knew that the hydrotherapy sessions are open for both men and women, and whether I had a problem in case I had to be in the same pool with a man. What a stupid thing to ask, I thought: of course I don’t have a problem, I don’t give a remote fuck about who’s in the pool with me! Men, women, aliens, dogs, cats, zombies, Satan… I’m there to fix my shoulder, I don’t care who’s fixing their bits with me, I could be surrounded by a crowd the size of Queen Live at Wembley 1986 all staring at me whilst the physiotherapist makes me sing Radio Gaga and still, I would not care! There is nothing in a male or female body I haven’t seen by now and, since we will all be in bathing suits, there won’t be anything flashing anyway so come on guys!

Anyway, my turn came, and I strolled like a very happy child to the pool, annoying the hell out of the therapist about how disappointed I was about the absence of the very important inflatable pink flamingo that I was sure would have a negative impact on my recovery. I changed in my bathing suit and there I was, in a warm and super nice pool, thinking “actually, this is not that bad… not that bad at all!!!”. Do you think I stopped being silly just because I was loving it? Of course not! Every movement was a reason to say something humorous, such as:
“ok now pretend that you are a ballerina, extend the arm and then bring it back close to your body”
“mmm I have a better version: grab the prosecco – drink the prosecco – refill the prosecco – drink the prosecco”
“…. (facepalm) ok… as long as you do it I suppose!”

The best bit of the session was the last movement, because the physiotherapist put inflatables everywhere on me so that I was lying on my back, blissfully floating and staring out of the windows. I kid you not, I really felt like at the Bahamas (that is, before I had to move my arm and then I felt less happy and relaxed). I told the physiotherapist “I am channelling my own inner pink inflatable flamingo here, don’t fish me out of this pool for the next hour or two” and yes , as I said at the beginning of this entry, I started singing Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”, without a single care in the world but to move my arm. Unfortunately, I had to eventually get out of there and finish the session, head for a shower and terminate the party
I was having in my head.

Let me tell you something: as fun and hilarious my session was, I never felt so tired and drained in my entire life. I got out of the pool and my arm felt weighting 50kg all of the sudden. It was great and a wonderful confidence-boosting session, since I was able to move my arm in ways I have never been able to in a very long time, but fuck me, once I was out and about, I could hardly walk without feeling wobbly and dizzy. I had to spend more than half an hour at the hospital reception, sipping cups of teas with tons of sugar, to be just barely able to entertain the idea of heading back home. It felt like I just came out of an Iron Man Challenge training session, even my abs were hurting! Seriously, I was so fucked up I thought I was about to throw up my breakfast at each step I made towards the train station, and when I had to wait ten, eternal minutes for my train back home, I thought “if I close my eyes now, I’m doomed”.

my mighty pasta!

I had to do something to recover enough to be able to get home without fainting on the street, and so I took the executive decision to have lunch at one of my favourite Italian restaurants near where I live. This place is a little gem, one of those places where, if you don’t know how good it is, you would never, ever dine there. From the outside it looks like one of those cheap, unappealing take-away places that don’t exactly scream “our food is healthy, cooked respecting all hygiene regulations and it tastes divine”. However, if you move past the exterior look, you are in for a very special treat: the food is out of this world, the service is just right and the whole place has a very family-like vibe to it. I had the most amazing pasta dish with homemade sausages, and suddenly all my energies came back at once (carb overload yeah!).

Today I woke up exactly like after one of my personal training sessions at the gym: my shoulder was quite upset (“how dare you moved me like that bitch!!!”), so I had to take few paracetamols to be able to entertain the idea of getting out of bed and going to work. Next session will be on Tuesday, and till then I will try to keep moving and take care of my shoulder the best I can. I can’t wait to do it all over again!!!

SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY

I had to quote the Backstreet Boys, I really had to! Ok back to more serious stuff now.

As far as I can remember, I have always been quite the lonely person. Loneliness has been my faithful and inseparable partner since I was born, and it moulded my life and my perspective of the world since then.
I grew up an only child, and since my parents relocated from their respective hometowns to Milan, on top of not having any siblings I also didn’t have any close relative nearby, so I spent endless days by myself playing with my toys and my imaginary friends.
Oh, I had plenty of imaginary friends.
I used to dream about this crazy, amazing, wealthy life, with all these famous people on my side, being important and desired.

me by myself as a kid

Growing up, things didn’t really change much. I was the weirdo girl, the tomboy, I didn’t really fit with girls because I despised everything they liked, and I didn’t fit with boys because well, I was not one of them since I was a girl. It didn’t really bother me, though: I was used to be alone most of the time, I had plenty of things going on in my head to truly care about what was going on outside it anyway. I remember those poor attempts some school assholes had at bullying me: they quickly realised that I was not giving a remote fuck about being called ugly (because I was convinced I was ugly anyway, and it was ok with me), tomboy (because I wore that badge proudly), or weirdo, stupid… and when the metal t-shirts started to be more than just a one-off in my wardrobe, I was even less bothered than before – I was part of something exclusive that only myself and those like me could understand, and whoever was not in this “club” was automatically someone I was not remotely interested to get to know and listen to.

Reflecting on my past, I can tell you right now how, despite my strong and “no fucks given” attitude, I craved my very own gang of friends; I so wanted a best friend to share my secrets with, a local group of trusted peers to go and get an ice cream with, spending summer afternoons together. Later in my twenties, I longed for a crazy, inner circle of women like me, pretty much like the Sex and The City quartet: you know, drinks and food catch-ups in cool places, free to talk about anything without being judged or considered an hysterical freak of nature. But, despite my desires, at the end of the day I kept being with myself, by myself, and to be perfectly honest I never exactly did anything or put any effort to tackle the status quo and get these friendships in my life. In my head, the constant mantra was “it is what it is” and “there is nothing I can do about it”. Besides, I just had to turn my computer on to talk with “my friends”, since most of what I regarded as such were people I met in various websites and forums; to a certain extent, nothing has changed: most of my friends are still those same old friends I met “on the web”, and since I live in another country, technology is the only way to have a constant contact with them.

Moving to the UK didn’t change things much, and it didn’t help that I desperately glued myself to the only person who seemed to have an interest in me (which then became my now ex-husband). Subconsciously, I created the same “family” of lonely people for my son: both myself and my ex-husband relocated here, my son is an only child (with not great chances of having a sibling, not from me anyway) and we have no relatives whatsoever in this country. By the way, it is not a good idea to try and overcome your loneliness by being with someone just because they seem to give you the attention you need. I learned it the hard way by marrying the most unsuitable person, and I only realised that when the damage happened already. The end result was a broken, fragile, tired woman, survival of suicidal thoughts and post-natal depression, desperately lonely, in a constant fight with the world and herself.

Oh, I had plenty of therapy sessions to discuss how my loneliness has affected my behaviour in ways that, sometimes, I never even realise. It is the reason why I became a rescuer, the one who helps everyone, and lends money to everyone, and takes care of everyone, and it’s the mother of everyone because “if they need me they’ll keep me”; it was the reason why I picked the wrong relationships (“at least he seems to want me”), it has been the poor excuse I gave myself to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and try something different (“what’s the point, I’ll be lonely anyway”) and the poison that ultimately made me land arse flat on the ground, at my lowest of the low points in life. And I hated myself. Desperately. And being lonely exacerbated this hate, because being all by myself meant being alone with the person I hated the most in the world, something I was ready to do anything in order to avoid it. I was not good enough to have friends because, reality in my head was that I was not good as a person in the first place. I was too focussed on the exterior consequences of what was going on inside me, thinking “I am ugly, I’m stupid, I’m not worth love, I’m useless…” rather than have a deep look at my life and go “hold on a second, maybe I should start looking at what’s in my heart (and head) rather than out and about”.

Where do you start getting out of this loop? Hand on heart, it was not an easy ride. Admitting to myself that I needed people to fill my own void, in the hope that their presence and their “fake” love (because, of course, they wanted me just for the things I’d give them, not for the person I was) would make things better, was not an easy thing to do… and yet, it set me free. I had to learn the hard way to love myself, to appreciate who I am, to build the person I always wanted to be from scratch. When I finally got to the stage where I felt not only enough, but a beautiful world by myself, I discovered that I was not lonely anymore: I had myself, and that was not something I wanted to run away from, but the exact opposite: I wanted to get to know myself, talk to myself, discover what I like, what I don’t like, what clothes look good on me, what things are ok with me and what other things are a no-go. Guess what? Once I feel in love with this new person I am, I discovered a world of friends, real friends, who loved me just as much as myself. Being “lonely” is now a space I create for myself when I need to just be with me, myself and I: call it if you like “a date with myself”.

The only things I’m truly missing, right now, is having a proper family here. This thought came to light lately after spending few evenings with my boyfriend’s family: witnessing the love, affection and a proper family interaction made me think of how I really do miss being cuddled and cared for: you know, the coming back home with food, the little gestures and thoughts, the sitting for a cup of tea and a chat, the “I’m coming for dinner!”…

Susanbano in all its glory

I have been extremely touched and honoured when my boyfriend’s mum gifted me with a beautiful plant she brought from Iran: oh, that was such a truly special gift, and yes, it gave me a bit of “family love” too (I called it Susanbano in honour of my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother). Unfortunately, I cannot relocate my family here, or change this situation anytime soon, but one thing is for sure: I will do my best to create a family for me (and my son) that’s vibrant, caring and loving!

NEW START, NEW IDEAS, NEW LIFE?

After a month of nothingness and extreme low mood, finally I had a tremendous news, the one I have been waiting for since the moment I opened my eyes in the recovery room at the hospital: my physiotherapist agreed for me to go back to the gym! No lifting weights, that will begin only after recovery, but anything else I used to do before this terrible stop is a yes, green lights, go go go go go. I almost cried of happiness and So, I decided that in order to lift my spirit, I will record my journey “from zero to hero”: I will take pictures of me as I am now and keep recording my progresses along the way. My aim is that, by the end of this year, I’ll be able to deadlift weights, have my amazing JLO bum again (and make it even better than what I had) and super abs. I am so excited. It really changed my day this news. I will also try and do some yoga or pilates as well (so long as there is no shoulder involvement) as I feel my back has been as flexible as a concrete pillar lately, and I would really like to be less stiff again: I’m sure my back would really appreciate it.

Today I woke up in a particularly irritable mood: the pain kept me awake at night and this morning I was a total mess. I even curled up and had a good cry on the sofa, with my poor boyfriend having to talk me out of my dark cloud of negativity. I dragged myself to physiotherapy in a “dead man walking” kind of feeling, and as soon as I saw my physiotherapist I told her how sad and desperate I felt. My range of movements has noticeably decreased (yey… not) so now I have been referred to hydrotherapy to try and get things going again. I am weirdly excited about it: I don’t fancy being in a pool with a physiotherapist pulling and prodding me, but hey, if that helps, bring it on, right? I bet it’s going to be hilarious.

I will be very honest, this morning I felt like I hit a wall in my recovery. I just passed the “week four” mark of my journey and I seriously had enough of all of this. I’m trying hard to stay positive, to tell myself “it’s only temporary, it is for the greater good, soon it will be over and you’ll be stronger and pain free”, but reality is that I feel a prisoner of my body: I’m fed up of being unable to do anything more than lifting a glass a water, I’m done with the pain, I hate feeling weak and, most of all, I hate not being able to live a normal life because pain (or extremely limited movements) prevents me from doing so. On top of all of this, add that I lost my beautiful gym body that I worked my ass off to achieve, and you have a recipe for total mental and physical disaster.

I knew it would have been hard. As soon the surgeon said “it will take four months for complete recovery and it’s not going to be easy” I knew I was in for quite a frustrating ride, but one thing is knowing it’s going to be difficult, another one being in the moment, facing the difficult times, realising it’s only just month one out of four and thinking “fuck me, this is hell”. My mood has been pretty low, I admit. I feel this kind of set me back a bit. I do not regret the operation, let’s be clear, especially after I saw the pictures of what I had inside (ewwww…. Gross). I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing and I would do it again in a heartbeat, it had to be done to prevent rupturing my tendon, I just cannot stand this recovery and this feeling so useless: it seems never ending!

On another note, I have been talking a lot with my dear friend Marge lately on all the talents that I have and that I’m not using to the full potential (and she is damn right about it), so I decided to use these three remaining months to find a way to become a freelance writer or something like that. I would love to be paid to write, since it is something I absolutely adore doing it, especially when it comes to corporate communications, customer service emails, complaints etc. That is mainly why I started this blog: to fulfil my love for writing and to be able to share my experience with people all over the world, and maybe to help them too. Do you want to know what my secret writing dream is? Becoming in charge of my very own “agony aunt” advice column: oh, I would answer basically every letter or email coming my way, so much I love this stuff! I know it won’t be easy, but hey, it is also not exactly open-heart surgery, right? Besides, if you don’t try, you don’t get, and I learned my lesson when I gave a go to writing my President’s Christmas corporate message and he loved it so much it went global. Who knows what can happen from this? Maybe I will change my life!

I’M GONNA PARTY LIKE IT’S MY BIRTHDAY

Dear all, I successfully celebrated my birthday after years and years of refusal, hate, depression, sadness, negative feelings and it feels GREAT. It feels such an achievement, I’m so thrilled, happy, grateful, you name it. I’m going to party all week long and you can’t imagine how being able to finally celebrate myself without reserves makes me feel happy.

Birthdays have always been a very sensitive topic for me. I started not liking celebrating my birthdays since I was very young, and every year it felt more like a chore than a lovely gathering with cakes and friends. I know why I had these feelings: most of the time it felt like my party had to please relatives and other people rather than me, from the cake to the location to any activity involved. I hated being at the centre of attention anyway, imagine that plus being somewhere I didn’t like, doing stuff I didn’t care about doing together with people I was not interested in being with anyway.
Over the years these feelings have only been exacerbated: the more my mental health declined, the lesser I wanted to attend any party whatsoever, let alone mine, and the more my self-esteem became practically non-existent, the more I found the idea of “celebrating myself” alien to me; who wants to celebrate someone you hate? No one, especially if that someone is, in fact, you.

Every single year my negativity, in addition to my depression, made me behave in a truly awful way in the months leading to my birthday. No, actually, let’s be honest: I was a horrible mess.
I started annoying the shit out of everyone at the first signs of Christmas celebrations around October, and I kept being a moaning, negative, sulking brat till after my birthday. I pestered everyone with my constant “I don’t want presents! I don’t want a party! I don’t want to celebrate anything! There is nothing to celebrate anyway! I hate this, people would only do it because they feel compelled and not because they truly want to do it, and anyway I don’t want it” and on and on and on.

I’m annoying myself just at typing this.

Now, imagine this negative mantra over and over again to whoever dared to listen to it.

I have even been very annoyed at those who gave me presents anyway despite my constant moaning because, listen to this contort brain process, they spoiled my dream of spending a sad Christmas or birthday with no presents and no attention received whatsoever.
I was sad because I couldn’t be sad.
I know it feels the most stupid thing ever, quite the drama queen teenager emo shit, but believe me, I was in such a dark place that nothing made sense anyway to me. Whatever I was going through, it was so bottled up inside me that probably I was looking for these chances to release some of it this way. I was so… in a world of “everything is bad” and “everything is negative” that nothing looked for what it was. I know I sounded totally unreasonable, and that I behaved in a way that “normal” people would have deemed ungrateful, horrible etc. but to me it was the world that was unable to understand me, that was behaving disrespectfully and forcefully violating my wishes of doom and gloom, so much I was hooked up in my brain jail.
On top of that, I married someone who has narcissist traits, and who doesn’t cope well with not being at the full centre of attention, so in addition to my personal frustrations etc. I had someone who, subconsciously or intentionally, managed to ruin every single occasion where I was the celebrated person. Needless to say, if I even dared to think of a “maybe I should have a party this year”, that thought got immediately ripped off my mind with a ton of negativity and the additional “he’ll ruin it anyway”.

I must admit, my old self started to play few games here and there for my birthday this year as well. I was not too comfortable at the thought of celebrating, even though I arranged a pin up birthday party with the ladies at Dollhouse Photography. It still felt a bit weird. I told my boyfriend that celebrating myself it’s something that I’m progressively learning to do, and that I’m not used to be spoiled, loved and taken care of: I’m the one who does those things and I’m never at the receiving end! I had various sessions with my therapist about it and, ultimately, I told myself “actually, Silvia, with all the things you did, with all the issues you overcame, it’s like you are a re-born person, so we might as well start a new tradition and celebrate yourself!”.

the way I hoped my cake looked like… nope… it didn’t happen

I bought more than a hundred purple balloons, I bought myself a purple dress, I let my colleagues, friends and boyfriend spoil me as much as they liked without a single objection to it and I forced myself to keep a happy, positive attitude about the hole thing. The result? I had the time of my life. I felt so loved like I’ve never been before. I savoured every single moment, and even when my cake turned out of the oven looking anything but purple (the food colouring I used was absolutely shit, and instead of a vibrant purple cake I ended up with a grey-ish mess…!), I just laughed about it.

I feel so happy and at peace with myself in a way that I have never experienced. I know it may sound quite odd, but when you spend a lifetime hating yourself and then you go into a journey to rip this negativity out of your brain and turn it into positivity, being able to be comfortable with who you are feels extra special, because it was such a struggle to achieve it. I feel the beauty of accepting myself for the beautiful person I am, without having to always dragging me down for no apparent reason. It is a very nice place to be. I feel like I’m living a brand new life – I am, indeed, living a brand new life, with a brand new set of eyes to see myself and the world I live in differently. I appreciate even all the negative things I experienced, because now I know exactly what I don’t want to go back to and what I rather keep experiencing.

Having said that, you know what are the few things that I don’t like?
Well, first of all, my house looks like the aftermath of a purple balloon apocalypse. Oh, and my son went crazy raging madman when he ripped the poor pinata my boyfriend bought, so on top of the balloons I have pieces of that poor thing everywhere. Aaaand…. Oh my, I’m so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open! I’m getting old, no doubt about it!

I now have two more parties to go, and hopefully a weekend of pure, total, blissful sleep in my pyjama. And this, my friend, is the tale of how I went from “no more parties ever – I hate myself” to “no more parties for a while, I’m frigging knackered and I need my beauty sleep”. It’s the best feeling ever!!