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.  

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!

HERE’S TO NEW BEGINNINGS

For the first time ever, I’m really excited and looking forward to the new year that is about to start in few hours. It is an amazing feeling. I generally dreaded New Year’s Eve, and even more so everyone asking “what are your plans for the night?”. Well, my plans have always been feeling miserable, ensuring I saw the back of the previous, awful year and dreading the thought of starting another, equally (if not worse) horrible one. I used to go crazy trying to fit as many superstitions “bringer of good lucks” things or actions as possible, and then I would have spent my time being resentful and negative. I had a look at my Facebook entries for the previous years: djeeezuz the drama!

Not this time.

I’m very excited for tonight. I wrote down my menu, I planned my grocery shopping, I’ll wear my nice dress, my very sexy lingerie, and instead of being a miserable sod, I’ll use this night to thank 2018 profusely for all the things that happened, and welcome 2019 with open arms for all the things it will bring. There will be no stupid superstitions, only nice food, good laughter with my son, good Italian bubbly wine and positivity all around.

I would have never dreamed, six months ago, that I’d be this mentally at peace by now. Heck, I would have never dreamed I’d be seeing the end of this year, quite frankly. I’m grateful for all that happened, even though when it did, I felt like I was about to drown for good and I couldn’t see the point of keep fighting. I couldn’t see that I was fighting a lost cause, and that it was a useless, tiring exercise that was only bringing more frustrations in, rather than any good. I had to go through one final round of hell before I could begin to see the light of a new day.

Something my Law degree has taught me is that it is important to factually assess any situation, before trying to find solutions, so I want to take this moment before I’ll head to the kitchen and start cooking a shitload of food to think back at this year to get ready for what is to come. A kind of “last day of the year recap”, sort of speak. Brace yourself, it’s going to be a bit long!

This year I reached my personal breaking point.
Funny thing is, I’m so happy and grateful it happened, and that it was such a dramatic, “no going back” thing, otherwise, nothing would have ever changed for me.
I can see it clearly now that time has passed, that the emotional storm is over and I’m more detached to the events, how lucky I have been to ended up hitting my lowest of the low in such a hard and dramatic way.
I have been adding up misery on top of frustrations on top of mental issues for years and years; I have been bottling up my issues, taking on board problems after problems, mostly not even belonging or generated by myself. I have been keeping my mouth shut too many times “for the greater good”, I have been forcing myself to suppress my anger and my feelings to not look mean and hurt people (when they actually deserved a proper “FUCK OFF” shouted in their stupid faces), I have been draging my sorry self like a heavy corpse day after day after day, without even thinking “hold on a second, why am I doing this?”, I have been gladly suffering fools and enduring abuse left right and centre because I thought that was what my life was supposed to be and, since it could have been even worse, I should have better not moan and put up with it.

This massive baggage of negativity, resentment and frustration was what I carried with me in 2018. I started the year with my best friend, which seemed the perfect way to have a great new beginning, but my spirit was definitely not the most positive one. I desperately wanted to raise the middle finger at the year before, and welcome 2018 in the exact same way.
Well, I should have seen the writings on the wall straight away, because on the 2nd of January my then au pair, a Spanish girl my son and I loved dearly, texted me saying that she was not coming back as promised, goodbye and good luck. I had a feeling this was about to happen, since she took all her belongings from her bedroom before going home leaving only the gifts I gave her behind, but still, when reality hit me, it hurt like hell. In a mega rush, during festive times and with the re-opening of school fast approaching, I had to fish another one asap.
I felt luck was on my side when I found a new one quickly, another Spanish one from the same city as my previous one, and we seemed to be a perfect match: this time it was a guy, loving sports and studying to become a teacher. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to discover he was so not what it seemed: he was totally uncapable of looking after my son, he raided my cupboards without a care in the world, left my house a complete, dirty mess every day and felt entitled to do as he pleased because “he was a teacher and he knew things”. After a month, I sent him packing back to Spain.

I was angry. I was incredibly angry. Forget the guy, I wasn’t necessarily angry at him, I was angry because it was my ex-husband’s fault I ended up having to have strangers in my house to take care for my son, because he has been so stupid beyond any human comprehension that he ended up breaking the law and get social services in my life, and yes, I was still pissed off at having social services breathing on my neck, making me paranoid at my every move in case they’d use it against me to take my son away because I married a useless dumbass. I was angry at my life, because I kept having problems after problems, and when something good happened, it felt like a tiny moment where I could get my head momentarily above water, breathe, then drown again in my misery.
The next au pair arrived a bit like Mary Poppins. I not only desperately wanted to love her, but I just as equally desperately wanted her to love me and my son. She seemed amazing in every way. I couldn’t believe my luck. I felt she had the magic power to solve my issues all at once. When the-guy-I-was-kind-of-seeing moved in with me as well, I thought I hit the jackpot big time: I had the perfect au pair, and the guy I was madly in love with who finally decided to take things seriously with me.

Yey.

Well… not exactly, no. The perfect au pair became quite less perfect. She had issues of her own, she was a restless soul who just couldn’t settle for more than few months in a row, so when a new adventure came in and my ex-husband kept not paying her on time (did I already mention how useless and unreliable he is?), out of the blue she told me she was leaving by the end of the week. Actually, she told my boyfriend first, and he broke the news to me before she did. I felt I was in a nightmare again. I was truly broken-hearted. I thought “we were in for the long run”, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of welcoming another person in my life again. Not in mine, and even less so in my son’s. To rub more salt to my very open wounds, we had terrible news at work: we officially entered restructuring mode, everyone went to work not knowing whether there’d be an office to go to the next day, the mood was truly awful, and I panicked at the thought of losing my precious job. The only thing that seemed to bring me happiness was love, but that was not meant to last either: problems started creeping up, I was too negative, too needy, too desperate to hold on to him because he was “my everything”, and he was just too in need to run away, too poisoned by his friend wanting to break us up, too negative in his own way, it was just too much and the situation, eventually, exploded like a nuclear bomb, bringing devastation and destroying everything.

I hated everything. My ex boyfriend for dumping me, betraying all the promises he made, ripping apart our dreams and happy life together; my ex husband, the root of all evils, for basically screwing up my life big time from the moment I married him and who kept screwing me up even when I got rid of him; all my au pairs for abandoning me even though I gave them all and some more; myself, for being in such a mental state that I couldn’t just fight another day.

I remember the day my then-ex boyfriend finally took his things and I saw the back of him. I felt like an extremely injured survivor of an apocalyptic scenario. I was hurt, my heart was bleeding, everything around me was destroyed, my body had enough, my mind had enough, and I finally broke down for good. That was the end of the person I was. There was no going back. There was no “I’ll keep dragging myself through another storm”, there was no “I’ll fight some more”. That was it.
The end.

Or so I thought.
Like a phoenix rising from her ashes, the end of “the old me” brought the birth of the new me.
Since I lost everything, including myself, I had nothing else to lose. My negative, miserable, depressed ways were no more, they died with my old self, and since they belonged to the past, I decided to give a go at doing the exact opposite: as hard as it was, in a time where I was supposed to feel desperate and sad beyond belief, I forced myself to smile.
I forced myself to appreciate me.
I forced myself to meditate on positive things, to let go of the hate and the negativity to welcome the exact opposite. I read millions of self-help books and actively put all the positive advices into practice, till I reached to point I was strong enough to get rid of my stupid “I’m a superwoman who does everything alone” attitude and I did the bravest, craziest, “I will never ever do that” thing that I dumbly dreaded to do till that point: I asked for help. Psychotherapy help. From that moment onwards, my life changed in ways I would have never, ever expected or dreamed.

I became confident.
I learned to love myself.
I went to the gym and worked hard to improve my body.
I developed a positive attitude.
I worked (and I’m still working) on my issues, no holds barred, embracing my flaws for what they are.
Most importantly, I learned to be kind to myself.
I learned to love and be loved, to appreciate and be appreciated, to stand my ground firmly when I’m right and to apologise and learn when I’m not.
The positive people in my life stayed, the negative ones either left or I made them leave.
The more progresses I made, the more positivity I received, and the more positivity I received, the further I progressed in my journey. There is still a lot of work to do, don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe for a second that “I’m done”, but yeah, it feels like I’m in a cosy mental place that can only get better if I can keep working hard. My work caught up and got back at being the usual, crazy environment as ever, I hired a fantastic baby sitter, an amazing Personal Trainer, I got to do some wonderful photoshoots and everything is heading in the right direction.

So, 2019. I cannot wait.
I don’t want any bullshit resolutions because, let’s be honest, nobody sticks with them ever including myself (I know, I’m that bad). What I want to do in the new year that is about to start is very simple: I want to keep working hard, physically and mentally. I want to face my surgery and any challenges that will come my way with a positive spirit, I want to bring with me all the lessons learned this year and use them to develop myself even more.
That’s it!

To all of you who have read my blog and supported me so far, I wish you all the best for this new year coming: may you accomplish all your goals, may your lives be filled with peace and serenity, and I hope we’ll keep walking together in this incredible journey of life for many years to come.

All the best!

Silvia

GOODBYE PAST CHRISTMASES

As I write, I just came back from my parents’ house in a little town near Verona, Italy, after celebrating Christmas with my family. My parents moved there this summer, leaving Milan’s little flat behind to enjoy the house my dad has inherited from his aunts. This place is where my dad grew up as a child, and where I was forced to spend the most of my school holidays. Gosh, I hated this place. Even more, I hated celebrating Christmas here.

I was born and bred in Milan, one of the biggest, most modern, and cosmopolitan cities in Italy. I was used to go everywhere I wanted by taking the subway, I had plenty of places to visits anytime I fancied (museums, shops, parks, cafes, restaurants, you name it), I had my bedroom and my stuff, and all was ok.

The creepy church in all its glory

Then, every now and then, the dreaded holidays would arrive, and my dad would pack our shit in the car to go to this place for few days: it felt like being ripped from the normal world and threw into the middle ages. This place was (and still is) in a tiny, tiny town, in the middle of bloody nowhere. The only places at a walking distance were the church and the newsagent. The end.
For everything else, you’d have to ride your bike, but even so, you wouldn’t have been able to reach the first proper town, so it would have been a pointless exercise in killing your legs. If you wanted to see a bit of “civilisation”, as I used to call it, you had to beg your parents for a car ride, but of course, my dad wanted to relax and do next to nothing, or at best go fishing with his friends, so unless I joined the party with my fishing rod at 5am, I was doomed to get bored to death.

Francesca and I too many years ago

On top of that, my dad’s aunts used to live here: two unmarried old ladies with two very different temperaments, who could have been fun but also hell at the same time. You always had to walk on eggshells with them, as you’d never know whether you’d get yelled at and grounded or kept being totally ignored for ages. I was forced to sleep in the same bedroom with one of them, who snored like an extremely loud tractor, and since I used to suffer from nocturnal panic attacks, it meant not sleeping at all every single night. I feel sick just thinking about it. The only thing I liked about this place was my friend Francesca. She is couple of years younger than me and we bonded immediately. We spent every second I had to be in this place being glued together. She was the only reason I survived those horrendous holidays. This place was her hometown, so she knew the (very few) interesting things to visit or do, we would spend endless hours riding our bikes and avoiding both our families at all costs.

Christmas were awful here, and I resented my parents a lot for forcing me to endure this painful thing every year. The place was as dead as a desert. Cold as fuck, foggy, damp… awful. My aunts would dictate what everyone was allowed to do, which was basically nothing at all aside from watching tv in the only room with the fireplace. We were forced to attend Mass at midnight (which, if anything, reinforced my ferocious atheism), then on Christmas day we had to watch the Pope on tv and get his blessings…. Like I could have cared.
Every single time there was a fight between someone in the family, making Christmas time even worse than what it was. I was so, so jealous of all my friends, staying in Milan or going somewhere fun during this time. The only “fun” thing was, on Boxing Day, going to the cinema with Francesca to see whatever movie they had on during that time. At least, couple of hours of quiet and peace away from that shithole.

It took ages, ages to convince my dad not to bring us here for Christmas, and as soon as I was old enough to say “fuck that I’m not coming”, I refused to endure the pain any longer and stayed home alone. Last time I came to this place was around 12 years ago, and believe me, I didn’t miss it one single bit. It actually felt like the best thing ever, and I was sure I would have seen the back of it for fucking good. To give you an idea on how much I hated that place and everything related to it, I refused for years to say “I’m half Sardinian and half Veronese”, I refused to speak in Veronese dialect and to admit I could even do such thing (even though I’ve always been very fluent), I refused to associate myself with anything to do with that region of Italy like if if in doing so, I’d get the plague, and I simply blocked that place out of my life.

a happy me with the purple wall

I’ll be very honest, even though it is now my parents’ house, and even though things are different, I still did everything in my power to avoid putting my ass on a plane and go there. I managed to dodge the bullet this summer, and my son being sick avoided a trip at the last minute this October. I almost managed to skip Christmas as well, but my dad got (extremely) upset: he had a lovely surprise for me (he painted my bedroom with a beautiful purple paint!) and he couldn’t understand why I was being so difficult and reluctant. I booked my tickets with quite the heavy heart, and I felt like 10 years old me facing another horrible holiday again. It took a massive mental shift to decide to see this occasion as a way to put “the ghost of the past” to bed for good and to start something positive. I forced myself to see it as another chance to close a painfully negative chapter of my past, and to begin a new and happier one. Still, I had a moment of “fuck no, look where I came back to” when I saw the house from the distance, but… you know what? I’ve kind of appreciated this place

Ok, I can’t just get out, take the subway and have a stroll in my beautiful, ultra-fashion and drop dead gorgeous Milan’s city centre, and yes, I miss all my favourite shops, cafes and eateries, but… there is a sort of quiet and relaxed atmosphere here that I really love. If I could get my driving licence back, I’d even be able to drive around and visit places that I couldn’t visit in the past. My parents have some very crazy, rowdy, and hysterically funny friends, the atmosphere was fun and relaxed, it was very good fun.

The ritual!

My dad took me to have our ritual “coffee & patisserie cake” in one of the loveliest patisseries in town, we had a beautiful walk in Verona (shame for the icing cold and the fucking nasty fog….) and, much to my mum’s dismay who wanted to go shopping, I spent most of the times browsing food in grocery stores, drooling at all the wonderful Italian delicacies. I hate my weight in cheese, I laughed my ass off and I felt very good. I’m actually looking forward to go back. Strolling in the streets of Verona, I made peace with this place and with my origins, and by the end of my holidays I was back at being a proper crazy and proud Veronese.

The stunning Arena of Verona

Icing on the cake of this holiday time? Francesca and I, having some Aperol Spritz whilst our sons were playing and having an amazing good time. It felt so… beautiful, and weird: we officially passed the baton to the next generation! (Now I feel so OLD!!!)

DOCTOR DOCTOR, PLEASE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BOOM!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW SELF 1 – 0 OLD SELF

Oh my, it was quite a while since I wrote something on here. I’ve been very busy and so, so tired, so much that my brain was just not coping, and my level of forgetfulness increased drastically over the last days (someone won the lucky chance to hear about my latest forgetfulness experience on a very embarrassing Instagram confession… by the way my dear friend, I managed to retrieve my stuff in the end!!). Oh well, it is what it is, I have no shame in admitting that I’m a bit bonkers at time!

This week has been very demanding, but incredible at the same time. I feel that the universe, or some energy out there, you name it (I don’t believe in God since I’m a Buddhist sympathiser, but I guess that if you do, you can say it’s him?) it’s making me experience stuff to show me how much I’ve grown and changed so far. Or, if you like a more rational experience, I’m experiencing things as I go, I immediately reflect on what the old self would have done instead and notice the striking difference. I prefer the universe option, I like to keep my spiritual side up and running, but each to their own right?

With my closest friend and partner in crime Marge, organisation for our office Christmas party has kicked in big time. No more talking and thinking, now we are venue searching, negotiating, planning, scheduling, placeholding, the whole nine yards of event organisation top to bottom. We have asked a bit of help to an event planner who kindly sent us a list of venues that would suit our company best. Since Marge received the list, I didn’t know what to expect. We arranged to meet near Soho, since all venues at the top of the list where there: when I gave the list a glance, and when I saw the first venue mentioned on that spreadsheet, my heart sank.

St Martins Lane Hotel.

Now, unless you are a designer / architecture student, professional or just passionate, this hotel won’t mean a single thing: it’s “just” a very fancy, quirky, expensive, high-end hotel. If you do belong to the categories I mentioned, you know that I’m talking about one of Philippe Starck’s jewels.
Well, it happens that I almost have a degree in Architecture. I abandoned my studies as soon as I found a job, because I knew quite early in the process that didn’t have what it takes to get that degree and, ultimately, to make it in that world. I wasn’t smart enough for that subject, and I’m not saying to put myself down: it was honestly not my thing. Not everyone is made to do everything, this is just one of those things I am not made for. I would have been an amazing critic, or an architecture journalist, but anything else was a NO. Now I know I have other talents and this is just a learning experience on who I am not, but at that time, I felt that I was a total, dumb, stupid low-QI failure. All my peers seemed to be so smart, so intelligent, so getting what the professors were talking about, and I was just sitting there like if people were talking to me in Aramaic. They were probably naturally more inclined to the subject, way more interested and therefore putting more efforts in their studies than me, but me being me, I used this as a chance to torture myself and marinade in my self-hate and negativity.
Very few things interested me about architecture, and I remember being fascinated by quirky, interior design. That was good fun because it resonated with who I am. A friend and I enrolled in an interior designer class to complement our studies. We got both mesmerised when our professor made us study Philippe Starck and, in particular, this fascinating hotel. Aside from one exam that still haunts me to this day (San Siro council estate houses…. Gives me nightmares to this day and I’m sure my friend Giada thinks the same), I’ve never studies so hard like for that one. I remember my friend and I knew that hotel inside-out like if we’d have been part of Starck’s project entourage. His genius work inspired every single idea we had. We dreamed of having Kartell’s furniture in our house and to be hired by him. When we came to London on a three-day trip, we walked outside the hotel, daydreaming about being able to walk inside. If someone told to young, self-hating, low self-esteemed Silvia that her future self not only would have walked in, but also talked business with the hotel’s management, she would have told that someone to fuck off. Yet, there I was few days ago, staring at the entrance like years ago, only this time I had Marge telling me to get my ass in and get ready for the ride.
I put a brave face, but believe me, I was dying inside. I wanted to cry. My legs felt wobbly and not just because I was on my heels. So many emotions. I looked around in total awe and devotion. I felt like I was inside a very sacred place. The feeling of being there, walking around, seeing such an amazing work of design and pure genius in front of my eyes rather than just in my student books and dreams… I was blown away. Cherry on the cake was dining at Asia de Cuba restaurant: the food was just superb, and I was feeling like a kid at Disneyland, with all the things that I so loved studying surrounding me. It was just wow.
I spent all evening thinking about it and, as you can see, I’m still thinking about it now. I told everyone who could bear to listen to me ranting about it what an incredible feeling it was. I sat on my bed, still digesting that turmoil of emotions, thinking “my gosh Silvia, if you needed a sign that your journey is making you head towards a better place, I think you got it today loud and clear”.

I spent so much time telling myself that I would never accomplish anything in life; that I was just barely average; that I was ugly, stupid, useless; that I would be better off six feet under, no, actually, not even that, I’d be wasting good ol’ soil space; all the things that happened during these years, all the suffering, the pain, the failures, the anger, the dramas, the illnesses…
What I never noticed is that, even though all of this was reality in my head, something inside me never surrendered. Something, some subconscious force inside me, I don’t know, managed to channel them into something positive, into a growing experience; the universe gave me a very loud, final message to bloody get a grip and change, and when I listened and put the work in, I ended up on my two high-heeled feet, stronger than I could have ever imagined of being, in a “I could only dream of it” location, looking at my old-self thinking “well well, you insecure bitch, looks like you were so, so wrong all this time”.
And you know what? whatever is coming my way, bring it on, because if I managed to prove that I can do it when my mental health is at the lowest of the low, imagine what I can accomplish now that I’m working hard and building my confidence!

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WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY – MY THOUGHTS

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Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and as you can imagine, being an ex-suicidal person myself, I have a very special connection with the whole thing.

I cannot believe that, couple of years ago, I seriously contemplated to kill myself.
For three good years I thought every day, every single minute of my day “I want to end my life, I can’t go on like this”. It was just… just hell. My mental health was spiralling out of control, I had panic attacks every few minutes, my body ached, I couldn’t eat, sleep, breathe; I was living in a constant paranoia of having an anaphylactic shock, of ending up unconscious in the streets, or at home, leaving my baby alone to fend for himself. I was scared to have to endure another day, but at the same time, I was scared to go to sleep and have one of my nightmares where I’d be suffocating (and yes, I couldn’t breathe for real) in my sleep.
I couldn’t see a way out. My ex-husband, if anything, he made things even worse; doctors brushed me off or threatened me with social services; my family was too far, I had no friends I could talk to, it felt like the whole world was telling me “just fucking end it”. I saw no point in going on. What if I never snap back of this hell? What if it is only going to get worse? No matter how much I try to ask for help, I get treated like a lunatic, an exaggerating first time mum who should care for her son instead of thinking shit, nobody is willing to talk to me and see what the heck is wrong with me, what is the point of living through the next hours, let alone days, if this is what my life will be for the foreseeable future?

Oh, yes, I planned my end millions of times. In my head, I wrote millions of letters to my son to ask him to forgive me for being a bad mum, a weak mum, for not being there to see him becoming a wonderful boy, to not be with him for his milestones etc. But then…. Then his tiny little hand would grab my finger, his lovely, big, brown eyes would look at me full of love and… and I would put my plans on hold, and tell myself “I just can’t…. I can’t leave him”. I’d find the strength in me to endure another panic attack, another paranoid episode, another drop of my blood pressure because I couldn’t eat (or I’d trigger another panic attack)… and then back to square one.

Crawling out of that hell has been brutal. Brutal. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I still bear massive scars that I’m working on with my therapist. I’m still frightened that I might slip back into it. Every now and then, when my hormones go a bit crazy, and maybe I’m tired, or just not in a good day and I feel my head going a bit wild, I have an immediate anxiety attack and I can feel the red alarm in my brain shouting “oh my gosh I’m going mental again”. It takes me a bit to calm down, to reassure me that’s not the case, that it’s just a bad moment and that things will be ok.

It’s funny how people think that it is so easy to spot a person who’s suicidal or dealing with some issues. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you can hear a lot of people saying, “oh my god I so want to die right now” (I do it all the time when my Personal Trainer decides that I’m in for a treat), maybe some people think about it when they are sad and dealing with a painful, embarrassing situation. However, I can assure you, the majority of people really serious about it will do their best at hiding it. It is a very dark, morbid, and disturbing thought, not something you feel like chatting with your friends about it. You become the best at pretending all is ok, even when inside you everything feels dead. It only takes one silly comment to make suicidal people freak out and feel “I shall never speak about it”. In addition, when your mind is blurred by your mental illness, you can’t think straight anyway: even if you have help around you, you cannot see it. You cannot reach it. You don’t want to reach it, because the monster in your head fills your brain with negative thoughts, like “they will make a fool of you if you say it”, “they’ll think it’s just a phase that you’ll grow out of it soon”, “they’ll brush it off making you feel dumb as shit”, “you are worth zero and so are your problems, so nobody would be interested anyway” etc.

You know, in those days, what I was truly desperate for? A simple hug. A genuine, heartfelt human interaction. A small act of kindness. Someone sitting next to me telling me “it is ok, I’m with you”. Someone holding my hand. Few words straight from the heart. Hope. I wanted hope. I wanted to know I was not alone, even if my mind was in this deep, negative fog that I couldn’t see it for myself. I didn’t want to “call a hotline”; I didn’t want to ask for help, I had no strength, willpower, mental energy to do it, and most importantly, I didn’t see the point of doing everything by myself only to be told stuff like “the waiting list is three months (yes, story of my life)”, all the fucking bloody time.

When I opened this blog, I sworn I’d be candid and honest about my issues. I am not famous or, you know, I don’t have any illusion to help saving people from their misery because they read my shit and think “there is hope out there”, but I felt it was important to just say it out loud “this is who I was, these are the scars I bear, I am not ashamed of them, I am not embarrassed, certainly I’m not happy about having them, but still, it is what it is and there is nothing wrong with saying it”. Maybe, just maybe, someone will indeed read this, and maybe, just maybe, he/she will feel less alone, and maybe who knows, maybe he/she will reach out to me, to someone, and say the most difficult, hard as an anvil word to say: “help”.

Believe me, even though there are certainly people more predisposed to suffer from mental health issues, it is nothing more than a Russian roulette: today you are sitting on your sofa, in your beautiful house, surrounded by your beautiful kids and family, and the next day shit happens and you find yourself in a very dark tunnel, with no apparent way out but to kill yourself. Don’t think you are better than this, that it will never happen to you, that you are living the life and you are too happy to care: you really can’t predict what life will throw at you. Maybe you are right, maybe you are not.

Be kind to people around you. Invest a tiny bit of your time to check on your friends. Talk to them. Make them feel like they can talk to you, and I mean TALK, to you, not just vomiting random words to fill the time. Do not assume that those who look strong and ok are truly strong, and most importantly ok. Sometimes a coffee and a chat can do wonders, or even just a smile. Maybe it won’t save anyone, but surely, even if it was the tiniest thing ever, you managed to drop a tiny positive thing in their darkness…. And sometimes, sometimes that tiny drop is all that someone needs to feel the strength to fight another day.

If you are reading this, and a dark cloud is currently creating havoc in your head, please, I beg you, listen to me. I know how you feel. I know how desperate your sitatuion may feel to you. I know you are probably feeling lonely, useless, better off six feet under. You may fell this way because life served you a series of shitty stuff to deal with, or because you screwed it up yourself and you know what? it doesn’t matter. Believe me, it doesn’t. Oh, and don’t feed on that crap that you see everywhere around you. No one’s life is perfect, not even those of the celebrities that tabloids and instagram tries to force down your throat. It is so easy to fake it on social media. Forget about everything: the whys, the whos, the whats. focus just on you. You, yes, YOU.
You are special. I know you don’t believe it, I know you are thinking “da fuck are you blurbing about bitch?”, but you are here, alive, right now. This is a miracle in itself. My grandad, who’s had a (not so) lovely “vacation” (as he used to tell us) in a Nazi camp, used to tell me “there is only one thing that there is no remedy yet: death. Everything else? there is a way to fix it if you want to”. There is a way to fix what is happening in you. It may not be easy, it may not be readily available, it may require a bit of work, but I promise you, it is there. Don’t surrender to the monster in your head: he knows shit nothing. Please, please reach out to someone. PLEASE. Please don’t think nobody will listen to you, please don’t think there is no hope. I promise you, there is, there fucking is. I know you don’t see it, I know. Believe in it. Whatever happened, even if you royally screwed it up big time, it doesn’t have to end like this. It doesn’t. Whatever you are going through, you are not alone, and you are not the only one. There is people out there like me, like you, who suffered or are still suffering and that will be more than welcome to listen to you should you wish to open up. Don’t give up on your future because of what happened in the past.

Please, please, I’m begging y ou, reach out.

if you are a UK resident, Samaritans will be there to help you: https://www.samaritans.org/

My heart is with you.