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.

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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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WORKIN’ 9 TO 5 DOLLY PARTON STYLE

It sounds a bit weird to say that, but without my job, I would probably be dead by now. My work has been my life saviour when my mental illness reached its worst bit, and if I’m here typing this blog with my sanity (almost) fully intact, it is only because I had an office to go to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

work-e1534063287773.jpgI am an Executive Assistant, which is like a Personal Assistant on a higher level, or as I like to say it, I’m either a “glorified secretary” or a “babysitter for adults in the corporate world”. Jokes aside, my job is only one thing about me that I have always loved desperately, fiercely, and immensely.

I have always been a person full of hate for everything regarding myself: I hated my body, I hated my life, I hated my brain and all the mental stuff going on in there, I hated the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress, I hated everything and anything and some more, but never, ever, EVER my job and the person I am once I close the office’s door behind my back.
Outside work I was a mental mess, weak, ugly, shy, insecure, with barely any self-esteem; at work, I transformed myself in a highly confident, strong, efficient, tireless, unstoppable Silvia, who can do whatever it’s requested and some more on the side.

My work has been instrumental in moulding the person I am today, and the reason is because I met amazing people who have coached me and helped me grow, both inside and outside the office.

I remember my first ever job as a guest assistant in Milan’s main business exhibition centre. For a shy person like me, who could barely look at people in the eye, let alone speak, it turned out to be a baptism of fire. Having said that, the buzz of wearing a uniform and be helpful made me feel on top of the world. When I stepped in my first office as a junior secretary aged 20, I was both terrified and fascinated at the same time. I got hired by this family-run company who traded in the production and supply of concrete materials for the building industry.
I knew absolutely shit nothing about it, and I was only supposed to be the pretty lady who opens the door of the show room to our customers, the one who brings the coffee to the boss and does very basic secretarial stuff (answering calls and emails, buying stationery and keeping everything tidy). My manager didn’t take long to see the potential I had and not only he gave me more and more responsibilities, but he also encouraged me to come up with my own ideas to improve things in the office: from re-arranging the showroom, to re-organising the way he kept track of all sales, together we revolutionised that small office and made it in a highly efficient one. My manager soon became my best friend and we had the greatest time ever. I loved working for that company to bits. Unfortunately, mismanagement and a though economic situation in Italy meant that the company had to cut costs, my office got sacrificed in the name of savings and I got made redundant.

I cried all my tears.

Thankfully I got hired pretty quickly by another company, this time a worldwide Certification Body (ever heard of 9001, 14001 and 18001 certifications? Me neither before that job). The best way to describe those two years is: hell on Earth. My manager was the most hideous, horrid and nasty piece of work I have ever encountered in my life. He hated me from day one, because I got hired by someone he hated (like it was my fault, right?) so in his eyes I was “the enemy”. Like I could have cared less to go at war with someone who pays my salary! He insulted and humiliated me very single day for whatever reason he could have thought of, whether work or non-work related. Anyway, this two years taught me a lot more than I’m happy to admit, and all for the wrong reasons: I became an ace at covering my back, at protecting myself against anything and everything thrown at me. I learned to mask my true feelings, to watch my back like a CIA spy, to solve any issue as soon as I became aware of them and before they landed on my manager’s desk, and to keep a straight, imperturbable face anytime I got yelled at (only to run and cry in the bathroom, or in my car). Gosh, I don’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. Two years of pure bullying. I prayed every day, whilst driving my car, to have an accident and end up in hospital for months. Thankfully it never happened.

My saving grace came when I decided that I had enough, and I wanted to change so badly that I was ready to go and work anywhere, for anyone, as long as I could get out of that shithole.
Every day, driving to my workplace, I could see the headquarters of this very famous American company. One day I told myself “why not checking their website. They must be hiring someone. Maybe I could send my CV there and then who knows, my commute would be parking there instead of here”

Me being me, I got all fired up, I started browsing their website and applying to every job I could without not even remotely caring about the actual location of it. Two days later I get an email back from the HR leader saying she was very interested in my profile and to give her a call to discuss the role and get to know each other. Her phone number started with 02, which is the same as Milan. AWESOME!
I call, and the number is not working.
Weird.
I check the email back. No, I typed the number correc… hold on a minute. I scroll the email to the bottom. I read her signature. I check her phone number. It is actually +4420something something.
Shit, it’s London.
Oh well, I’m sure that’s because this is a worldwide company, with offices all over the world, I bet they want to test my English level.
No. It didn’t take long before the HR leader asked me where in London am I living because the office was going to move from Mayfair to Hammersmith and she wanted to make sure my commute was not an issue…. And I had to tell her that actually, commute-wise, I had quite a journey since I lived in Italy! We liked each other though, and she told me she was coming to Italy for her holiday in the next couple of weeks and she would have loved to meet me.
We did, and it was love at first sight. However, I didn’t hear a single thing till a month after that meeting (and my hopes were already dead by then). She apologies profusely, asked me if I was still available and if so, if I was interested in relocating to London and join the company.
I think my heart stopped for what it felt like a lifetime.
I ran in my living room screaming like I was on fire. When I broke the news to my parents, my mum started crying and screaming “my baaaaaaabyyyyyyy going so far awaaaaay” (…..), whereas my dad tried to keep his cool and calm me down. I cried, I didn’t know what to do, but my dad talked me into accepting the offer and give it a go: a month, maybe six, at least a year…

8 years (and counting) later, I’m so grateful for having grabbed that awesome chance.

I moved to London as a young, fragile, ultra-shy girl, still traumatised from two years of bullying. I have been welcomed by a team of wonderful people, who took me under their wings and worked non-stop to re-build my self-esteem, to inspire me into trying new work1things to improve myself and, most importantly, they became my new family and they moulded me into this crazy, confident, no-shit taker and no fool suffering fierce woman. I remember the very first time my manager called me on stage after a two-days long convention I organised for him to praise me in front of a 100+ colleagues. As soon as everyone gave me a standing ovation, I burst into tears (and I’ve been inconsolable for a good half an hour afterwards!). I still cry whenever I get any gesture of appreciation. I’m a softie, what can I say!
When my mental health took a turn for the worse, it was my workplace who stepped in and saved me. I never told anyone what I was going through at the time, but the fact that I had things to do and people who trusted me to do them well turned out to be a massive help. Even though I felt more like wanting to (seriously) die than face my day, knowing that I was going somewhere safe and caring gave me that strength to get out of bed and keep going on.

I still work for that awesome American company, even though I had a three years stint at

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Merry Xmas! Needles to say, my desk was the best

the BBC at some point. My office is made of crazy, funny, awesome people. We work really hard and we party even harder. I became famous for my acts of craziness. Everyone knows that when I go “I have an idea: how about….”, something totally bonkers is about to happen, like when I decided to not sleep one night to chat with my Chinese colleagues in order to get some documents one of colleagues desperately needed, or when at Christmas I started a “decorate your desk” challenge, and since very few decided to participate, I took the matter in my own hands and I wrapped every single desk like a Christmas present……
My boss is awesome. He is at the receiving end of my rants every Monday mornings. Seriously, he is a legend, and the team I work with is just fantastic, we love each other to bits and there is no better cure for my sadness than hanging out with them. The day I got dumped and I was unusually quiet, everyone rallied around me to cheer me up. Well, every time I’m too quiet they check on me, because it means that I’m either very sad or scheming something….

And when I’m plotting something, it is generally one thing: a proper prank.

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half-way through my prank

It started one day that a colleague pissed me off by not complying to my instructions, meaning that I ended up sorting a massive mess. I wanted to make him pay for what he did.
I made a mistake ordering stationery few days earlier and I found a way to sort that problem and avenge myself: I covered his desk in post-it.
I patiently peeled them one by one and covered the whole thing. Not a soul that day dared to stop me. I was mad! His face when he saw it the next day… PRICELESS!

Oh, the day the same colleague stole my spot at Wimbledon by convincing one of the managers to take him and not me!!! I was FURIOUS. I was hysterical. I slammed my fists at my desk and yelled “SHIT IS GOING DOWN TODAY!”.
I stormed to my colleague Marge’s desk, told her to get ready cause Wimbledon was coming to the office. She looked puzzled but let me get on with my madness.
It took me a good hour to get everything I needed whilst cursing and hissing, but in the need I turned his desk into a Wimbledon court. A work of art.

wimbly

wimbly1I’m still proud as fuck about it. It was so good that Marge and I went to Tesco, bought champagne, strawberries and cream (traditional of Wimbledon’s tournament) and had an office party there and then. We even sent the pictures to our colleague saying, “when we can’t come to Wimbledon, we make Wimbledon come to us”.

danielFor another colleague/friend who always had a massive breakfast at his desk every morning, I turned his desk into a breakfast heaven for his birthday. The look on his face when he saw it: his jaw dropped to the floor.

The very best? One of my managers resigned and I cried all my tears when he did. He is a Liverpool FC fan to the core, which I hated since my ex is a scouser and anything Liverpudlian makes me sick because of him. However, I loved my manager too much to let him go without a special present.
On the Monday of his last week, I printed everything I needed. Then, on the Tuesday, I woke up at 4am, got to the office at 5am, locked myself inside his office room and turned it into Anfield stadium, completed with football pitch with Chelsea FC (my team!) against Liverpool FC.

 


It was just magnificent.
He worked his remaining days without even moving a single picture because he loved it to bits.

To this day, I haven’t managed to make anything that special (yet), but something tells me I should start coming up with something soon….