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.

WELCOME TO MY TE(I)AM

I cannot believe that it’s been just three months since I lost my shit one final time and I decided to embark on a definite, committed journey to personal change and development. I cannot believe all the miles I walked in these shoes so far, the things I have done, the changes I made happen, and all of this has been possible because I finally decided to ditch the “I’m hopeless, nothing can change” attitude, I left behind my “poor me” mentality and I asked for help. Most importantly, I decided to finally believe in me, to give myself a chance, to stop giving all my love, energies, money, and time on others and give it all to me. Selfishness at its best.

It took massive courage and an even bigger leap of faith, for someone like me, to push myself to do it, but I was so desperate that it was either that or death.

I realised that one reason I have never changed in the past, even though I claimed I wanted to (multiple times), is because I never really wanted to. I mean, really. One thing is saying it “I want to change”, but actually working to change is another kettle of fish. There are plenty of excuses in the world that one can use to stop him/herself from pursue his/her goals, and believe me, I was the undisputed Olympic Gold Medallist of excuses. So much mental energy wasted, I know now.

My biggest shift in mentality though has been allowing others to help me. Even better: actively searching for help, and not playing victim in the hope that someone would hear my pleas and be emotionally blackmailed into volunteer to help me. This is “oh, I so wish someone would do this for me (insert whatever you fancy)” are not allowed anymore. No more “hope”, no more “wish”, no more “if only” etc. Every time I want something, I ask myself:
a) can I get it by myself? And if so, what is the most efficient way to get it?
b) if I cannot get it by myself, can someone help me, or guide me?

The revelation came in a weird way; I was studying Accountancy (something I better be back at studying asap, by the way….) and one of the first few things that I read was something along the lines of “companies work better than a single person as they can achieve bigger goals in a shorter timeframe, they can take advantage of a pool of talent, the workload can be divided amongst multiple people that can therefore multitask activities in the pursue of what the company has set as the aim”.
When I read it, it was just “something I had to understand to answer a multiple-answer’s question in a test”; more recently, I came to notice how this rather simply concept is, in fact, the key for someone to reach his/her personal goals – and I was doing exactly the opposite of it (and guess what I got? No way near what I wanted).

It is hard, extremely hard, soul-crushing hard to ask for help when you have always been a rescuer, someone who lives by helping others all the time but never ever dare to help herself, or who never allows others to help her to “not bother them with my shit” (because it is mine and therefore not important at all). It is a mammoth task, when you have that mentality, to put yourself in a position where you recognise you cannot do it alone and you actively ask, “please can you help me do this”.

bucketWhy should it be that way though? What is the shame? Even Spongebob got it! Did anyone give me a medal for going through what I’ve been through with only myself to rely on? Nope. Imagine if everyone would be like this: the world would stop. Even behind every tennis player, every successful CEO, every “rich and famous” single person, there is a team of people who helped him/her getting there at the top. The thing is, you don’t need to train to win Wimbledon to have a team of people helping you reach your goals. You just need to find the right people and “hire” them to help you, whether friends or professional experts, and stick to what they say you should do. It took me a bit, lots of “swallowing my stupid pride”, but in the last three months I’ve come up with an amazing “Team Silvia” and it is working like wonders.

First person recruited in my team? Well, my psychotherapist, of course. Yes, self-help books, yes, meditating and shit, yes yes yes to think positive, motivational speakers, motivational posters, motivation everything but: if you struggled with your mental health and other issues all your life, and no amount of self-work took you to a better place, maybe, just maybe, you need to hire help. End of. Stop with excuses. You can read in a previous entry the story of how I got my head around doing therapy. Only in my wildest dream I thought I’d be the person who faces her present with a positive attitude and who looks forward to a bright future. ME. I could have barely managed to think of myself alive to live another hour just three years ago, let alone “the future”.

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Yours truly with my Personal Trainer after a very gruelling session. She made me pray for a sudden death

I always wanted a fit body, like those Instagram trainers, all nicely lean and muscly just the right way. I have always had the potential to have that body, but did I ever bother to do the hard work? Of course not! I was a proud couch potato. Unhappy, and secretly jealous, but still bragging about me doing shit nothing. I decided to go to the gym and do exercises by myself: after all, I’ve been a sporty person all my life, I know how shit works, but guess what? Results were not happening. Why? Because I thought I knew my shit, but I was just a deluded fool. I could have surrendered, easily, and say “see? You will never get there”. Instead I decided to hire member number two of Team Silvia: my personal trainer Farrah. I told her “I want my ass to be as fit as Jennifer Lopez’s one”. She tailored my diet and exercises, made me sweat real hard, and with a positive, “I want it and I’ll get it attitude” guess what? two months afterwards I can already see my legs shaping up nicely. Silvia alone 0 – 1 Team Silvia. By the way, my protein shakes are delicious, I should open a “protein shake” shop.

I always struggled with my skin. Hormones have not being kind with my face. Oh, and I’m not that girly-girl, it is not in me, and because of this I struggled in places like spa and aestheticians: I always felt like a fish out of water, I don’t like people I don’t know to touch me, I hate massages, a lot of treatments triggers panic attacks (to give you an idea, a friend once bought me a Spa session with a facial included: I let the voucher expire because just the thought of it triggered a barrage of panic attacks) and, most importantly, I always thought there was no point of doing anything because I’m ugly as fuck, so it is money wasted. When I decided “enough is enough, I can’t do it on my own”, I stumbled upon this small, independent spa in my town, one of those shops you wouldn’t necessarily notice as it is not in a main street and not part of a chain. Reviews were amazing, and I decided to give it a go. The ladies running the spa understood “how to handle me” quite quickly and made me feel at ease from the get-go: I told them it was all new to me, but that I hated how my skin looked and I needed help to get the beauty inside me shine in the outside. The patiently worked with me at my own pace, made me feel comfortable and made me laugh even when they saw I was nervous as fuck from a mile. I went from “I don’t do these places” to “I’m coming here every day even just to wave hello from the window”. Eve & Adam Spa is defo Team Silvia, it is “the team within the team” and I couldn’t imagine my life without those ladies.

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I bought them flowers as a “thank you” for always being on my side. I love them more than words can express!

Funny fact: when I did the Dollhouse photoshoot, and I had to have a manicure and pedicure, I ran in the spa almost crying: I never had a manicure or pedicure in my entire life. I mean, NEVER. The thought of it filled me with dread and horror. I felt anxiety building up just by reading the email saying that I had to have them, let alone at the thought of me being in the salon with my nails painted. My ladies booked me in, “say no more, don’t worry, we got your back”. I had an anxiety attack whilst walking to the spa, and the only reason I went ahead is because I trusted my ladies more than my fears. When I showed my hands, I felt so embarrassed and part of me wanted to die there and then. I felt SO out of my realms, and I had no choice but to have it or fuck the photoshoot the next day. Half an hour (and so much laughing) later, my hands were very lady-like. The next day, my feet were just as perfect. Turns out, it was not only “not too bad”, but I quite liked it. I kept it even after the shoot. As I’m writing, my nails are covered in a very purple shellac, and the more I stare at them, the more I love them.

All my real friends are now part of “team Silvia”. My close friend Marge knows that every time I am negative, or that I dress scruffy “like a chav from Jeremy Kyle”, or if I say bad things about me, she has to immediately tell me off (or slap me hard should I fail to comply). I have colleagues checking up on me constantly about everything and anything I need reminding when I’m too lazy to put the effort by myself. Even my desk is now “Team Silvia”: I tidied it up (everyone though “that’s it, we lost her, the end is nigh”), I put a picture of Britney and some motivational “JLo ass” reminders. I’m not baby-stepping into this new Silvia, I’m cruising in my shiny red Ferrari and I’m not taking any prisoners.

I had it of relying on “hope”; it is a very lazy way to tell yourself to do nothing, and then if you get it you are “lucky”, if you don’t, you stay miserable because “life hates you anyway”. Enough of this shit. ACTION, NOW.

If you are in doubt about changing, about how to do something, if you are in a “Maybe Monday….” Mode (and that Monday is never the right Monday to start), stop with your narrative and just DO. NOW. Write on a piece of paper what you want to achieve and, like me, ask yourself: “can I do it by myself? If not, who can help me?” and plan it. Recruit the help, select your team. Do it right now, because right now is the right moment to start. Text your friends, google the experts, be proactive and MAKE. THINGS. HAPPEN. The universe will reward your efforts, believe me, but if you plan on living out of hopes…. You are going to be massively disappointed.

COOKING UP A STORM

I have always been an extremely skinny girl. You could have easily counted my bones if you’d seen me naked. I take it from my father, who was just as skinny when he was young. Having said that, I have also been underweight all my life because I barely ate. Just as for being a tomboy, to me not feeling hungry and eating the tiniest amount of food was nothing strange.

I just never felt the need to eat. No, I have never been anorexic, nor I ever had any eating disorder. I was born with it. I grew up nicely and hit every milestone with a swiss clock precision, but I simply ate nothing at all. My mum, who has always been an extremely anxious person, had me checked millions of times by any doctor she could find. My father still recalls the embarrassment of having a doctor who just left the house crossing his path with another one that was about to get in, waving at each other and commenting “first child syndrome?” “yeah, good luck!”. Anyway, no matter how many consultants my mum rang, the diagnosis was always the same: “Madam, your daughter is just not hungry enough”.

You would think that, after 100+ doctors, my mum would just resign to the fact that there was nothing that could have “healed” me from this “horrible issue”, but we are talking about my mum here, who always knows best and who definitely knows more than any doctor in her (often deluded) head. I don’t know, to this day, why she took it so personally and why she made such a drama about it (she still does, by the way: when I told her the other day that my personal trainer at the gym put me on a diet – to build muscles – she screamed blue murder because “YOU? DIET? YOU ARE SO SKINNY YOU LOOK LIKE ANOREXIC”). All I know is that, even though she was doing it for my own good, she made my life hell on Earth.

fotoOK, to be fair to her, in addition of not feeling the need to eat, I became quite soon an extreme pain in the arse with my fussy eating habits. The combination of having an extremely low level of hunger with an extremely high level of fussiness and squeamishness, meant that almost everything triggered my “nope, my stomach is closed” feeling. Believe me, it was so dead easy to upset me. If cutlery, glasses and plates were not absolutely spotlessly clean (including no water stains) I just couldn’t bring myself to eat, and because I have a very sensitive nose, these better not have smelled of eggs (it is still one of my pet hates today!). Meat had to be cut into microscopical pieces, because I would have spit everything back on the place if any amount of fat reached my mouth. My plate had to be half full. Pasta had to be barely cooked. Fruit had to be as unripen as possible as I couldn’t eat it if sweet (I still have a thing for sour flavours) and in case it had a stone in it, like peaches or apricot, my mum had to dispose it before I saw it or – shock horror – touch it: It makes me feel weird just thinking about it (And writing about it, aaaaahhhh), it gives me goosebumps and it totally freaks me out.

Lunches and dinners were dramas, with my mum trying to feed me anything she could and me refusing it. The story was always the same: she put food on the table, I would barely touch it, she proceeded in losing her cool, frustration would rise to the roof, she would demand I eat, then she would start threatening, then yelling, then my father would intervene by barking at me to fucking eat my food and I would end up crying staring at my plate, praying my food would just evaporate like water in the heat. This drama at some point changed though: my mum discovered a medicine called Carpantin: it was liquid, it had a sweet, absolutely vile taste and it made me drowsy as fuck. I think my mum made me drink litres of it throughout my childhood. It stimulated hunger, and it kind of worked as, during “the cure”, as my mum would call the month or so she made me have that shit, I ate more than I normally would. Whenever I saw those bottles in the medicine’s cabinet, my heart sank. I don’t remember why, at some point, this hell ended (I think that there has been a shortage of it and my doctor just stopped prescribing it because “enough is enough”).

The mantras I heard day in, day out, was that I looked sick, that I was skin and bones, that I looked like a stick with clothes. When I was a child, I almost felt a sense of pride: I looked like a boy and I didn’t mind, I fit into tiny clothes, nobody teased me for being overweight (though in the 80s being overweight was rare) and it just seemed a fun thing, so I was welcoming those negative comments about my body because to me they were something cool.

Well.

Not so much when teenage years started: my peers started to have boobs and curves and well, I still had bones on show. Hearing constantly “you will go to the hospital because you are all bones! “you have only skin attached to your bones!” “look at you, you are so skinny you look sick!”, “you are a stick with clothes on”, “you should stay in the science room as you’d be perfect as a skeleton” went from fun to steadily eroding my self-esteem, and once that was gone, it fuelled hate for my body.

Partly because of my fussiness, and partly because I wanted to gain weight and shush all the “skinny bitch” shit, I started to learn how to cook by myself. My mum is worldwide famous OCD: if anything is not spotless (especially her kitchen), hell will break lose, so she never taught me anything in case I made a mess in her house. I didn’t mind, I wanted to do things my way and learn flavours, techniques and recipes all by myself: yes, I’m a loner when it comes to learning and I thrive when I am left alone to do my own things (this is also the way I managed to get a Law degree: no classroom, just me, my books and a tutor for help).

Turned out, cooking became a relaxing session for my brain: I didn’t have to think anything but what I wanted to eat and what steps I had to follow in order to feed me what I wanted. There was no fussiness, no anxiety, no drama: I had total control on everything: the flavours, the portion sizes, the recipes. Moreover, it helped me be more curious about food, more inclined to taste and give it a go. An amazing world of possibilities opened its doors for me and I loved it because I was the undisputed Queen of it.

Cooking became my life saviour when my post-natal depression took a turn for the worst, and I lived on a chain of endless panic attacks. Guess what was the main thing who triggered my attacks? Yes, food: I became scared of dying of an anaphylactic shock from a random allergy. I know, rationally, that it was absolutely insane, but there and then? No way, Jose. It took me 2 years to discover that the feeling of suffocating and dying triggered by food was due to a combination of asthma and gastric reflux, but in the meantime it was constant horror.
Anything that was not plain pasta (and I mean just boiled, no oil, cheese, nothing), plain rice or water sent me in a terrible meltdown. I lost so much weight in the space of two months that I (truly) became a skeleton with clothes on. No one seemed to care though: doctors brushed me off with “first time mum syndrome”, “it’s just baby blues”, “cheer up and enjoy this moment”, like I was having a blast living in that horrible.

I could have never tolerated anyone cooking for me at that stage. I would have never, ever, trusted anyone to cook exactly how my anxiety dictated and with the only few things that spared me a panic attack. I spent more time than I’m happy to admit staring at my kitchen thinking “here we go again… Russian roulette bring it on….”. I started re-introducing things little by little, one item at a time. Depending on how brave I felt in that moment, or how strong I felt to push myself, I increased variety, I added spices and flavours. It took ages but being the master of my own resurrection has been very empowering (but please, if you read this, don’t feel like there is no help out there: there is. Don’t surrender like me. SEEK HELP. I beg you), but it left massive mental scars that only now I’m managing to heal.

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A cake I made recently to celebrate Seb Vettel’s victory at the Belgium Grand Prix

Now that I’m better, I am back at loving cooking for what it is. Over the last couple of years I have also improved my baking skills, and every now and then I test my creations on my colleagues. Funny thing is, when I started bringing cakes at the office, their feedback was “good”, “nice”, “ok”, “amazing”; now that it happens quite often, they are used to it and their feedback is like Michelin Star inspector: “needs more moisture”, “this was good but slightly too lemony”, “amazing, but decoration could have been neater”.

By the way, since I see that my blog gets read all over the world, if you have any recipe please please please share it with me (any good dhal recipe would be greatly appreciated!)!

IT’S BRITNEY B#TCH!

Before anyone says anything: yes, I am a metalhead and proud.
Yes, I grew up with Kreator, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and the whole lot of thrash metal; I got more band merchandise than what a “normal” person is supposed to own; I probably spent way too much money on heavy metal gig tickets than what I should have done and yes, I even got Slayer tattooed on my left leg.

But.

I have an insane love for Britney Spears.
I love her, I worship her, she is the mighty Britney bitch and I’m a devoted, proud fan. Whoever says anything bad about her in front of me ends up at the receiving end of a massive rant so don’t you ever dare do it, ok?
LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE, OK?

siso2Lot of people teased me for being a Britney fan in the past, and some still tried to teas me nowadays. As you can imagine, I care about it just as much as I care about what Kim Kardashian ate for lunch today: a big, fat zero.
People think it is absolutely odd for a metalhead, who is all Slayer and horns up, to listen to such a cheesy popstar. The fact that I (predominantly) listen to Heavy Metal doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate anything else, I mean, I grew up being Madonna fan, and maybe one day I’ll tell the funny tale of that time I went to see her gig alone lying to my mum, but for some reason people are not that bothered about me being Madge’s fan as about me adoring Britney.
I have never bothered to explain the reasons why I am such a fan to these people, mainly because:
a) I knew the people having fun at me were not really interested in hearing them anyway, they just wanted more stuff to laugh at my expenses (like I give a single fuck about it), and
b) because, fundamentally, I couldn’t have been remotely arsed to waste my time and energy to do it, and since it involves my mental health too, the less thing I shared the better.

I did a post on Facebook once about it, but I have been stupid enough to cancel it because it was very personal, and I didn’t want my ex to see it (yeah, call me Queen Dumb, I deserve it). I’ll try to re-explain it here, and I promise this time I won’t remove it.

I hated Britney Spears.

43159It took me a split second to hate her, as soon as I caught a glimpse of her on tv. She was a fabricated cute little girl vomited out of that Disney club where everyone seemed to be pushed out to make money: Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera… you name it.
When she came out with “Baby one more time” I was already a metal head, and she was the personification of everything I hated in a girl: pretty blonde hair, pretty body, dumb acting like a teenager, silly girlie face and behaviour, that horrid baby voice, the hideous clothes, the even more hideous dance moves…
Shivers down my spine.
She was indeed beautiful, a classic case of “all the girls want to be like her and all the boys want to be with her”. Everywhere you went, every time you turned MTv on, she was there, with her stupid bimbo songs about stupid bimbo stuff. Jeez she made me want to pull my hair and rip my ears! She became big like very few pop stars did, she sang with Michael Jackson (think whatever you want about him, but he was the King of Pop ok?), she did a song with Madonna (!!!) and who can’t forget her performance at the MTv VMAs 2001, with a massive snake on her shoulder? Or the one with Madonna and Christina Aguilera? I watched all of them in a sort of shock horror (for the record, “I’m a Slave for You” it is not one of my favourite songs still today).
I kept disliking her for years, who cares about that American, ex-Disney stupid girl anyway right? She is nothing like the Real Queen of Pop Madonna, I don’t care.

However, the picture-perfect image of this lovely cute girl suddenly started to break. She became like a wild beast in a cage, trying to get out of a very gold prison she wasn’t happy to be locked in anymore… and one day she just lost her shit. Royally. Like a supernova explosion, she literally exploded in a massive, full blown mentally insane fit: she shaved her beautiful, gold blonde hair, she beat the shit out of a paparazzi car with an umbrella, she was completely, completely insane. Her eyes when she shaved her head where those of someone who’s not right in their head and that cannot be stopped unless sedated. Everyone who was there with her was either trying to get a picture of her or trying to upset her even more to make her go even crazier. I felt sick in the stomach.

I remember watching the footages (the “perks” of being a celebrity is that all your ups and downs get ruthlessly broadcasted on and on and on….) and I just felt… sorry.
I was so sorry for her.
I wanted to hug her, to hug her like I would have hug my best friend in a similar fit of rage, and just cry with her.

For once, I felt even luckier than her: very few people witnessed me losing my shit, having panic attacks, and ending up in a very horrible meltdown, or not making it on time to get to the toilet during one of my anxiety attacks and… well…  etc. etc. Everything people know about my problems is what I decide to share. It is up to me what I want to make people aware of, I have full control of it. When I cut my long hair very, very short, not too far from Britney’s shaved head, because I hated myself and I wanted to rip off the only thing I liked about me, I didn’t have an army of people outside, taking billions of pictures of me and laughing at my expenses. It was just me and a stupid hair stylist, who should have spent a bit more time talking with me and maybe, just maybe, convince me to gradually shorten my hair, rather than chopping all my locks in one go then grabbing the razor like he had been waiting for that moment all his life. It took me 6 years to set foot in another hair saloon, such traumatic was that experience. Still, no one waited for me outside to laugh at me and my almost bald head. Thankfully. I would have killed myself there and then, and I mean what I’m saying (I was that fragile).

Britney? Not so much. Every single detail fed tabloid for months, and years. Her pictures, the measures that her family had to take in order to keep her alive and (medically) cared for, the custody of her kids gone to that work-shy sleazebag of her ex-husband, everything. It still haunts her today, 11 years later. Everything she does, good or bad, she will always be “the one who went mental” in 2007. All. The. Time. Give it a bloody rest, we got it!!!

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My metal collection and Britney (with her show’s ticket!)

That day, Britney may have lost her marbles, but she gained a fan: me.
I started rooting for her. Every progress she made, I was there cheering for her. When “Blackout” came out, I bought it immediately, and much to my surprise, I loved it to bits. It is still amongst my all-time favourite albums ever, together with Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, Kreator’s “Endorama” and Megadeth’s “Rest in Peace”. If you wonder, my favourite song from “Blackout” is “Break the Ice”. No discussion about it mates.
When she performed “Gimme More” at the VMAs in 2007, not in her best mental and physical shape, I cried all my tears in front of the tv: everybody bitched and trashed her, saying she was a fat cow unable to move and sing. Yes, she wasn’t exactly in the same shape of when she was dancing with that bloody yellow snake years before, ok. However, what I saw was more than what the tv transmitted: I saw a strong woman, performing in the face of all the shit that happened to her, still trying to do her bit in the best way she could. Yes, it was atrocious, but I dare you do the same when your mind is in a blur: best of times, when I’m in my worst states, I can barely tolerate to function, let alone get on a stage and putting up a show. When it was my turn to go to work even though I was suicidal and out of my right mind, that performance kept playing in my head: “if Britney did it in front of a huge crowd, live on tv where millions of people were watching, so can I” I kept repeating myself. Every single minute of every single day.
Still today, every time I have to face something difficult, I channel that thought in my head and off I go.

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That’s my Britney!

I am so happy that not only she recovered, but that she is still a successful performer, has her life back on track, a smoking hot body, her kids back with her and so many good things. Think what you want, I don’t care, she deserves everything she gets.

Why all this blurb about Britney?

Well, on Friday I went to see her live in London, for the very first time in my life.

Yes, I was still recovering from food poisoning, but I was there.

I wore my hair extensions, some very pink and funky makeup (I had to get ready at the office, in the only Friday where everyone was in, so I had the pleasure of doing a walk of shame out of it) and yeah, as you can imagine, I was so agitated and emotional that I felt almost sick.

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Me on the train back home. DEVASTATED.

The gig was…. Well, the only thing I can say is that I cried all my tears. All my emotions, all my suffering, all my mental problems… I felt like it was the beginning of a new era for me. I sang all songs, I danced like crazy, I laughed and had fun with everyone around me, it was just magical. Magical.
I don’t care if she lip-synced all her performance, or if her moves where not super complicated: the whole show was just exceptional, and I had the night of my life.
Before anyone asks: no, I didn’t take any picture of video of the show. I kept my phone in my pocket and just lived the moment as it was unfolding (and I was too busy trying not to lose my fake eyelashes because I was in a flood of tears).
The next day I felt like I suddenly became a 98 years old woman, since part of my body ached (including my hair: fucking hell, hair extensions are heavy!!!). I regretted not having bought tickets to see her even Saturday and Sunday, but hey, I’m sure it won’t be her last tour and who knows what the future holds for both of us?

SICK SICK SICK

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Me at work in between sick moments. I looked like shit and I felt just as shit

I’m on the mend after 48 hours of being severely sick. I’m sitting here at home, with a cup of tea (sadly, with my stomach being so upset, I don’t think I’m ready for coffee just yet), trying to relax and feel a bit better. As long as food stays down I’ll be quite happy, though my stomach and I have definitely seen better days than these. I hate feeling sick.
I hate when my days have to stop because of whatever is going on in my body (or head). I hate when I am forced on having “grounded at home” days, and I cannot go to work, to the gym, or even just outside for a walk. Even trying to distract myself watching tv is almost impossible.

I said it previously that I’m a workaholic. Work has been, for a very long time, the only thing that made me feel great about myself. In my darkest days, working has been a life-saviour, and if my brain is still working and functioning, it is because work gave me lots of things to do, to think, to process, allowing myself a good break from whatever demon I was fighting. It still does it today, to an extent.

I used to dread the thought of the weekend. Whereas now Fridays are my “yeeeeeaaaah” days, back then they were a nightmare of epic proportions: what do I do now, alone with my mental illness?

You know what I never understood? How people can be very sympathetic with you, very understanding and caring, if you say something like “oh, I am so low right now, I have the flu and I’m feeling miserable”, but dare and say “my head is not right at the moment, I’m in a very bad moment and I can barely contemplate the thought of getting out of bed” and brace yourself for a barrage of very weird reactions.

No, fresh air won’t help me feel better. Maybe it would, but maybe I can’t bear the thought of going outside my house alone. Why don’t you offer to stay with me and play by ear to decide what to do together, if you really want to be helpful.
Yes, a nice bath and a cup of tea may be a good idea, but these are not antidepressant. If I’m on a panic, anxiety induced attack, I would be too scared to have one in case I die: I had to jump out of a lot of the loveliest, luxurious bath I made for myself because I felt slightly uneasy, I got scared of fainting inside and die for drowning in it…
Why don’t I go out and see some friends? Which friends? Maybe it shouldn’t be me asking friends out but the other way round? Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, I’m embarrassed at my condition and I don’t want anyone to see me like this? Or, worse, that I don’t want to see people who would only see me for the illness I bear and go “aaaahhh poor youuuu” because I already feel sorry for myself enough?

Fair enough, dealing with someone with mental illness is not easy. I understand full well that we can be extremely moody, even unpleasant at times. We can seem to be egoistical, to “think only about ourselves” and to not take into consideration other people’s feelings. I know because I’ve been dealing with my mum, suffering with extreme anxiety and depression for half of my life and believe me, at times I really hated her behaviour (I still do), even though I know is the illness talking and not her. Imagine the fun when the both of us have been suffering!

Please understand this: we are not mean, we are not insensitive, we are ill.

mentalThe worst thing I have been told is “come on, life is beautiful, just snap out of this bad mood and enjoy it!”. News flash: someone who is suffering from mental illness can’t just snap out of it: they are not “just a bit sad”; they are not “a bit tired” or going through “a bit of a rough moment”. If it was that easy to “just get over it”, rest assured that anyone would: no one suffering with mental illness, myself included, would rather keep suffering for the sake of playing the poor victim of a very cruel life. We would love to be able to just “have a very good night sleep”, wake up refreshed and leave our issues behind us, like they were part of a very bad nightmare.

I know that mental illness has been (and still is) a taboo that people don’t want to talk about. There is some awareness, but still a lot of misconceptions and ignorance around it. When I say that I managed to work full time, with a baby and a house to run even though I was depressed and suicidal, people look at me like I was an alien fallen from space. Not everyone who is suffering will stay locked inside their house, hiding under the blankets in their beds. Most of us manage to live a kind of normal life. I knew of colleagues who were very depressed and still, the routine of coming at work at 9am and leaving at 5pm gave them something to hold on, a reason to wake up every morning and fight for another day.
Mind you, some of us have to do it anyway, like it or not, if we want to pay bills and put food on our tables. To me, work has been a holiday from my thoughts. Even though I had to deal with panic attacks and constant anxiety, it was better than being at home and have only my thoughts to deal with.

When my nightmare finally arrived at some sort of an end, I became super workaholic, enthusiast, excited, you name it: I just wanted to savour every moment, to treasure every second. Even though it took other 3 years to be better, and therapy to guide me into a stable, clear, and positive self, this attitude at work (and life) didn’t stop. That is why, on days like this, where I’m forced to stay in bed and do almost nothing, I feel like an animal trapped in a cage. Of course, I’m happy that I’m just vomiting because of a stomach bug and not suicidal because my brain is in deep trouble, but still.

Oh well, my rant is over, let me rest a little bit more now, fingers crossed tomorrow I will feel better!

CRIPPLING ANXIETY IS MY CARDIO

I suffer with anxiety.
Well, I always suffered with anxiety.
udo4I think it is fair to say that anxiety has been my loyal, faithful partner for as long as I can remember. The only partner I wished would have cheated on me and leave me for good! But nope, not a chance in hell…!
Anxiety has affected the vast majority of aspects of my life, and even now that I’m therapy and I am more equipped to fight it, I still feel the stomach turning, the bowels moving, the breathing getting heavier and that frigging feeling of an anvil suddenly pressing my chest and making me gasp for air.

People think anxiety is just in your brain. Yeah right, maybe when it is mild.
When it’s crippling, and severe, and ruling your own life, you’ll soon see the nasty, physical effects of it: feeling sick like you are about to vomit; having to keep track of every toilet, everywhere you go because you know your bowels won’t wait for you to talk yourself out of your sudden attack; feeling like your blood pression is suddenly going down and that you’ll soon faint; your face getting covered in spots as soon as your stress level hits the fan…. No, nothing pretty indeed. I wish there was a mental illness who made you look red carpet ready….

Anxiety has been my worst enemy at times, especially when it stopped me fromudo5 experiencing things, participating into various activities etc.. How many times have I avoided the gym because I was too anxious to faint? How many Sundays have I spent dreading going back to work on Monday? How many times I have avoided meeting friends because I was too anxious to feel sick after eating?
To be fair though, it also saved me from a lot of stupid stuff: I have never ever dared to entertain the idea of trying drugs because of my anxiety, but at the same time, whenever a doctor puts a medicine in front of me, I struggle to convince myself to take it (as we speak, I’ve been six years taking only paracetamol such is the anxiety about everything else).

udo6I don’t want to write a sad, commiserating post about anxiety though. No no no, I’m not in the mood, and one of my best features is the fact that I’m an amazing clown and I can laught about anything regarding myself… and don’t they say that laughter is the best medicine? Well, I would like you to join me in some of my most hilarious anxiety episodes. Come on, anxiety can make you do rather crazy stuff at times, it is only fair that we use them for a more positive aim!

Episode 1 – the dreaded dentist

I was… I think…. 20 years old. I know I was older than 18 because I was driving my own car. Anyway, I used to have a phobia of the dentist. When I was a kid, dentists in Italy (or, at least, then ones I saw) were more like butchers than teeth’s angels. I know for a fact that more than one person has been traumatised like me and had to endure a life of crippling anxiety whenever they had to have their teeth fixed.
I have avoided the dentist like the plague since my teens. I have been so scared and traumatised that I preferred to keep my wonky teeth rather than having anyone sticking their hands in my mouth. Unfortunately for me, a single, annoying as fuck wisdom tooth decided to pop in my mouth, and I had to resign myself to the fact that I had to have it removed.
A friend of my mum told her that she had a great experience at a hospital nearby where I lived. With a feeling of doom and gloom, I decided to face the situation and book an appointment.
Worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety? Waiting rooms. You are there, on your own, in these kind of ok rooms, and you feel like an animal trapped in a cage waiting for your turn at the slaughterhouse. The more you wait, the more anxiety builds in you. If you have the nurse popping in and out calling a name that is not yours, it feels like you just barely dodged a bullet. So, there I was, trying to not vomit, faint or die of heart attack. My legs were restless. I felt like I was sitting on a hot surface. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t think straight, I could barely, just barely keep a straight face and not cry.
The nurse called my name, and I kid you not, my legs became the consistency of jelly. I walked towards the dentist room like “dead man walking”. The dentist was quite nice, I must admit, but I couldn’t listen to anything he was saying: I was in panic mode. I sat on the dentist chair and I felt trapped. I started to sweat like all the water in my body suddenly wanted to get out.

I had to do something.

I had to get out of that room.

As soon as the dentist grabbed his mirror to check my mouth, I begged to go to the toilet.
The dentist tried to talk me out of it, but I begged him – my bowels were having none of it, you know, anxiety. The nurse, a bit annoyed, showed me where the closest toilets where located.
With the chilliest, calmest attitude, I thanked them, left the room…. And I felt my legs moving way faster than what I wanted them to move.
And not heading towards the toilet either.
I was running, running like my life depended on it, running like Ussain Bolt trying to smash his Guinness World Record. I’m telling you, I ran like the wind and some more. To this day, I never managed to replicate that awesome performance – I would have been recruited at the following Olympic Games for sure!
I sat on my car, turned my phone off and I drove away as quickly as I could, in case they chased me.
At the time I was crying hysterically, now that I think of it I just can’t stop laughing: gosh, imagine the dentist and the nurse… I am still embarrassed to this day… a bit… (but I’m laughing hard).

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My room at the hospital – after surgery, I found a massive bowl of ice cream. They can remove all my teeth!

I’m happy to say that this year I decided to do something about this phobia: I swear, I googled “dentist for very anxious patients” and I discovered that, at least in the UK, there are dentists specifically trained to deal with patients suffering from severe anxiety. Not only I managed to fix my cavities (yey!), but…. Yeah, I got my wisdom tooth removed! Ok, I had to be highly sedated, but still, I didn’t run away and the day of my surgery I showed up and went ahead with the operation.

 

Oh, and for the record: I even warned my (new) dentist saying “I have a tendency to run away from hospitals”. His answer: “I won’t stop you, but just so you know, taking that tooth out will be a 2 minutes job, and then you’ll be back in your room where a massive bowl of ice cream will be waiting for you”. Fair play to you dentist, you smarty pants!

I felt so proud of myself!! Next step? Straightening my teeth!

Episode 2: meet your hero

In one of my previous blog posts I talked about my absolute, crazy love for heavy metal. Every single time I thought I was helpless and alone, music has been right next to me, giving me last final push to do amazing things I never thought I’d be able to achieve.

This happened two and a half years ago. The worst and most horrendous part of my post-natal depression was finally behind my back. Mind you, I was not doing great, but I wasn’t suicidal either. I was doing ok and I was relieved to be able to live a rather normal life. My ex-husband and I, at that point, were married just on paper: he didn’t stick with me (and he even made things worse for me) when things got rough with my mental health, and now that things were improving and I was re-discovering who I was and how I functioned, it was me who didn’t want to stick with him anymore. To me, overcoming my mental ordeal alone and using only my willpower was the Ultimate Proof of my Strength and Fierce Independence. He proved to be a narcissist attention seeker, and I was not in the mood to feed any of his martyrdom needs.

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My VIP hoodie!

Anyway, I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed one day and BANG! Great news: one of my favourite singers ever, Mr Udo Dirkschneider, was announcing the ultimate tour of my secret dreams: with his band U.D.O. he would have played all the best and most famous Accept songs. Oh my gosh I grew up listening to Accept, and Udo has always been one of my German heavy metal heroes. Was I going to miss this event? No fucking way in hell.
Without even thinking too much I bought my ticket and my VIP upgrade so that I could meet my hero. I was geared up, I was excited, I was already singing and savouring the moment. I remember it clearly because it was around my birthday in January, and the gig would have been in April. I told my ex-husband what I did, and he said “oh, so you are going alone?”, expecting me to say “do you want to come with me?”.
I just answered “yes I am”.

 

And then I realised.

I was going to go alone.

Like, alone.

Anxiety hit me like a tsunami. A barrage of negative thoughts filled my head: what if I have a panic attack? What if I have more than one panic attack? What if I freak out and I’m in the middle of the room, full of crazy, headbanging metalheads? What if I faint? What if my anxiety gets so much that I can’t even come back home? What if, at night, I get stuck on a train back home and I am in such an anxiety state that I forget English and I can’t ask for help? The list goes on and on and on. I tried to calm down: I still had few months to go before the actual gig, and anyway, its’ not like I’d be held at gunpoint forcing me to go if I decided to not go last minute, right?

Time went by and April arrived. I had that gig in my calendar and it felt more and more like a death sentence the closer it got. Then, the day arrived. I spent a day at the office totally restless. I think I’ve annoyed the shit out of everyone that day. I begged everyone to give me an excuse not to go (do you want me to finish this work? To do anything at all? How about we have a meeting at 6pm….) but… there were none.
Ok, what do I do now?
I decided to take the evening one step at the time.
First, I decided to get there and see how I felt. The tube journey was ok, I mean, nothing different from what I do every single day, twice a day.
Next step, queuing up at the venue’s entrance. Having a VIP ticket meant I had to get there earlier than everyone else, so the place was basically empty. That helped a lot, since it took away the “oh my gosh, all these people and I’m in the middle” anxiety bit. Having said that, someone with anxiety doesn’t really cope well with waiting, and I surely wasn’t happy. I started walking around, increasingly more nervous as time went by. I could feel my stomach twisting and turning. I was about to say “fuck it, I’m going home” when I heard the guy managing the VIP list gathering people for the Meet and Greet.

Deep breath, ok. At least I can meet Udo.

I got into the venue and my heart was racing. I could feel it beating in my head.

We had to go two floors down, and the more steps down the stairs I took, the more my legs became wobbly: I thought I would have ended up fainting, falling down, breaking my head and dying there and then. Without meeting Udo! For fuck sake!

I managed to get there intact. And after few minutes…. Udo came from backstage. I udo1started crying like a baby.
He has been super sweet and kept hugging me till I managed to compose myself. I was over the moon! I kept shaking like electricy was running up and down my body. When we took a picture together, I couldn’t stand still. Udo laughed and said (with a very german accent) “no, stop shaking, we need to take beautiful picture now. And if the first is not beautiful enough, we take another one ok? No panic”. Sweet! He made my day (of course I hugged him again, and again).
When the Meet and Greet ended though, it was time to face the gig alone.

I went back upstairs, and I decided to stay on the side of the stage, avoiding the crowd. The supporting bands did their shows, and everything was ok. Then, U.D.O. time came… as soon as the first song started, I started singing and jumping. By the third, I was in the middle of the crowd. Mid-set, and I was front row singing my heart out. My brain just shut down and filled itself with music. It was the best feeling ever. I cried, I sang, I headbanged, I laughed, I was in heaven.
svenI even waited outside to meet the whole band, and I can’t thank Sven Dirkschneider enough for being a truly amazing guy. It was dark, it was cold (as fuck), I was the only female human being out there, but he spent few minutes with me and made sure I was ok and happy. Sven, if you ever read this, I have never forgotten how kind you have been with me, and I owe you!