THE POWER OF GOODBYE (TO MY OLD CLOTHES)

It all started a month or so ago, when I wore one of my favourite pair of jeans and I noticed they didn’t quite fit anymore. They were not exactly big, but they definitely required a belt to make sure they stayed put. It didn’t take long before everything not only became “slightly too comfortable” but “ffs this is at least a size bigger than what I am”. It ended up being quite the cathartic experience: I decided to go through all my clothes and set aside anything that I don’t like anymore or, better, that doesn’t fit anymore, and after couple of hours trying to wear the next pair of jeans that became too big to be worn, I realised I ended up with only two pair of trousers and three jumpers that I purchased in the last few weeks. Everything else, and I mean my whole wardrobe (which ok, it wasn’t massive, but still…) is now for sale on my eBay page (who knows, maybe I can save some money for my boob job?).
Even though my weight is finally back on track and growing (thank you muscles, I love you!) I’m in fact two sizes down compared to three months ago, and my old clothes make me look like a total clown.
Not only that, if you want to know the truth: size aside, I don’t feel them anymore. They belong to my old me, and that person is someone I can’t relate to anymore. These clothes remind me of things I don’t really want to remember, they make me feel things I don’t want to feel anymore, I just hate the whole lot. Still, when I had to pile them up on one side, it felt a bit bittersweet: I was (physically) saying goodbye to my old self. Part of me wanted to hold on to some of this stranger self, but the new self though “what’s the point?” I worked too hard, I’m still working hard, that’s not me anymore, let it go”. Now I need to buy everything. I mean everything, from underwear to trousers and tops.

It is so strange looking at my past, even the recent one, and not recognising the person I was. I can’t relate to that woman anymore. I sometimes talk to her, trying to understand why I was who I was, why I didn’t do the things I’m doing sooner, what the hell was I thinking when I was thinking those things, but you know what? it all served a purpose in the end: I needed to go through all of that to then finally decide to change.

I’m trying to use this chance as a way to figure out what this new me can wear. Before I met my ex-husband, I was living in Milan and, like a proper Milanese, I loved fashion and I had very lovely clothes. He made me chuck away everything because he was jealous, and he made me feel like a whore ready to jump on every man’s lap the very few times I tried to wear a nice dress. I had a collection of stilettos that I loved, and those went too because he was too embarrassed of me being taller than him – to him, it was offensive, and disrespectful. I will never forget when he ruined my birthday, the first spent together: I went back to Milan to celebrate it with all my friends. Before going to the party (a dinner at a pub, for the record), I decided to wear a very plain and simple pink & black dress. Seriously, I bought it in a charity shop, it wasn’t anything special, I mean, I was going to a pub, not to a catwalk, right? He had a massive hissy fit, because I didn’t warn him I would wear a dress well in advance so he could have prepared psychologically, then complained that I was dressed like a hot hoe (?) and he was looking scruffy and dumb, it was definitely a plan I made up to ensure I’d embarrass him in front of my friends (who were just happy to meet him, they couldn’t have given a remote shit of what he was wearing and some of them he knew them already because they were his friends too)… In the end, I convinced myself that he was right, I put a metal band shirt and pair of trousers on and, in no mood to celebrate, I went to my party. He sulked all.night.long because of course, now I was dressing like shit and of course, I did it to make him feel guilty, not because I wanted him to stop fucking moaning. I hated that night. Every single minute. He didn’t utter a word, he looked pissed off from a mile, and instead of enjoying my friends I spent an evening making excuses for him. What a fucking idiot I have been. So yes, when we came back to the UK, I basically chucked everything away and made sure my wardrobe was full of tracksuit, black clothes, and stuff like that. It changed once I got rid of him, but not too much. Yes I dared some bodycon dresses, but still, having spent a lifetime considering myself ugly and unworthy of wearing nice things, it’s not like I had this wow stuff that I’m now desperate to keep.

So, I now would love to go back to my Milano years, only this time I know for a fact that I have the body to pull those clothes off. Going to the shops it is a weird experience: I always begin by heading towards clothes that are within my “comfort zone”, but then I force myself to try something new, and when I find something that seems interesting enough, I grab three or four different sizes because I seriously don’t know what is the one that is right for me. I even recruited two of my friends/colleagues to have a trip to the shops with me and make me try what they think I might look good in: I trust them dearly, so I’m sure it would be a very fun experience.

gym2Somehow, this process must have triggered something in me because I have never been more driven than now. This week I went to the gym every.single.day. I didn’t feel tired, I didn’t moan, I didn’t think “maybe I’ll skip it…”. Every day, whether rain or fine, happy or sad, I have been there completely in the zone, focussed and determined like I have never been before. I feel absolutely great. I feel like I could lift the whole world and not even sweat a bit. I even told my Personal Trainer that on Tuesday, after we close one of the two programs I’m on (finally, cause I bloody hate that with all my heart and soul), she better prepare me a total killer for the next one: I want something that will push me physically and mentally, I want to feel so much pain that I need to fear I ripped my glutes for good. I want something that will make me want to go to the gym every day to nail it and not feel like I need to urgently purchase a wheelchair. She smiled big time, and by the few bits she let slip, I know I’m in for a very lovely treat.

I am so committed and loving it that, when a friend showed me a video of a very (ok extremely) hot bodybuilder, my first thought has been “fuck it, I want to train and lift big like him”. All my colleagues who saw me training have been quite shocked and surprised. One of the mangers told me she never saw me so dedicated. I know, my dear, that’s because I’ve never been dedicated! The best bit? Looking at myself in the mirror, seeing how I’m shaping up and feeling so proud of myself. I have never, ever, EVER felt proud of myself. Not even on my graduation day. Not even when the CEO of my company thanked me for my work on a worldwide company townhall. Yet, I now feel I’m doing great. My mood is great, my body is becoming great (I can hear my psychotherapist in my mind saying “why just becoming?” and well, that’s because I can see where I am going and I’m not there yet, but I will), I’m on a roll here and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon.

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not really appealing, no…

I even managed to beat a panic attack! Ok, it is marginally my merit and all credits go to my colleague Elena who, unknowingly, helped me big time. So, because I’m going big with my training, I’m going big with my nutrition, my protein intake, and supplements to help recovery etc. I had a sample of amino to try and I decide to give it a go – that is, before I actually poured it into my water bottle and I came face to face with this very Chelsea FC blue liquid… I tasted it, it was just… no. NO. I was ready to pour it down the sink, no way Jose I’m drinking that, when Elena came round, had a taste, said “oh, it tastes like medicine! Come on, let’s drink it”, poured a glass for her and one for me and chucked one down like nothing ever happened. My jaw dropped. My brain went into “bitch, the challenge is on, if she did it, you do it too”. Well, we managed to drink the whole lot. I kept my panic attack at bay, and I think those amino worked a treat for my muscles too because I didn’t feel remotely sore. Friday I did the same, only this time it was a special whey powder. I chucked it down like if it was water, and whatever stupid thing my brain was trying to tell me, I kept it as far away as I could because hey, if my muscles need this shit, my muscles will get it.

gym1Today I’m resting as much as I can. My week has been a crazy rollercoaster and who knows what is going to happen tomorrow. One thing is for sure: not matter what, I’ll be at the gym lifting, you can bet on it!

 

CAN YOU FEEL THE PANIC IN YOU?

Will it break you?
Paranoia coming from within, taking over
Symptoms of an everlasting phobia
Kreator – Phobia
(This is absolutely one of my favourite Kreator songs and my favourite songs in general. Ohhh I can’t wait for Kreator’s gig in December!)

All my “magic circle” of close friends and colleagues know I am totally bonkers. I like to do crazy things. Wherever there is something potentially embarrassingly funny, or if there is a chance to do things crazily, you can rest assured I will take that damned chance and make it spectacularly hilarious: at times, I think I would have been a very talented stand-up comedian with all my crazy adventures. I must admit, I would love the chance to be on stage to tell my stories, and maybe who knows? One day it will happen. Joan Rivers, I salute you, and wherever you are, keep an eye on me!

Last week has been crazily busy as I said in my previous post, and yet I managed to squeeze in a moment of pure hilarity – best of all, in order to do that, I had to face one of my biggest fears in the world: the fear of chemicals.

Background story: I used to dye my hair blonde back in the day. I loved being blonde. I don’t know why I loved it so much, but I just felt it suited me a lot. Now I look back at my pictures and I think “what the hell was I thinking” but hey, I firmly believe that you should experiment with your looks in your teenage years so that, when you grow up, you know what kind of horror stuff you should avoid like the plague. I started dyeing my hair when I was around 14 years old, and I kept doing it for a very long time. I had various colours done, some that I’m proud of, some that I’ve buried evidence of. When I moved here to London, I kept my blonde ambition up and running.
Then, something changed when I got pregnant. With my doctor’s blessing, I fixed my very horrible hair when I was around five months or so at the local hair salon. When I reached the almost eight months’ deadline though, I was too big, too lazy, too fat and I did the worst thing ever: I bought hair dye from the shop (before any “fat shaming” critic comes in: last time I dared weighting myself when pregnant I discovered that I gained something in the region of 40+ kg, not surprisingly since I spent six months eating almost constantly…. Oh, for the record, my son was 2.6kg so when I say it was all fat, it was REALLY ALL FAT. No sugar coating that pill).
As soon as I put the dye on my head, I felt a horrible, burning sensation. Then, I felt like suffocating. I was itchy, I couldn’t breathe properly, I was scared as hell. I called an ambulance whilst I kept washing my hair to get rid of the dye, hoping not to kill my son and myself with an anaphylactic shock. It was proper scary.
This was the beginning of a hell that is not yet over for me as we speak. At the hospital, they dumped me in a room and treated me like a stupid idiot doing stupid stuff out of vanity. Instead of checking on me, of investigating my allergic reaction, they literally let me fend for myself alone, without touching me or talking to me, like I was just a nuisance. Years later, when I saw an allergy consultant and I’ve explained what happened, I discovered that, amongst other things, I experienced a very powerful asthma attack, and that in no way I should have been left alone to “let it pass” by itself. Hey-ho.
Post-Natal depression hell, and I developed a proper phobia for anything that I had to ingest, rub on my skin, touch, or inhale. I barely ate, I had panic attacks every minute… I told the story millions of times already. It’s funny though: on one side, I didn’t want to die (not for an anaphylactic shock, I had it in the past with a medicine I took and believe me, it is a horrible thing); but at the same time, all these panic attacks, depression, anxiety, paranoia, all that jazz made me wish that I indeed dropped dead to finally find some peace.
It took aaaaaages before I could live a “normal” life again. I had to fight tooth and nail to see an allergy consultant and get some answers. Still, to this day, you wouldn’t see me dead near a hair dye; every product I use, whether it is soap or moisturiser, makes me anxious by default; if I have to take medicines other than paracetamol, I really have to talk myself into taking them and then keep talking me out of the guaranteed panic attack that will happen as soon as I swallow the medicine. When I had surgery, and they had to put me to sleep, I had few meltdowns with the anaesthetists: thankfully I found some very reassuring, big hearted and caring ones who took time to explain everything, even to the point where they said “should we notice that what we are injecting is not agreeing with you, you are in our safe hands, don’t worry, we know how to handle that situation and we will spot it in these monitors before anything major can happen” (gosh, writing this is making me feel so emotional). When my beautician did some peelings and facials on me, oh my… my heart was beating so fast that I felt like it would have zoomed out of my chest; when she gave me some vitamin A supplements, boy oh boy, the first tablet I took almost made me have a heart attack so much I was panicking (I’m looking at the box of supplements right now thinking “oh the joy”).

So, back to this week, since I’m working hard as hell on my Jennifer Lopez body (which is officially my obsession), and since I can’t at the moment purchase a pair of boobs to complement my look (my finances are shock horror thanks to my lovely boiler…), I decided to at least treat myself with the JLO glow: oh yeah, I went and booked myself to receive a spray tan, against all of my mental odds.

I’m whiter than white, I never ever tan, I hated when my mum (tanorexic to the core) made me tan (and burn, because it happened all the time, and if I ever have skin cancer I know who to thank for that) so as soon as I was able to do my own thing, I made sure to cover myself with the highest SPF factor stuff and hide in the shade. You rarely see me out with no hat on and no sunscreen. Spray tan means all the colour with nothing of the sun damage, and this was a chance to have proper good fun.
Come on, Jennifer Lopez ain’t exactly with a Swedish-white kind of skin like mine!

At the beginning, I thought “I’m just going to pop to my local store and buy some self-tanning stuff. I’m sure I can do this in the comfort of my own house…”. Reality hit me when I stared at all these products in the store’s aisle, and I remembered about my hair dye experience. How about no self-stupid stuff? Let’s ask a professional to do that – it may cost more, but if anything happens I’m not alone, I limit the chances of turning up orange and my house won’t end up a massive tanned mess. I went to a tanning salon in town, I booked myself in for the weekend and that was it. Then, on Thursday, after I finished all my meetings early, I had an idea: how about I call the same salon and ask whether they have anything available on the day? That will spare myself the pain of having my son with me being bored whilst sitting in a corner and a potential “nope, not doing it” reaction out of the panic building up till the appointment. To my surprise, as the place is generally fully booked, they said they had an appointment conveniently available for me to take.
I took it, happy as ever: lucky me!
Then, whilst going there, anxiety kicked in. I felt my panic attack starting to creep in. Fucking hell, what the heck have I done? Why do I want to do this to myself? WHY?
Nevertheless, I went there: I’m not allowing myself to stop myself from doing this, not this time. I said I want it, I’ll get it, it seems a safe thing, nothing will happen.

The lady at the salon was very funny. I explained to her that it was a first for me, that I was absolutely clueless on the whole thing and very anxious about it. She asked me whether I had any allergies and I mentioned the hair dye: she looked at me and said “oh, me too, and I can assure you I never had a single problem with the tan, besides, this is organic and way less chemical than most spray tans out there, but if you are still anxious, we can spray a foot, see how it feels and then move on”. As soon as the “I’m allergic too” sentence sinked in my brain, I felt very reassured and I instinctively trusted her: I felt like a sign of the universe saying “see? She does it anyway so should you!”.
So there I was, naked apart for a pair of disposable thong. She talked me into the process and then asked “light, medium or dark?”. I looked totally puzzled, but I said “well, maybe not dark….”. She looked at my skin and said “yeah but not light either, come on, you are a proper brunette, get some colour in, especially as it is your first time”. If you say so….!
So yeah, she proceeded in spraying the hell of out me. For the record, spray tan it is fucking freezing cold. Maybe relaxing in hot summer, but when the weather is less clement, it is a big no for me!

Once the spraying was finished, and I looked VERY BROWN in the mirror, I could feel the panic attack just one moment away from striking. I paid at the speed of light and I got out of the shop trying to calm myself down. I told myself “well, ok, if I am supposed to have an allergic reaction, I would have one right now. Nothing is happening, not even a single itch. I’m breathing fine, I’m functioning fine, let’s try to stop this chain of thoughts”. I went to the supermarket, I bought some groceries, then I walked my way back home trying to distract myself from the impending doom in my head. It was a war that I was not willing to lose without a fight. I spent a very good chunk of my evening / night constantly fighting against myself, but no way Jose, I’m not surrendering. You just watch me.

FF6B104C-DBDB-4505-AFF0-F98FB4FACB82
Yours truly looking very tanned

The next day I had a very nice shower, all the extra-brownness went down the drains and there I was, very brown as if I came back after a month spent surfing in Australia, moisturising, and grinning at my very hilariously looking self. It felt like a victory. Mind over…. Mind?
My anxiety levels stayed on a high almost all day yesterday, and only in the evening I managed to not be that concerned, but still, I managed to get on with my life and live (almost) normally.

To be honest with you, I’m so fed up of this phobia. I’m absolutely DONE with this anxiety, with the panic attacks, with not being able to enjoy anything without that voice in my head trying to scare the living hell out of me. I’m done. I want to be normal. I want to be able to put hairspray on my hair without having to deal with the “oh my I feel like I will die” chain of thoughts. I want to just take some bloody over the counter medicines if I have to, without running around my house in a panic induced attack, crying my eyes out. I want my head to process normal things as they should, not as an impending threat on my wellbeing.

Enough!

The music has changed, I want to be able to face my fears and then act anyway, rather than succumb and give up.

I don’t want to be my head’s victim anymore.

YOU WANT A HOT BODY? YOU BETTER WORK B!TCH!

I have never thought I’d be admitting the stuff I’m about to write, but yes: hitting the gym is having a dramatic, positive effect on my mental health, and my improved and positive mental health is dramatically improving my performances at the gym. This, coming from a world-famous couch potato, is quite remarkable. Being in a positive circle of awesomeness is something very new to me, and I’m enjoying it to the fullest as we speak.

Bit of a background to the statement above: yesterday I had my usual session with my personal trainer. I asked her to hit me with some new stuff, to push me more, to bring the game to the next level. Of course, she did comply with my request, and she created on her feet “the brutal program from hell”. We tailored it here and there during the session, increasing weights and difficulty whenever I was not feeling it, and once the session was over, she complimented me saying “it is nice to train you, because I can really push you and you just take it on board and do it. I can see you want it badly and you are on the road to get it”. Of course, I was very flattered and happy, but most importantly, I was extremely satisfied with myself and this incredible determination that I have found in this journey.

See, I used to be the one who leaves when the game gets tough. At the first difficulty, the first criticism, the first sore muscle, you name it, in any aspect of my life, I’d be either leaving or sulking in a corner thinking “I’m so dumb / stupid / weak / ugly etc… I can’t face / do this”. I never wanted things “so badly” that I was ready to put up with anything in order to get them, aside from getting out of my mental hell. In anything that I got into, sooner or later I reached the point where I would have raised my hands, surrendered and come up with an excuse to leave without looking too stupid. I blame my low self-esteem on this, but also this horrible attitude that people around me had, who thought that by putting me down with stuff like “see? You’ll surrender anyway” I would have done anything to prove them wrong: actually, if anything, I used their remarks to feed my negative narrative. That was exactly what pitiful, weak, self-hating me wanted to hear.

One of the big mental shift I decided to make is the “not surrendering” one. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’d be stupidly keep going doing stuff that’s pretty pointless and leading to nowhere, but once I rationally assess the situation, the potential output and the journey to get to the final goal, there is no backing down unless it proves to be truly impossible (and still, there may be room to lower the bar and keep going anyway).

My gym body is something I decided I WILL have, no matter what.

When I hired my Personal Trainer, I regretted it the moment she fired a calendar invite in my diary. When she asked me to make it a recurrent appointment, I felt trapped like an animal about to be locked in a cage for the rest of his days.
I struggled to believe in me.
To believe that I could have done it.
Then I got fired up in a “I do this as a revenge” against my ex-boyfriend.
Few psychotherapy sessions under my belt, and my mind shifted from all of this to “I want it. I do it. This is for MYSELF”.
Guess what? My training session went from “an hour of moaning and tortures” to “let’s see how hard you can push me this time”. And guess what? Results went from “tiny bit” to “do I really have ALL these muscles?”.

Yes, yes, yes, this may well be endorphins fired up in my body who are making my brain drunk on happiness, and mind you, more than one people told me (including my ex, who was shocked to the core at the changes that I’ve made) that I seem to be on a constant high so happy and positive I look.

Thanks to my personal trainer I have learned to “feel” what I do in the correct muscles, and I don’t just “do” things to get them done. My sessions are now a mix of physical and mental work: I get “in the zone” and I focus exactly on pushing what I have. If I don’t feel it, or I feel it in the wrong areas, I’m either doing it wrongly, with too much weights or with not enough weights. Incidentally, all this work is improving also my (so, so dreaded) physiotherapy sessions, because when my tortur… ehm… physiotherapist makes me move in a certain way, or tells me what I should or shouldn’t feel, I really know what she means (and so far my shoulder is in a happy place).

I am so determined to make it with my training that I even decided to stick to a proper, muscle-feeding diet. Yes sir, for the first time ever in my entire life I am actually sticking to a healthy diet. Me. The one who barely eats if she has to cook for herself (and resorts to starve or eat stuff like cookies, crisps etc. because I cannot be arsed to cook). The one who decides last minute what she wants to eat for dinner (lunches I generally skipped because I cannot be arsed), that goes grocery shopping to then cook what she was craving then gets home and… yes, cookies etc. I was still on this not-exactly-appropriate regime when I started working out. However, I had a massive scare moment when, after a month and a half of quite hard training, nothing was happening in my body: no energy, no muscles, I always felt like about to drop dead, nothing. My trainer made me jump on a scale and we both got horrified to discover that I lost 9kg. She looked at me and said “ARE YOU EATING?”.
The answer was yes, but not “exactly” as I should have been eating: that is, to fuel the exercises I was doing. I was honest with her and I asked for help. It seems a very stupid question to ask, and probably it is, but new Silvia doesn’t care: if she needs help, she’ll make sure she’ll get it. Yes, I knew that muscles need protein to grow, I’m not that dumb, however I didn’t know that it takes 2.2 grams of proteins per kg of your weight to build muscles. I barely ate proteins! No wonder nothing was happening! She helped me learning how to use protein powder, she suggested websites and resources to improve my diet and she made me swear to stick with it. It took a bit to get my mind into the new regime, because ultimately my laziness to the core took over my best intentions, but when I indeed put the effort in it, I got blown away by the gains. I now plan my weekly lunches and dinners every single weekend; I write down exactly what I’m going to cook and eat, and then I will shop only those things required in my planned meals. No more things like “maybe I’ll get this in case…”. No. As a rule, I will reserve higher protein meals for the days I know I will train, and I’d be fairly relaxed (but healthy) the other days. No shitty, unhealthy stuff (I do enjoy a can of Coca Cola here and there and over my dead body you’ll take my red can of heaven from me).

So yes, I feel great, I look great, I sleep like a baby (ok, more like I hug my pillow begging for mercy since I’m sore from head to toes), I’m loving it and it’s all positivity and happiness. Oh, you know what is the best feeling ever? Moonwalking (yes!) out of the gym after the most brutal session, knowing full well that a month and a half ago I would have been collapsed on the floor. This is pure satisfaction (but now let me crawl in bed because the pain is unreal!!)

aaaaa

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”.

aaaa
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.

aaaaaa
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!)!

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).

udo3
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.

udo
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!

 

STRIKE A POSE

I think I shocked quite a few people, lately, with some of my daring pictures on Instagram.
When you spend a lifetime portraying yourself as the as the ugly weirdo in a heavy metal t-shirt, who can barely put some basic make up on her face and who is as feminine as Godzilla with a skirt, the sudden change to a rather hot babe with full make up, false lashes, sexy underwear and not giving a single fuck about showing off can be quite a big “WHAT?”.

Honestly? I’m loving it and I’m having such a jolly good time.

me2
mastering the truck driver look at the office (for the record, this is Nico Rosberg hat!)

I’ve spent every single day of my life, up till not long ago, convincing myself that I was irremediably UGLY AF, Supreme Court final judgement issued, no appeal, over, that is it, deal with it.
I never even dared to entertain the remote possibility that, actually, I may not be that bad, and that maybe, just maybe, with a bit of effort, some guidance and a different mentality, maybe I could be the person I really am and not the one I decided to be (the one who looks (and feel) like a pub toilet after a Saturday night).

I never had a mirror in my bedroom up till January this year. No joking. Why should I have had something reflecting the image of a body I always hated with a passion? I barely had one in my bathroom and that was more than enough to make me start my mornings and end my days with a “oh no that ugly face again, look at you, jeeez you are hideous”.

I have wasted so much time, so much energy, putting myself down and diminishing myself; if only I had been less negative and more positive! I tried to be the people pleaser whilst flying as low as possible, because I was one of those who thinks that it’s only other people who can be looking good, successful, interesting, good, etc. Even in my relationships, I fell for the wrong men, thinking they were awesome even though they were barely average (or downright twats) because I couldn’t think of deserving anything better.

You know what I realised? Hating yourself is quite a demanding, hard, and tiring job. It takes quite the effort. You are always, constantly, continuing thinking of horrible, negative stuff about you, and your brain is in an unstoppable spiral out of control full of hate, from the moment you wake up, till the moment you go to bed, without any breathing space.
Then, to add salt to your very open and bleeding wounds, you start comparing yourself to others. I don’t just mean the celebrities in their ultra-doctored and intensely photoshopped pictures: any other human being, living and breathing, is a chance for you to dig some more into your non-existent self-esteem.

Oh, but this is not the end of it!

me1
I have been famous for not being capable of having a picture taken without pulling a stupid face

You so hate yourself that you cannot possibly contemplate, not even remotely entertain the idea that someone may disagree with you and see you for the lovely person you are (inside and outside). No, no, no, no! They MUST be wrong. Worse. Not only they are wrong, but they must know they are and therefore they are teasing you. They are having fun at your expenses. Needless to say, you reject any compliment like the plague, and you are quick to answer back shit like “pretty? ME? Dude your eyes need checking”, “What? Are you joking? I look like a bin bag in this dress” etc…
I am not proud to admit that I took this habit of refusing compliments to the next level: I intentionally annoyed the hell out of anyone (friends, colleagues, partners) with my refusal till I ended up making them feel bad, I have forced them to listen to all the tripe I thought about myself to the point I got them so extremely fed up with me that they just stopped complimenting me altogether in order to avoid having to yell at me (or slap me).
I know.

I portrayed myself uglier than what I am because this is the reality I wanted to believe in. Being the victim of my own image meant that I didn’t require any effort on my part to change: I was just passively accepting this as a fact because I knew that changing is H A R D. And I didn’t do hard because I’m lazy at the core and I would have missed a chance to moan and make myself miserable a bit more. I did lazy, commiserating, “poor me” and helplessness. Gosh I was such an unpleasant mess.

I’m about to break this news to you: if you want to love yourself, you got to learn to do it. Even better, you have to start trying to love yourself, one step at the time. Just that. Try. No other options for you. You can either stay miserable all your life (and believe me, I was headed towards this road without a single care in the world) OR, you try to improve. At worst, you stay as you are. But if you try and make a real effort, change will happen. Guaranteed.

I was talking to a very good friend I met on Instagram, who is on a similar journey to mine (you know who you are 😊 Love you!) and we were discussing about my gym body. I told him that I’m nowhere near the body I plan to have, but that I’m working hard towards it, and if only I didn’t spend all my life hating myself, I would already be at that level now. All I had to do was just…

Try.

Don’t get me wrong, I make it sound so easy, but giving yourself the push to try… it is hard as hell.

I read tons of self-help books, all giving great, helpful suggestions on how to start change, what to do to start believing more in yourself and lift your self-esteem.
Convincing myself to follow those advices was a piece of cake: of course I’m going to write some lovely positive affirmations!
Hell yeah I’m going to stop my negative thoughts before they kick in and replace them with positive ones!
Absolutely, don’t worry, from now on I’m going to do all these things, you watch me.
Then the time to actually try and do these things came, and guess what? I freaked out. Because I convinced myself it was pointless. Because I felt stupid. Because my mindset was always in a “I’m a helpless loser” mode. Because what if. Because I knew better. Because nothing can possibly work on someone like me. Because I was so (insert negative thing) that not even a miracle could make me any different. Ever felt the same as me?

Well, guess what? Give yourself a much-deserved chance. I did it. And hear this: you got nothing to lose and all to gain. Don’t think “it is not possible”, shut that thought and re-wire it into a “let’s see what happens!”.

You can’t imagine how hard I struggled to tell myself that I was worthy. It took me more than a month to stop laughing and think “yeah right” every time I said to myself “I am beautiful”. But I didn’t surrender. No way Jose, this time we don’t do half-arsed stuff.
I have always been proud of surrounding myself with positive, loving, caring and inspiring people; when I embarked on this life-enhancing mission of changing the way I think, act, and see the world, I “hired” them as my special angels – change assistants: to ensure I didn’t back down, I asked all these friends to listen to what I said carefully, and yell at me should I have said anything bad about myself. Anything! Slap me too, if I don’t stop. Believe me, having someone telling you “ENOUGH” Rephrase it positively!!” every time you open your mouth is incredibly helpful, mainly because your negativity is so rooted deep down in you that you don’t realise how bad it is unless someone points it out at you.
I have forced myself to say “thank you” to any compliment, without biting back or saying anything else. Thank you and a smile. That’s it. Gosh it was sooooo hard. More so, I started to actively compliment myself: damn I cooked an amazing dinner tonight; good job Silvia, that was great; look at you, going to the gym even when you’d rather be in bed, you go girl. No more “you are shit” and stuff like that, no.
Since I knew one of my worst defects is being a massive lazy arse, I ordered a colleague to drag me to the gym no matter what. Boy she did. I almost got scared of her!

However, the best thing I ever did was to allow myself to see me through all these amazing people’s eyes, and just embrace what they saw rather than staying stuck with what I saw. I started to think: look, if all these wonderful people I love, cherish and admire have nothing but praise for me, and I’m the only one who thinks shit (beside the twat I was in love with, who was just that, a twat) …. Could it be that I’m the one in the wrong?
I let their love fill my empty heart, and I used their skills to learn and improve myself: I am useless at shopping for clothes? I dragged a friend with me and gave her the power of treating me like a human doll: show me what you think I would look good in! I had a photoshoot with a dear friend of mine, and she showed me that even with not a lot of makeup and not “fresh from hair salon” hair, I could look good. I sat and listened to them, trying to grasp any tip, any advice on how to look and act better. I even said to my desk-neighbour “kick me if you see me slouching on my chair (my physiotherapist thanks profusely). I hoarded makeup, and I asked the shop assistant good tips, then I spent endless evenings on youtube trying and testing stuff to learn how to do nice looks without ending up looking like a clown or a prostitute. I pampered myself with a new haircut, a facial, some new gym clothes and a better diet.

I am still nowhere near where I want to be, but one thing is sure:

Yes, I am beautiful.

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I need few things to fix, but yes, I am a really beautiful woman.

I have a big heart, I’m a loyal friend, I’m funny, I’m sweet, I’m fierce, I’m strong, I’m powerful, I’m full of love and I am positive force. Whoever thinks differently about me is more than welcome to fuck off back from the shithole where he/she comes from (excuse my language). I’m independent, I have a job I love to bits, I love abundantly, and I am surrounded by love; I am sure that the universe is now gearing up to bring me all the goodness I deserve.

If you are reading this and you have been in my same old, negative shoes, feel free to reach out to me. If you are in need of a sign that will turn your life around, here it is: just do it! Just try! I am just like you and I’m still walking down this path, stumbling, and falling at times, but still going strong, because I don’t want to live that negative hell anymore. Listen to me, give yourself this chance. Forget negativity, that won’t lead you anywhere but misery. You are unique. You are special. Leave your past to rest, focus on today and start loving yourself. Don’t feed your negative narrative and push away whoever tries to bring you down.

And in the words of the wonderful Whitney Houston (may she rest in peace):

I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadows
If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe
No matter what they take from me they can’t take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all inside of me