OOOPS I DID AGAIN, ANOTHER PHOTOSHOOT!

Last week I had a moment of craziness, one of those “fuck it, I’m so doing it” and I ended up at Dollhouse Photography studio in Birmingham for my third (THIRD!!!!) photoshoot.

What can I say? I love that place way too much, and if I could, I’d be there every day, even just to see what amazing things those ladies can do to all their clients. That place is like a beautiful, empowering dream: you get there looking plain and normal, wearing your comfy clothes (I always go there in something that’s just one tiny step from being my pyjama), and after couple of hours you become one smoking hot and super jaw-dropping babe, wearing the most luxurious lingerie and accessories, ready to pose like a professional model (because yes, they guide you into posing like one even if your only shoot experience is the pictures with your family and friends – told you they are amazing!!!).

The first time I went there, I took it as a challenge on myself: I was at the beginning of my journey, my therapy sessions started having breakthroughs in the way my brain was (badly) wired, I was more committed to my gym workouts (rather than just hanging around the gym pretending to do stuff) and I wanted to prove to myself that I was up to get out of my comfort, ugly zone and into a world I never even dared to dream. I will never forget the total panic I had when walking through the studio’s door: all I was thinking was “I’m so fucked – this is such a big mistake”. I wanted to run away. The “ugly, zero self-esteem” me wanted badly to hide. BADLY. I told myself “there you go, stupid idiot, you’ll see now how you’ll end up feeling even uglier and more stupid than before you walked through that door”.

Well, it didn’t take long before I discovered how massively wrong I was, and yes, I felt stupid as well: not for the reason I was predicting though, but because I was so so so so so so so succumbing to all my fears and negativity in thinking the way I was thinking.
Amie, the amazing PA (who I love dearly, not only because we share the same job, but also because she is the kindest, sweetest, most caring person ever), gave me the warmest welcome and made me feel sooooo at ease, like I was amongst friends I have always known. She made me feel extra welcome, so much than when she asked me why I decided to have this shoot, I didn’t shy away from telling her the truth: I came out of a very bad breakup, my life has been in tatters, I always thought I was ugly, I had zero self-esteem and yes, I have been suicidal too; this was a challenge for me to see the woman I was working hard to get out in the world, and I was there because I felt they were the only ones capable to make me see her for real. The makeup artist, Nav, listened carefully to what I had to say, and once we settled on what looks and poses we were going to do, she made me steer clear from the mirror till she finished her magic: she decided I needed a “shock” wake-up call there and then, rather than seeing each step of my transformation. Hand on heart, I can tell you, when I finally saw myself, I almost had a heart attack: it was me, it was me the woman I saw staring back at the mirror, only I was looking like a million-dollar Vegas babe. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

Me trying outfits, feeling AbFab!

You see, I was scared I’d be looking like “fake”, you know, that kind of look where you say “yeah but that’s not me”. No, no, no. That was really me. That was “Yes, of course I’m smoking hot thanks to a very talented makeup artist, but if I wanted to, I could be like that every day with some efforts on my part”. Amie then came round with the most amazing lingerie sets, and wow…. All my worries, stupid self-doubts, low self-esteem, any issue I had just disappeared: I was feeling great in my skin and I was having such good fun. I felt the most gorgeous creature on Earth. Me. It was so unreal. I never felt like that, not even remotely, it was an amazing first and I was so happy it was happening whilst surrounded by such a supportive group of women. Shooting has been amazing, though I must say, holding a pose is not as easy as you can think!
I remember being in what I thought was a very awkward pose, and my body language (not to mention my face) must have screamed “da fuck am I doing” because Monica, the photographer, stopped everything and she showed me the way I looked through her camera’s screen: my jaw dropped. I could not believe that, with no editing or else, I looked that stunning, and that the pose I was desperately trying to hold whilst feeling dumb was making perfectly sense – I just couldn’t know because I’m no model and I don’t “see” what the photographer sees. Needless to say, from that moment onwards, I trusted her and didn’t question anything she was saying. When I left that day, I felt on top of the world, so much that I immediately booked another shoot! Before I left the studio, Monica said to me “now that “the magic” is over, and you go home, hold on to these feeling, because yes, the makeup will be washed away and the clothes can change, but the million dollar woman was you and will still be you, so don’t forget that”. It was something “small”, but it truly changed my life: during the struggles I faced between then and now, I always held on to the million dollar babe feeling, to that confident, fierce, beautiful woman, because that was the “me” I want to be every day from that moment onwards, not the ugly old sad me.

Oh, the day Chrissy (who founded Dollhouse and who’s the outstanding, incredibly talented photographer and picture editing queen) sent me the pictures… I cried. I cried for what it felt like an eternity. I was so, so happy. No, I was more than happy. I was over the moon. Not only the pictures were simply outstanding, but Chrissy and her fantastic team managed to portrait exactly what I needed to see: a mega pink and feminine babe on one side, and a super cool fierce queen on the other. They heard my most secret, hidden-in-my-head dreams and turned them into spectacular pictures. To this day, I look at them in total awe.

one of the pictures I’m most proud of!
Me before Jennifer did her magic….

The second photoshoot… that was something else entirely.
To begin with, I was way more relaxed: I knew what was about to happen, so I was not overwhelmed by the whole thing. I knew the team already (and became friend with Amie in the meantime) so I was more in the mindset of “going to see my friends and have a jolly got time” rather than “I’m going for a photoshoot”. And then… to be really, really honest… I killed myself at the gym every day for a month: my confidence lever was pretty high, I couldn’t wait to show how different I looked since the first shoot. Oh my, we had so much fun. I think I never laughed so much in my life. My body felt just ace. My mind, after all the therapy, was on a totally different planet. This time, I didn’t do it for a challenge: I did it as a celebration.

…and after Jennifer’s amazing makeup session!

A celebration of who I am, of all the things I’ve done, of the war I so hardly fought to be happy and healthy. Jennifer, the super amazing makeup artist, created three killer looks for me, each one fiercer and sexier than the previous one. Monica came up with some awesome and very daring poses whilst Amie made me wear the raciest lingerie sets she found in the magical Dollhouse wardrobe to turn me into three different goddesses. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I can tell you, it’s going to be a blast!!

with Jennifer few moments before the shoot happened – I love her so much!!!!

Last week? Well, that was a decision I took on the spot. Chrissy released a special Christmas promotion, I took it without even thinking too much about it and bam! Here I was again at Dollhouse! I don’t want to say anything about this shoot because… aaahhh it’s too exciting. Potentially, the best so far. All I can say is that, again, Jessica, Monica, Amie and Chrissy blew my mind, and I had the best day ever.

I know, I sound way over excited about this place and the team who runs it, but you know what? I have never met such a group of sweet, caring, kind and talented ladies. It’s so special what they do. It’s way, way more than just “taking a very fancy picture”. It’s even more than “I get to be a model for an hour or two”. I told them more than once that these shoots should be prescribed as a special anti-depressant and self-esteem therapy. Forget the clothes, the makeup, the editing: at the core of what they do, is empowering every woman, no matter how they look, their age, their past, their imperfections, their issues. There is no way you can feel anything but the most special human being living and breathing on this planet when you are in their caring hands. To me, what they did was like a very special therapy session in self-love and self-appreciation. Every time I am tired, and I feel a bit low, I just have to think of what happened to make me smile again. I just need a glimpse at one of my pictures to remember those awesome feelings, and suddenly my day goes to “meh…” to “no, come on, cheer up dude!!”. I think I’ve annoyed the shit out of everyone I know in telling them to go and have one shoot done. It changes you forever, in the most positive, incredibly magic way. You cannot possibly see yourself in the same way afterwards.
Besides, it also helps you understand A LOT of what you see in the media etc. I never look at pictures in the media with the same eyes, now that I know what it takes to make them that way: yes, everyone tells you that “it’s all photoshop, perfect lights and makeup” but until you are there, living it and see it with your eyes, you never really “understand” it.

Anyway, for the record, guess what is my after-surgery prize? That’s right: a fourth shoot! This time it will be a Pinup birthday celebration and I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter how hard and painful my recovery will be, I’ll do everything in my power to be ready to pose and celebrate my birthday (something I NEVER do, and maybe I’ll write about why in another entry) with my dearest amazing ladies. Chrissy, Amie, Monica, Jennifer, brace yourselves, cause hammer time is coming soon!!!

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WRITE THAT FUNKY ENTRY TOMBOY

When I started this blog in July, I was in deep, deep shit.
My life was a negative, disastrous mess, everywhere I looked I could only see problems after problems: my heart was badly broken, my very much loved “we’ll be together for years” babysitter dumped me out of the blue “to pursue new adventures in Wales”, work was under a massive crisis (one of those “we are all going to be fired and this company will implode soon afterwards”), I was in the eye of the storm and I literally did not know what to do with my life. I had more than one moment where I even regretted the fact that I didn’t kill myself during my post-natal depression: I would have so spared myself another round of “all is bad, and everything hurts”.

I was lost, marinating in my own sorrow and misery. I was like a tiny boat in the middle of a very angry ocean, beaten and shaken by massive waves, trying not to break for good under the latest, horrendous storm I was facing. Writing came as a sort of lifeline: the fact that I had a way to get all the pain clouding my head out, in the light, and that I could make sense of it all by way of seeing it, black on white, on a word file, became a very helpful personal therapy session.

Over the months, with therapy, the gym, the good work I put in and yes, with writing, I managed to not only survived that storm in one piece, but I also discovered that I am better, new-and-improved self. More so, I discovered that writing was not just “a therapeutic moment”, but a medium that comes incredibly natural to me, a way to express myself that I absolutely love and yes, I dare to say it, a talent that I can be very proud of. The more my confidence grew, the more I started to be (very) outspoken about the fact that I am good “at this shit” and that I would love to do it more and more. Heck, I would write all day, every day if left to it. I would love, LOVE to be paid to write. Anything! You name it!

I was already “famous” at work for writing what my friend Marge and I called “anger management emails”: basically, all those communications where you need to complain, and you would really, really, REALLY like to just send a massive “FUCK YOU!” (and potentially another billion of insults too) but instead of doing that, I write my “fuck off” in a way that gets my point of view across firmly but very, very politely. I even managed to succeed at managing a complaint email chain for a friend of Marge, pretending I was her friend’s customer service manager. Writing essary during my Law degree helped me develop my writing skills, the importance of words, their meaning, the attention and carefulness at “what you want to say” and, most important “how you want to say it” to exactly convey you message without any doubds or misunderstanding. I do it with my ex all the time: whenever he writes and asks me “does this (instert sentence) work?” I begin a lenghty “why did you use this word? what would you like to say? Did you mean this or that? How about you use this one instead? What is this all about? This means another thing if you say it this way” etc….

Well, least did I expect that I became so confident, so passionate about writing that I began to proactively find chances to show how good I am, not just sit there and wat for someone to yell “Silviaaaaa could you please write this email / letter / statement / complaint?”.

A big, special chance waved its hands at me a week or so ago: every year, our company’s President sends to the employees his “end of the year” message. It’s generally drafted by the Head of Communications before it lands on his desk for his additions and approval. Well, the clock was ticking, nobody was really doing anything about this message, even if Marge and I have been pretty vocal in requesting it way back beginning of November (we have to stick it into lovely Christmas cards, and since we have a lot of employees, we are talking about quite a lot of Christmas cards that needs to be ready….). I got fed up of waiting for a miracle to happen, so I said to her “you know what, I am going to write it this year”. Stuck on a train on my way home, I opened my laptop and started to furiously type it. I was so excited that words just magically appeared on my screen: I swear, I was so in the zone that there was zero delay between the“thinking of what to say” to the “writing it down”. By the end of the day I had the message done, proofread and ready to go. Before I could regret it, Marge made sure it landed on the President’s inbox for his consideration. I admit it, I had to run to my manager’s office trying not to look hysterical (not more than my usual standards at least) to calm down and get some encouraging words.

I told myself that, whatever happened, I would have been happy anyway: I had the guts to do such thing, which it is something that I would have never, ever, over my dead body done just six month ago, let alone before that; I actually did it, which again, it is something remarkable, and then I send it to the receiver (and what a receiver!!!) for review: zero self-esteem me would have rather jump out of the window than putting her message under the president’s nose and being like “I did this myself mate, check this out!”. I was happy, I was proud of myself, I was ready to settle with these very nice feelings….

…till the feedback from the president arrived.

And he said he really liked it.

He added his bits and he forwarded it straight to the Head of Communications for her final approval. At this point, I became extremely excited. Still, I tried to keep it calm and not dream too much: you know, in the corporate world, you can be amazing at writing and everyone may like what you say, but there are ways to say things, there are things you can address and things that you can’t, plus a lot of other bits and pieces and basically yes, I was braced for a “WHO WROTE THIS SHIT? OMG THIS IS ATROCIOUS!” moment. I would have been fine anyway, since I’m not a Communication Manager and I just wrote what I, as an employee, I would have loved to hear.

I’m here, trying not to scream my house down, because not only the president liked it as I said, but the Head ofCommunications liked it so much that my message won’t be used just for my London team, but for my department as a whole (and we are based all over the world). I am beyond happy. I am… wow, words are failing me right now, I don’t even know how to describe these feelings I have inside. It is such an honour,such an achievement: me, depressed, mental unit crazy me, the one with no self-esteem, the one who hated herself, who thought she was shit, dumb, stupid, you name, me, I managed to do something so special and I’m so thrilled about it. I’m dying to print my message out, stick it on those Christmas cards and just send it out for all my colleagues to read.

Needless to say, I’m now on fire: I am writing anything that comes my way. I managed to write a vision and mission statement for a friend’s company, a supporting statement for a job application for another friend, whoever needs anything I’m like “YEAH I’LL WRITE THAT GIVE IT TO MEEEEEE” (I know I look like I’m a crazy, writing maniac, and maybe I am, but I’m loving it). I’m not sure what this writing stuff will bring, but whatever that will be, I’m sure it will be amazing.

(I should also probably start to charge for my writing services too!!!)

THIS DAY WE FIGHT

I rolled my eyes at an incoming panic attack.

I know, it sounds weird, but this is exactly what happened, and it happen so quickly and automatically that I felt more concerned about my reaction than of the panic attack about to strike.

Bit of a background: this Thursday I’ll be at my Company’s Christmas party, and this year I decided that, to celebrate all the good work I have done on myself, I am going to look spectacular. No more saddo clothes, no more blending with the furniture, nope. I will wear a very sparkling sequin bodycon dress, I’ll have hair, makeup, fake tan, mani & pedi professionally done, everything will be spot on. Yes sir, tomboy me will become smoking hot barbie.
So yesterday I was sitting in bed, catching up with the Premier League’s results, when I though “you know what? I’m going to pamper myself up a bit”: I decided to treat myself with a face masque. Simple as that.
Of course, as soon as I started applying it BAM! I could feel a panic attack creeping up, with all the fake weird sensations and the general “I’m on a high alert for danger, I just need to find the perfect trigger….”.
Now, the old me would have quickly washed her face, felt totally stupid for doing something that comes with a complimentary panic attack and then spend the whole night sulking and feeling like crap (“I’m stupid, I’m so dumb, why did I do this, the list goes on).
The new me? Well, the new me is fucking fed up, to put it mildly. I had a massive eye-rolling moment, I rolled my eyes so much that I saw the inside of my brain, and the first few thoughts were, amongst other inappropriate things that I better not write here, something along the lines of “how predictable….Jeeeez the fucks I don’t give about you, stupid brain, right now”. Yes, the panic attack was still trying to lure me in, but I soldiered on for twenty ( T W E N T Y) minutes as per masque instructions and sorry you little shit, there are no panic attacks in between this woman and achieving a pre-party glowing skin.

Eyes rolling.

I’m bored of you, stupid brain thinking weird stuff, misinterpreting shit and giving me panic attacks! I’m BORED.
B O R E D.
Enough already! I am done with it.
At the end of those twenty, eternal minutes, I proudly sat firmly on my bed, with my face looking like a very angry red tomato (it was a bit of a peeling, a bit of god knows what, a “facelift in a jar”, I’ll look normal soon… I hope) not giving a single, infinitesimal fuck.

I had a horrible nightmare last night: I dreamt of my surgery and it was all incredible distressing and scary. My brain re-interpreted the moment before I got put to sleep by the anaesthetist back two years ago and I could feel the fright of my life. Worst was, I knew it was a dream, but still, I couldn’t just manage to keep it under control. Yet, instead of waking up crying and projecting negative thoughts to my incoming surgery, I yelled (in my mind, because I care for my neighbours) “FUCK NO” and cut the crap there and then. No way I’m going to live till the 7th of January in distress because I’m scared. Yes, I will be scared, of course I will. I’m not exactly about to pop a bottle of Prosecco and celebrate Formula 1 podium style at the thought of being put to sleep, but at the same time, I won’t let all of this useless and counterproductive anxiety rule my life. This shit ends now.

I feel like a revolution has started inside me. It is something that has slowly crept up over time, with therapy, with my confidence growing, with my work at the gym… It’s… it’s like the tests and achievements so far have paved the way for something bigger, something that I haven’t consciously noticed till now. Like the little drops of water that over time erode a rock, the same has happened to my brain: something has eroded my brain slowly but steadily, to the point where I now feel not only that I am not bloody scared of facing this war, but also that there is a big chance I can win it.

For example, in order to start testing how much I can push it, I switched Iron supplements today: no more taking the “safe option”, which by the way, it gave me a panic attack the first time I took it. As I write, I just took it for the first time and needless to say, I have a panic attack waiting for me to let him in. I can feel my brain trying to find a way to trigger hell; my senses are on a hype, trying to find a reason, a slight weird feeling, a little glitch in the system to make me go in full panic mode. I refuse to let it happen.
Fuck off already.
I’m sitting here, eating my (very sad, I must admit) lunch, writing this entry and working really hard to keep my precious fucks to myself and not give a single one to what my body is trying to tell me, because these feelings that I think I’m feeling are NOT REAL. They are not, and I should stop pandering to them, just as I don’t pander to my son when he puts up a tantrum display in shops.

I know, I sound totally lunatic and ready to check in to mental unit, but… listen, I always saw myself as a victim of my mind; I always thought there is nothing I could do to make me be better; I always surrendered without even trying to fight back and I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, not for me anymore at least. For the record, even if I’m all here bold and courageous, I’m not having exactly an easy time, and I bet all you want that once this storm settles I will feel absolutely drained. If you know what a panic attack is, and if you ever attempted to fight it, you know how tiring and exhausting it is. However, I want to think it as a mental gym: the first time I went to the gym, the next day I begged to die as everything hurt and I could barely breathe; now I could squat till my arse is on fire and I’m happy when I feel that burning sensation – it means my muscles are growing and I’m doing something right. Well, dear brain, now you and I are going to squat the shit out of these panic attacks, and yes, today I will feel like my head is about to explode, but soon, with good training, I’ll get you nice and muscly and strong enough to cut the crap before it even starts. You just watch me making it happen!

RUNNING OUT OF FU@%S IS MY CARDIO

Another week has gone, I haven’t been writing, I have been extra, extra busy at work and at home… aaaahhh!! I’m doing great though. Actually, I never felt this good. I dare to say it, I’m even happy at the way things are progressing. Unfortunately, though, being busy means little to zero time for the blog, and on top of that I have been in an out of the hospital a bit because of my shoulder. In this chaotic times there has been some stuff boiling up at work that made me think of how I changed, thanks to therapy and my own self-improvement. I basically went from “caring too much” to “caring ZERO”.

I think I said it already so many times that I used to be a rescuer. I thought that all I had to do in order to be loved an appreciated was to focus and spend all my energies, money and time on others. There was never a “me” moment, because if that chance happened, I would have used it to please someone else but myself. Imagine: 24/7, every single day of your life, working your ass off for others and feeling grateful for the opportunity of doing so.

Learning to curb this behaviour and attitude towards others has been a real struggle. You’d think “oh, I’ll just stop right now, cold turkey”, but when you are trying to terminate a behaviour that has been present throughout all your life, and that you most often trigger automatically because that is how you have always done, quitting it is as hard as quitting smoking or any other bad habit, with withdrawal symptoms in the form of pure guilt and fear: guilt of “not being as useful” and fear of “now nobody will ever love me because they will learn to not need me therefore I won’t have a purpose in their lives”.

I am facepalming myself as I write this tripe.

1335298036781_3013300I am doing so much better now, I have learned to say no (even though at times it feels like a violence against myself), to manage my guilt and to be less dependent on my need of being needed at all times, but the other face of this behavioural coin is that now…. I kind of not care that much. Actually, I don’t care anymore at all. Worse: I feel guilty of not feeling guilty about not giving a single fuck. My friend Marge always laughs when I say “my fucks bucket has now an extremely limited capacity and this thing is not worth any of those precious fucks that I could give”. Unfortunately (or, maybe, not unfortunately) it is what I feel at the moment. What do you expect anyway? When you’ve been used and abused for years, and you are done investing feelings and your emotional wellbeing only to be treated like scum, you raise your walls and make sure they won’t come down that easily.

I reached the limit of my self-imposed martyrdom a while ago and I’m so, so fed up. Now I don’t have time or care for (almost) anyone but me. I don’t chase, I don’t beg, I don’t ask. I don’t force my help down other people’s throat, I don’t do my all to be there for everyone at any time of the day or night, I don’t put myself down to make someone else feel better. The new rules are: if I don’t care, then I won’t force myself to pretend I do to please someone else, and I will act and only go the extra mile if I want to do it because I’m happy anyway, whether it is appreciated or not.

Another thing that I stopped doing is pandering to other people’s needs just because I don’t want to hurt / upset them and, most importantly, because I fear I will lose them should I dare to say things how they are. That has been outrageously difficult to implement, but once I ran out of fucks to give to everyone randomly, being able to just express my true feelings proved to be such a relief. To be clear, I’m not saying I’m offending people or being a bitch for the sake of it; simply, if I feel like something does not sit well with me, I won’t be putting up with it for the sake of “not rocking the boat”. Examples? I had a very long and deep chat with someone close to my heart that yes, as much as enjoy this person being in my life and all the things that are happening, if I’m just nothing but a cheap entertainment then I am not interested in investing my time, energies, and feelings. This is a deal-breaker and I’m ready to walk away should this be the case. It felt incredibly hard to “lay down the law”, but you know what? In this new chapter I only want people who want to be here because they love me, anyone else can go waste someone else’s time. Zero fucks given. I have no time, nor interest for those permanently offended, for the narcissists, for the soul-drainers, for anyone who’s only a taker and never a giver. I gave them my whole life, I got only negativity and pain in return, I think it’s about to time I move on.

You don’t approve what I do? I ran out of fucks, sorry.9c312a5ef7b685543862e1c9b9cc56ef0672819f8bf650e2fa4c307e6e115d17
You don’t like my opinion on the matter? See above.
You don’t like that I refuse to put up with your shit? Aaand again, see above.

I had a very interesting talk about this aspect with my therapist, because my surgeon made the dreaded call (7th of January… how to start my new year in style) and I was chatting about how this time, compared to when I had my elbow surgery, I’m actually pretty chilled and looking forward to it. I ran out of fucks to give about what anyone would think about the call I made, what impact has on me, my son, my life, whatever…. You should have seen me when the surgeon said “ok, so, your choice: you either put up with the pain for life or we do surgery but expect to be in pain and recovery is going to be long” and I yelled back at him “NO WAY I’M PUTTING UP WITH THIS BOOK ME IN!!!!”. Put up with what? You crazy man? Hell no! Anyway, I was telling my therapist how happy I was that, one way or another, I would have solved my problem and that I was looking forward to some blissful time at home, high as a kite post-op, to just be with myself. She asked “would you need help though? Have you thought about asking someone to help you? I suppose you won’t be able to move, or cook, or lift stuff…”. Suddenly, I felt extremely uncomfortable: what? someone around the house to help me? No no no no no no.

She started digging into my refusal of getting help… till the point when it came clear why I am so against that: I see help as the old me would, as a “put up a smile, pretend it’s ok, entertain who is pretending to help till you finally go back being alone”. We discussed in depth at why I see it that way, and why I just don’t accept honest, heartfelt help from those who really want to give it. Why my “ran out of fucks” attitude crumbles when faced with me being in need? Why do I feel the need to hide my true feelings, and why I can’t just let the helpers in and, instead of “entertaining them”, I just lower my guard, let them take care of me and just be the person who had surgery and needs resting? We both agreed that this surgery will be a pivotal moment in this journey: it will be a personal test for me to see how much progress I made, I will have to face few phobias (like taking medicines to cope with the pain) and to see if I indeed have “run out of fucks” about rescuing others when all I have to do is recovering. Guess what? I already made the (I must admit, painful) effort to ask for help on the day of the surgery. Oh boy, uttering those “would you please sleep with me the night I come home? I need help, and this would mean a lot to me” words took me a massive amount of stress and anxiety… and I’m trying hard not to regret saying them!!!!!

See? progress!!!!

I AM MY OWN WORLD

Since I’m here trying to stop a panic attack before it hits me in full force, even though I’m telling myself that iron supplements won’t kill me, that I have to take them because my blood test results are stuff of nightmares, that it’s normal, it’s fine, you’ll get better soon etc.. etc.. let me try and distract myself from these feelings to write about a recent, amazing discovery I made that is leaving me feeling “wow”. (by the way, iron supplements are the worst, I feel like I have a brick in my stomach….).
Ok, before you say anything, let me be clear: to normal, average people, this will come as a boring thing. No, better, as a “so you just realised that? Really? Jeez you are dumb”. To me, owner of a brain who is not exactly normal and with a tendency of being “not healthy”, it is something that left me totally and pleasantly shocked.

I’ve finally (!!!) discovered that doing things for yourself, because you want them, for your own pleasure, it’s not only wonderful in itself, but it’s also empowering and sets yourself free. Free from judgements, free from external disappointments, free from pressure, free from expectations, free from anything that doesn’t fit with your inner self desires. It’s such a powerful thing! I have never, ever realised that. I always acted (or, better, reacted) depending on others: if I made others (you name it: colleagues, partners, friends, acquaintances, neighbours etc) happy by doing / not doing / changing / not changing / things, then so be it. When I didn’t make them happy, or satisfied, or if I didn’t meet their expectations, or whatever, and maybe received critics and rejections as a consequence, it’s drama time, and then I would have felt useless, stupid, shit, ugly, idiot etc…. Yes, I was my own enemy of my state of mind by relying my happiness, my self-worth and self-esteem on others. I know, I know, it took me a while but now I know.

When this journey started, I was miss rescuer and Olympic gold medallist of “others before me martyrdom”. When I started psychotherapy, the questions that my therapist forced me to focus on, all the time, after everything I discussed, no matter what I said, were “but what about what YOU feel?”, “what about what YOU think?”, “what about what YOU want?”, “what about what YOU prefer?. Most of the time, my mind went blank, as if I just got asked the most complicated question on planet Earth, a bit when in a computer you input the wrong data and the computer give your fuck nothing back, no matter how much you slam your fists on your keyboard (been there, done that). I never ever experienced the ME before OTHERS so I didn’t know what the ME in all of this wanted, felt, preferred, thought. OR, better, I knew, but I never allowed it to be out in the air, own it and stand up for it because I thought I would just make myself lonelier, more unaccepted, more stupid, probably arrogant, and selfish.
It has been a massive learning experience that I’m still digesting, and it is harder that what it seems when you are reverting a behaviour that has been with you all your life.

I had this massive revelation, like a moment of total brain clarity (and if you are affected by mental illness you know how these moments feel like suddenly the world stops and… WOOOOOOW…….), when I was walking home, I don’t even remember what I did but I felt so… great, and the first thought was “it feels so amazing making myself happy”. Immediately after this thought crossed my mind, I had to stop: this has never been me? No checking if I get external approval? No “but what if someone doesn’t agree?”? Just “I’m happy, who cares about the rest?”. Yes, who cares. Who gives a shit, to be honest!!!

An example of this is my gym work. I started to work out to get “a revenge body”. My ex has always been very vocal on how he liked women to be very fit and yes, I was skinny but fit? No way in hell. I was too ugly anyway and I thought that I was better at drinking men under the table, ending up shitfaced in pubs, spending four days in hangover hell, eat crap and repeat. When he dumped me, I thought “now you’ll see what I’m capable of” so I started my journey as a vengeance, not for me, but to have him back at my feet crawling because “I’ll be fit as fuck and he’ll want me desperately”. Do I have to repeat again how much I’ve hated going to the gym? I don’t think so. It took me ages, and lots of tears, to shift the “I’m doing it for him” to the healthier “I’m doing it for ME”, but when this happened, my results went from nothing to “bring it on Personal Trainer, we are in for a ride today”. I started asking advices, ensuring my nutrition was correct, putting the real efforts, feeling “the weights” and seeing the muscles developing, correcting the bits that I was not doing properly, pushing myself further, and then some more.
Wednesday, with my trainer, we increased basically all the weights, but it wasn’t a case of her stating “oh now we add 5kg” and me being “OK (eyes rolling) FINE (fucking hell)”, rather a case of me telling her “I think we should go up, I know I have it in me” and her being “I agree, and I think we can add a bit more too on the last set” “yeah, let’s do this”.
I was doing glute bridges with 30kg and feeling fine. At the end, I looked at her and said “remember when I started with 6kg and I was struggling? Not bad eh?”.
Zero thoughts about vengeance or having anyone crawling back. It was a “me me me me” thing. I just can’t think anything but “Silvia, you are getting stronger by the minute! WOW! You rock bitch! Keep going! Can’t believe what you did!!!!!! Ohhh I love this body look at these quads! Looks at these legs! Look at where you were not long ago and what you are now!”. My colleagues say that, at this rate, I will soon have a mirror next to my desk so that I can constantly bask in my own gym-body glory. ME. The one that didn’t own a single mirror up till few months ago.

It is not only in the gym that I changed perspective: it is in everything in my life. I quitted living to meet other people’s expectations and it is the best feeling in the world. I am now focussing on meeting mine, and mine only. I know that “this is how it should have always been”, but hey, better late than never right?

I was walking my way home the other day and I was just thinking “for the first time in my life, it just feels good being me”. Don’t get me wrong, the long is still veeeeery long and difficult, but slowly I’ve learned to make myself happy. I’m now more self-sufficient. Whatever the world says or thinks, it doesn’t get to me anymore as it used to. I know I have the power to get wherever I want to get to. I don’t need to be saved, I’m not waiting for a Prince Charming, I am my own world, I am my own fan, I am me and it’s good. I have never experience that. I don’t dwell on my insecurities or physical defects anymore: yes, I have them, and plenty too, but who’s squatting with 20kg dumbbells now? Who’s been in therapy and actually putting the mental work to improve? Who’s beating panic attack after panic attack? Who’s quit drinking, eating healthy, taking care of herself? Who is not cheating, lying, diminishing, insulting or hurting herself anymore? Who proved that change is possible, once the real efforts are made? ME. Therefore yes, my boobs may be ruined, my teeth may still need fixing, my mental health is still a work in progress, but the person I was six months ago is a distant past compared to the one I am now, and who knows what amazing progresses I’ll do in the next six months!

THE ENDLESS JOURNEY

I had a very productive chat with my psychotherapist yesterday. I told her a lot of (positive) things that happened to me, we discussed in depth about how the gym and her sessions are helping me massively with my mental health, all in all it has been a very positive and pleasant session, one of the best so far. Of course, I’m not writing this entry to gloat about what a lovely time I had with my therapist, because nobody would be interested anyway. What I want to write about today is something that came out during our chat, a trait that I always had but that I have never been quite conciously aware of, and that has haunted me almost all night yesterday. One of the things that I came away with after my session is my inability, so far, at having some bloody good patience.

See? I can’t even write it without a glimpse of frustration showing, and I can assure you, if you want to drive me up the wall in anger, you only have to tell me “come on, be patient!” (Also, to be honest, I can hear Gary Barlow in my head singing “have a little patieeeeenceeee” and now it’s Take That all day in my head).

My insecurities, mixed with my forever annoingly friend anxiety, meant that my life has been so far an “I’ve done it” box-ticking exercise. I have never enjoyed the journey of anything I have done, from start to the end. To me, all that has ever mattered was to get to the end, as fast as possible, it doesn’t matter what happens or not in between, or what learnings I can gather from the experience: I have to get there, right at the end, say “done!” and move on to the next box to tick, in the hope that the list of ticked boxes would improve my self-esteem and solve all my issues in one go. There is not time to reflect. The end is there and I will get there. If someone says “it will take X amount of time to achieve that”, you can rest assured I won’t be the one thinking “ok, let’s start and see how it goes” but, more likely, the one that thinks “ok how can I achieve it in half of the time? How can I make it faster? How can I finish it sooner?” and work just focussing on that, not in what I am really trying to achieve and what is the overall goal. All my efforts are only to get to the end as soon as possible.

In all this rush, I always thought that seeing “the list of ticks” would have made me a “better person”; I was sure I would have felt more accomplished, better about myself, my self-esteem would have hit the roof, ohh the mega massive beautiful things that will happen to me! Of course, it has never been the case. The only thing that happened is that I didn’t enjoy anything I’ve done. I only accumulated frustration after frustration. I never got the results I really wanted because I never put the effort to do things correctly, since my focus was mainly on reaching the end result at all costs. I didn’t take my time, I didn’t just enjoy what happened on the journey, or focussed on the immediate, it has always been a stupidly fast race.

I see it applied in anything in my life so far: my law degree? I still remember when the prospect was to finish it in six years, it drove me up the wall; of course, I stupidly studied day and night, taking on board all exams I (legally) could do in a year, so that I could wear the “badge of honour” to say that I did it in half of the time, but my end result was a total disappointment because I didn’t care about what I was studying, all that mattered was vomiting enough knowledge to pass my exams quickly. My ex-boyfriend? I didn’t take the time to enjoy what we had, whether big or small, whether we saw each other for just a hot booty call that turned into an hilarious night watching Netflix and laughing our asses off or if there were any foundations for something more, in my head all I had to do was to tick the box of “I have a relationship” as quickly as possible and nothing else mattered. Gym? If by session two I’m not Instagram fitness model, there is no point of me going. Reading a book? No matter how big or small, I’m going to read it all in one go, maybe skipping few bits and pieces of descriptions I don’t care about. I could go on and on and on and on. My physiotherapy sessions? Who cares, as long as I can show that “I’m cured” asap and move on. If someone said to me “it will take ten (TEN) years to see the end of it”, you bet your ass I’d be exploding in total frustration.

I had this exact crisis just a week ago: all felt like “OMG I AM WORKING SO HARD AND NO RESULTS!”. I’m in therapy and I’m still struggling mentally at times. I’m working my ass off at the gym and I’m no fitness model yet. I’m working on my skin etc and my face has (AAAHHH) couple of spots that just don’t want to clear. I’m eating healthy, increasing portions, killing myself with proteins and still I struggle to keep my weight above 50kg. I am dressing differently, wearing makeup, looking nice and still I’m single as fuck. My debts are still all there, I am still living paycheck by paycheck and don’t make me start on saving money for my boob job! My blog has not yet achieved billions of followers. Why my life hasn’t magically transformed from hell to heaven? Why, with all the work that I’ve done?????? Call it if you like “an exercise in killing my self-esteem, undermining myself, shit all over my achievements so far and raise the flag of self-hate once again”.

You know what? this is another massive mental shift that I decided to do, starting from now. Instead of focussing on the goal, I’m forcing myself to focus on the “here and there”. The “now” vs “the end”. The moment vs the future. For once in my life I want to just enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes. I don’t want anxiety to push me to do things just because I desperately need to put them behind my back. I don’t want to drive a fast car at a foolish speed towards my “goals”: I just want to chill, cocktail on my hand (ok, sparkling water with a slice of lemon, or, better, a protein shake), and if it’s going to take “a long time”… so be it. I will see the results, I know I will, but this time I won’t just “tick a box”, I will get there with a baggage of ups and downs, failures and successes, learnings and experiences, and an overall million times more fulfilling journey. Heck, with an anxiety attack looming just thinking about it, maybe I won’t even see the end of some of these journeys, and it will keep being a revolving process (I’m seriously feeling my heart racing as I write it, and my old self going “YOU WHAT? NO END? YOU CRAZYYYY?”). From today, I want to put an end to that negative chain of thoughts and transform it into a positive one. As Rick Watten said, “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be”. Isn’t this so beautifully true?

c84c566cfc69748ab686d099cd7fbd38I know that my therapy sessions will keep going for quite some time. How much will that be, I don’t know and I want to just think that it is fine as it is. No “when will I be fixed?” anxiety. My gym body? It is happening, it will happen, it will take time and it’s fine, no “why I am not a model yet” anxiety. Whatever happens with my relationships? I don’t want to care about the future, I just want to focus on enjoying the moments, the laughter, the hugs, the fun, the chats in the middle of the night, that’s all. Whatever will be, will be. I am working hard for a better future for myself, I’m slowing benefitting from all the positive seeds I’ve planted everywhere in my life, but when that future will be? I don’t know, I don’t want to know, because the “now” it’s all that matters, and like Freddie Mercury beautifully sang at the end of “Innuendo”: “yes we’ll keep on smiling and whatever will be, will be, we’ll just keep on trying till the end of time”.

I’M STILL “JENNY FROM THE BLOCK”

After surviving a very miserable week, last week I decided to do my best to snap out of that dark cloud and put myself back on track: clean eating, no cheating, the whole lot. I had a very gruelling gym session on Tuesday, the first proper bodybuilding class, it went down like a treat: I felt super strong and on top of the world, but boy oh boy, my legs hurt for three days solid. Work has been a madhouse, emails fired at me left, right and centre, I barely ate or slept to keep up with the drama, and it ended up on Friday night answering emails from A&E where I had to take my son because he went from “mummy I’m feeling great” to “40C temperature, rash on his face and shivering” in the space of an hour. The joy! I had amazing plans for the weekend: attending a very special wedding in my hometown, finally visiting my parents’ new place, stuffing myself with Italian food…. It ended up cleaning vomit for 2 days non-stop. Yet, despite being very upset at ending up being stuck at home, I feel good, like I carved a little happy corner in my mind and I’m wrapped in a warm duvet inside it.

You know what? I think the gym, and my amazing personal trainer Farrah, have been the best thing ever happened to me since going to psychotherapy. I had to break down, mentally and physically, to the point where I became just a clean, white piece of paper, before I could re-write who I want to be in this new chapter. Believe me, my old gym-hating self put up a massive fight, MASSIVE, in order to stop making me change. I have been on the verge to give up so many times. I am so grateful I never did – thank goodness for my resilience!

People have started to properly notice my change. What at the beginning seemed like a temporary gimmick, now it is a rather established “norm” and I’ve left few people a bit unsettled. The main moans I got are that I may be showing off a bit too much, and that I’m not “the metalhead I used to be”. Yes, I am not scared of showing off myself and my hard work (after all, as my Personal Trainer says, we are not putting the hard work in just to go back at hiding, right?). Yes, I may not be all black, metal band t-shirts and leather as I used to. Yes, I may be “in your face”, I don’t do hiding or holding back anymore, but I’m still me. You know, the tomboy woman who swears like a sailor when Formula 1 is on, who would rather roll in the mud than do shopping, who prefers going to the stadium than a club, who likes to be “one with the boys” and all that.

Jenny-From-The-Block-Video-jennifer-lopez-26797479-600-400
Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I’ve got, I’m still – I’m still Jenny from the Block

However, like a snake, I’m changing my skin, embracing my entire self, not just few bits and pieces because I struggle with the rest, and instead of basking in my own self-inflicted misery at my numerous flaws and issues, I am learning to enhance and celebrate my strengths and either embrace my issues or work hard to get rid of them. Not wearing my Slayer t-shirt anymore doesn’t automatically mean “I betrayed the metal oath”: I have a nice body and I rather squeeze in a bodycon, colourful dress now, but you bet your ass I’ll still be raising hell next week when I’ll be at Slayer’s gig with my friends. Again, I just changed my skin and I’m working hard on being the best person I’ve always wanted to be, but at the core “I’m still Jenny from the block”.

I’ve heard it multiple times lately: “wouldn’t it be better at being more like this – more like that – less exposed / like you were once”; then again, when I was exactly those things, I should have been something different anyway, and I was negative, and I should have been more other stuff. I’m breaking out of all the labels that I have put on myself, or that people put on me without me even asking, and this is very destabilising for some. Hey, I used to be a total rescuer and a people-pleaser: whatever made people happy, I’d do or be. No question asked. It didn’t go down well, did it? It backfired spectacularly, actually. I ended up just as lonely as I was, with all my unresolved issues still there and with the additional “I have been such a dumb idiot” feeling making everything worse.

Lesson learned here: do what you think it’s best for you. Listen to your inner voice. Stay true to yourself. By all means, improve, experiment, test, try, fail, re-try, give it a go, challenge yourself, but do it in your own terms. You know what is right for you, and if you feel that something is too much / too little, well, if it is right for you then so be it. The truth is, you will not be liked by anyone anyway, not matter how much you try, and anyone will have an opinion about who you are, what you do etc, but you are the only one living your life. My ex-boyfriend always used to say “when someone points the finger at you, he is pointing one at you but three back at himself”: I never ever listened to him (and he loved upsetting me by calling me every name under the sun to teach me a lesson on “listening to your inner voice only”, and thank you so much I finally learned it!) till only recently and it has been a life-changing moment.

16fbabd310762143e12c9418dcfa844aHow many people objected my daring photoshoot? A lot. What do I think of it? Best day of my life (that I will replicate in a week). What opinion matters? Mine. How many people are telling me (my mum included) that I am training to hard, too much, that I will become a manly muscle monster etc? Do I care? Not one single bit, especially when I look at myself in the mirror and I see the potential starting to show off, which makes me want to train even harder. My friendships, my relationships, who I keep in or out of my life, I do what I feel good doing, and if I’m disappointing people on the way, well, tough luck for them. Whoever truly appreciates me and my efforts will love me even more and stay because they want to, not because I’m going above and beyond the call of duty to make them stay. Whoever feels the new me doesn’t meet their standards, well… I wish them well, but our journey together ends now.