SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY

I had to quote the Backstreet Boys, I really had to! Ok back to more serious stuff now.

As far as I can remember, I have always been quite the lonely person. Loneliness has been my faithful and inseparable partner since I was born, and it moulded my life and my perspective of the world since then.
I grew up an only child, and since my parents relocated from their respective hometowns to Milan, on top of not having any siblings I also didn’t have any close relative nearby, so I spent endless days by myself playing with my toys and my imaginary friends.
Oh, I had plenty of imaginary friends.
I used to dream about this crazy, amazing, wealthy life, with all these famous people on my side, being important and desired.

me by myself as a kid

Growing up, things didn’t really change much. I was the weirdo girl, the tomboy, I didn’t really fit with girls because I despised everything they liked, and I didn’t fit with boys because well, I was not one of them since I was a girl. It didn’t really bother me, though: I was used to be alone most of the time, I had plenty of things going on in my head to truly care about what was going on outside it anyway. I remember those poor attempts some school assholes had at bullying me: they quickly realised that I was not giving a remote fuck about being called ugly (because I was convinced I was ugly anyway, and it was ok with me), tomboy (because I wore that badge proudly), or weirdo, stupid… and when the metal t-shirts started to be more than just a one-off in my wardrobe, I was even less bothered than before – I was part of something exclusive that only myself and those like me could understand, and whoever was not in this “club” was automatically someone I was not remotely interested to get to know and listen to.

Reflecting on my past, I can tell you right now how, despite my strong and “no fucks given” attitude, I craved my very own gang of friends; I so wanted a best friend to share my secrets with, a local group of trusted peers to go and get an ice cream with, spending summer afternoons together. Later in my twenties, I longed for a crazy, inner circle of women like me, pretty much like the Sex and The City quartet: you know, drinks and food catch-ups in cool places, free to talk about anything without being judged or considered an hysterical freak of nature. But, despite my desires, at the end of the day I kept being with myself, by myself, and to be perfectly honest I never exactly did anything or put any effort to tackle the status quo and get these friendships in my life. In my head, the constant mantra was “it is what it is” and “there is nothing I can do about it”. Besides, I just had to turn my computer on to talk with “my friends”, since most of what I regarded as such were people I met in various websites and forums; to a certain extent, nothing has changed: most of my friends are still those same old friends I met “on the web”, and since I live in another country, technology is the only way to have a constant contact with them.

Moving to the UK didn’t change things much, and it didn’t help that I desperately glued myself to the only person who seemed to have an interest in me (which then became my now ex-husband). Subconsciously, I created the same “family” of lonely people for my son: both myself and my ex-husband relocated here, my son is an only child (with not great chances of having a sibling, not from me anyway) and we have no relatives whatsoever in this country. By the way, it is not a good idea to try and overcome your loneliness by being with someone just because they seem to give you the attention you need. I learned it the hard way by marrying the most unsuitable person, and I only realised that when the damage happened already. The end result was a broken, fragile, tired woman, survival of suicidal thoughts and post-natal depression, desperately lonely, in a constant fight with the world and herself.

Oh, I had plenty of therapy sessions to discuss how my loneliness has affected my behaviour in ways that, sometimes, I never even realise. It is the reason why I became a rescuer, the one who helps everyone, and lends money to everyone, and takes care of everyone, and it’s the mother of everyone because “if they need me they’ll keep me”; it was the reason why I picked the wrong relationships (“at least he seems to want me”), it has been the poor excuse I gave myself to avoid getting out of my comfort zone and try something different (“what’s the point, I’ll be lonely anyway”) and the poison that ultimately made me land arse flat on the ground, at my lowest of the low points in life. And I hated myself. Desperately. And being lonely exacerbated this hate, because being all by myself meant being alone with the person I hated the most in the world, something I was ready to do anything in order to avoid it. I was not good enough to have friends because, reality in my head was that I was not good as a person in the first place. I was too focussed on the exterior consequences of what was going on inside me, thinking “I am ugly, I’m stupid, I’m not worth love, I’m useless…” rather than have a deep look at my life and go “hold on a second, maybe I should start looking at what’s in my heart (and head) rather than out and about”.

Where do you start getting out of this loop? Hand on heart, it was not an easy ride. Admitting to myself that I needed people to fill my own void, in the hope that their presence and their “fake” love (because, of course, they wanted me just for the things I’d give them, not for the person I was) would make things better, was not an easy thing to do… and yet, it set me free. I had to learn the hard way to love myself, to appreciate who I am, to build the person I always wanted to be from scratch. When I finally got to the stage where I felt not only enough, but a beautiful world by myself, I discovered that I was not lonely anymore: I had myself, and that was not something I wanted to run away from, but the exact opposite: I wanted to get to know myself, talk to myself, discover what I like, what I don’t like, what clothes look good on me, what things are ok with me and what other things are a no-go. Guess what? Once I feel in love with this new person I am, I discovered a world of friends, real friends, who loved me just as much as myself. Being “lonely” is now a space I create for myself when I need to just be with me, myself and I: call it if you like “a date with myself”.

The only things I’m truly missing, right now, is having a proper family here. This thought came to light lately after spending few evenings with my boyfriend’s family: witnessing the love, affection and a proper family interaction made me think of how I really do miss being cuddled and cared for: you know, the coming back home with food, the little gestures and thoughts, the sitting for a cup of tea and a chat, the “I’m coming for dinner!”…

Susanbano in all its glory

I have been extremely touched and honoured when my boyfriend’s mum gifted me with a beautiful plant she brought from Iran: oh, that was such a truly special gift, and yes, it gave me a bit of “family love” too (I called it Susanbano in honour of my boyfriend’s mother and grandmother). Unfortunately, I cannot relocate my family here, or change this situation anytime soon, but one thing is for sure: I will do my best to create a family for me (and my son) that’s vibrant, caring and loving!

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GOODBYE PAST CHRISTMASES

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

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

The creepy church in all its glory

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

Francesca and I too many years ago

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

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

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

a happy me with the purple wall

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

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

The ritual!

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

The stunning Arena of Verona

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

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.

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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.

(BREAKING THE) LAW OF ATTRACTION

My metal friends will forgive my almost Judas Prieast-y quote!

I used to be highly sceptical of things such as the “law of attraction”, the “power of the mind” and stuff like that. I considered most of that stuff hipster bullshit, or crap written on self-help books that only benefits the writer making money on false hopes, not the reader getting out of their misery. When I embarked on this journey of mine, I stumbled over and over across these things, and since I decided to not give anything for granted anymore, even if may feel a bit stupid at times, I decided to kind of open up to the possibility that this bloody law of attraction thing may be true.

Marge, my dear friend, every single time she saw me dressed like I just got out of bed and picked the first things I found, with no makeup and looking like I couldn’t give a fuck about life, always told me off saying “if you dress nicely and look nicely, you will attract nice stuff; if you dress in crappy, baggy clothes and look like shit, you will attract shit”. I used to laugh about her remarks, because my Kreator hoodie has been my second skin for years now, but the further I progressed with the gym and therapy, the more I started to wonder whether what she kept saying (and still says!) held some truth in it. And I started changing the way I portrayed myself to the outside world.
I didn’t really pay attention to what was happening around me, since I have been too busy focusing on what was happening with me, but last Friday something happened that woke me up from a weird sleep-of-the-mind moment and made me think “actually, if I needed proof that Marge is right, here is one right before my very own eyes”.

So, I had a very horrible night where I didn’t sleep well. I was nervous, I had a nightmare after the other, I was cold, then hot, then cold, then itchy, I just couldn’t rest for more than five minutes in a row. I blamed the full moon and my pre-menstrual hormones and tried to get over it, but in the morning, I felt dreadful. I dragged my sorry self to the office, all sluggish and lethargic, in a rather upset mood. I worked as much as I could, then I decided I had to have a walk to clear my head, and since I had to courier some documents, I took the chance to take few minutes break and walk to the loading bay in my office’s basement. Once I got there, the security guy Mo greeted me with a big smile and a hug. He saw that there was something not adding up, and immediately started to encourage me and make me feel better: “no, don’t be like that, go to the gym, I see you every day going there like all moody and coming out energised and happy, you can do this, you work so hard, I believe in you, go and do some lifting, get the happy hormones fighting the sad ones, show me you can do this!”. I left the loading bay with a smile, thinking “yeah, he is so right, I should just forget about everything, go and sweat a bit at the gym Silvia, come on”. I didn’t go there in the end (I have been way too busy to leave my desk) but I kept a more positive mood all day long.

I kept thinking about Mo’s words all afternoon and evening. It made me reflect about the massive support and love that the people who are in my life right now are demonstrating and showing to me each victory I nail, and how all the haters, negative soul-eaters are so far away from me, whether because they got rid of themselves on their own accord or because I pushed them away (consciously or subconsciously). Only few months ago, if I had a bad mood day like that, I would have got a barrage of negativity back that would have reinforced my feelings of shittiness. Now, if I’m on the lower side of happiness, people rally to bring me back to a more positive place. It’s like I’m running this marathon of life, and whenever from time to time I take a stumble or I’m too tired to keep going, someone offers a hand and gives me the energy boost I need to go further and further, without having to proactively asking for help; people are cheering me on the side of the track, and even though at times it is painful to keep moving, I know I can count of my friends to be there when I need them. I guess my new, more positive outlook, inside and outside, has attracted more positive people who approach me with a more positive attitude.

I spoke to my therapist about it a while ago, and she said that, aside from any spiritual connotation that one may want to see in this law, it does indeed have some truth in it: the more you take care of yourself, inside and outside, the more you work on yourself to elevate you from negativity to positivity, the more people will notice the change and shift their behaviour accordingly, because if they don’t, you would not put up with it (consciously or not); more so, you would be attracting more positive people not because of some mojo-voodoo-whatever magical thing, but because you’ll be more positive and won’t stand whatever dragged you down in the past: you’ll be savvier choosing those who surrounds you because you will recognise the negative stuff that you worked so hard to get rid of, and you won’t chose to befriend someone who doesn’t match your new you. Indeed, this is what is happening to me. The more I think about it, the more I see it in the people around me, especially in those that weren’t there before I started this journey but that now I can’t imagine my life without: everyone is kind, enthusiastic, generous, encouraging, inspiring, empowering. Of course, some negative influences try to show up here and there (ex-boyfriend I’m pointing the finger at you) but you know what? I’m in such a different mindset that I don’t really give a single shit about it. Like, not even a remote one, no matter how hard I try (and I don’t). If these new people are those I’m attracting in this journey, well, I’m doing something good and I’m in the right path.

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Which made me think… I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and I saw a video posted by Alex Rodriguez gushing about Jennifer Lopez working hard as hell for her fans and doing an amazing job (I know, I know, I’m obsessed, I really am): it was just beautiful, you can tell he is one hell of a proud man who is madly in love with his woman. It made me cry: I never had a man so proud of me that he’d scream it out loud for the whole world to hear, or even just for me to hear it. I always been treated like I should have been grateful to be in a relationship in the first place, and that it was a sort of a miracle they picked me instead of the plethora of better / hotter / smarter women they could have picked. You know what? I’m done with this shit. I deserve my very own A-Rod. Someone who will be proud of the journey I’m in, someone who will be solid on my side, who will be my number one supporter. Someone who won’t gaslight me to hide his insecurities, but that will push me to conquer any goal I set myself to achieve. Someone that will lift me up when I’m down and shower me with love and affection. I know my heart, at the moment, is locked away and has said to the brain “pretend I don’t exist, I’m on an indefinite leave, you are in charge mate, enjoy” so there are approximately zero chances for the above to happen, but hey, who knows, maybe, one day, when the time will be right, the laws of attraction will give me another massive present?

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OH, YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND

I have been thinking about writing the following entry for a while, but I have never found the words, or moment, to do it. I kind of avoided talking about my best friend so far because she is the most precious person I have in my life after my son, and even though it is not the first time I shout to the world what an incredible person she is and how much I love her, I kind of kept her away from my blog because… because she deserves so much, and when this thing started I was not in the right mental place to honour her.

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This is one of the craziest pictures of me and my best friend, my sister from another mother, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my beautiful friend Sara. Yes, I was dressed as a unicorn, for the record. Yes, it is not the best picture ever, we probably had one drink too many to care anyway when we took it.

We know each other since the dawn of time, but we became very close friends few years ago: my life was shit (I had recently told my ex husband that he was, well, an ex) and she wasn’t doing great either. We started talking, and then sharing our stories, and before we knew it, we were spending every second we were awake texting each other.

People dream about finding “the love of their lives” and make no mistake, I still long to be loved romantically, but what I have found in my friend goes beyond that: she has been there on my side through whatever storm I had to face, whether big or small; she listened to anything I had to say, without passing any judgement, with her arms open to accept whoever I was in that moment (including an inconsolable, depressed mess); she gave me comfort, strength, love, care; I never, ever once felt embarrassed of being truly myself with her, because she is too special, she has always loved me way more than what I loved myself and she never failed to remind me of that, even when I was too depressed to appreciate it. She has always been the only light in my dark, horrible tunnel, and  I know that whatever life will bring, she will be just one text away from holding my hand and helping me facing my next war.

She is more than my heart, more than my soul. She is an angel. When nobody remembered I existed, she was the only one who made sure I had the most amazing birthday present waiting for me at home. When I spent two weeks crying solid because my ex boyfriend dumped me, she knitted the softest, most precious scarf so that I could have wrapped myself in it and feel her hug. When I screamed at the world how ugly I felt, she painted the most beautiful portrait of me to remind me that whoever I see in the mirror is not what she sees. Honestly, I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to receive the honour of her friendship, and I always feel like I don’t do enough to celebrate her and to tell her what a gem she is.

Hey, it is not all tears and sadness though: when we are together and the mood is right, we barely breathe so much we are laughing. We are like two peas in a pod. We could spend endless days in pyjama on the sofa without even getting up to go to the toilet. I remember the first time she came to stay for a week at my place: before she arrived, we planned billions of activities. Oh we were supposed to do everything and anything, partying hard, drinking even harder, crazy life. Well, we barely left the house, and when we did it was because we had no other choice (like when we ran out of toilet rolls…).

We can talk very deep and serious things, and three sentences later go bonkers and tell each other the most hilarious jokes ever heard. We curse like sailors, we drink prosecco like it is sparkling water and we could potentially live on a diet based on Aperol Spritz and lasagna.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

My love for Sara is immense, and I’m grateful, honoured and blessed to have her in my life.

I love her so much, and to preserve our beautiful friendship, I recently felt the need to “push her away”, because I was becoming a horrible person and she didn’t deserve such an awful person like me on her side. I was in a very dark place, my head was full of disturbing thoughts. I was scared, I was badly scared I was slowly going back to my dark hell. She was living a truly magic moment and I was just not in the right mind: I got dumped by what I thought it was the love of my life (more like the leech of my life, but it took a while to see it), I was humiliated, used and abused; he managed to crush every single bit of me and I felt lost, helpless, useless, stupid…. at the same time, she was beginning a new relationship, and living exactly the opposite. I just wanted to die, because even though rationally I was absolutely thrilled for her (and I still am!), at that point in time, everything she was experiencing was exactly everything that it got ripped off from me. I had to take a break, I had to be alone this time, truly alone, to face my demons by myself, because letting her enjoy her moment was paramount and she didn’t need a negative, depressed and damaged person on her side. Also, I knew I could have hurt her down the line (not voluntarily, of course) because I was simply not remotely capable of thinking straight, and believe me, I would have rather killed myself than do anything to make her sad. Coming back to her when the dust settled and the dark, negative fog left my mind felt truly special. To quote Harry Potter (that she really loves), it was like when Ron came back to Harry and Hermione after he left, due to having his mind clouded by holding the horcrux for such a long time: he not only came back to save the lives of his friends, but also managed to destroy the horcrux with the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Ok, I didn’t save her life, but fuck yeah I destroyed my fucking horcrux for good (and boy, it felt so good being able to put “the end” once and for all to that chapter of my life).

So yes, my beautiful, gorgeous, incredible friend: I absolutely love you with every single atom of me. I damn the distance that keeps us so far from each other, but as the saying goes “true friends are never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart”. Never forget my special gift (the mighty lemon) is waiting for you, and it will be my absolute pleasure seeing it on you. You deserve everything and some more, and I will always be your friend forever.

Ooh you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh you’re my best friend”

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.

WORKIN’ 9 TO 5 DOLLY PARTON STYLE

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

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

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

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

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

I cried all my tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nicholas
half-way through my prank

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

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

wimbly

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

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

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

 


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

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