WEAK AND PROUD

And then, suddenly, it finally happened: the crisis moment where I couldn’t stop crying my eyes out and feeling dreadful. Oh yes, there is no denying that. The big low, counteracting the massive (medicine-induced) high hit me like a truck on full speed, and there was nothing to do but just release all the emotions I was feeling.

I have a confession to make: since I was feeling absolutely great, I didn’t exactly spend my days recovering, taking things slowly, resting and just “go with the flow”. No no no.I have been out and about, I’ve been working (yes…), I have been doing basically everything I was not exactly supposed to even entertain the idea of doing. I was feeling great, so why stopping?

damn he is right

Well, I tell you why, because once all the medicines wore off, and all the “high” from the morphine etc left my poor body, I felt like dying. My brain and body clearly told me under no circumstances to attempt doing anything at all or face their wrath. I kept pushing myself, thinking “naaaa, it’s just momentarily, I’ll be fine” and guess what? Of course, I ended up not being fine. Actually, I ended up crying my eyes out, feeling dreadful, mentally and physically. I could barely speak (I’m bilingual, and I struggled with both Italian and English!), barely move, I felt like thinking and moving in slow motion compared to the rest of the world. I couldn’t do it. My boyfriend was trying to talk to me about work and important stuff, I could barely look at him and hearing his words, but not “listening” and understanding a single thing he was saying. I had to ultimately stop everything and confess I was too weak.

THE TRAGEDY

I said it millions of times how much I HATE to expose my weaknesses: over years of depression, suicidal thoughts etc, I hid all my troubles under a mask and pretended everything was ok with the rest of the world, because I was surrounded by people who, for whatever reason, could not handle by any stretch of imagination what was truly happening with me. It made their life easier and my life easier too: no explanations to be given, no dramas, no listening to stupid advices (“maybe you should get a walk and have some fresh air” because of course, depression can be cured with air and trips to the park, right?), no bullshit, just (fake, in my case) quietness all around.
I didn’t want this to happen this time. I didn’t want to hide again, pretend all was ok and sulk in a corner full of negative thoughts, so I did the most obvious thing to do: I told my boyfriend “I am too weak, I really need a break. I need to stop thinking and doing, I need to just rest”. It was so hard to admit it and ear my voice saying those words, but at the same, it was also the most liberating thing ever. I started crying in his arms, feeling like I just had a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t stop! And you know what the best part of this was? Instead of all the past reactions I had from various people from my past, I had a big hug, a kiss, and cuddles. Everything I needed. No questions, no talk back, no lessons, no explanations. Bliss!

It took me years, but I finally managed to understand this very simple concept: there is nothing wrong to be weak. Nothing. Zero. Nada. It is absolutely ok. Of course, having zero self-esteem, I thought that if I showed to the world my weaknesses, I would have been outcasted even more and “unloved” because I couldn’t handle everyone’s shit as per my usual self. Now that my self-esteem and self-care is high, well, I don’t care if people sees me not at my best. For fuck sake, I just had a very complicated and problematic surgery procedure, my body is all focussed on healing and recovering from this major trauma, if someone has a problem with this they are more than happy to do one and fuck off. Weakness is actually part of the healing process, it is a sign from the body that needs you to just do as little as possible so all the energies etc can be used solely to fix what has been “broken”, and believe me, my shoulder has seen better days than these.

So yes, I am weak. Big time weak. I’m so weak I feel I can barely function above survival level at times. My brain is less foggy, yes, but still, I can’t really focus too much or dig deep into work matters because, when I do, the rest of my body shuts down to cope. To give you an (hilarious) idea of it, I have noticed that if I experience very strong emotions (be them anger, frustration, happiness…) I become so, so, so desperately tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. One evening my boyfriend and I were discussing stuff, and something upsetting from the past resurfaced which made me very annoyed and angry: well, as soon as these feelings took hold of me, I had to lie in bed unable to move, like I just got paralysed in order to process what was happening. Such a weird thing!

I owe my body respect and care. I beat it, disrespected it, hurt it and being careless with it for way too long. I don’t want to allow myself to slip back to the old ways, those days are long gone. Besides, should I be silly and disregard my body’s signals and all the medical adviced I got, I’ll fuck my shoulder up again and… put it this way, I am in no mood to piss my orthopaedic off or visit a surgery theathre anytime soon!

So, more resting and relaxing, no more superhero silliness!

“HELP ME” SEEMS TO BE THE EASIEST WORD

I didn’t expect to be able to say it so soon after my surgery, but I’m feeling and doing great. It’s only day five post-op but it feels like day twenty. The pain is next to zero, I weaned myself out of paracetamol, my range of movements is progressively improving, my brain is less foggy and I’m mentally doing just fine. Yes, I tend to get tired quickly, I feel like I’m running on battery saving mode, but to be honest, after what happened on Monday, it is fair to say I better thank my lucky stars that this is the only “annoying” thing I’m experiencing.

I told my therapist “this surgery will be a very good challenge for me to see at what stage I am with my mental work, what things I still have to work on and what progresses I made” and I was so, so right. I can’t help but keep referring to what happened with my previous surgery two years ago, because at that point in time I was in a very dark place mentally: I wasn’t suicidal anymore, grant you that, but still, I was a very damaged, depressed, self-hating woman with now an elbow sliced up and so much frustration that I could have exploded there and then. I was alone at the hospital, alone before the procedure, alone afterwards, alone during my endless recovery, I was negative, I was not making the progresses I wanted, I kept doing stuff I was not supposed to do with the passive-aggressive mindset of “See? I’m doing this shit even though I’m supposed to be in bed recovering” in the hope that, I don’t know, someone thinking “aww…..poor Silvia” would have helped me: of course, I would have never “lowered” myself to directly ask for help, and even in the remote chance I’d receive some, I would have never allowed the helper to do anything because “I am doing JUST FINE!”. I know, I know, what an absolutely stupid way of thinking. I worked during my medical leave with that same mentality and when I went back to work I felt like I was punished further for something that was not my fault. Oh, and should I mention that I ignored anything my then physiotherapist said to me? No wonder why recovering felt like a total burden instead of a chance to be physically better.

This meme cracked me up big time

You cannot begin to imagine how grateful and happy I am that I had all that psychotherapy under my belt before this surgery. I am on a whole different planet this time round. I surrounded myself with love, affection and positivity, there is not a moment I am alone facing any difficulties by myself and, most importantly, I am allowing myself to be cared for, something that has never happened before; I’m trusting others to do the right thing for me, I’m not only letting them help me when they volunteer, but I also ask for help when I’m stuck. A year ago, all of this would have never, ever be even remotely possible, because I was the rescuer who helps others in order for them to love me, and who never, ever, EVER shows how weak she truly is, so she puts up with any shit with a fake smile on her face (and moaning up a storm). Now, not only I have accepted the fact that I can be helped, and it is just normal, but I went a step further: I let an extremely vulnerable and embarrassed me be lovingly bathed by my boyfriend after he took me home from hospital.

As I said in my previous entry, I fainted on the anaesthetist. Well, the truth is that during my first anaesthetic procedure (I had to have the nerve on my right shoulder blocked and my arm numbed before being put to sleep) I felt incredibly sick. Gosh, I thought I was about to vomit my stomach up. I was sitting on the bed, with a mega needle stuck in my shoulder, and the last thing I remember is my anaesthetist rushing up saying “don’t worry, is fine, now we’ll lay you down” whilst I moaned “gosh I want to vomit….”. When I opened my eyes, I was in the recovering room with a lovely nurse taking care of me. I felt great (good old morphine!) and, to be pretty honest with you, at that stage I didn’t give a remote fuck of what happened in between the moment I closed my eyes and the moment I re-opened them.

I discovered, later in the day, that they saw in the monitors that I was not doing great (hence why they swiftly made me lay down) and that I was about to pass out big time. Apparently, when that happened, I hardly bit my lip as well (funnily enough, it is still more painful than my shoulder!). The anaesthetist had to bring me back, stabilise me then put me to sleep again. In addition, my surgery lasted a bit longer than expected: once my surgeon got his needles inside, he discovered that my shoulder was actually waaaaay worse than expected, so yes, it didn’t go all roses and fairy tales as I hoped. Yet, despite all the scary things and issues, I looked at the physiotherapist telling me all this tale thinking “who cares! Am I fixed though? YEAH!”. Two years ago? I would have probably have freaked out and felt paralysed by fear.

When they rolled me back in my room, I looked myself in my phone’s camera and I realised that I looked like a vision from hell: my face (and lip!) was swollen and sticky, my hair was messy, I had my arm in a sling (what the fuck?), I smelled of sweat, medicines and… well.. pee. Soon enough I realised I was sitting in an absorbing pad, and by the, ehm, wet feeling on my poor bum, I think I may have had a moment or two of incontinence during my ordeal.
Guess who was the first person who saw me like that? Yes, the last person on earth I wanted to ever see me in those conditions: my boyfriend. Thankfully I was still too high on morphine to cry and feel so embarrassed to call the nurse and beg her to put me to sleep for good.
It felt so good (and funny) to see that he saw past my frightful state to only see the usual me in front of him. He cracked me up with few jokes, helped me getting dressed and took me back home like I was just “normal me”, and not a smelly zombie from a horror movie, and this caring, loving attitude is what made me confident and trusting enough to let him help me to wash myself.

I know, it sounds very stupid and basic, but I’m telling you, when you feel so vulnerable, sick, tired, unable to move properly, embarrassed etc one of the last things you’d like to do is to strip naked in a bath and let someone wash you, especially if, like me, you have a life history of being plagued by self-hate, zero self-esteem and a billion body-confidence issues. To me, it was a great big deal. I remember talking about it with my psychotherapist and how uneasy the thought of “having to surrender to someone else and be helped – including being bathed and fed” made me squirm and feel unease, at best of times. Yet, there I was, in all my extremely vulnerable glory, in the hands of my hilarious and caring boyfriend, who not only gently washed me head to toes with a warm wet towel, combed my hair, dressed me up in a clean pyjama and made me feel (and look) like my normal self again, but that also made me laugh till tears and feel just fine about whatever was happening, breaking my mental barrier of “this is so wrong, you are never supposed to see me like this, ever!!!”. What a weird thing to think: in reverse, I’d be doing exactly what my boyfriend did to me, without even blinking an eye, so why should I feel that being at the receiving end of some love and care in a difficult time is something that it’s not ok? You know when they say “in sickness or health”? Well, now I got the hang of what it really means and letting him help me without reserves not only allowed him to prove what a tremendous, incredible man he is, but also brought us to another, better relationship level, I feel.
I would have never been able to see that before since I would have never allowed anyone to “be my hero” even if I wanted to: I would have rather spent my time smelling fowl, being miserable and nagging all the time at anyone who dared to listen to me.

Ok, ok, I have to admit, I had my rebellious moment when I took advantage of one of his lazy mornings and I cleaned the kitchen top to bottom, but then, once the “I’m a warrior yeah look at this” moment finished, I had a laugh and went back at taking this recovery time as easy as possible. There is nothing I have to prove, to anyone. It’s fine if I’m not ok for a while, it is exactly as expected, so just chill dude, ok?
My next steps now are resuming psychotherapy on Monday (believe me, I cannot wait to sit on my therapist’ sofa to tell her all about what happened so far) and starting my shoulder rehabilitation on Tuesday. I can’t wait to be in a condition where I can hit the gym again!

ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL

I am back at home as I write. My surgery went very well though I have been told I fainted on the anaesthetist after he gave me a nerve block for my shoulder: all I remember is feeling very sick and then, suddenly, I was with a nurse in the recovery room!

Anyway, all is ok, my recovery starts now. Thanks for all the kind messages, I truly appreciated them!

Lots of love,

Silvia

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!!!)