THE POWER OF GOODBYE (TO MY OLD CLOTHES)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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not really appealing, no…

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

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

 

I WANT IT ALL AND I WANT IT NOW

(Queen fan till death!)

Do you want to change?
Do you want to see change happening in your life?
Do you want to quit your bad habit, whichever it is?
Do you want to improve your life, whatever that means to you?
You lucky person, you ended up in the right place, because in this blog entry I am going to tell you the most ground-breaking piece of information ever existed amongst us fellow human beings that will change your life forever, I promise. I will save you tons of money on self-help books, endless hours on YouTube watching motivational speakers, TED talks, life gurus and coaches, you name it, because I’ve done the homework for you mate. Aren’t I so kind?

One of the most annoying things I have heard so far, when people asks me about my ongoing journey, is the following “oh, I wish I had your determination to change, but”. Generally, I just shrug my shoulders and smile, but inside I know I’m dying to answer “oh, well, what do you expect me to do, extract determination like a serum from my body and inject it into you?”. I wish it would be possible, I’d be millionaire in the space of couple of weeks, but it’s not. However, I am about to reveal the unspoken secret that will leave me just as cashflow strapped as I am, but that hopefully will spare me hearing that sentence ever again.

Brace yourself.

You know what the real, simple, dead stupid secret to “making change happen” is? WANTING IT.
That’s it. You are one decision away from the change you want to make happening. One single decision, which sounds along the line of “I WANT IT”. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, not wishes.

I want it. Full stop.

There is you on one side, your goal on the other, and the only thing you have to do to get to your goal closer is wanting to reach it. Sounds to simple? I thought that too. Especially when I was with my arse on the floor crying in total misery because I got dumped, my life was shit, I looked like shit, my mental health was shit, my finances where shit (thank you boiler for making it even worse), my au pair left me fending for myself, it was fucking nightmare everywhere I looked. This is where I took the most important decision of my life: wanting to change. Enough of living a life I hate: it’s 2018, there are options out there, I was born in the lucky side of the world where I can access these information, the help, the knowledge etc. just by clicking on a search engine, there are endless possibilities to make my life better: enough crying, let’s start working, because I don’t want to be the person that a dumb asshole can shatter in a moment by dumping her; I don’t want to be the person struggling to cope with her mind; I don’t want to be the person who looks herself in the mirror thinking “my body is just shit”.

Ok, I have to admit, there is a catch. Ah-ha, you’d think, here is the “small print” part of this. Yes, there is. See, there is “wanting” and “wanting”. You may want something, you may dreaming about, I don’t know, Jennifer Lopez body like me, or quitting smoking (been there, done that), quitting bad habits (yep, got that one too), stop stalking and texting your ex (…cough cough…), having a more balanced mental health (thumbs up), getting a degree, changing your career, the list is endless. It’s all fine. The only obstacle between you and your goal is that nasty “BUT” in your head that stops you from acting. You have to want your object of desire so badly that you are ready to do anything it takes to get it, like your life depends on it. This is the only catch.

If you are not 100% fully committed, it won’t happen. You won’t be able to put up with the struggles that you’ll find along the line. You can tell yourself “Tomorrow I’m going to stop smoking / start dieting / going to the gym….” And you’ll see that that tomorrow never comes. Or maybe it will, but the next day you will be back at square one. You can tell yourself all the lies you want to hear, you can come up with a myriad of excuses to keep your ass solid on your comfy couch, you can pretend to have all impairments existing in the world, fine by me, I’ve been there and done that for all my life so far, but: don’t cry when things will not happen, when the scale will not show any weight loss, when you’ll still be puffing that cigarette, when your liver will burn at the sight of any degree celebration, or when you still haven’t saved a penny for your desired boob job (ehm ehm….), or when you’ll cry in bed staring at your ex-boyfriend new collection of whor…ehm…..

You have to want it that badly. Once you do finally want it, like you never wanted anything before, like whatever life throws at you it’s “fuck you life, I’m unstoppable”, like you go full speed ahead no matter what, guess what? change will happen. Guaranteed, 100%, would bet my house on it.

I have been the queen of half-arsed efforts all my life. It was sooooo easy to barely try, fail, moan, blame how life is so unfair, tell myself I was too stupid to achieve stuff etc. All around me people were busy doing and improving, getting nice jobs, doing this and that, and all I was able to do was sitting at the window, jealous as fuck, wishing a fairy godmother would come round, do some magic and ta-dah! Life sorted. I’m sorry to break this news to you (and myself, every time I wake up hoping to be reborn in JLo and instead finding I’m still myself), but it doesn’t work like that. All successful people, the real successful people, they are who they are because they worked hard. Yes, even the Kardashian: do you think it’s that easy being filmed 24/7, keeping the looks, the money, the “K-Empire” just by sitting on your arse? You wished! As much as they all make me cringe and vomit, you can’t deny that it takes work to keep staying in the limelight, plotting the next big scandal, arranging the next paparazzi shot and earning money.

You won’t become a musician just because you have a bit of talent if you don’t put the hard work in. You won’t win an Olympic game if you don’t train every single day as hard as you can. You won’t lose weight if you are not prepared to follow a proper diet, tailored to you by a proper medical expert dietician, and throw some exercise in the mix (and maybe some psychological support, because let’s face it, it’s not easy at all). Every time a “but” comes in your mind, this is where the temptation to fuck it all up and be back at not changing comes: this is when you can either choose to overcome that “but” in your head, or to succumb to it. I always chose to succumb up till June this year, where I was so low, so beaten up, sad, shit, disaster all around that I decided it was time to be the phoenix who rises from her ashes, rather than just be ashes.

I read somewhere on Facebook a woman claiming, “I’m sick and tired of hearing people saying “you have to want to change, like you could snap out of mental illnesses or else just because you want to”. Part of me agrees with the sentiment, naturally: of course, you can’t just tell yourself “I want to not be depressed” and boom! You are dancing in the streets celebrating your newly-found glorious mental health. Of course I am not talking about serious illnesses which require medical expertise and treatments (if only people could beat cancer just by wanting it, wouldn’t that be great?). Of course, I ain’t that dumb to think “the power of the mind conquers it all”. And yet again, I also don’t agree with what that woman said. The fact that your situation is difficult doesn’t mean that your only option is to just be passive to whatever is happening to you. You can help yourself to improve your situation, whatever that may be, if you really, really want to, and there are amazing examples out there (Katie Piper anyone? I mean, if she is not inspirational, who else can it be! Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai? Shot in the head, left for dead, now studying at Oxford?). Of course it is not easy, but you face struggles with a different mindset when you really, really want something, rather than when you decide you are defeated even before you begin.

Mel Robbins, a very amazing motivational speaker, yesterday put a post on Instagram saying “It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you don’t”, suggesting that you should give a go and swap your “I can’t” with “ I don’t” every time you face something – and see how it sting. Her point (which I fully agree with) is “Taking action is a choice… and so is telling yourself you can’t”. So yes, if you are currently reading this thinking “just bullshit, I wish I could… but”, try to overcome that “but” and see what happens.

You won’t be disappointed.

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I believe in you. And today, I want to remind you— that you CAN do this. You can lose the weight. You can build that business. You can finish school. You can survive this breakup. You can save enough money for that bucket list trip. You can fall in love again. You can do whatever you are willing to work for. And here's the deal, I know you "know" what I'm saying is as true as a compass pointing north. So today, try this little trick to make yourself "do" it. – Today, when you start saying “I can’t” swap in “I don’t” and see how that feels when you admit the truth to your self. I'll tell you how it feels— it stings. Taking action is a choice… and so is telling yourself you can't. I'm betting that if you say "don't" it will be a slap of reality. And, that sting you feel might snap out of the "can't" excuse and jolt you forward into action. Today, call yourself out – me know if you’re going to take this challenge and comment #ICAN

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FORGET ME NOT (MAYBE)

This is quite an interesting thing that I’ve only recently realised, mainly because people are making me notice it and therefore I start thinking about it to see if it’s true or just a wrong impression that I give. Last Monday it was World Suicide Prevention Day (I did an entry about it too) and in the evening, like every Monday, I went to have a lovely chat with my psychotherapist. Of course, we discussed about my suicidal years, and we talked about a lot of other things too, but the interesting thing that came out of it was that I seem to have lost all the memories of those three years of terrible pain.

Like a selective amnesia, I have only few pictures in my head about what happened. If I dig, something more comes up, but it feels like my brain is telling me “don’t dig. Let the bygones be bygones. Move forward not backwards please”. Not only that, I can’t even relate to the old me. Of course, I know what happened, I still fear the possibility to re-live that horror again, but it feels so distant from the current me. When I talk about me during that time, is like I’m talking about a distant relative. Yes, it is me, and I wouldn’t be this me if I weren’t that me as well, but…. I don’t know. It seems that my brain is coping with the trauma in the same way as some people lose their memories after a very traumatic accident, and they just wake up in the hospital completely clueless of what happened, why they are in an hospital bed etc.

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Forget-me-not flowers. By I may forget about them in a second.

Funnily enough, it seems that my “memory loss” is not just related to those years, but that is something that keeps happening on day to day basis since those years have gone by. I was chatting with a dear colleague of mine over lunch, and I don’t remember (how surprisingly) what we were talking about, but whatever I said to her, she answered back saying “of course you said this, we all know you have a very selective memory, you remember only what is useful or important, the rest… nothing!”. She is right, and she is not the first one who points it out at me. My ex told me on few occasion how I was amazing at remembering fundamental stuff, but if, somehow, I label a piece of information useless, uninteresting, not important etc… bye bye from my brain.

I have been kind of aware of this, especially in the last few years. You can ask every single babysitter or au pair I had, and they will tell you how much I always stress the fact that if they notice that something is missing or finished in the house, or if something is needed, or if I need to do anything at all, to please text me even millions of times if necessary, or else I will never remember it. NEVER. One of the most incredible and beloved au pairs I had, she used to force me to send her a picture of me at the supermarket holding the things she asked me to buy, because she knew it was the only way to ensure I did it. She didn’t trust my “yeah yeah done it” because she knew full well it wasn’t exactly true (it was not a lie, but I could have been at the supermarket about to grab a loaf of bread, then I’d be distracted to text her back saying “yeah yeah” and…. bread stays in the shelf). Or, she’d make a video call to check I was doing what I was required to do. It feels so weird writing it, but believe me, at times it is that bad, and if I’m stressed, it is even worse.

I think that, traumas asides, what I’m really experiencing is being mentally tired. I’m drained. I’m seriously, seriously tired as fuck. I’m tired of having to think about everything and anything, to always be the only one who must take care of stuff that matters, who can only count on herself. At work, at home, there is never a true break for me, and this is the way my brain chose to cope with this stressful situation: by being in a sort of battery-saving mode. For the record, I’m not even attempting to snap out of it because I’m too tired and if this is the only way I can ensure to not have a total mental breakdown, so be it.

I’m being kinder with myself. I used to be obsessed with the need to prove to the world that I’m the big shit who has total control over everything, who can do anything always above and beyond the call of duty, who is always there for everyone no matter what time of the day or night. Now I simply don’t care anymore, because I care more about me than proving anything at all. There is nothing I have to prove, and if anything, I have to prove it only to myself. It is what it is, and my fuck-to-give bucket is tremendously empty as we speak. I’ve noticed that if I just push myself a bit too much, and I’m tired a bit too much, I become a very horrible, angry, shouty and hysterical woman. I get scared of my own anger. There are very few things so important that I’m willing to put myself in a position where I’d punch the wall till my hands bleed, so tired and angry I am. A bit like when I think “is this meeting / dinner / gathering etc worth this number of hours that I will have to pay to my babysitter?”, I now think “is this thing worth me being tired as fuck?”.

I feel guilty at times, because the old me would love for me to be back in business and drain the hell out of me, so that I can go back at being miserable, (potentially) depressed and a total moaner. It is a very tough mental process to break, similar as to detoxing myself from the “high” that “being needed” brings. Who needs myself more though? Other people or myself? I think the answer is pretty easy to guess.

So yeah, if I forget the things you said, the things I was supposed to do etc, be kind with me. Simply give me a gentle nudge. I’ll do my best to not forget it again, but if I do…. Oh well, remind me again!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

aaaaa

WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY – MY THOUGHTS

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Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and as you can imagine, being an ex-suicidal person myself, I have a very special connection with the whole thing.

I cannot believe that, couple of years ago, I seriously contemplated to kill myself.
For three good years I thought every day, every single minute of my day “I want to end my life, I can’t go on like this”. It was just… just hell. My mental health was spiralling out of control, I had panic attacks every few minutes, my body ached, I couldn’t eat, sleep, breathe; I was living in a constant paranoia of having an anaphylactic shock, of ending up unconscious in the streets, or at home, leaving my baby alone to fend for himself. I was scared to have to endure another day, but at the same time, I was scared to go to sleep and have one of my nightmares where I’d be suffocating (and yes, I couldn’t breathe for real) in my sleep.
I couldn’t see a way out. My ex-husband, if anything, he made things even worse; doctors brushed me off or threatened me with social services; my family was too far, I had no friends I could talk to, it felt like the whole world was telling me “just fucking end it”. I saw no point in going on. What if I never snap back of this hell? What if it is only going to get worse? No matter how much I try to ask for help, I get treated like a lunatic, an exaggerating first time mum who should care for her son instead of thinking shit, nobody is willing to talk to me and see what the heck is wrong with me, what is the point of living through the next hours, let alone days, if this is what my life will be for the foreseeable future?

Oh, yes, I planned my end millions of times. In my head, I wrote millions of letters to my son to ask him to forgive me for being a bad mum, a weak mum, for not being there to see him becoming a wonderful boy, to not be with him for his milestones etc. But then…. Then his tiny little hand would grab my finger, his lovely, big, brown eyes would look at me full of love and… and I would put my plans on hold, and tell myself “I just can’t…. I can’t leave him”. I’d find the strength in me to endure another panic attack, another paranoid episode, another drop of my blood pressure because I couldn’t eat (or I’d trigger another panic attack)… and then back to square one.

Crawling out of that hell has been brutal. Brutal. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I still bear massive scars that I’m working on with my therapist. I’m still frightened that I might slip back into it. Every now and then, when my hormones go a bit crazy, and maybe I’m tired, or just not in a good day and I feel my head going a bit wild, I have an immediate anxiety attack and I can feel the red alarm in my brain shouting “oh my gosh I’m going mental again”. It takes me a bit to calm down, to reassure me that’s not the case, that it’s just a bad moment and that things will be ok.

It’s funny how people think that it is so easy to spot a person who’s suicidal or dealing with some issues. It couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you can hear a lot of people saying, “oh my god I so want to die right now” (I do it all the time when my Personal Trainer decides that I’m in for a treat), maybe some people think about it when they are sad and dealing with a painful, embarrassing situation. However, I can assure you, the majority of people really serious about it will do their best at hiding it. It is a very dark, morbid, and disturbing thought, not something you feel like chatting with your friends about it. You become the best at pretending all is ok, even when inside you everything feels dead. It only takes one silly comment to make suicidal people freak out and feel “I shall never speak about it”. In addition, when your mind is blurred by your mental illness, you can’t think straight anyway: even if you have help around you, you cannot see it. You cannot reach it. You don’t want to reach it, because the monster in your head fills your brain with negative thoughts, like “they will make a fool of you if you say it”, “they’ll think it’s just a phase that you’ll grow out of it soon”, “they’ll brush it off making you feel dumb as shit”, “you are worth zero and so are your problems, so nobody would be interested anyway” etc.

You know, in those days, what I was truly desperate for? A simple hug. A genuine, heartfelt human interaction. A small act of kindness. Someone sitting next to me telling me “it is ok, I’m with you”. Someone holding my hand. Few words straight from the heart. Hope. I wanted hope. I wanted to know I was not alone, even if my mind was in this deep, negative fog that I couldn’t see it for myself. I didn’t want to “call a hotline”; I didn’t want to ask for help, I had no strength, willpower, mental energy to do it, and most importantly, I didn’t see the point of doing everything by myself only to be told stuff like “the waiting list is three months (yes, story of my life)”, all the fucking bloody time.

When I opened this blog, I sworn I’d be candid and honest about my issues. I am not famous or, you know, I don’t have any illusion to help saving people from their misery because they read my shit and think “there is hope out there”, but I felt it was important to just say it out loud “this is who I was, these are the scars I bear, I am not ashamed of them, I am not embarrassed, certainly I’m not happy about having them, but still, it is what it is and there is nothing wrong with saying it”. Maybe, just maybe, someone will indeed read this, and maybe, just maybe, he/she will feel less alone, and maybe who knows, maybe he/she will reach out to me, to someone, and say the most difficult, hard as an anvil word to say: “help”.

Believe me, even though there are certainly people more predisposed to suffer from mental health issues, it is nothing more than a Russian roulette: today you are sitting on your sofa, in your beautiful house, surrounded by your beautiful kids and family, and the next day shit happens and you find yourself in a very dark tunnel, with no apparent way out but to kill yourself. Don’t think you are better than this, that it will never happen to you, that you are living the life and you are too happy to care: you really can’t predict what life will throw at you. Maybe you are right, maybe you are not.

Be kind to people around you. Invest a tiny bit of your time to check on your friends. Talk to them. Make them feel like they can talk to you, and I mean TALK, to you, not just vomiting random words to fill the time. Do not assume that those who look strong and ok are truly strong, and most importantly ok. Sometimes a coffee and a chat can do wonders, or even just a smile. Maybe it won’t save anyone, but surely, even if it was the tiniest thing ever, you managed to drop a tiny positive thing in their darkness…. And sometimes, sometimes that tiny drop is all that someone needs to feel the strength to fight another day.

If you are reading this, and a dark cloud is currently creating havoc in your head, please, I beg you, listen to me. I know how you feel. I know how desperate your sitatuion may feel to you. I know you are probably feeling lonely, useless, better off six feet under. You may fell this way because life served you a series of shitty stuff to deal with, or because you screwed it up yourself and you know what? it doesn’t matter. Believe me, it doesn’t. Oh, and don’t feed on that crap that you see everywhere around you. No one’s life is perfect, not even those of the celebrities that tabloids and instagram tries to force down your throat. It is so easy to fake it on social media. Forget about everything: the whys, the whos, the whats. focus just on you. You, yes, YOU.
You are special. I know you don’t believe it, I know you are thinking “da fuck are you blurbing about bitch?”, but you are here, alive, right now. This is a miracle in itself. My grandad, who’s had a (not so) lovely “vacation” (as he used to tell us) in a Nazi camp, used to tell me “there is only one thing that there is no remedy yet: death. Everything else? there is a way to fix it if you want to”. There is a way to fix what is happening in you. It may not be easy, it may not be readily available, it may require a bit of work, but I promise you, it is there. Don’t surrender to the monster in your head: he knows shit nothing. Please, please reach out to someone. PLEASE. Please don’t think nobody will listen to you, please don’t think there is no hope. I promise you, there is, there fucking is. I know you don’t see it, I know. Believe in it. Whatever happened, even if you royally screwed it up big time, it doesn’t have to end like this. It doesn’t. Whatever you are going through, you are not alone, and you are not the only one. There is people out there like me, like you, who suffered or are still suffering and that will be more than welcome to listen to you should you wish to open up. Don’t give up on your future because of what happened in the past.

Please, please, I’m begging y ou, reach out.

if you are a UK resident, Samaritans will be there to help you: https://www.samaritans.org/

My heart is with you.

RECOVERY 101

Beware, this is going to be a potentially “what did you just say?” entry, so if you think you may end up being upset (which is not my intention anyway, for record), stop right now. I’ll try to measure words and expression as best as I can, but I know I’m about to state some very “potentially upsetting” things so you have been warned. If you keep reading, “do at your own peril”.

This is a rather distressing thought that has been going on my mind lately; by seeing how my blog is going, after having a look around WordPress, I feel the need to let this thought out of my head and into “the wild”, even though I know it has the potential to feed an unwanted shitstorm: is it me, or is there such a thing as a “depression fandom”?

Let me explain before one of you calls 999 and get me locked up either in jail or in a mental unit.

I’ve noticed that, out there, there are a plethora of sad, upsetting, and negative entries (not in the sense of “bad”, but more like “a story or a personal entry not conveying a positive message”); the vast majority of them receives an incredible amount of views, likes and comments. The ones where the message is more uplifting, positive (as in “I was suffering from this but with the help of that I’m now in a better place”) are kind of not that popular.

Maybe it is just my impression and it is all in my head (wouldn’t be the first time either).

Maybe it’s just me noticing more “negativity” because I’m in this new mode; after so much therapy and positive work, I see my mental illnesses getting further and further away from me whilst I ride in the sunset, and I would like to see (and bring) more messages of hopes to encourage and help people be on a more positive journey with me than to “drag them down” with my sorrow stories.
Hey, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these stories shouldn’t be written, read, shared, liked, published, you name it: I firmly, strongly and undoubtedly believe that these stories have an incredible importance, both for those who write them (writing is a wonderful therapy, I for once use it to clear my mind) and for those who stumble upon them, read them and feel less alone in a world that rarely proves to be kind to them. So yes, if it is not clear enough, I want those stories out, if you have them in your heart please let them out. Don’t be ashamed of them: you may not know, but your stories maybe will inspire others! Someone, somewhere, right now, is looking for them.

What I’m scared of it that these stories will stop being an helpful anchor for someone desperate to know he/she is not alone with his/her mental issues, but an ugly chain of negativity and sadness, as in “the more I write about negative things, the more likes I’ll get, the more I’ll dig deep in my negativity to get more likes” which will basically end up upsetting the writer (because believe me, even if I try to make my issues sounds funny, it is not a pleasant experience to re-live them and put them black and white) and attract the wrong kind of audience: not the one who can relate, but mostly those who enjoy “laughing at someone’s misfortunes”, and those who could relate would end up thinking “oh my, there is not a single thing out there that makes me want to try and get better”.

ab6621389e98c6d924fa44bd9f58599fI know, I’m panicking over nothing probably. I just… I just would love to let people suffering know that there is hope. There is. I recently lost a very close relative (my mum’s sister) to mental illness, because she thought she had no hopes. Fucking hell, I thought I had no hopes, when I planned my own way to check out of this world. I was luckier: I didn’t completely lose the plot, a glimpse of me still begged me to fight, I grabbed that incredibly minuscule flame with all my strengths, and here I am three years later, sitting on my sofa, enjoying all the beauty that life can bring. I could have never, ever dreamed to be in these shoes just six months ago. Maybe next month I’ll be back at crying my eyes out every night, who knows.

Whatever the future will hold for me, I don’t care. I now feel the urge to shout the following to the world: don’t surrender, please. You may think you are useless, that your life of pain is not worth living and you know what? I thought exactly the same. I know how it feels to stare right into the void, with a heavy heart, your mind spinning and nothing, no one, zero reasons to live through another hour, let alone a day. You know what I also know? That you are worth more than what you think you are. That you pain, yes, that ugly, fucking monster in your head, doesn’t define who you are: it is part of you, but only a part. You are you: there is no ne like you, never was, never will be. Isn’t that something special in itself? I think it is, and mind you, I thought I was better off six feet under not long ago. Forget what people decided to label you with: weirdo, ugly, stupid, boring, annoying, mental…. Fuck them. They are them, you are you. You are what you decide you are. If you don’t want your mental health to define you, you have the inner power to make sure it won’t. Own your weirdness and fuck who doesn’t get it, because guess what? there is nothing to get about it! This is your offical permission to disobey: your mental illness, other people, yourself. Do you, and you only, because there is only you and you are enough.

Listen, I’m not “miss positive guru 2018” and I don’t give as single shit about becoming it either. If you really want to know, I’m single with not really much hopes to find someone (hey, single mum here, it’s not like I’m out and about living the life and meeting people), I am not wealthy, I have no friends close by outside my colleagues, so don’t think I’m one of those rich and famous sanctimonious coaches who blurbs about positivity and shit whilst doing “Ka-Ching!” on the side. I am an average Jo (ok maybe a Joanne!), I consider myself I survivor, and I still sail in this sea of shit, even though right now I seem to have reached a lovely, pacific, quiet little island of my own.

My heart breaks when I hear that someone decided this world was too heavy for his/her shoulders; when I hear, or read, people suffering saying they are alone, that no one gets them, that few friends stuck with them, that are getting bullied, isolated, dumped, you name it… I know how horrible it feels. I know. I have been at the receiving end of all these things, sometimes more than one at once. I just can’t stay here and watch it happening without trying to do something about it, without at least sending a positive message out there, a little light of a candle in the darkest of the nights.

I decided that if I am here, if I survived my journey, it can’t be just because “I got lucky”. There is a meaning to this, probably bigger that what I can see at the moment, but in the meantime, I decided that I will do my best to:
1 – share more positive things / messages;
2 – be more grateful;
3 – spread the love;
4 – reach out to everyone I can and say “I’m here if you need a shoulder to cry on”;
5 – to give hope, to inspire the will to find that fucking hope.

tumblr_m79hzkXhaK1ra41m8o1_500There is so much shit in this world already and I refuse to be part of it or contribute to make more of it. Please, please, I’m begging you, join me in this quest, let’s reach out to fellow sufferers, let’s stick with each other for good or worse, let’s appreciate us more. If you are a friend, an ex-sufferer, a relative, whatever, please be kind, support us, cheer for us. You may think that your words are just nothing, but for one of us may mean a reason to fight another day.

 

COOKING UP A STORM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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