CRIPPLING ANXIETY IS MY CARDIO

I suffer with anxiety.
Well, I always suffered with anxiety.
udo4I think it is fair to say that anxiety has been my loyal, faithful partner for as long as I can remember. The only partner I wished would have cheated on me and leave me for good! But nope, not a chance in hell…!
Anxiety has affected the vast majority of aspects of my life, and even now that I’m therapy and I am more equipped to fight it, I still feel the stomach turning, the bowels moving, the breathing getting heavier and that frigging feeling of an anvil suddenly pressing my chest and making me gasp for air.

People think anxiety is just in your brain. Yeah right, maybe when it is mild.
When it’s crippling, and severe, and ruling your own life, you’ll soon see the nasty, physical effects of it: feeling sick like you are about to vomit; having to keep track of every toilet, everywhere you go because you know your bowels won’t wait for you to talk yourself out of your sudden attack; feeling like your blood pression is suddenly going down and that you’ll soon faint; your face getting covered in spots as soon as your stress level hits the fan…. No, nothing pretty indeed. I wish there was a mental illness who made you look red carpet ready….

Anxiety has been my worst enemy at times, especially when it stopped me fromudo5 experiencing things, participating into various activities etc.. How many times have I avoided the gym because I was too anxious to faint? How many Sundays have I spent dreading going back to work on Monday? How many times I have avoided meeting friends because I was too anxious to feel sick after eating?
To be fair though, it also saved me from a lot of stupid stuff: I have never ever dared to entertain the idea of trying drugs because of my anxiety, but at the same time, whenever a doctor puts a medicine in front of me, I struggle to convince myself to take it (as we speak, I’ve been six years taking only paracetamol such is the anxiety about everything else).

udo6I don’t want to write a sad, commiserating post about anxiety though. No no no, I’m not in the mood, and one of my best features is the fact that I’m an amazing clown and I can laught about anything regarding myself… and don’t they say that laughter is the best medicine? Well, I would like you to join me in some of my most hilarious anxiety episodes. Come on, anxiety can make you do rather crazy stuff at times, it is only fair that we use them for a more positive aim!

Episode 1 – the dreaded dentist

I was… I think…. 20 years old. I know I was older than 18 because I was driving my own car. Anyway, I used to have a phobia of the dentist. When I was a kid, dentists in Italy (or, at least, then ones I saw) were more like butchers than teeth’s angels. I know for a fact that more than one person has been traumatised like me and had to endure a life of crippling anxiety whenever they had to have their teeth fixed.
I have avoided the dentist like the plague since my teens. I have been so scared and traumatised that I preferred to keep my wonky teeth rather than having anyone sticking their hands in my mouth. Unfortunately for me, a single, annoying as fuck wisdom tooth decided to pop in my mouth, and I had to resign myself to the fact that I had to have it removed.
A friend of my mum told her that she had a great experience at a hospital nearby where I lived. With a feeling of doom and gloom, I decided to face the situation and book an appointment.
Worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety? Waiting rooms. You are there, on your own, in these kind of ok rooms, and you feel like an animal trapped in a cage waiting for your turn at the slaughterhouse. The more you wait, the more anxiety builds in you. If you have the nurse popping in and out calling a name that is not yours, it feels like you just barely dodged a bullet. So, there I was, trying to not vomit, faint or die of heart attack. My legs were restless. I felt like I was sitting on a hot surface. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t think straight, I could barely, just barely keep a straight face and not cry.
The nurse called my name, and I kid you not, my legs became the consistency of jelly. I walked towards the dentist room like “dead man walking”. The dentist was quite nice, I must admit, but I couldn’t listen to anything he was saying: I was in panic mode. I sat on the dentist chair and I felt trapped. I started to sweat like all the water in my body suddenly wanted to get out.

I had to do something.

I had to get out of that room.

As soon as the dentist grabbed his mirror to check my mouth, I begged to go to the toilet.
The dentist tried to talk me out of it, but I begged him – my bowels were having none of it, you know, anxiety. The nurse, a bit annoyed, showed me where the closest toilets where located.
With the chilliest, calmest attitude, I thanked them, left the room…. And I felt my legs moving way faster than what I wanted them to move.
And not heading towards the toilet either.
I was running, running like my life depended on it, running like Ussain Bolt trying to smash his Guinness World Record. I’m telling you, I ran like the wind and some more. To this day, I never managed to replicate that awesome performance – I would have been recruited at the following Olympic Games for sure!
I sat on my car, turned my phone off and I drove away as quickly as I could, in case they chased me.
At the time I was crying hysterically, now that I think of it I just can’t stop laughing: gosh, imagine the dentist and the nurse… I am still embarrassed to this day… a bit… (but I’m laughing hard).

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My room at the hospital – after surgery, I found a massive bowl of ice cream. They can remove all my teeth!

I’m happy to say that this year I decided to do something about this phobia: I swear, I googled “dentist for very anxious patients” and I discovered that, at least in the UK, there are dentists specifically trained to deal with patients suffering from severe anxiety. Not only I managed to fix my cavities (yey!), but…. Yeah, I got my wisdom tooth removed! Ok, I had to be highly sedated, but still, I didn’t run away and the day of my surgery I showed up and went ahead with the operation.

 

Oh, and for the record: I even warned my (new) dentist saying “I have a tendency to run away from hospitals”. His answer: “I won’t stop you, but just so you know, taking that tooth out will be a 2 minutes job, and then you’ll be back in your room where a massive bowl of ice cream will be waiting for you”. Fair play to you dentist, you smarty pants!

I felt so proud of myself!! Next step? Straightening my teeth!

Episode 2: meet your hero

In one of my previous blog posts I talked about my absolute, crazy love for heavy metal. Every single time I thought I was helpless and alone, music has been right next to me, giving me last final push to do amazing things I never thought I’d be able to achieve.

This happened two and a half years ago. The worst and most horrendous part of my post-natal depression was finally behind my back. Mind you, I was not doing great, but I wasn’t suicidal either. I was doing ok and I was relieved to be able to live a rather normal life. My ex-husband and I, at that point, were married just on paper: he didn’t stick with me (and he even made things worse for me) when things got rough with my mental health, and now that things were improving and I was re-discovering who I was and how I functioned, it was me who didn’t want to stick with him anymore. To me, overcoming my mental ordeal alone and using only my willpower was the Ultimate Proof of my Strength and Fierce Independence. He proved to be a narcissist attention seeker, and I was not in the mood to feed any of his martyrdom needs.

udo
My VIP hoodie!

Anyway, I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed one day and BANG! Great news: one of my favourite singers ever, Mr Udo Dirkschneider, was announcing the ultimate tour of my secret dreams: with his band U.D.O. he would have played all the best and most famous Accept songs. Oh my gosh I grew up listening to Accept, and Udo has always been one of my German heavy metal heroes. Was I going to miss this event? No fucking way in hell.
Without even thinking too much I bought my ticket and my VIP upgrade so that I could meet my hero. I was geared up, I was excited, I was already singing and savouring the moment. I remember it clearly because it was around my birthday in January, and the gig would have been in April. I told my ex-husband what I did, and he said “oh, so you are going alone?”, expecting me to say “do you want to come with me?”.
I just answered “yes I am”.

 

And then I realised.

I was going to go alone.

Like, alone.

Anxiety hit me like a tsunami. A barrage of negative thoughts filled my head: what if I have a panic attack? What if I have more than one panic attack? What if I freak out and I’m in the middle of the room, full of crazy, headbanging metalheads? What if I faint? What if my anxiety gets so much that I can’t even come back home? What if, at night, I get stuck on a train back home and I am in such an anxiety state that I forget English and I can’t ask for help? The list goes on and on and on. I tried to calm down: I still had few months to go before the actual gig, and anyway, its’ not like I’d be held at gunpoint forcing me to go if I decided to not go last minute, right?

Time went by and April arrived. I had that gig in my calendar and it felt more and more like a death sentence the closer it got. Then, the day arrived. I spent a day at the office totally restless. I think I’ve annoyed the shit out of everyone that day. I begged everyone to give me an excuse not to go (do you want me to finish this work? To do anything at all? How about we have a meeting at 6pm….) but… there were none.
Ok, what do I do now?
I decided to take the evening one step at the time.
First, I decided to get there and see how I felt. The tube journey was ok, I mean, nothing different from what I do every single day, twice a day.
Next step, queuing up at the venue’s entrance. Having a VIP ticket meant I had to get there earlier than everyone else, so the place was basically empty. That helped a lot, since it took away the “oh my gosh, all these people and I’m in the middle” anxiety bit. Having said that, someone with anxiety doesn’t really cope well with waiting, and I surely wasn’t happy. I started walking around, increasingly more nervous as time went by. I could feel my stomach twisting and turning. I was about to say “fuck it, I’m going home” when I heard the guy managing the VIP list gathering people for the Meet and Greet.

Deep breath, ok. At least I can meet Udo.

I got into the venue and my heart was racing. I could feel it beating in my head.

We had to go two floors down, and the more steps down the stairs I took, the more my legs became wobbly: I thought I would have ended up fainting, falling down, breaking my head and dying there and then. Without meeting Udo! For fuck sake!

I managed to get there intact. And after few minutes…. Udo came from backstage. I udo1started crying like a baby.
He has been super sweet and kept hugging me till I managed to compose myself. I was over the moon! I kept shaking like electricy was running up and down my body. When we took a picture together, I couldn’t stand still. Udo laughed and said (with a very german accent) “no, stop shaking, we need to take beautiful picture now. And if the first is not beautiful enough, we take another one ok? No panic”. Sweet! He made my day (of course I hugged him again, and again).
When the Meet and Greet ended though, it was time to face the gig alone.

I went back upstairs, and I decided to stay on the side of the stage, avoiding the crowd. The supporting bands did their shows, and everything was ok. Then, U.D.O. time came… as soon as the first song started, I started singing and jumping. By the third, I was in the middle of the crowd. Mid-set, and I was front row singing my heart out. My brain just shut down and filled itself with music. It was the best feeling ever. I cried, I sang, I headbanged, I laughed, I was in heaven.
svenI even waited outside to meet the whole band, and I can’t thank Sven Dirkschneider enough for being a truly amazing guy. It was dark, it was cold (as fuck), I was the only female human being out there, but he spent few minutes with me and made sure I was ok and happy. Sven, if you ever read this, I have never forgotten how kind you have been with me, and I owe you!

 

HELLO ME, MEET THE NEW ME

Ok, Megadeth’ song “Sweating Bullets” started in a slighlty different way, but I’m not sure if “meet the real me” is what is right for what I’m about to write. Aaaand now I can’t get rid of that song playing in my head! (It is one of my absolute favourites, for the record).

I’m in a weird phase as we speak. It is exciting, it is new, it is great, it feels great, but at the same time, it is slightly bittersweet and a tiny bit… upsetting?

Let’s see if I can explain…. I am trying to make sense to any of this and it took a good hour with the psychotherapist to come to some sort of explanation, be kind with me, this is harder than what it seems!

Before I start writing anything about it, let me give you an idea of where I am now in my journey: I’m sure it will make things easier for everyone, myself included!
All the work I’m doing on myself is starting to pay off big time. I’m beginning to see and feel tangible, wonderful improvements on my mental health, my self-esteem, my confidence, the way I portray myself with others but also with myself too etc…

Recently, I’ve been feeling this wonderful excitement that I can’t seem not only to justify, but also to contain. I feel like I’m reborn and I have to re-learn everything from scratch or so.
I’m approaching things in a new way, with a new mentality.
I’m experimenting with myself. I’m trying new things, or old things but experiencing them in a different way. My stream of thoughts is dramatically improved: I’m more positive, more rational, with a greater awareness of who I am and what is the message I’m trying to convey with my words and my body. I reflect more on stuff. I think before I react. I am learning to cope with my anxiety, talking myself out of it rather than just be defensive and succumb to its horrible effects. I don’t let things go by without asking myself “why am I doing this? Why is that I’m feeling this way? Why this upsets me? How can I re-phrase this in a positive way? What is the lesson I can learn from this?” etc.
I must admit, at time is very tiring, but at the moment I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feel more relaxed, even though I’m constantly analysing myself. As I write, I’m on a train, and I had quite the “anxiety inducing” morning. It required a mammoth effort to shut the fuck of my chain of anxiety driven thoughts and focus on what I had to do.

My confidence is on a record high. My self-esteem? I can’t believe how good I feel about myself. I’m in such a state of grace that all the negativity can’t seem to affect me the way it used to affect me and make me miserable as fuck, feeling defeated, a failure, the shittiest shit of the world.
More so, it seems like any attempt at dragging me down and making me feel like dirt is met by me with a “whatever, I can’t give a single, remote fuck no matter how hard I try… and I’m not even entertaining the idea of trying, by the way” attitude. It is awesome, and the less fucks I give, the better it gets.

I’m loving this new and improved Silvia. I really do. I see this beautiful path in front of me and I’m taking my time to walk on it, savouring every single step. I don’t want to rush it.
I don’t want change to happen like a sudden miracle: I am enjoying too much the little steps, the small but incredible victories against my old self, the tiny bits and pieces that seem to fall into place every time I take a moment to analyse my surroundings and myself in it. I know it is not an easy, smooth ride, but even bumps along the way are not perceived as “dramas that will traumatise me forever”, but they are just put into perspective, dealt with and put behind my back: it happens, it is fine, I’ll do better next time.

I have also this… it’s such a weird feeling: I can’t stop thinking, feeling, being convinced deep down to the core that something amazing is about to happen in my life. I have this crazy but absolute certainty that I will soon experience something incredible, that will not only make up for all these years of suffering, but also give me a massive boost into keep pursuing my best possible self. I spoke to my therapist about it and the way I described it to her is “I feel like a child who knows that soon is going to be Christmas – it will happen, it’s just a matter of letting days go by; in the meantime she is thinking of all the amazing presents she will get and oh my gosh she is so happy that she is restless”.
I don’t know if I will truly get this amazing thing, but I want to believe I will, and I have faith the universe has listened to what I am asking, has witnesses that I’m not fooling around, that this time I meant it when I said “I’m going to change!” and therefore is cooking up something truly awesome for me. Having said that, everything already looks like a present for me, and I want this feeling to last for as long as I possibly can.

At the same time, a tiny bit of me is… lost? Like… this tiny part of me sees all these changes happening, is experiencing all these new things, there is a mammoth amount of new data and information that my brain requires to process in a new, positive way… and this part of me is in a maze, trying to find a way out, trying to come to terms with the new me and the death of the old me.

I’ll try to expand on the topic, bear with me because I’m also trying to explain this to myself!

I give you an example: I recently saw my ex. We spent the night together. Few weeks ago, I would have been extremely happy and looking forward for having a chance to be back in his arms, to spend time with him and maybe, just maybe, you know, hopefully, his feelings for me…
Well….
Don’t get me wrong, we kind of had an ok night, and we did have some nice moments, but… my feelings were not there. My mind was not there. The more time we spent together, the more I felt “….is it really this what I want for me?”. In the morning, I stared at him whilst he was sleeping, something that I used to love to do. I adored waking up next to him. I used to cuddle him, kiss him, grab his arms and wrap myself in them, listen to the sound of his breathing and just enjoy his warmth, his presence.
That morning all I could do was just… stare at him., in the same way as I would have stared at any other object that was there, but that I don’t really give a fuck about it.
I tried to grab his hand, and yes, it was nice, but…. Just like any other hand would have felt.
Don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely fucking thrilled, happy to the moon and back that I could feel that distance, that “I think you killed all the love I had for you and it feels awesome”, but this tiny bit of me felt so… lost? Unable to understand the situation?
This little part of me kept asking “where are your feelings? I swear they were here not long ago, I fucking left them there, I kid you not, I felt them! Where are they? What happened? Did you put them in the bin? Did you hide them from me? What the hell…..”.

Another example? My recent interactions with my mum. I love her, I love to bits, but she can piss me off like very few people in the world can. She can make me go from Buddhist monk to hysterical, emotional wreck in the space of a second. Yet, in our latest exchanges, I’ve not behaved as per my usual, defensive self: I let her yell, or be her usual bitching and moaning. I didn’t allow her to drag me to the level of the child who is at the receiving end of a rant. I stopped her “emotional blackmailing” before she dared to try and do it, and in a calm (but firm) way I told her what my point of view was, and why I was sticking to it no matter what. Again, I felt SO proud of myself. The way I successfully handled it, avoiding a total meltdown and a yelling challenge amongst us, made me feel on top of the world. I am confident, I know I’m right and I don’t need to defend myself: it is how I say it is. However, this tiny bit of me felt a bit… unease? Like “I was expecting shouting and tears and…. nothing happened? What was that? Who are you Silvia? What the fuck are you doing?”.

I think that this is part of my “transition” into this new person. A lot has changed, and I can see it clearly, but some stuff is still present because hey, I’ve been the old me for a very long time, you can’t just get rid of years and years of feelings, behaviours, attitude etc. just like that right? The new me is up and running, but the old me is still looming around, trying to find her dimension, to see whether there is still space for her inside me, and if so, where is it and what can she do to regain some of her power. This is also the part of me that makes me feel scared (and anxious) that all the good work will lead into nothing, that it is all so stupid and embarrassing, that at some point I will go back to my old ways anyway so I should surrender now in order for me to face a smaller, unavoidable disappointment. Oh, I so wish I could shut this part of me down for good!

AAAAH it makes me so upset feeling this way!

Anyway, I’m trying to manage the situation as best as I can and to not worry too much about it. I’m sure that, in time, I will be better. I saw hell, I lived in it for years and years alone and able to count only on myself. Now I have a team of people supporting and taking care of me, a bit like some self-esteem and mental health superheroes: let’s wait for those Christmas presents, shall we?

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A very happy me. Few months ago, you would have never EVER seen me smiling for the camera. NEVER.

SHARING IS CARING

Since I started this blog a month or so ago, I’ve been increasing my time on WordPress browsing other blogs to read what other fellow bloggers are up to, and I discovered a world full of beautiful people that are writing incredibly moving things which I can absolutely relate to. In Italy, when someone “discovers” things that everyone else in the world knows about, we say “you just discovered hot water”. It seems that it is what happened to me with these blogs!

Anyway, one of the blogs I fell in love with is called “Around the ward in 80 days” written by the amazing Ida (I encourage you to please give this blog a read, it is awesome).
The other day I was reading this post that she wrote called “I need to tell you something.”, which is about whether or not someone suffering from mental illness should hide or share this fact with his/her respective parner. I had quite a debate with myself about it: why people should hide their mental health to their partner? Or to anyone, to be honest? Like Ida, I wholeheartedly agree that no one should ever hide what goes on in his/her mind, especially in a relationship.

Ok, let’s expand on the topic a bit more, shall we?

I understand that mental illness comes with a very horrible stigma attached to it.
I said it in previous blog posts and I will say it again now: I don’t get why people are fine with, let’s say, broken bones, upset stomachs, viruses and infections, but anything that affects the brain is a massive taboo that everyone better hide or be shamed for life. I just don’t get it! Am I missing a memo or something? Isn’t the brain just like any other organ of our body?
Ok, I get that mental illnesses are not exactly like chickenpox or measles, I’m not that oblivious to the fact that we are talking about a very different kind of illness here. I’ve suffered with crippling anxiety for all my life, I had panic attacks and suicidal thoughts for three years and half of my family is battling (and battled) mental illnesses (from depression to in and out of mental units) so yeah, I know what I am talking about, alright?
picI understand that the nature of the topic discussed here is pretty sensitive, and I’m not suggesting that people should force it down other people’s throat, not at all. Having these kind of issues is rather upsetting as it is, last thing someone in these conditions need is to feel obliged to overshare for the sake of “killing the stigma”.
However, I do feel that it is important to spread the word, to let people know, to raise awareness: I surprised few people when I said that, even though I could barely go through five minutes without a panic attack, I managed to work full time without taking a single day off sick. You know, not all people with mental illness spend their days in bed, in the dark, hugging their pillows and sobbing their heart out. Some do, some don’t, some do something different entirely, some do all of the above or nothing at all and guess what? it is absolutely fine because everyone copes with what they have in their own way; my point is that mental illness does not necessarily equal “unable to function at all times”.
I don’t think people should introduce themselves like “hello, my name is … and I’m bipolar / depressed / suffering with anxiety” etc, but once you get to establish a connection that is more than casually chatting away now and then, if you feel like it…. Why not just mention it?

The vast majority of my colleagues and my friends knows what happened to me.
I shared my story openly, multiple times. Most of them read this blog as well, so there is no mystery about whatever I have suffered or what I am going through at the moment. I don’t really care about hiding it.
I spent too much time and energy hating myself and trying to be everything everyone wanted me to be, only to end up being even more miserable than before.
Thanks to therapy and some work on myself, I’ve now reached the blissful stage of “I am who I am and if you don’t like it, your problem not mine” so if someone gets upset or shocked by me having been suicidal, well, is it really my issue? Don’t think so, no.

My mental health, or illness, is something that it is part of who I am. What I experienced, the way I overcame my issues, the journey I am in to feel better, improve and re-wire my brain into a powerhouse of positive energy and thoughts, it’s exactly what makes me the person I am today. Why should I hide it? To make others feel better? To not “scare” them? I’m not a murderer, I don’t have any dark secret, I just dealt with what life threw at me!

I’ve always been clear in my relationships about what I’ve been suffering with. Unfortunately, I had a thing for falling for unsuitable partners (I’m trying to be polite and diplomatic here, please appreciate the effort) who either didn’t want to understand, or who used my “weaknesses” to make me feel even worse that what I was feeling, in order for them to cover their insecurities and ensure they always had an upper hand when it came to our relationship: I was the needy one desperate for love, they were the tyrants with the power to decide if and when I was worthy enough of the tiny crumbles of their attention. It was only after few sessions of psychotherapy that I realised why I kept picking these pricks (ok sorry I can’t be polite for too long): I hated myself so much that, by choosing these arseholes, I was basically proving to myself that I was not worth anything better, and I was using them as the embodiment of my self-hate. Of course I always dreamed of having someone who truly loved me, who truly cared for me, who was there to protect me, inspire me and to share our lives in an equal, amazing partnership, but turns out I have preferred to chase people too damaged, too arid and incapable of loving anyone, themselves included, in a sick pursuit of “fixing them to fix myself”.

I don’t think I will end up in another relationship anytime soon, but would I be sharing what I have been through with my mental health again? Yes, of course I would. I now believe that the right person would love me for who I really am, not for what they think I am, or for being the one they want me to be, and my mental status is included in the package, like it or not. How can a partner get to know me if I don’t share with him this very important aspect of my life?

Before you dare to ask something like “but what if you are scared that your partner will run away as soon as he/she knows about your condition?”.
First of all, you are not exactly confessing a murder or anything as horrid as that. I’m sorry to break this news to you (and I’m one who didn’t want to accept it myself), but as upsetting as it may sound, if your partner gets scared and does a runner once he/she knows… well… he/she is not the right person for you.
The end.
Being scared and concerned it is totally understandable. I get it. When my ex told me about his personal dramas, I had few moments of “….shiiiiiit…..”. But I loved him, I wanted to help, to be supportive; I was grateful and appreciative of him allowing me to step into his nightmares and have a good understanding at what was up with him (shame the gratefulness has not been reciprocated…. Anyway). You need to understand that we are used to fight against our brains, but our partners may not, and may not know what to do, how to approach us, how to help us in our darkest hour. We need to understand this and help them. Communication is key, and trying to have a bit more patience too when they struggle to get it right would also be nice. Let’s be honest, it is not easy being us, ok, but it is also not easy for them being our partners if we don’t make them aware of how we function, and we need to appreciate how complicated can be to act in what we think is “the right way” (which, for some of us, may be ok today, but completely wrong tomorrow). Having said that, if they refuse to acknowledge our issues and make our lives an endless misery of shame and pain… well…. Here is the door, goodbye, fuck off.

I understand why people want to hide these issues, don’t get me wrong. It is not exactly the nicest thing ever to go to someone and say “hey, dude, here’s the thing: I’m mental and don’t function like “normal” people, happy?”. But hiding is not the answer. Believe me. The only one who will suffer is you, in the end. I know it is hard to believe, but hiding requires a lot of effort and energy, and the more you hide, the more painful and tough to keep your secret will be.

As hard as it may seem to think this way, you may be positively surprised by how people react. Yes, there will be the odd imbecile here and there, unfortunately there is no vaccine out there preventing stupidity, but good people will listen and will care. Give the world a chance to hear about you. Even if you find just one person who listens to you, your effort will be worth it. You may not know, but your words may mean the universe for that single individual out there. Let’s spread some love out there, shall we?

STRIKE A POSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, but this is not the end of it!

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

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

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

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

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

Try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I am beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

HELP! I NEED SOMEBODY! HELP!

I hate being weak.
I hate people thinking that I’m weak, and even more so, I hate when people can see my weaknesses.

I HATE IT!

The only person I allowed to be in the presence of a flawed, frail me, has been my ex-boyfriend, because I convinced myself that he loved me so much that he would have helped me heal my issues with his love.

Yeah right, it didn’t really go to plan this one…

When he dumped me and all I had was, well, me, and I realised how helpless I was, I decided to do the bravest, most upsetting, panic and anxiety attack inducing thing I have ever done: I admitted defeat; I acknowledged that, there and then, I was in no mental state to move on from that shit.
I raised my hand and I asked for help.
Not just reaching out to friends though.
I mean, I asked for PROFESSIONAL help.

Bit of a background here: I fought with my mental health since my teens. I already said in another blog post that I come from a family, on my mum’s side, where everyone has something not quite right in their head. Yet none of us ever dared to even think of going to see a psychologist, or a therapist, or anyone, really.
I grew up hearing things like “oh you don’t go to the shrink, only total coo-coo people go there” or “I don’t need to see a shrink, no way I’ll say stuff to a complete stranger, he’ll think I’m crazy, will only stuff me with pills and besides, what can he/she actually do to help!”, “it is so shameful and embarrassing, do you want people to know you are mental?” and so on.
Trying to improve your mental health by seeing a specialist was something you didn’t do and didn’t even dare to mention.

Once, when I was 17 years old, I insisted to see a consultant because my crippling anxiety was starting to take a toll on my physical health. I had to beg for months, and in the end, I ended up with the crappiest psychiatrist working in my city, because what was important was not his/her capabilities, but his/her surgery being as far away from where I lived as possible, and hidden too, to ensure that no one would have ever seen me going there – or else, shame on me, my family and my relatives for years to come. This woman I ended up seeing was rude, she didn’t let me talk, she handed me an antidepressant’s prescription and dismissed me there and then: needless to say, I decided my relatives where right after all and there was no going back.

Over the years, my anxiety only got worse. It didn’t help being bullied at work for two years solid by my manager. I reached a nice equilibrium when I moved to London, because I was too busy settling down in a new country and in a new job, so I didn’t have the time to think “wait, how am I doing?”. All went down the drains after my pregnancy: yes, the dreaded Post-Natal Depression (you can read more in my previous post). I knew it was a possibly, I read about it, I thought I knew what to do… till I had it: 3 long years of constant panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I slowly crawled out of that hell alone and I re-built a kind of “new normal” counting only on myself and no one else. I sometimes think it is a miracle that I’m here, writing, living, and breathing and not being locked in a psychiatric ward (or six feet under).

I knew I was not perfect, but I thought I was doing ok: I mean, I was alive. I was happy. I put up with divorcing, with being alone with a kid, bills to pay and a mortgage, I had friends, work was good and I loved it, I had an amazing boyfriend…. till he dumped me, and at that point life hit me in the face like a truck.
I was not ok anymore.
No, worse, I have never been ok, I only pretended to be so.
Everything I pushed in a remote corner of my brain (hating myself, hating my body, being a weirdo, being alone, you name it) not only reached the surface, but BANG! It was like being run over by a train on full speed.
I had to do something though, come on Silvia, you can do this bitch, you overcame worst things!

flowers
I even bought myself flowers every week!

I became obsessed with “doing”. Anything. So long as I didn’t have to stand still. In the space of a month I read at least 15 self-help books (and some really did change my life) and I got still a handful around the house waiting to be read; I meditated every single day, twice a day minimum; I pushed myself to go to the gym and put some REAL effort in my exercises; I wrote my affirmations and I repeated them over and over again non-stop like a lunatic; I forced myself to think positive things, to have faith in the universe, to block any negative thoughts on the spot…. and yet the only thing that I could not manage to do was asking for help. Psychological help.

Let’s face it, you can do all the exercises in the world, you can follow all the sound advices that experts and caring friends give you, but you are barely scratching the surface of something that it is deeply rooted in you. This is, at least, how I felt. I tried very hard to avoid it, even though all the signs pointed in that directions. I fought it hard and I gave myself a million of excuses to not do it, including “I cannot afford it” and “who’s going to care for my son when I’m in therapy”.

Still, in front of the mirror shouting “I am so beautiful. Check these abs, wow, I am so fierce” I felt this…. void. It just wasn’t enough. I bit my lips and decided that I had it, that was officially it: if I really wanted to see changes, I had to stop being so up my arse, let go of my past and just

ask.for.help.

What could possibly go wrong? Do I ask for help when I can’t do something at work? yes. Do I ask my son for help when I’m cleaning his bedroom and shit reaches the roof? yes. Do I ask for help to my friends when I’m feeling down, and I need a good chat and an Aperol Spritz on the side? YES. So… I am now in need of help to dig at the core of my problems and I need someone with the appropriate shovel to succesfully do it.

Easy, right?

Of course, I thought. Let me find the right therapist who can help me, yey!

So here is me, googling “best therapist near me” and browsing profiles, all happy and merry. I found one I liked, I read the profile, it fitted what I was looking for. Actually, it felt like “THIS IS THE ONE I FEEL I WANT TO TALK TO”.
I was all geared up. Contact page, here is the psychotherapist’s email.
I’m ready. This is my moment, let me write a lovely email.

“Dear……

my name is Silvia and….”

And I stopped. I just froze.

My hands couldn’t write anything. At all. My mind went blank, all of the sudden.
Then, a tsunami of negative thoughts filled the void: “WTF are you doing? What is this shit? What are you thinking of writing? What do you need? Are you sure you want to waste money chatting away to some stranger? You know the things you could do instead? Plus, what do you say to her? That you are sad because your love story ended? So what? Do you think you are the first one who ever had a broken heart? Come on bitch, you survived worse things by yourself, delete that email, go to the gym instead, have a glass of wine” and so on.

I dropped my phone. I got up, and I started walking around in my living room like a caged animal at the zoo. I’m in this whirlwind of thoughts when, like a lightning strike, I remember a quote from one of those self-help books I read:

The Big Snooze will do everything it can to stop you from changing and growing, especially since you’re attempting to obliterate the very identity that you and everyone else has come to know as “you”
Jen Sincero, “You are a Badass”

That was exactly what was happening. My brain was working against me in an attempt to stop me pursuing change, real change. I grabbed the phone from the floor, re-open that email and I simply typed

“Dear….

my name is Silvia AND I NEED HELP”

I wrote how hard it felt to write this request, how anxious I was at the thought of looking stupid, but that I needed to do it so please guide me into the process.

I paused. I closed my eyes. I had some deep breaths, then I pressed send.
And then I ended up with an anxiety attack!
But, what was done, was done. I asked for help. The therapist wrote me back shortly afterwards and she arranged for a phone call later the day to start the ball rolling.

The first session was… weird. I sat there, eyes wide open, like I was about to be executed at gunpoint. I just didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to do! My therapist put me immediately at ease and gently pushed me to talk.
I started to stutter and mumble a bit. Then I felt more at ease. I said something funny and we both started to laugh. I felt better, and I opened up a little more… and by the time the session finished, I realised I turned into a total chatterbox unable to shut up.
That night, I slept like a baby, happy.

Now, after a month and half, I’m here thinking: why on Earth I’ve been so dumb and stupid to not do it sooner!

I feel like every session is a pampering spa experience for my brain. My therapist engages me in amazing debates, she helps me reflect on the things I say, she guides my thought processes without judging or forcing me, and when I leave, I feel amazing. It is the most selfish thing I have ever done for myself: every week, an hour of 100% me, me, me, me. ME. No one else but me. It is the best thing ever. For someone who has always been “others first”, it is a mesmerising experience!

If you are there, thinking “mmmm I don’t know” please, listen to me: give it a go.
Think of what you’d like from a therapist: I chose mine because, amongst other things, she doesn’t do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (been there, done that, I HATED IT) and because she is there to LISTEN.
Research carefully: we have been blessed with the power of Google, let’s use it for good things, not just to find the funniest cat memes of the month.
Then, once you got the one who ticks all the boxes, just give it a go: trust me, if you find “the right one”, you won’t regret it, and you’ll thank yourself soon!

ABOUT PAIN

I am going to state something that it is so incredibly obvious when you think about it, and yet it is so unbelievably hard to believe in it, especially when the person who is going through it is you.

Ready? Steady? GO:

IT IS OK TO NOT BE (MENTALLY) OK

Aaaaand breathe.

If you are going through something that it is currently making you feel low, sad, depressed, or even worse, suicidal, let me tell you something: as upsetting as it is, it is ok to not be ok.
I swear, it is absolutely, 100% ok to feel the way you feel.
I’m not a happy guru trying to feed you some positive garbage for the sake of looking good: I have been thinking about ending my own life for three good years in recent times. It is fair to say I know a thing or two about not being ok, alright?

I don’t know why there is a stigma linked to mental problems, I really don’t. Surely the brain is just like any other organ of our bodies, albeit a very special one? Why our kidneys, our stomachs, our eyes, our lungs are allowed to have issues, but not our beloved brains? Yes, yes, I get it, when you end up being coo-coo in your head, it is not the same as if you get gastroenteritis. Ok. But still.

You know what drives me mad with anger? When mental problems, which are not “as severe as” dementia or Alzheimer, gets brushed off not only by friends and family, but also by doctors: it feels like nobody has, or want to have, the time to just listen to what is going on in your head. The common “suggestion” you’ll get is “don’t be a pussy and put up with it” as “there are worst things in life”.

You know what?
F*CK THIS SHIT

I have suffered with anxiety all my life. At intervals, I had spells of depression, and panic attacks here and there. To be honest, I can consider myself lucky I “only” had that to deal with: in my family from my mum’s side, we cover the whole spectrum of mental illnesses, from “depressed”, via “multiple mental breakdowns” to “in and out of mental unit with no hopes to lead a normal life ever again”.

Things have been ok-ish, up until I gave birth, and then things went very, very, very bad. VERY bad. Calling what I had “post-natal depression” doesn’t really describe it. I wasn’t necessarily depressed. I constantly had panic attacks. I am not exaggerating.
I was scared of going out, because “what if I drop dead in the middle of the street? What will happen to my baby?”; but at the same time, I was also scared of staying in, because I was alone, and what if something happens to me? What will happen to my baby?

I tried to speak with my (at the time) husband about it, and it didn’t go down well. When you have to deal with someone who likes to always be “the one worse off” (“my foot hurts” “HA! Not only my food hurts as well, but I also got pain in my leg AND my arm, plus, I think I may have the flu”), telling this person that you are not quite ok is a recipe for disaster.

One day I was in the middle of an excruciating panic attack. I was running around the house, I was mental, I was scared, I was crying, it was horrendous. My son started crying for an unrelated reason. My ex-husband started chasing me around the house, with the baby in his arms, yelling me to stop behaving like a lunatic, my son needed me, WTF are you doing, get a grip, you are not the only one with issues, I am VERY depressed too and I don’t sleep and I go to work, you should consider yourself lucky, now stop this hit and be a mum, and so on.

In hindsight, I can tell you that my marriage finished there and then.
I ended up feeling even worse than before, because now, on top of my issues, I had the “I’m not a good mum”. I decided that, every time he was around, I was going to hide whatever I was going through.

What a dumb idiot I was!

But that’s not it! I wanted to prove that I could handle shit.
Even if I couldn’t spend 3 seconds without my brain spinning, I cut my maternity leave short and I went back to work after 4 months.

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me on my graduation ceremony. I had a panick attack right before it was my turn to get on stage

Before I got pregnant, I was studying Law at university. Even though I was in a total state, I kept studying. Not only that: I doubled the courses. I Increased the challenges. I managed to graduate!!! I made my life a living hell, on top of what I was already going through. I pushed my problems deep down inside my bran, as far as I could. I hid my panic attacks at work by suddenly rushing to the toilets or having a very long walk to the printer 3 floors down. Nobody saw my pain, partly because I was very good at hiding it, and partly because they simply thought I was just quirky. I lied, I lied like a pro, everything was FINE, OK, YEAH, ALL GOOD, COOL.

If you are about to ask: “but what about your doctor?” well…
When I felt that something wasn’t right, the doctor I saw brushed it off with “it’s just baby blues, you gave birth, it’s fine, it happens, it will go away”. But it never did.
So I went back. This time I got told “well, you could take antidepressant, or you can just put up with it, I’m sure you’ll be fine”.
At my worst, I finally managed to dial some sort of mental support. I had to wait for 2 weeks to get a triage call, and once the call finished, I got told “ok, now, the waiting list to see someone is three months long (!!!)”.
I sat on my bed, phone in my hand, completely shocked.
“THREE months? I… I cannot live like this for three months, this is not life, I…. I rather die!”
“well, if you are suicidal we may need to call social serv…”
“no no no don’t worry it was just me exaggerating, I’m fine, yeah, don’t you worry”

Now I was also scared that, if my secret got out, social services would have come knocking on my door to take my son away from me. Thank you very much, that was exactly what I needed.

I not only survived in my mental hell for those three months, but for two long years afterwards. Then it started to get better, but it took another year before I could feel “ok”. Which was not good, but at least it was something.
I spent an awful lot of those three years hoping to die, and when the hope was not enough, I thought about actively doing something to end it. I never attempted to kill myself because… I didn’t want to leave my son alone, motherless.

At the ned of those three years, something incredible happened to me. A friend of mine read a book that Randy Blythe, singer and frontman of a heavy metal band called Lamb of God (that I absolutely LOVE), wrote to share his experience of when he got wrongly accused of murder and ended up locked in prison. In Prague. For a month. Scary stuff. Since I was (and still am) a fan of the band, he told me to buy and read it (if you are interested, the book is called “Dark Days“)

I started reading this book a bit unconvinced – generally speaking, very few of these autobiographies are good, some are barely ok and the rest it’s pure tripe printed on what could have been an amazing, beautiful tree. What I wasn’t prepared for is that Randy not only wrote about his jail time, but also about his demons. How he suffered with anxiety and depression for years. Like me. How he turned to drugs and alcohol in his youth to cope. Like me in my youth (in my case, it was cigarettes and alcohol)! He described his pain, his mental state, his suffering in such a raw, uncensored way… It was beautiful, but so, so painful to read.
randyI started crying. I couldn’t stop. I cried all the tears that I didn’t allow myself to cry for 3 years. Seeing my feelings, my demons, my pain, so…. In front of my eyes… has been a revelation. The more I kept reading, the more I kept crying, and when I finished that book, I spent a week completely empty. I then had the (lucky!) chance to meet Randy at a gig. I thanked him for the book, and I shared a little bit of my hell with him. We both got emotional and he gave me the biggest hug ever. For the first time, in those three long years, I felt loved, understood, not alone.

A tiny, little thought started creeping in my brain.
The thought was “if he had the balls to be so open about these things, to share them with THE WHOLE WORLD…. Why are you hiding yours?

I slowly started to open myself up.
I wanted my pain out of my head and into my reality.
I wanted that dreadful weight to be lifted from my shoulders.
I wanted freedom of not having to lie anymore.
I started talking about it, and some more, and more, till it became “yes, this is my story”. And here I am talking about it again. I’m not scared of it. It is part of who I am. It is what made me the person I am now. You can either accept it or not, I don’t really care. I lost people along the way, whether because they chose so or because I pushed them away (including my now ex husband). I took an oath with myself: no matter what happens, I’ll never hide again. EVER.

Seems like life decided to test my oath and three years after that, this breakup arrived.
It hit me hard. Oh gosh it did. Ok, nothing compared to THOSE three years, I grant you that. But still, it is an awful time and it deserve respect. And I am not hiding it.

I am in pain. I am suffering. I am crying like a baby. I am grieving the man I loved to bits. I am desperate to have that love again in my life. I am not strong in this moment, and I DO NOT CARE IF IT UPSETS THOSE AROUND ME. I asked for help. I am seeing a therapist to just get things out of my chest. I took a break from some friends because I couldn’t handle their happiness when inside me I was (I am) so broken. I am doing everything that I feel beneficial for ME and no one else, including writing this blog. Selfish? You bet. Ashamed? Not at all.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, no matter what you are going through, please, listen to me: don’t hide your pain. Don’t put a brave face and tell everyone (and yourself) that you are fine if you are not. Don’t pretend, with others and / or with yourself. Don’t keep everything inside you.
You are NOT alone in this.
Don’t be scared of what other people may or may not think. Fuck that! Those who love you will do their best to help, even though you may need to guide them a bit. Those who don’t, well, good riddance. Think you’ll end up alone? You’ll find new, better friends.

Speak up! Tell those around you how you want to be helped, even if it is “sorry I need a break from this because I just cannot cope”. Own your “not ok-ness” because there is nothing to be ashamed about it. Is it your fault that you are that way? No, it is not. Would it be your fault if you were to get the flu? Of course not. It happens, unfortunately. Also, there is NO FAILURE if you don’t bounce back in a matter of a second. These things take a lot of time and a lot of effort. There are ok days, good days, extraordinary days, shit days, I-don’t-want-to-get-out-of-bed days. If someone tries to push a deadline on you, including your very own self, well, tell them to do one.

I can assure you, there is strength inside you. Maybe you cannot see it now, especially if you are too deep into the painful stage of what you are experiencing. And it is OK! But believe me, it is there. Hold on to it. Cherish it. Grow it. Little by little. Find a therapist that will listen to you. Try and try and try some more until you find the things you feel ok with. Use Google to find the help you need, or the people to talk to. Buy yourself flowers, a slice of cake, a nice dinner. Cuddle yourself and love yourself through the pain. And if you end up going back to square one? Guess what? It is not a problem. It happens!

The light outside your dark, horrendous tunnel is there. Believe in it, even if you don’t see it.

My heart is with you.

“NO” IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE

Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?

Learning to be more selfish.

Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.

I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.

I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.

The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.

The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.

Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!

work
an unhappy me, working extra hours doing stuff nobody asked me to do…

How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.

I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.

In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue
Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra

Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….

… selfish?

There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person
Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”

Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”

It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked
Jen Sincero, You are a Badass

I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.

Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.

You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”

“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”

You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.

hello
Embrace your new “you”

“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.

Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.

What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.

There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.

In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.

41CVAwRkafL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.

Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k

Keep it next to your bed as a visual reminder of the person you don’t want to be anymore and the one you are aiming to become. You’ll thank me for it, and let me know what you think about it ok?