BODY (AND MIND) BUILDING

RED ALERT! RED ALERT ! This entry is going to be long and will touch various mental health issues, even though it is all about positivity. Bear with me because I need to get this out of my chest.

Out of all the things I fell in love with in my life (Formula 1, football, heavy metal, the New York Yankees, the colour purple to name a few), there is one thing that I never, ever, not even remotely expected to become so passionate about: bodybuilding.
I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help thinking about how ridiculous it sounds me saying it since:

  • I spent a lifetime shouting to the world my loathe for any physical activity and how unable I am to do anything sport-related;
  • I have always looked like “a stick with clothes” due to my hyper-metabolism and (medically certified) lack of hunger;
  • I have always had issues with food, exacerbated during my post-natal depression to the point I was barely eating;
  • I still have major panic attacks just thinking about medicines and supplements, let alone if/when I (have to) take them;
  • I hated myself to bits and I never possessed any self-confidence whatsoever so much that I never owned a mirror till recently;

As I wrote in my previous entries, I have always been quite sporty in my teens (whether by my own choice or pushed by my parents).
I played various sports in my life (although I have rarely enjoyed any of them), but me and any physical activity have never been quite a good pair: I have always being famous for being clumsy, lacking coordination, lacking self-esteem, and, most importantly, not believing in myself enough to think “if I really put an effort into it, maybe I will actually get better at this”.
My brain was constantly stuck on “I can’t do it” mode before even starting, and of course, this belief got more and more reinforced every time I’d start playing something and – surprise surprise – I’d discovered I was not good at it.
Whether I was truly shit or not though I can’t tell, but I bet that if I were less “I’m hopelessly shit” and I’d put some real effort, maybe I would not recall my “sporty years” in embarrassment. But hey, it has always been easier, mentally and physically, to just say “naaaa, not for me, I’m too shit, fuck it, I rather stay in bed”, so I never really bothered changing.

My gym-journey has been well documented in the past, but what I was not expecting was that “being fit” became quite quickly not enough for me: once I curbed my self-inflicted negativity and I found it easy to do workouts and be committed, I became eager to push myself more. After I put the surgery ordeal behind my back (and what a hell of a ride that has been!), I began craving something more that just a bit of training here and there: I needed another stimulating and empowering challenge to really push myself beyond my limits. I felt ready, I got bored of being “a recovery patient” mentally and physically, I needed a proper new adventure – and boy oh boy, didn’t I found exactly what I was wishing for.

The very first step in this new journey has been joining a new gym and enroll in a membership contract: believe me, this in itself was a challenge for me. Not sure I said it already, but I have never been able to enrol in a gym membership and actually go for the whole length of the contract; I think my record has been three months at best, then I just kept paying the fee without going, feeling stupid for yet again another failure in my life. However, if I really were serious about this, I had to prove to myself that I was not that person with the looser and “pity hungry” mentality. Four months on and I’m still going strong (yey!).

On the day I signed my new membership, I asked the gym manager to find me the most badass personal trainer he could think of, one that was an expert in body transformation and bodybuilding, that would turn me from “skinny, post-surgery extremely weak and out of shape” into “bad bitch muscly super woman with JLO ass”.
You know when they say, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”? That is exactly what happened to me.

The day Margarita, my now PT, texted me, I freaked out: I put so much expectations into this moment that I was desperate to make sure “she was the one”. When I met her, I literally bombarded her with all the “this is my goal, this is what I want to do, this is what I hate, this are my issues etc…” speech: I wanted to make sure she understood where I came from and where I wanted to go, because I was ready to commit like I’ve never done it before and I was in no mood to waste time with the wrong PT – been there, done that for years and years (though it is also fair to say I have never been truly interested in working hard anyway).

Margarita is everything I ever wanted in a PT and even more. She revolutionised my life from the get-go, so much that I feel my life (and my body) can be described as “Before Margarita” and “After Margarita”. No joking. Her training sessions are truly of another level – I spend the hours before I see her marinating in a mixture of anxiety, fear, excitement and anticipation of what new torture she has planned for me.
I have never been pushed so hard in my life, hand on heart.
It’s not just the physical strain of what she makes me do, though sometimes I feel “this is it, another squat and it’s paralysis from the waist down”: the best part of our training session is that she is massively helping me curbing my mental “oh no I can’t do this”, and even if I have a good moan here and then (ok, all the bloody time!) and I start “begging for mercy”, she doesn’t give in (no way Jose!) and keeps me going no matter what – and rightly so, as I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I never experienced being physically unable to sit without feeling like my ass is on a barbecue on fire. Best of it is, I can already see big results!
I am loving this so much that, in the space of a month, I went from “Margarita please make me have a Jlo booty” to “I want to do fitness competitions just like you!”.
Me.
Ms shyness and clumsiness, ex hyper-skinny, 10+ years of experience in slouch sitting at the office, who can’t hold a pose not even if her life depended on it. How about this for a personal challenge!
I am not allowing myself to think “will I do it?” though: the only thought that is authorised to linger in my brain is “how far I am from actually doing it”. Oh, yes, and try not to drive Margarita crazy if I can with my moaning!

Aside from the physical aspects, the real love for bodybuilding is due to its impact on my mental health.
For me, it’s more than just simply “lifting weights, growing muscles and transforming my body”: it is most and foremost an excruciating mental training like I’ve never experienced before. It is scary and at the same time empowering. Turns out, the weight-lifting part is it actually “the easiest one”! Forget the physical strain: that is a piece of cake compared to the mental weight lifting bodybuilding puts me through every single day without a break, without a safety net, without any remote possibility to avoid it – the price would be giving up on my goals, and I already gave up way too many times on my life.
The more I dig deep into my fears and face them, the better the results are at the gym, the stronger I am to challenge what happens in my head. As hard as it is at times, especially when I’m one panic attack after the other, I know that once I will be out of that (and notice the “once” rather then “if”), I will be rewarded ten times fold.

Let me give you some examples.

I have always been extra-skinny and underweight, “blessed” with a high metabolism and a medically certified extreme low appetite. In my head, I was eating LOADS OMG SO MUCH FOOD. I had my protein shake, my big portion of pasta, how on earth I can’t get any weight on and grow big, my body must be faulty for sure. Margarita, with the help of MyFitnessPal, quickly made me realise how my diet was not “omg I’m eating like crazy”, but more likely “how on earth have I survived just on that”. I will never forget the first day I recorded my food diary, thinking “I bet I had bazillion of calories”, only to realise I was a thousand calories under my intake goal. I felt absolutely shocked.
Like Alanis Morrissette used to sing, “isn’t it ironic” that I am now “happily” resorting to force feed myself, plan my meals, think about food and how to get all my macros etc every single day of my life, when not only I have always been known for eating very small portions, but also few years ago, in the worst part of my post-natal depression, I couldn’t eat more than a spoonful of plain rice or pasta, frightened and tortured by panic attacks if I attempted to eat anything else? And this, my friends, is trauma number 1 that bodybuilding is making me face (and overcome).

You see, once I started living alone and being the master of my own universe, the first thing that I absolutely loved has been the ability to eat as much (or as little) as I wanted without having to endure a meltdown at the dinner table, with my mum yelling at me for not eating, telling me I was anorexic and therefore ending up hospitalised and dying. At time she’d stuff me with hunger-enhancing medicines too – the thought of which gave me nightmares for years. It is not fun staring at the plate full of food in front of you and feeling like you’d rather be whipped than put any of that in your mouth, and yet you got to force it down somehow because your parents are yelling at you.
Every.single.meal.of.my.life.
No matter how hard I wished, hunger never blessed me with its magnificient presence, and I spent a lifetime being mocked by my parents, their friends and everyone for being too skinny / eating like a bird / not eating / being too think / looking like a skeleton and so on.
I know most people would think I’ve been very lucky to have “my condition” and never to worry about gaining weight, but believe me, having to eat when you don’t want to it is just as hard and mentally challenging as the opposite, especially if you lack the hunger in the first place.

Of course, as soon as I got out of this hell, I enjoyed (not) eating without that pressure and scrutiny – and I actually started loving food.
Well, that freedom of “not eating” is now gone, and the one who took it away it’s me. Mercilessly.
It has not been easy.
I kid you not, there has been times during the first weeks where, chucking down food whilst holding back tears, I wished I could have had a shot of that medicine my mother gave me to help me cope. I went back to that very horrid place of being yelled at, only this time I didn’t have “my parents to blame”: it was me, I was inflicting this to myself willingly and, no matter how hard it felt, I had to keep going for my own good.
A month or so later, I’m more adjusted and, even though it is still a struggle at times (my cheat days are those where I skip few snacks and potentially even lunch), I shifted my mindset from “oh no, torture again” to “it is what it is”: I pile food in front of me whether I like it or not, I have my alarms set to remind me to eat, and it doesn’t matter if I am hungry or not (more likely not), the food gets eaten.

The other shock horror, panic attack inducing, mega mentally hard thing I am doing is taking all the supplements I need whether I crap myself in fear or not. I wrote about my phobia for medicines in the past, and this is linked to that. It doesn’t matter if it’s natural, 100% guaranteed that nothing bad will happen, billions of doctors swearing by it, you name it: my brain is not wired just like that. If it’s something I never had before, if it’s a pill, a powder, whatever, it’s panic attack. Anxiety builds up as soon as I start thinking that I have to take them, and when the moment comes…. you know the drill.
Oh, when couple of weeks ago I decided to treat myself to creatine to give me a bit of edge and allow myself to push more!

Four days solid of never-ending panic attacks.

On one hand, my brain was spinning at the speed of light.
On the other, I was doing my best to try and pull the fucking handbrake and not let shit hit the fan. Gosh, I felt I was surely on the brink of a proper mental breakdown. However, I didn’t give in. I didn’t allow myself to let my fears take my goal away from me. I imposed myself to go through the storm, head held up high, no matter what scary outcome my brain was desperate to make me believe in. You cannot imagine the pure joy, a week or so later, to be able to say “I’ve done it” and to see the actual benefit at the gym. Yes, I know, I could have just said “I could do without it, it’s not important anyway”, but creating excuses to avoid things won’t get me that far, whether for bodybuilding or anything else. Keep pushing problems away don’t make them magically disappear, you just hide them in a corner, but they are still there – and growing. It’s like video games: you can’t get to the next level if you don’t beat the monster at the end of the lever you are in first.

I am sure than, in due course, I will find many other “mental monsters” that bodybuilding will make me fare – especially when the time will come to work towards my very first competition (though I think it’s going to take me at least a year, since my shoulder is still not trainable). I know I’m on the right path, even if it’s quite the hard way up: like one of my favourite Italian journalists, Tiziano Terzani, wrote in a book called “La fine e’ il mio inizio” (the end is my beginning): “The rule, in my opinion, is: when you are at a crossroad and you find a road that goes uphill and one that goes downhill, chose the one that goes uphill: it’s easier to go downhill, but you’ll find yourself in a hole. There is more hope going uphill. It is tough, it is a different way of looking at things, it’s a challenge, it keeps you alert”. For once in my life, I’m eager to see what’s at the top of this hill, rather than being miserable down in the valley telling myself “I’m too (insert insult of your choice) to hike my way up”.

HELLO BLOG MY DEAR OLD FRIEND

It’s been ages since I last wrote on this blog. It feels like coming back to an “old friend of mine” who I haven’t seen in a while. I am not even sure why I left this blog behind, abandoned in a corner of my mind. I have been very busy recently, with so many things happening in my life, and anything that felt not essential has been dumped behind in a “maybe another time” drawer of my brain: it seems my blog slipped into this drawer too. I profusely apologise for this.

I must admit, the less I wrote, the lazier I got, and I was quite happy at leaving things as they were, even though the “not finding anything good to write about” got me a bit annoyed at times. Then the other day I saw Britney Spears latest Insta: her message looked very inspiring and positive at first, and I have been really happy to hear from her after a long time (her dad is currently very sick).

It felt quite the shock when I then read on the newspaper that she checked in into a mental health facility as she wasn’t coping well with what was happening in her life. Of course, I’m so sad that her mental health dropped (again), but I’m so happy that she didn’t let this drag her down and that she actively sought help before things spiralled out of control. It is such a powerful example: if you are not coping, there is no shame in admitting it and in allowing yourself to be cared by expert hands. You know me, I have a very soft spot for her. She has been my guide during my darkest days and an inspirational figure of “you can be still successful and live your dreams despite your wonky mental health”.

Sometimes I hear people saying stupid stuff like “how can so and so be “depressed” (said with quite the sarcastic and nasty tone) when they are rich / beautiful / successful / they got it all?”. Well, my friends, the reason is simple: aside from those who jumps on the “I’m depressed” bandwagon because it’s trendy and they feel they can fill their attention needs with some good old pity with it, anyone can be affected by this illness (cue is in the word: illness). You could have all the conditions to be the happiest person on planet earth and still not be able to be truly happy if your mental health is not ok for whatever reason. This is something I always held against my mum, for example: I spent so many years resenting her for being the way she was, wondering why she just couldn’t be fucking happy and serene. Only when I ended up experiencing the same, being eaten alive by panic attacks and anxiety, thinking of the worst things during my post-natal depression, that I got loud and clear why you can’t just “snap out of it” and “be normal”. You want to, but you can’t. Yes, in fair honesty, there is a part of you that actually enjoys the drama and marinating in your own self-pity, but the main part of you feel like a spectator of a shitshow that cannot be controlled: you see all the beautiful things from your window of despair, longing to be able to get out and enjoy them, but unable to move or do anything about it because your brain simply doesn’t work properly.

Speaking of mental health, I will soon approach my psychotherapy anniversary. If I think of the person I was last year, compared to now… wow. The difference. Last year this time my life was a full-blown drama of epic proportions, I was sad, my self-esteem next to zero, my confidence was non-existent, everything was just negative and upsetting. I was surrounded by very negative people, I was living in a negative environment and, ultimately, I was a negative person myself as well. I can’t believe how completely different my life is now. The journey is still long, I still have issues to work on (my panic attacks are not completely over and forgotten, for example), but I’m confident that, with the help of my therapist, things will keep going better and better.

And I promise my next blog entry won’t be in 3 months’ time!

NEW START, NEW IDEAS, NEW LIFE?

After a month of nothingness and extreme low mood, finally I had a tremendous news, the one I have been waiting for since the moment I opened my eyes in the recovery room at the hospital: my physiotherapist agreed for me to go back to the gym! No lifting weights, that will begin only after recovery, but anything else I used to do before this terrible stop is a yes, green lights, go go go go go. I almost cried of happiness and So, I decided that in order to lift my spirit, I will record my journey “from zero to hero”: I will take pictures of me as I am now and keep recording my progresses along the way. My aim is that, by the end of this year, I’ll be able to deadlift weights, have my amazing JLO bum again (and make it even better than what I had) and super abs. I am so excited. It really changed my day this news. I will also try and do some yoga or pilates as well (so long as there is no shoulder involvement) as I feel my back has been as flexible as a concrete pillar lately, and I would really like to be less stiff again: I’m sure my back would really appreciate it.

Today I woke up in a particularly irritable mood: the pain kept me awake at night and this morning I was a total mess. I even curled up and had a good cry on the sofa, with my poor boyfriend having to talk me out of my dark cloud of negativity. I dragged myself to physiotherapy in a “dead man walking” kind of feeling, and as soon as I saw my physiotherapist I told her how sad and desperate I felt. My range of movements has noticeably decreased (yey… not) so now I have been referred to hydrotherapy to try and get things going again. I am weirdly excited about it: I don’t fancy being in a pool with a physiotherapist pulling and prodding me, but hey, if that helps, bring it on, right? I bet it’s going to be hilarious.

I will be very honest, this morning I felt like I hit a wall in my recovery. I just passed the “week four” mark of my journey and I seriously had enough of all of this. I’m trying hard to stay positive, to tell myself “it’s only temporary, it is for the greater good, soon it will be over and you’ll be stronger and pain free”, but reality is that I feel a prisoner of my body: I’m fed up of being unable to do anything more than lifting a glass a water, I’m done with the pain, I hate feeling weak and, most of all, I hate not being able to live a normal life because pain (or extremely limited movements) prevents me from doing so. On top of all of this, add that I lost my beautiful gym body that I worked my ass off to achieve, and you have a recipe for total mental and physical disaster.

I knew it would have been hard. As soon the surgeon said “it will take four months for complete recovery and it’s not going to be easy” I knew I was in for quite a frustrating ride, but one thing is knowing it’s going to be difficult, another one being in the moment, facing the difficult times, realising it’s only just month one out of four and thinking “fuck me, this is hell”. My mood has been pretty low, I admit. I feel this kind of set me back a bit. I do not regret the operation, let’s be clear, especially after I saw the pictures of what I had inside (ewwww…. Gross). I am absolutely convinced it was the right thing and I would do it again in a heartbeat, it had to be done to prevent rupturing my tendon, I just cannot stand this recovery and this feeling so useless: it seems never ending!

On another note, I have been talking a lot with my dear friend Marge lately on all the talents that I have and that I’m not using to the full potential (and she is damn right about it), so I decided to use these three remaining months to find a way to become a freelance writer or something like that. I would love to be paid to write, since it is something I absolutely adore doing it, especially when it comes to corporate communications, customer service emails, complaints etc. That is mainly why I started this blog: to fulfil my love for writing and to be able to share my experience with people all over the world, and maybe to help them too. Do you want to know what my secret writing dream is? Becoming in charge of my very own “agony aunt” advice column: oh, I would answer basically every letter or email coming my way, so much I love this stuff! I know it won’t be easy, but hey, it is also not exactly open-heart surgery, right? Besides, if you don’t try, you don’t get, and I learned my lesson when I gave a go to writing my President’s Christmas corporate message and he loved it so much it went global. Who knows what can happen from this? Maybe I will change my life!

I’M GONNA PARTY LIKE IT’S MY BIRTHDAY

Dear all, I successfully celebrated my birthday after years and years of refusal, hate, depression, sadness, negative feelings and it feels GREAT. It feels such an achievement, I’m so thrilled, happy, grateful, you name it. I’m going to party all week long and you can’t imagine how being able to finally celebrate myself without reserves makes me feel happy.

Birthdays have always been a very sensitive topic for me. I started not liking celebrating my birthdays since I was very young, and every year it felt more like a chore than a lovely gathering with cakes and friends. I know why I had these feelings: most of the time it felt like my party had to please relatives and other people rather than me, from the cake to the location to any activity involved. I hated being at the centre of attention anyway, imagine that plus being somewhere I didn’t like, doing stuff I didn’t care about doing together with people I was not interested in being with anyway.
Over the years these feelings have only been exacerbated: the more my mental health declined, the lesser I wanted to attend any party whatsoever, let alone mine, and the more my self-esteem became practically non-existent, the more I found the idea of “celebrating myself” alien to me; who wants to celebrate someone you hate? No one, especially if that someone is, in fact, you.

Every single year my negativity, in addition to my depression, made me behave in a truly awful way in the months leading to my birthday. No, actually, let’s be honest: I was a horrible mess.
I started annoying the shit out of everyone at the first signs of Christmas celebrations around October, and I kept being a moaning, negative, sulking brat till after my birthday. I pestered everyone with my constant “I don’t want presents! I don’t want a party! I don’t want to celebrate anything! There is nothing to celebrate anyway! I hate this, people would only do it because they feel compelled and not because they truly want to do it, and anyway I don’t want it” and on and on and on.

I’m annoying myself just at typing this.

Now, imagine this negative mantra over and over again to whoever dared to listen to it.

I have even been very annoyed at those who gave me presents anyway despite my constant moaning because, listen to this contort brain process, they spoiled my dream of spending a sad Christmas or birthday with no presents and no attention received whatsoever.
I was sad because I couldn’t be sad.
I know it feels the most stupid thing ever, quite the drama queen teenager emo shit, but believe me, I was in such a dark place that nothing made sense anyway to me. Whatever I was going through, it was so bottled up inside me that probably I was looking for these chances to release some of it this way. I was so… in a world of “everything is bad” and “everything is negative” that nothing looked for what it was. I know I sounded totally unreasonable, and that I behaved in a way that “normal” people would have deemed ungrateful, horrible etc. but to me it was the world that was unable to understand me, that was behaving disrespectfully and forcefully violating my wishes of doom and gloom, so much I was hooked up in my brain jail.
On top of that, I married someone who has narcissist traits, and who doesn’t cope well with not being at the full centre of attention, so in addition to my personal frustrations etc. I had someone who, subconsciously or intentionally, managed to ruin every single occasion where I was the celebrated person. Needless to say, if I even dared to think of a “maybe I should have a party this year”, that thought got immediately ripped off my mind with a ton of negativity and the additional “he’ll ruin it anyway”.

I must admit, my old self started to play few games here and there for my birthday this year as well. I was not too comfortable at the thought of celebrating, even though I arranged a pin up birthday party with the ladies at Dollhouse Photography. It still felt a bit weird. I told my boyfriend that celebrating myself it’s something that I’m progressively learning to do, and that I’m not used to be spoiled, loved and taken care of: I’m the one who does those things and I’m never at the receiving end! I had various sessions with my therapist about it and, ultimately, I told myself “actually, Silvia, with all the things you did, with all the issues you overcame, it’s like you are a re-born person, so we might as well start a new tradition and celebrate yourself!”.

the way I hoped my cake looked like… nope… it didn’t happen

I bought more than a hundred purple balloons, I bought myself a purple dress, I let my colleagues, friends and boyfriend spoil me as much as they liked without a single objection to it and I forced myself to keep a happy, positive attitude about the hole thing. The result? I had the time of my life. I felt so loved like I’ve never been before. I savoured every single moment, and even when my cake turned out of the oven looking anything but purple (the food colouring I used was absolutely shit, and instead of a vibrant purple cake I ended up with a grey-ish mess…!), I just laughed about it.

I feel so happy and at peace with myself in a way that I have never experienced. I know it may sound quite odd, but when you spend a lifetime hating yourself and then you go into a journey to rip this negativity out of your brain and turn it into positivity, being able to be comfortable with who you are feels extra special, because it was such a struggle to achieve it. I feel the beauty of accepting myself for the beautiful person I am, without having to always dragging me down for no apparent reason. It is a very nice place to be. I feel like I’m living a brand new life – I am, indeed, living a brand new life, with a brand new set of eyes to see myself and the world I live in differently. I appreciate even all the negative things I experienced, because now I know exactly what I don’t want to go back to and what I rather keep experiencing.

Having said that, you know what are the few things that I don’t like?
Well, first of all, my house looks like the aftermath of a purple balloon apocalypse. Oh, and my son went crazy raging madman when he ripped the poor pinata my boyfriend bought, so on top of the balloons I have pieces of that poor thing everywhere. Aaaand…. Oh my, I’m so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open! I’m getting old, no doubt about it!

I now have two more parties to go, and hopefully a weekend of pure, total, blissful sleep in my pyjama. And this, my friend, is the tale of how I went from “no more parties ever – I hate myself” to “no more parties for a while, I’m frigging knackered and I need my beauty sleep”. It’s the best feeling ever!!

WEAK AND PROUD

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

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

damn he is right

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

THE TRAGEDY

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

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

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

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

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

“HELP ME” SEEMS TO BE THE EASIEST WORD

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

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

This meme cracked me up big time

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

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

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

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

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

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

NIGHT BEFORE SURGERY (INSERT SCARED FACE)

It’s the dreaded night before my surgery.
I planned, in my mind, a very quiet evening: nice dinner, warm and relaxing bath, Netflix… Instead, my son decided to be the most annoying child on the planet, and I basically spent my evening yelling at him. Yey.

I won’t lie, I feel a bit (ok a lot) anxious about it. I am not remotely ready. Should I wear my pyjama? Should I wear jumper and trousers? Did I pack my phone charger? Did I charge my power bank? Where’s my work phone? Should I pre-book a taxi or just ring one tomorrow? Why I can’t seem to be able to tackle these events in an organised and adult manner? Why I always let the child in me be the one in charge? Having said that, at least this time I know for a fact I’ll bring my glasses, because I forced myself not to wear contact lenses!

I’m in a better mental place compared to when I had my elbow surgery two years ago, that is for sure. I can see the results of all the positive work I’ve done on myself and on my mind. I’m surrounded by positivity and by amazing people who are giving me all the love, care, affection I need and some more. One is currently trying to listen to an audiobook here in bed with me, and I bet he’s hating me big time for furiously typing this entry (sorry!) but he is too kind to tell me to fucking stop it or else I’ll get my fingers chopped. Maybe one of these days I’ll write about how he ended up being back in my life, what a long (but incredible) journey we had to be at this happy and sweet point in time, what an amazing person he is and how much in love we are…. if he behaves!

I am not sure when I will be able to write something meaningful, but I promise I will let you know tomorrow that I’m fine (and maybe share some hilarious post-op pictures).
In the meantime, any joke, funny meme, “get well soon” wishes, digestive cookies etc are more than welcome: send them my way via mail, Facebook, in the comments… I’ll read them all!

I can’t promise I won’t freak out when it’s anaesthesia time, but any stupid shit I’ll say or do, I solemnly swear I’ll write it down here for your own amusement as soon as I can type and formulate sentences that actually make sense.

Le Me, night before surgery look, courtesy of Mr AudioBook man ;-P

I’ll see you all one shoulder down very soon!