SHOW ME THE MEANING OF BEING LONELY

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

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

me by myself as a kid

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

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

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

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

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

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

Susanbano in all its glory

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

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!

WRITE THAT FUNKY ENTRY TOMBOY

When I started this blog in July, I was in deep, deep shit.
My life was a negative, disastrous mess, everywhere I looked I could only see problems after problems: my heart was badly broken, my very much loved “we’ll be together for years” babysitter dumped me out of the blue “to pursue new adventures in Wales”, work was under a massive crisis (one of those “we are all going to be fired and this company will implode soon afterwards”), I was in the eye of the storm and I literally did not know what to do with my life. I had more than one moment where I even regretted the fact that I didn’t kill myself during my post-natal depression: I would have so spared myself another round of “all is bad, and everything hurts”.

I was lost, marinating in my own sorrow and misery. I was like a tiny boat in the middle of a very angry ocean, beaten and shaken by massive waves, trying not to break for good under the latest, horrendous storm I was facing. Writing came as a sort of lifeline: the fact that I had a way to get all the pain clouding my head out, in the light, and that I could make sense of it all by way of seeing it, black on white, on a word file, became a very helpful personal therapy session.

Over the months, with therapy, the gym, the good work I put in and yes, with writing, I managed to not only survived that storm in one piece, but I also discovered that I am better, new-and-improved self. More so, I discovered that writing was not just “a therapeutic moment”, but a medium that comes incredibly natural to me, a way to express myself that I absolutely love and yes, I dare to say it, a talent that I can be very proud of. The more my confidence grew, the more I started to be (very) outspoken about the fact that I am good “at this shit” and that I would love to do it more and more. Heck, I would write all day, every day if left to it. I would love, LOVE to be paid to write. Anything! You name it!

I was already “famous” at work for writing what my friend Marge and I called “anger management emails”: basically, all those communications where you need to complain, and you would really, really, REALLY like to just send a massive “FUCK YOU!” (and potentially another billion of insults too) but instead of doing that, I write my “fuck off” in a way that gets my point of view across firmly but very, very politely. I even managed to succeed at managing a complaint email chain for a friend of Marge, pretending I was her friend’s customer service manager. Writing essary during my Law degree helped me develop my writing skills, the importance of words, their meaning, the attention and carefulness at “what you want to say” and, most important “how you want to say it” to exactly convey you message without any doubds or misunderstanding. I do it with my ex all the time: whenever he writes and asks me “does this (instert sentence) work?” I begin a lenghty “why did you use this word? what would you like to say? Did you mean this or that? How about you use this one instead? What is this all about? This means another thing if you say it this way” etc….

Well, least did I expect that I became so confident, so passionate about writing that I began to proactively find chances to show how good I am, not just sit there and wat for someone to yell “Silviaaaaa could you please write this email / letter / statement / complaint?”.

A big, special chance waved its hands at me a week or so ago: every year, our company’s President sends to the employees his “end of the year” message. It’s generally drafted by the Head of Communications before it lands on his desk for his additions and approval. Well, the clock was ticking, nobody was really doing anything about this message, even if Marge and I have been pretty vocal in requesting it way back beginning of November (we have to stick it into lovely Christmas cards, and since we have a lot of employees, we are talking about quite a lot of Christmas cards that needs to be ready….). I got fed up of waiting for a miracle to happen, so I said to her “you know what, I am going to write it this year”. Stuck on a train on my way home, I opened my laptop and started to furiously type it. I was so excited that words just magically appeared on my screen: I swear, I was so in the zone that there was zero delay between the“thinking of what to say” to the “writing it down”. By the end of the day I had the message done, proofread and ready to go. Before I could regret it, Marge made sure it landed on the President’s inbox for his consideration. I admit it, I had to run to my manager’s office trying not to look hysterical (not more than my usual standards at least) to calm down and get some encouraging words.

I told myself that, whatever happened, I would have been happy anyway: I had the guts to do such thing, which it is something that I would have never, ever, over my dead body done just six month ago, let alone before that; I actually did it, which again, it is something remarkable, and then I send it to the receiver (and what a receiver!!!) for review: zero self-esteem me would have rather jump out of the window than putting her message under the president’s nose and being like “I did this myself mate, check this out!”. I was happy, I was proud of myself, I was ready to settle with these very nice feelings….

…till the feedback from the president arrived.

And he said he really liked it.

He added his bits and he forwarded it straight to the Head of Communications for her final approval. At this point, I became extremely excited. Still, I tried to keep it calm and not dream too much: you know, in the corporate world, you can be amazing at writing and everyone may like what you say, but there are ways to say things, there are things you can address and things that you can’t, plus a lot of other bits and pieces and basically yes, I was braced for a “WHO WROTE THIS SHIT? OMG THIS IS ATROCIOUS!” moment. I would have been fine anyway, since I’m not a Communication Manager and I just wrote what I, as an employee, I would have loved to hear.

I’m here, trying not to scream my house down, because not only the president liked it as I said, but the Head ofCommunications liked it so much that my message won’t be used just for my London team, but for my department as a whole (and we are based all over the world). I am beyond happy. I am… wow, words are failing me right now, I don’t even know how to describe these feelings I have inside. It is such an honour,such an achievement: me, depressed, mental unit crazy me, the one with no self-esteem, the one who hated herself, who thought she was shit, dumb, stupid, you name, me, I managed to do something so special and I’m so thrilled about it. I’m dying to print my message out, stick it on those Christmas cards and just send it out for all my colleagues to read.

Needless to say, I’m now on fire: I am writing anything that comes my way. I managed to write a vision and mission statement for a friend’s company, a supporting statement for a job application for another friend, whoever needs anything I’m like “YEAH I’LL WRITE THAT GIVE IT TO MEEEEEE” (I know I look like I’m a crazy, writing maniac, and maybe I am, but I’m loving it). I’m not sure what this writing stuff will bring, but whatever that will be, I’m sure it will be amazing.

(I should also probably start to charge for my writing services too!!!)

THIS DAY WE FIGHT

I rolled my eyes at an incoming panic attack.

I know, it sounds weird, but this is exactly what happened, and it happen so quickly and automatically that I felt more concerned about my reaction than of the panic attack about to strike.

Bit of a background: this Thursday I’ll be at my Company’s Christmas party, and this year I decided that, to celebrate all the good work I have done on myself, I am going to look spectacular. No more saddo clothes, no more blending with the furniture, nope. I will wear a very sparkling sequin bodycon dress, I’ll have hair, makeup, fake tan, mani & pedi professionally done, everything will be spot on. Yes sir, tomboy me will become smoking hot barbie.
So yesterday I was sitting in bed, catching up with the Premier League’s results, when I though “you know what? I’m going to pamper myself up a bit”: I decided to treat myself with a face masque. Simple as that.
Of course, as soon as I started applying it BAM! I could feel a panic attack creeping up, with all the fake weird sensations and the general “I’m on a high alert for danger, I just need to find the perfect trigger….”.
Now, the old me would have quickly washed her face, felt totally stupid for doing something that comes with a complimentary panic attack and then spend the whole night sulking and feeling like crap (“I’m stupid, I’m so dumb, why did I do this, the list goes on).
The new me? Well, the new me is fucking fed up, to put it mildly. I had a massive eye-rolling moment, I rolled my eyes so much that I saw the inside of my brain, and the first few thoughts were, amongst other inappropriate things that I better not write here, something along the lines of “how predictable….Jeeeez the fucks I don’t give about you, stupid brain, right now”. Yes, the panic attack was still trying to lure me in, but I soldiered on for twenty ( T W E N T Y) minutes as per masque instructions and sorry you little shit, there are no panic attacks in between this woman and achieving a pre-party glowing skin.

Eyes rolling.

I’m bored of you, stupid brain thinking weird stuff, misinterpreting shit and giving me panic attacks! I’m BORED.
B O R E D.
Enough already! I am done with it.
At the end of those twenty, eternal minutes, I proudly sat firmly on my bed, with my face looking like a very angry red tomato (it was a bit of a peeling, a bit of god knows what, a “facelift in a jar”, I’ll look normal soon… I hope) not giving a single, infinitesimal fuck.

I had a horrible nightmare last night: I dreamt of my surgery and it was all incredible distressing and scary. My brain re-interpreted the moment before I got put to sleep by the anaesthetist back two years ago and I could feel the fright of my life. Worst was, I knew it was a dream, but still, I couldn’t just manage to keep it under control. Yet, instead of waking up crying and projecting negative thoughts to my incoming surgery, I yelled (in my mind, because I care for my neighbours) “FUCK NO” and cut the crap there and then. No way I’m going to live till the 7th of January in distress because I’m scared. Yes, I will be scared, of course I will. I’m not exactly about to pop a bottle of Prosecco and celebrate Formula 1 podium style at the thought of being put to sleep, but at the same time, I won’t let all of this useless and counterproductive anxiety rule my life. This shit ends now.

I feel like a revolution has started inside me. It is something that has slowly crept up over time, with therapy, with my confidence growing, with my work at the gym… It’s… it’s like the tests and achievements so far have paved the way for something bigger, something that I haven’t consciously noticed till now. Like the little drops of water that over time erode a rock, the same has happened to my brain: something has eroded my brain slowly but steadily, to the point where I now feel not only that I am not bloody scared of facing this war, but also that there is a big chance I can win it.

For example, in order to start testing how much I can push it, I switched Iron supplements today: no more taking the “safe option”, which by the way, it gave me a panic attack the first time I took it. As I write, I just took it for the first time and needless to say, I have a panic attack waiting for me to let him in. I can feel my brain trying to find a way to trigger hell; my senses are on a hype, trying to find a reason, a slight weird feeling, a little glitch in the system to make me go in full panic mode. I refuse to let it happen.
Fuck off already.
I’m sitting here, eating my (very sad, I must admit) lunch, writing this entry and working really hard to keep my precious fucks to myself and not give a single one to what my body is trying to tell me, because these feelings that I think I’m feeling are NOT REAL. They are not, and I should stop pandering to them, just as I don’t pander to my son when he puts up a tantrum display in shops.

I know, I sound totally lunatic and ready to check in to mental unit, but… listen, I always saw myself as a victim of my mind; I always thought there is nothing I could do to make me be better; I always surrendered without even trying to fight back and I don’t think that’s the right way to do it, not for me anymore at least. For the record, even if I’m all here bold and courageous, I’m not having exactly an easy time, and I bet all you want that once this storm settles I will feel absolutely drained. If you know what a panic attack is, and if you ever attempted to fight it, you know how tiring and exhausting it is. However, I want to think it as a mental gym: the first time I went to the gym, the next day I begged to die as everything hurt and I could barely breathe; now I could squat till my arse is on fire and I’m happy when I feel that burning sensation – it means my muscles are growing and I’m doing something right. Well, dear brain, now you and I are going to squat the shit out of these panic attacks, and yes, today I will feel like my head is about to explode, but soon, with good training, I’ll get you nice and muscly and strong enough to cut the crap before it even starts. You just watch me making it happen!

JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR HELPS THE MEDICINE GO DOWN

Oh, dear Mary Poppins, I wish it was that simple for me!

Ok, I guess it’s time to talk about it, because the clock is ticking, and it will soon be the time where I won’t be able to run away from this massive issue I have. I have been working hard to avoid facing it, because it causes me a lot of mental pain; however, thanks to the incoming surgery procedure, dodging this bullet again won’t be an option… so I better do everything in my power to get ready before the storm will hit me in all its fury.

Unfortunately for me, I have been living with quite a nasty phobia. It is a massive one, a “wonderful” gift from post-natal depression: I am totally, absolutely, completely, and undeniably terrified of taking medicines other than the odd paracetamol. The thought of having to do it triggers quite a severe anxiety attack, the act of taking one… well, it’s a full-force panic attack with its horrible aftermath. Not a pleasant experience, believe me. At times, even vitamins and supplements can trigger an anxiety attack. Even cosmetic treatments!!! My gosh the day I had a fake tan… sheer terror (by the way, I’m having another one because I’m brave). Unlike my love for mushrooms, that disappeared during those three years of mental hell only to come back as nothing ever happened once I made it to the other side, this phobia overstayed it’s welcome and I’m still battling it to this day. When people joke about phobias and the impact they have on people, I become quite angry: you don’t know how frightening it is living with one till it happens to you, and even if for you it is stupid or inconceavable, for that person is a trauma, so be kind – nobody wants to have to deal with it!

The thing is, this medicines phobia it’s not something that is easy to challenge in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy style (which I hate with all my heart, by the way), like I did with most food (at my worst, during my post-natal depression, I survived only on plain rice and plain pasta): I can’t just pop pills randomly to get used to them and don’t be scared of them anymore. Besides, even if I were crazy enough to do it, what medicines would I pick? I’m scared of all of them and there is a plethora available over the counter alone. What should I try? And why, since I’m perfectly healthy? My liver appreciates me treating him nicely and keeping him on a (almost) permanent state of relax. I rarely take medicines anyway, unless I’m really, really sick, so even when I could have the chance to challenge myself, I just don’t feel the need to.
I thought I had to face my phobia when I had my elbow surgery two years ago, but once the anaesthesia wore off, I found I had no pain at all, or nothing that a tiny bit of paracetamol would not solve, so I dodged that bullet at that time. However, it seems now that my next surgery won’t be a walk in the park as the previous one: my lovely surgeon wrote, on the pre-admission letter, that I am to expect considerable pain till two (but likely four) weeks post-op, and that pain will be considerably higher than what I experienced with my elbow. Yep, the odd paracetamol would simply not be enough… and my phobia is already waiving hello in the back of my head, feeling like an annoying acquaintance that you rather walk the long way round than crossing his path and having to wave hello back.

I always have been very blasé about my health and medicines. Not that I ever took a lot of them, but I guess it was the same as for any normal person: if your doctor says you need it, you take it, if there is anything over the counter that would solve your issue, you just buy it, take it and end of the story. My mum, her sisters and my grandma had a very… let’s say interesting relationship with medicines: for them, it was like exchanging shoes or clothes!
“Did you try this? Oh my gosh best painkiller ever”
“Really? Because I was using this other one and I can assure you this is so worth the money, you should totally try it!”
My dad, every time he saw them chatting away like that, he used to raise his hands and say “the drug dealers are in a meeting”. One of my mum’s sister used to be a nurse, and I will never forget that time I had food poisoning with egg pasta: she gave me a massive shot of Brufen that basically knocked me out for the whole night.
I took all the medicines I have been prescribed without a single problem, including a round or two of antibiotics. Before I got pregnant, I re-took my MMR vaccine, and all was going fine in my own little world.

Unfortunately, towards the end of my pregnancy, I had an allergic reaction to the hair dye I was using to cover my very dark roots (I was a proud bottle blonde), and something cracked in my brain: I was suddenly scared of any chemical thing. I coped kind of ok till I had to be induced, and I had a panic attack straight away: from that moment onwards, I descended into a spiral of pure terror at the thought of taking any medicine whatsoever.

It has been 6 years and counting now that my phobia gives me a panic attack hey pronto as soon as I’m required to take any medicines. This is also the reason why I am deeply ashamed to admit that I skipped, for the fifth year running, the flu jab: I rather take the risk of having the flu rather than having to face the guaranteed panic attacks I’d have before, during and afterwards (but, before you yell at me, my son has been vaccinated). The only medicines I do not have an issue with are paracetamol and Gaviscon (a heartburn medicine); however, overcoming this fear has not been easy: it took me few panic attacks and ultimately a very kind nurse on the phone who stayed on the line when I took them, and talked me out of the raging storm in my head. To this day, I’m eternally grateful to her and she is proof that a bit of care and kindness do change people’s lives: it certainly changed mine for the very better.

I know, for normal people, this phobia is quite stupid, but believe me, I can feel the anxiety building up as I write about it; I can already picture myself in pain, with a box of ibuprofen in my hand, petrified at the thought of either keep being in physical pain or to dare and alleviate it at the cost of causing myself mental pain. It’ a horrible, vicious cycle, I know.

To be honest, I am a bit fucking done with this phobia. It doesn’t mean that I wish I could walk into a pharmacy and swallow every medicine I could lay my hands on without an issue, but I just want to be able to take what I get prescribed without spending hours (or days, or months) of my life completely terrified. I told my therapist that, in a weird and masochistic way, I’m ready for the challenge: like a wrestling match, it is about time I get in the ring and start punching my way to victory, rather than just seeing my phobia holding the championship belt and yelling abuse at me to scare me away from even daring to get near it.

Will I be able to win this one? Any suggestion is more than welcome!

I AM MY OWN WORLD

Since I’m here trying to stop a panic attack before it hits me in full force, even though I’m telling myself that iron supplements won’t kill me, that I have to take them because my blood test results are stuff of nightmares, that it’s normal, it’s fine, you’ll get better soon etc.. etc.. let me try and distract myself from these feelings to write about a recent, amazing discovery I made that is leaving me feeling “wow”. (by the way, iron supplements are the worst, I feel like I have a brick in my stomach….).
Ok, before you say anything, let me be clear: to normal, average people, this will come as a boring thing. No, better, as a “so you just realised that? Really? Jeez you are dumb”. To me, owner of a brain who is not exactly normal and with a tendency of being “not healthy”, it is something that left me totally and pleasantly shocked.

I’ve finally (!!!) discovered that doing things for yourself, because you want them, for your own pleasure, it’s not only wonderful in itself, but it’s also empowering and sets yourself free. Free from judgements, free from external disappointments, free from pressure, free from expectations, free from anything that doesn’t fit with your inner self desires. It’s such a powerful thing! I have never, ever realised that. I always acted (or, better, reacted) depending on others: if I made others (you name it: colleagues, partners, friends, acquaintances, neighbours etc) happy by doing / not doing / changing / not changing / things, then so be it. When I didn’t make them happy, or satisfied, or if I didn’t meet their expectations, or whatever, and maybe received critics and rejections as a consequence, it’s drama time, and then I would have felt useless, stupid, shit, ugly, idiot etc…. Yes, I was my own enemy of my state of mind by relying my happiness, my self-worth and self-esteem on others. I know, I know, it took me a while but now I know.

When this journey started, I was miss rescuer and Olympic gold medallist of “others before me martyrdom”. When I started psychotherapy, the questions that my therapist forced me to focus on, all the time, after everything I discussed, no matter what I said, were “but what about what YOU feel?”, “what about what YOU think?”, “what about what YOU want?”, “what about what YOU prefer?. Most of the time, my mind went blank, as if I just got asked the most complicated question on planet Earth, a bit when in a computer you input the wrong data and the computer give your fuck nothing back, no matter how much you slam your fists on your keyboard (been there, done that). I never ever experienced the ME before OTHERS so I didn’t know what the ME in all of this wanted, felt, preferred, thought. OR, better, I knew, but I never allowed it to be out in the air, own it and stand up for it because I thought I would just make myself lonelier, more unaccepted, more stupid, probably arrogant, and selfish.
It has been a massive learning experience that I’m still digesting, and it is harder that what it seems when you are reverting a behaviour that has been with you all your life.

I had this massive revelation, like a moment of total brain clarity (and if you are affected by mental illness you know how these moments feel like suddenly the world stops and… WOOOOOOW…….), when I was walking home, I don’t even remember what I did but I felt so… great, and the first thought was “it feels so amazing making myself happy”. Immediately after this thought crossed my mind, I had to stop: this has never been me? No checking if I get external approval? No “but what if someone doesn’t agree?”? Just “I’m happy, who cares about the rest?”. Yes, who cares. Who gives a shit, to be honest!!!

An example of this is my gym work. I started to work out to get “a revenge body”. My ex has always been very vocal on how he liked women to be very fit and yes, I was skinny but fit? No way in hell. I was too ugly anyway and I thought that I was better at drinking men under the table, ending up shitfaced in pubs, spending four days in hangover hell, eat crap and repeat. When he dumped me, I thought “now you’ll see what I’m capable of” so I started my journey as a vengeance, not for me, but to have him back at my feet crawling because “I’ll be fit as fuck and he’ll want me desperately”. Do I have to repeat again how much I’ve hated going to the gym? I don’t think so. It took me ages, and lots of tears, to shift the “I’m doing it for him” to the healthier “I’m doing it for ME”, but when this happened, my results went from nothing to “bring it on Personal Trainer, we are in for a ride today”. I started asking advices, ensuring my nutrition was correct, putting the real efforts, feeling “the weights” and seeing the muscles developing, correcting the bits that I was not doing properly, pushing myself further, and then some more.
Wednesday, with my trainer, we increased basically all the weights, but it wasn’t a case of her stating “oh now we add 5kg” and me being “OK (eyes rolling) FINE (fucking hell)”, rather a case of me telling her “I think we should go up, I know I have it in me” and her being “I agree, and I think we can add a bit more too on the last set” “yeah, let’s do this”.
I was doing glute bridges with 30kg and feeling fine. At the end, I looked at her and said “remember when I started with 6kg and I was struggling? Not bad eh?”.
Zero thoughts about vengeance or having anyone crawling back. It was a “me me me me” thing. I just can’t think anything but “Silvia, you are getting stronger by the minute! WOW! You rock bitch! Keep going! Can’t believe what you did!!!!!! Ohhh I love this body look at these quads! Looks at these legs! Look at where you were not long ago and what you are now!”. My colleagues say that, at this rate, I will soon have a mirror next to my desk so that I can constantly bask in my own gym-body glory. ME. The one that didn’t own a single mirror up till few months ago.

It is not only in the gym that I changed perspective: it is in everything in my life. I quitted living to meet other people’s expectations and it is the best feeling in the world. I am now focussing on meeting mine, and mine only. I know that “this is how it should have always been”, but hey, better late than never right?

I was walking my way home the other day and I was just thinking “for the first time in my life, it just feels good being me”. Don’t get me wrong, the long is still veeeeery long and difficult, but slowly I’ve learned to make myself happy. I’m now more self-sufficient. Whatever the world says or thinks, it doesn’t get to me anymore as it used to. I know I have the power to get wherever I want to get to. I don’t need to be saved, I’m not waiting for a Prince Charming, I am my own world, I am my own fan, I am me and it’s good. I have never experience that. I don’t dwell on my insecurities or physical defects anymore: yes, I have them, and plenty too, but who’s squatting with 20kg dumbbells now? Who’s been in therapy and actually putting the mental work to improve? Who’s beating panic attack after panic attack? Who’s quit drinking, eating healthy, taking care of herself? Who is not cheating, lying, diminishing, insulting or hurting herself anymore? Who proved that change is possible, once the real efforts are made? ME. Therefore yes, my boobs may be ruined, my teeth may still need fixing, my mental health is still a work in progress, but the person I was six months ago is a distant past compared to the one I am now, and who knows what amazing progresses I’ll do in the next six months!