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!

THE ENDLESS JOURNEY

I had a very productive chat with my psychotherapist yesterday. I told her a lot of (positive) things that happened to me, we discussed in depth about how the gym and her sessions are helping me massively with my mental health, all in all it has been a very positive and pleasant session, one of the best so far. Of course, I’m not writing this entry to gloat about what a lovely time I had with my therapist, because nobody would be interested anyway. What I want to write about today is something that came out during our chat, a trait that I always had but that I have never been quite conciously aware of, and that has haunted me almost all night yesterday. One of the things that I came away with after my session is my inability, so far, at having some bloody good patience.

See? I can’t even write it without a glimpse of frustration showing, and I can assure you, if you want to drive me up the wall in anger, you only have to tell me “come on, be patient!” (Also, to be honest, I can hear Gary Barlow in my head singing “have a little patieeeeenceeee” and now it’s Take That all day in my head).

My insecurities, mixed with my forever annoingly friend anxiety, meant that my life has been so far an “I’ve done it” box-ticking exercise. I have never enjoyed the journey of anything I have done, from start to the end. To me, all that has ever mattered was to get to the end, as fast as possible, it doesn’t matter what happens or not in between, or what learnings I can gather from the experience: I have to get there, right at the end, say “done!” and move on to the next box to tick, in the hope that the list of ticked boxes would improve my self-esteem and solve all my issues in one go. There is not time to reflect. The end is there and I will get there. If someone says “it will take X amount of time to achieve that”, you can rest assured I won’t be the one thinking “ok, let’s start and see how it goes” but, more likely, the one that thinks “ok how can I achieve it in half of the time? How can I make it faster? How can I finish it sooner?” and work just focussing on that, not in what I am really trying to achieve and what is the overall goal. All my efforts are only to get to the end as soon as possible.

In all this rush, I always thought that seeing “the list of ticks” would have made me a “better person”; I was sure I would have felt more accomplished, better about myself, my self-esteem would have hit the roof, ohh the mega massive beautiful things that will happen to me! Of course, it has never been the case. The only thing that happened is that I didn’t enjoy anything I’ve done. I only accumulated frustration after frustration. I never got the results I really wanted because I never put the effort to do things correctly, since my focus was mainly on reaching the end result at all costs. I didn’t take my time, I didn’t just enjoy what happened on the journey, or focussed on the immediate, it has always been a stupidly fast race.

I see it applied in anything in my life so far: my law degree? I still remember when the prospect was to finish it in six years, it drove me up the wall; of course, I stupidly studied day and night, taking on board all exams I (legally) could do in a year, so that I could wear the “badge of honour” to say that I did it in half of the time, but my end result was a total disappointment because I didn’t care about what I was studying, all that mattered was vomiting enough knowledge to pass my exams quickly. My ex-boyfriend? I didn’t take the time to enjoy what we had, whether big or small, whether we saw each other for just a hot booty call that turned into an hilarious night watching Netflix and laughing our asses off or if there were any foundations for something more, in my head all I had to do was to tick the box of “I have a relationship” as quickly as possible and nothing else mattered. Gym? If by session two I’m not Instagram fitness model, there is no point of me going. Reading a book? No matter how big or small, I’m going to read it all in one go, maybe skipping few bits and pieces of descriptions I don’t care about. I could go on and on and on and on. My physiotherapy sessions? Who cares, as long as I can show that “I’m cured” asap and move on. If someone said to me “it will take ten (TEN) years to see the end of it”, you bet your ass I’d be exploding in total frustration.

I had this exact crisis just a week ago: all felt like “OMG I AM WORKING SO HARD AND NO RESULTS!”. I’m in therapy and I’m still struggling mentally at times. I’m working my ass off at the gym and I’m no fitness model yet. I’m working on my skin etc and my face has (AAAHHH) couple of spots that just don’t want to clear. I’m eating healthy, increasing portions, killing myself with proteins and still I struggle to keep my weight above 50kg. I am dressing differently, wearing makeup, looking nice and still I’m single as fuck. My debts are still all there, I am still living paycheck by paycheck and don’t make me start on saving money for my boob job! My blog has not yet achieved billions of followers. Why my life hasn’t magically transformed from hell to heaven? Why, with all the work that I’ve done?????? Call it if you like “an exercise in killing my self-esteem, undermining myself, shit all over my achievements so far and raise the flag of self-hate once again”.

You know what? this is another massive mental shift that I decided to do, starting from now. Instead of focussing on the goal, I’m forcing myself to focus on the “here and there”. The “now” vs “the end”. The moment vs the future. For once in my life I want to just enjoy the journey, no matter how long it takes. I don’t want anxiety to push me to do things just because I desperately need to put them behind my back. I don’t want to drive a fast car at a foolish speed towards my “goals”: I just want to chill, cocktail on my hand (ok, sparkling water with a slice of lemon, or, better, a protein shake), and if it’s going to take “a long time”… so be it. I will see the results, I know I will, but this time I won’t just “tick a box”, I will get there with a baggage of ups and downs, failures and successes, learnings and experiences, and an overall million times more fulfilling journey. Heck, with an anxiety attack looming just thinking about it, maybe I won’t even see the end of some of these journeys, and it will keep being a revolving process (I’m seriously feeling my heart racing as I write it, and my old self going “YOU WHAT? NO END? YOU CRAZYYYY?”). From today, I want to put an end to that negative chain of thoughts and transform it into a positive one. As Rick Watten said, “Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be”. Isn’t this so beautifully true?

c84c566cfc69748ab686d099cd7fbd38I know that my therapy sessions will keep going for quite some time. How much will that be, I don’t know and I want to just think that it is fine as it is. No “when will I be fixed?” anxiety. My gym body? It is happening, it will happen, it will take time and it’s fine, no “why I am not a model yet” anxiety. Whatever happens with my relationships? I don’t want to care about the future, I just want to focus on enjoying the moments, the laughter, the hugs, the fun, the chats in the middle of the night, that’s all. Whatever will be, will be. I am working hard for a better future for myself, I’m slowing benefitting from all the positive seeds I’ve planted everywhere in my life, but when that future will be? I don’t know, I don’t want to know, because the “now” it’s all that matters, and like Freddie Mercury beautifully sang at the end of “Innuendo”: “yes we’ll keep on smiling and whatever will be, will be, we’ll just keep on trying till the end of time”.

IT’S OK, I’M NOT OK

You know that feeling when you have spent a week being very, very happy… the world is smiling at you and you are smiling back, it’s all rainbows and unicorns, nothing could be more perfect than this… and then…. It takes just one little thing to send you back to hell?
That is the way I can sum up my weekend of doom.
I’m trying (hard) to kind of rationalise it into a little setback that can happen, it’s fine, everyone has a bad day, don’t stress too much over it but… I felt like the world crushed on me in one go.

Suddenly, all my achievements felt like absolutely nothing at all. Abruptly, I looked myself in the mirror and I saw the ugly old Silvia back. I felt sad, I felt upset, under the weather, nothing cheered me up. Two amazing friends (Claudia and Lilla, I love you so much) came to the rescue and we even decided to embark on a “seven days butt challenge”: honestly, without their help, I would still be in that very dark cloud of thoughts I was on Saturday, though I’m not completely out of it yet.

Ahhh, I feel so frustrated. I was so loving the happiness and the “being on a high” as I was in the last few weeks. You know what I think? I probably relaxed a bit too much. My diet, from very healthy and carefully planned, went a bit out of the window (I had two days of Indian food binge feast, and I may have indulged in fried food a bit too much….). I felt invincible, on top of my game, nothing could have bothered me. Needless to say, I got caught totally off guard, which is probably why it stings more than what it should.

me-im-finally-starting-to-feel-happy-my-depression-app-31215677Lesson learned: don’t think you are safe just because you are enjoying a nice spell of happiness: depression can hit back at any time. I feel like I did one step forward and three steps back. I even had a proper, massive sob at the thought of being alone and with almost next to zero chances of landing in a loving relationship anytime soon. I have on the pipeline a lot of beautiful thing to look forward: tomorrow I start the bodybuilding program with my personal trainer, my dearest friend and partner in crime Rosario is coming to visit and we’ll go to see Slayer together (a gig I’ve been looking forward since I booked the tickets many months ago), I have another trip at Dollhouse for a photoshoot, a meet and greet with Kreator in December, a lot of amazing events at the office, probably a trip or two back in my home country…. And yet, I’m in such a mood that I don’t really “see” a good day happening anytime soon.

This is something that always buggers me about depression: you can fight it, you can even win a battle or two, but all of the sudden BANG! Your brain is clouded with this horrible illness, you are almost powerless and, no matter how much you try, nothing seems to really work to cheer you up. You can’t flush away the darkness just like that. It takes time. In addition, this feeling of doom and gloom took a very big toll on my workout: I managed to go to the gym and exercise, but to be honest, I felt so tired and lethargic that I didn’t push as I usually would have done it.

You know what though? After all the work I’ve done on myself, I’ve learned one big lesson that is massively helping me cope in this upsetting time: I’m kind to myself. In the past, I would have blamed myself, hated myself, told myself I’m stupid, dumb, deluded and called myself any offensive name under the sun I could think of because I “failed” at being happy. As we speak, I’m upset, yes, I’m a bit angry at myself for not thinking that this could have happened at some point, but at the same time I’m thinking “hey… you know what… fuck it, it is what it is”. I’m ill. I will always be mentally ill, it is part of who I am, and instead of fighting against myself, I should embrace this moment and do my best to let it slip away with as less damages as possible. It is a bit like when you are physically hurt, and you relax on the sofa surrounded by pillows and cushions to feel as comfy as possible: I’m mentally doing the same.

Also, I’m not hiding. Enough of this. Whoever is in my life right now has been carefully selected to be able to take the hit should I “go mental”, so I am free to say “hey, can I talk to you right now? I have something I need to get off my chest because it feels about to crush me”. Of course, it doesn’t mean I consider it a free pass to moan all day, every day, but it is mentally extremely relieving knowing that, when you feel like opening up, you have understanding people that will not only listen to your rants, but that will also try and help you: maybe they won’t put a smile back on your face, but they’ll definitely make you feel less desperate.

So yes, this is what is happening to me as we speak. I’m in badly need of a hug and a cuddle!

POST-NATAL HELL? THIS ONE IS FOR YOU

I was reading the news today on my journey to work and I suddenly stumbled this very sad story about this woman who killed herself because post-natal depression made her psychotic, and even though she asked for help multiple times, everyone dismissed her or treated her like a lunatic nuisance. She worried social services would have taken her daughter away from her, and even though her family rallied to help her and kept asking her doctor for help, she didn’t see a way out from her hell but by committing suicide. I knew I should have steered clear from that article as soon as my eyes read the title, but… I just had to read it. It hits very, very close to home.
My heart breaks for this woman, for her family and for her daughter. I’m sitting here writing this and crying, for her, for me, for all us women who have been ignored, dismissed like stupid hoes trying to get attention, mistreated and made to fear for our children’s wellbeing because of the actions of doctors and health providers.

I know what it feels to be in her shoes.
I have been in her shoes.
For three good years.
Fair to say I have quite the experience learned directly on the field.
I know how painful it is to be badly brushed off like you are a stupid idiot wasting doctor’s time with your stupid, irrational fears; didn’t you read the books? Weren’t you paying attention to antenatal classes? It’s baby blues for fuck sake, get a grip! Bloody first-time mum…
I know what damage a badly-mannered health visitor can do to you: I was a very fragile woman, caring 24/7 for my son with my mind spinning and my body aching, and I got treated like the worst mother in the world, I got made to feel guilty for stuff that wasn’t even under my control: for example, my son developed jaundice soon after birth; the midwife who came round told me off in a badly manner for not taking my son out enough for him to benefit from the sunshine to ease his condition; however, since I came out of the hospital, the weather had been rainy or dull and grey nonstop for weeks. Bitch, I ain’t no Storm from X-Men OK? The fact that I’m in my pyjama has nothing to do with my depression but all to do with the stupid shitty weather that is almost the norm in this bloody country of yours, and I can’t do anything about it or else I would have made the UK as hot as a Caribbean island all year round, you dumb twat. I’m Italian, I like sun, I hate freezing my ass, I’m not stripping my son naked when outside is barely 10 degrees Celsius.
I got told everything I was doing was wrong, I got yelled at and treated like a I was the dumbest person on planet earth. I got threatened with social services paying a visit to my house when I dared to mentioned I kind of was feeling a bit suicidal.
I wish the person I am now could go back in time and be present in the same room where the old me was being treated like scum by these midwives and health visitors because I’m telling you, shit would hit the fan at the first word uttered by those witches from hell. I would slap the shit out them and boot their sorry asses out of my house. No way I would have let them treat the old me like they did. Heck, I’d even ring the police and then we see who’s the bad bitch in here, you prick. You watch me.
Then, I’d make the old me a lovely cup of tea, give my old self a massive hug and tell myself “bitch, you will go through shit, I’m telling you, it’s going to get worse from now on, but hold on tight princess, you will get through this. You’ll be stronger, you’ll become a strong a fierce Queen, but before that happens, you need to see how deep the hell inside you is… and believe me, it is almost bottomless. But you will win, because you don’t know it now, but you are so, so strong, and that strength will keep you alive. By the way, you are doing, and you will do, a great job, don’t let these shitheads make you believe otherwise”.

I don’t want to read these news ever again. I don’t want other women to go through the same shit I did. I’m tired of hearing stuff like “The NHS is stretched already as it is and be grateful you get what you get”. Fuck off. Myself, that poor woman, all other women going through this hell, we need HELP. We need to be taken seriously. We need to be made to feel like we are not idiots. We need someone to truly listen to what we are going through, to care for us in those delicate moments, to hold our hands and reassure us, not to fucking being threatened with social services. What the hell! We are not bad mums, if anything, we want to be great mums.

I’m furious. This news brought up feelings I kept bottled up for years. I’m crying, I’m shaking and I’m raging. Oh my gosh I’m furious. FURIOUS.

If you are a new mum, and you are going through something that it is not exactly adding up in your brain, if you are a mum going through this hell, please, please, please, listen, because these words are for you:
I know you are scared.
I know you can’t seem to think straight.
I know you have this gut feeling that something is getting worse by the minute.
I know you feel like you are not supposed to feel the way you do: after all, everyone has filled your head with this impossible idyllic maternity ideas such as that you should be feeling happy, blessed, serene and peaceful, and that is all but anything you are feeling right now.
Oh, forget to compare yourself with those impeccable, incredible, super yummy mummies who knows it all, who make you feel inferior because your baby should be sleeping eight hours a night like an angel, you should snap back in shape like a model two weeks after birth, you should be breastfeeding, eat organic shit, go to yoga “mum & baby” classes, but the only thing you can barely manage to do on a daily basis is getting out of bed.
You are doing you.
You are going through an extremely delicate and difficult time of your life right now. You need help. Don’t hide, speak up. There are people who will listen to you. I would listen to you because I’ve been there, and it is a very lonely place to be when you are on your own fighting that monster who is eating you inside.
Please, listen to me: don’t surrender. I know the temptation is there. I know at times it is so strong, so… so seductive, that it seems the only way to go. It is not. There is an end to your hell and it is not necessarily the end of you. There is help out there. Scream if you have to, don’t keep it bottled up inside you. If you don’t have the strength, make your friends, your family, whoever you trust, make them fight that corner for you.
If your doctor is not listening go and find another one. If that doctor is not listening too, go and find another one, and another, and another. If only I managed to meet my current therapist years ago, my life would have been so much more different. I am sure there are amazing midwives and doctors out there, unfortunately the rotten apples cause damages which put everyone under a bad light.

You are an amazing human being, I know you are. I know you shouldn’t be feeling the way you do, it is unfair, why you? Why me? One thing is certain: it is NOT your fault. It is not a sign that you did something wrong, it is not because you are a bad mother. It is very bad luck, it is a fucking shitty lottery and you got the (un)lucky winning ticket. As hard as it is to believe it right now, I can assure you it will get better. It will take some time, but you will come out of this.
Stay strong my sister.
You are not alone in this.peony

CAN YOU FEEL THE PANIC IN YOU?

Will it break you?
Paranoia coming from within, taking over
Symptoms of an everlasting phobia
Kreator – Phobia
(This is absolutely one of my favourite Kreator songs and my favourite songs in general. Ohhh I can’t wait for Kreator’s gig in December!)

All my “magic circle” of close friends and colleagues know I am totally bonkers. I like to do crazy things. Wherever there is something potentially embarrassingly funny, or if there is a chance to do things crazily, you can rest assured I will take that damned chance and make it spectacularly hilarious: at times, I think I would have been a very talented stand-up comedian with all my crazy adventures. I must admit, I would love the chance to be on stage to tell my stories, and maybe who knows? One day it will happen. Joan Rivers, I salute you, and wherever you are, keep an eye on me!

Last week has been crazily busy as I said in my previous post, and yet I managed to squeeze in a moment of pure hilarity – best of all, in order to do that, I had to face one of my biggest fears in the world: the fear of chemicals.

Background story: I used to dye my hair blonde back in the day. I loved being blonde. I don’t know why I loved it so much, but I just felt it suited me a lot. Now I look back at my pictures and I think “what the hell was I thinking” but hey, I firmly believe that you should experiment with your looks in your teenage years so that, when you grow up, you know what kind of horror stuff you should avoid like the plague. I started dyeing my hair when I was around 14 years old, and I kept doing it for a very long time. I had various colours done, some that I’m proud of, some that I’ve buried evidence of. When I moved here to London, I kept my blonde ambition up and running.
Then, something changed when I got pregnant. With my doctor’s blessing, I fixed my very horrible hair when I was around five months or so at the local hair salon. When I reached the almost eight months’ deadline though, I was too big, too lazy, too fat and I did the worst thing ever: I bought hair dye from the shop (before any “fat shaming” critic comes in: last time I dared weighting myself when pregnant I discovered that I gained something in the region of 40+ kg, not surprisingly since I spent six months eating almost constantly…. Oh, for the record, my son was 2.6kg so when I say it was all fat, it was REALLY ALL FAT. No sugar coating that pill).
As soon as I put the dye on my head, I felt a horrible, burning sensation. Then, I felt like suffocating. I was itchy, I couldn’t breathe properly, I was scared as hell. I called an ambulance whilst I kept washing my hair to get rid of the dye, hoping not to kill my son and myself with an anaphylactic shock. It was proper scary.
This was the beginning of a hell that is not yet over for me as we speak. At the hospital, they dumped me in a room and treated me like a stupid idiot doing stupid stuff out of vanity. Instead of checking on me, of investigating my allergic reaction, they literally let me fend for myself alone, without touching me or talking to me, like I was just a nuisance. Years later, when I saw an allergy consultant and I’ve explained what happened, I discovered that, amongst other things, I experienced a very powerful asthma attack, and that in no way I should have been left alone to “let it pass” by itself. Hey-ho.
Post-Natal depression hell, and I developed a proper phobia for anything that I had to ingest, rub on my skin, touch, or inhale. I barely ate, I had panic attacks every minute… I told the story millions of times already. It’s funny though: on one side, I didn’t want to die (not for an anaphylactic shock, I had it in the past with a medicine I took and believe me, it is a horrible thing); but at the same time, all these panic attacks, depression, anxiety, paranoia, all that jazz made me wish that I indeed dropped dead to finally find some peace.
It took aaaaaages before I could live a “normal” life again. I had to fight tooth and nail to see an allergy consultant and get some answers. Still, to this day, you wouldn’t see me dead near a hair dye; every product I use, whether it is soap or moisturiser, makes me anxious by default; if I have to take medicines other than paracetamol, I really have to talk myself into taking them and then keep talking me out of the guaranteed panic attack that will happen as soon as I swallow the medicine. When I had surgery, and they had to put me to sleep, I had few meltdowns with the anaesthetists: thankfully I found some very reassuring, big hearted and caring ones who took time to explain everything, even to the point where they said “should we notice that what we are injecting is not agreeing with you, you are in our safe hands, don’t worry, we know how to handle that situation and we will spot it in these monitors before anything major can happen” (gosh, writing this is making me feel so emotional). When my beautician did some peelings and facials on me, oh my… my heart was beating so fast that I felt like it would have zoomed out of my chest; when she gave me some vitamin A supplements, boy oh boy, the first tablet I took almost made me have a heart attack so much I was panicking (I’m looking at the box of supplements right now thinking “oh the joy”).

So, back to this week, since I’m working hard as hell on my Jennifer Lopez body (which is officially my obsession), and since I can’t at the moment purchase a pair of boobs to complement my look (my finances are shock horror thanks to my lovely boiler…), I decided to at least treat myself with the JLO glow: oh yeah, I went and booked myself to receive a spray tan, against all of my mental odds.

I’m whiter than white, I never ever tan, I hated when my mum (tanorexic to the core) made me tan (and burn, because it happened all the time, and if I ever have skin cancer I know who to thank for that) so as soon as I was able to do my own thing, I made sure to cover myself with the highest SPF factor stuff and hide in the shade. You rarely see me out with no hat on and no sunscreen. Spray tan means all the colour with nothing of the sun damage, and this was a chance to have proper good fun.
Come on, Jennifer Lopez ain’t exactly with a Swedish-white kind of skin like mine!

At the beginning, I thought “I’m just going to pop to my local store and buy some self-tanning stuff. I’m sure I can do this in the comfort of my own house…”. Reality hit me when I stared at all these products in the store’s aisle, and I remembered about my hair dye experience. How about no self-stupid stuff? Let’s ask a professional to do that – it may cost more, but if anything happens I’m not alone, I limit the chances of turning up orange and my house won’t end up a massive tanned mess. I went to a tanning salon in town, I booked myself in for the weekend and that was it. Then, on Thursday, after I finished all my meetings early, I had an idea: how about I call the same salon and ask whether they have anything available on the day? That will spare myself the pain of having my son with me being bored whilst sitting in a corner and a potential “nope, not doing it” reaction out of the panic building up till the appointment. To my surprise, as the place is generally fully booked, they said they had an appointment conveniently available for me to take.
I took it, happy as ever: lucky me!
Then, whilst going there, anxiety kicked in. I felt my panic attack starting to creep in. Fucking hell, what the heck have I done? Why do I want to do this to myself? WHY?
Nevertheless, I went there: I’m not allowing myself to stop myself from doing this, not this time. I said I want it, I’ll get it, it seems a safe thing, nothing will happen.

The lady at the salon was very funny. I explained to her that it was a first for me, that I was absolutely clueless on the whole thing and very anxious about it. She asked me whether I had any allergies and I mentioned the hair dye: she looked at me and said “oh, me too, and I can assure you I never had a single problem with the tan, besides, this is organic and way less chemical than most spray tans out there, but if you are still anxious, we can spray a foot, see how it feels and then move on”. As soon as the “I’m allergic too” sentence sinked in my brain, I felt very reassured and I instinctively trusted her: I felt like a sign of the universe saying “see? She does it anyway so should you!”.
So there I was, naked apart for a pair of disposable thong. She talked me into the process and then asked “light, medium or dark?”. I looked totally puzzled, but I said “well, maybe not dark….”. She looked at my skin and said “yeah but not light either, come on, you are a proper brunette, get some colour in, especially as it is your first time”. If you say so….!
So yeah, she proceeded in spraying the hell of out me. For the record, spray tan it is fucking freezing cold. Maybe relaxing in hot summer, but when the weather is less clement, it is a big no for me!

Once the spraying was finished, and I looked VERY BROWN in the mirror, I could feel the panic attack just one moment away from striking. I paid at the speed of light and I got out of the shop trying to calm myself down. I told myself “well, ok, if I am supposed to have an allergic reaction, I would have one right now. Nothing is happening, not even a single itch. I’m breathing fine, I’m functioning fine, let’s try to stop this chain of thoughts”. I went to the supermarket, I bought some groceries, then I walked my way back home trying to distract myself from the impending doom in my head. It was a war that I was not willing to lose without a fight. I spent a very good chunk of my evening / night constantly fighting against myself, but no way Jose, I’m not surrendering. You just watch me.

FF6B104C-DBDB-4505-AFF0-F98FB4FACB82
Yours truly looking very tanned

The next day I had a very nice shower, all the extra-brownness went down the drains and there I was, very brown as if I came back after a month spent surfing in Australia, moisturising, and grinning at my very hilariously looking self. It felt like a victory. Mind over…. Mind?
My anxiety levels stayed on a high almost all day yesterday, and only in the evening I managed to not be that concerned, but still, I managed to get on with my life and live (almost) normally.

To be honest with you, I’m so fed up of this phobia. I’m absolutely DONE with this anxiety, with the panic attacks, with not being able to enjoy anything without that voice in my head trying to scare the living hell out of me. I’m done. I want to be normal. I want to be able to put hairspray on my hair without having to deal with the “oh my I feel like I will die” chain of thoughts. I want to just take some bloody over the counter medicines if I have to, without running around my house in a panic induced attack, crying my eyes out. I want my head to process normal things as they should, not as an impending threat on my wellbeing.

Enough!

The music has changed, I want to be able to face my fears and then act anyway, rather than succumb and give up.

I don’t want to be my head’s victim anymore.

FORGET ME NOT (MAYBE)

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

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

s-l300
Forget-me-not flowers. By I may forget about them in a second.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY – MY THOUGHTS

Capture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart is with you.