DOCTOR DOCTOR, PLEASE

Woooooooaaahhh it’s been ages since I wrote something here. I feel I have neglected my blog a bit lately, but my life has been one hell of a rollercoaster and my brain just went completely blank. I tried to type something, however I either felt like I had nothing to say or, worse, that the few bits I could have talked about were not interesting enough to be written down. You see, to me the inspiration to write has to come naturally: I cannot force myself to write if I don’t feel like it, and my “feeling like I could write” comes and goes in waves. There are days where I could write all day, if left undisturbed to do it; when the inspiration goes away, I could stare at my whiter than white word document for hours, basking in the complete emptiness of my brain.

I am having quite the busy weeks; aside from personal things (I did another amazing photoshoot with the incredible ladies at Dollhouse, but I’ll talk about it in another entry), work went from “busy but quiet” to “working 24/7 because sleep is overrated”. I live with my work phone glued to my hand, I booked more flights in the last two weeks than in the last 6 months, everything is extra urgent, there is a new drama every five minutes, plans change at the speed of light, you can’t even take a breath without getting an email saying “oh my gosh I need help I need to be (insert remote city on the opposite site of the world) like right now aaahhhh”…. And yes, I am the anxious assistant that sleep with one eye open, waiting for her boss at 2:45 am to text her “yes, I made the connection to London, see you tomorrow” before being able to switch off her brain.

Unfortunately, I potentially have bad news on my horizon. Apparently, my rebellious shoulder suddenly has decided that all my physiotherapy sessions and good behaviour are worth a bloody zero. I’m back in pain. Terrible pain. Pain as in “wakey wakey bitch, say adios to sleeping and welcome to hell” in the middle of the night. It felt like someone turned the “pain” switch on – one night I was ok, the other one I had to stuff myself with paracetamol to be able to vaguely entertain the idea of sleeping. As soon as I told my physiotherapist about it, she looked at me with sincere concern… and told me to ring my (very handsome) orthopaedic, because surgery may be next.

To be honest, I’m not even upset. I’m here, waiting for Monday to see my orthopaedic like any other day. I just want a solution, that’s it, and if surgery is the one, so be it, so long as I get rid of this pain as soon as possible, for fuck sake. Ok, in fairness, I’m so chilled for two reasons: the first is that I already had surgery with my orthopaedic, he literally saved my elbow and changed my life for the better; I trust him with all my heart and I know that, should he make that call for my shoulder, it is because I will be truly better afterwards. The second reason is that I have learned how good it feels not being in physical pain after years of aching, and now I’m not in the mood for suffering more than what is necessary (oh and did I mention that, in that hospital, they serve you THE BEST ice cream bowl ever once you get out of surgery? HELL YEAH).

See, I generally have a high pain threshold. I’m one of those people that go to the doctor only when shit hit the fan and I’m literally about to be hospitalised in pain. I never liked hospitals, or doctors, or medicines, and I have never been too bothered about my health. Every illness has been met by me with a “yeaaah… whatever… it’s ok… could be worse” (and I still kind of do the same now). I have been a bit reckless too, at times: I once merrily turned up at my GP surgery in a kind of anaphylactic shock (I was swelling like a balloon, but it progressed slowly) and my doctor yelled at me every swear word he could have thought whilst I was increasingly unable to breathe because I didn’t feel it was THAT URGENT to ring A&E… I thought I could simply sit there in his surgery like any other patient and wait for my turn; when I had a motorbike accident, I not only took my own helmet off by myself (NEVER DO THAT, EVER, lesson learned, trust me on this), I held it with my very much broken hand and I walked with a mega sprained ankle to A&E because “yes it kind of stings but I’m more sad about my beautiful helmet now completely ruined”; I was supposed to stay on medical leave 5 weeks after that accident, I came back to work after one because I couldn’t bear hearing my mom nagging all the time. I never minded being in (physical) pain, it was one of those things. I just keep going, no matter what. Then, when I started to not only being in (a lot of) pain, but also to lose the ability to use my right hand, well, things became a bit scary, and since I had the post-natal depression drama and all that hell of a pain behind me, I decided to not being interested in playing the martyr anymore.

I tried to find a solution for my pain for a year and half. The NHS doctors kept pushing me from pillar to post to no avail. Frustrated, I decided to take my company’s medical insurance benefit (the best salary sacrifice I have ever made) and to go private. I researched my orthopaedic with great care, and by the time I went to see him, I had a massive folder filled with referrals, diagnosis, tests, GP and consultants’ letters. He pushed all those papers aside, looked at me in the eyes and asked “now, how about YOU tell me what is happening”. I felt a bit taken aback. I started mumbling about having pain in my hand, and then a bit here, and there. He made me do various movements, looking a bit unconvinced. He asked me whether someone, in that year and a half, made me do a nerve conduction test: I said yes, and he scrolled through all the letters to find the results of that. I will never forget what came next: he said “could you please put your arm like this?”, which I did; he put his finger straight in my elbow, where my badly damaged nerve was.
It felt like he just stabbed me with a knife.
He then said “THIS is why you are in so much pain, you have nerve damage and it needs fixing as soon as possible, you should have had surgery ages ago!”.
I must have looked totally shocked. I tried to whisper “but…. But….. they said…. Too young for…. Surger….” But he was not having it. “Listen, surgery is not pleasant and scary, I get it, but you are young, your damage is worsening by the minute, surgery will solve your problem like nothing ever happened, I don’t see why a young woman like you should be in pain for ages just because a bunch of doctors convinced you it’s something you do when you are old. What about quality of life!!”.

Three weeks later, I was in my hospital gown, all alone, ready for surgery. It was the first time I stepped in an hospital as an in-patient after giving birth and I was scared to death. I had a total meltdown before anaesthesia: panic attack kicked in, I was freezing, scared, crying, I couldn’t stop shaking, I felt like an animal in the slaughterhouse ready to be made into steaks and the only reason why I didn’t do a runner (which, if you read my previous entry, it is something I’m capable of…) is because I had no contact lenses or glasses so I couldn’t see shit. The anaesthetist has been ace: he distracted me by making me talk about food, whilst his assistant started plugging me in to all the drips and stuff, and when I felt the needle pricking my hand, before I could even dare to panic again it was game over already: the assistant quickly administered me some very relaxing pre-anaesthetic stuff, I went from panic attack to “holy shit I feel soooooo much better….” and the last thing I remember was the anaesthetist saying “imagine: a massive pizza with lots of mozzarella…”

BOOM!

I opened my eyes after what felt like a second and the first thing I saw was a nurse laughing till tears saying “no my darling, we don’t have pizza here, you just came out of surgery, I can’t bring you one!”.
I had a good few seconds of “da fuck did just happen? where am I? what the fuck? I was… the dude who plugged me… WHAT?”. Then, like a toddler who abruptly woke up, I started sobbing because there was no pizza.

aaaa
the first picture I took after surgery to tell my friends and family I survived. Horns up!

“Roll me back in, this is so unfair” I kind of yelled whilst the nurse rolled me back in my lovely room. My mood improved immediately as soon as the nurse brought me a massive plate full of sandwiches and a mega bowl of ice cream: ok, mind you, I was totally drugged up, but when I saw it, so shiny and icy, I felt like someone handed me a million pounds cheque. No joking! My arm was all wrapped up, I was high as a kite on morphine, steroids and god knows what, I was all snuggled in bed and spoiled rotten by all the nurses and the hospital staff, I felt so pampered that, to this day, I consider that surgery as a spa experience, and I’d let my orthopaedic chop my other elbow too to do it again. When I got discharged, later in the evening, my orthopaedic said “all the good stuff will wear off in the middle of the night probably. You may feel some discomfort but shouldn’t be too bad ok?”.

I did indeed wake up in the middle of the night.
I moved my arm.
I couldn’t feel anything.

aaaaa
blissfully spending my medical leave sleeping in my bear blanket – can’t wait to do it again soon

No pain, not even a little one. I sat in bed, holding my elbow thinking “I have never experienced this”. After almost 10 years of pain (with the last two spent in constant pain), I didn’t know what not feeling anything felt like. I went back to sleep thinking “I’m sure the pain will kick-start again very soon”. The pain never came back. That was my first ever pain-free night, and almost two years later I am still immensely grateful that my orthopaedic made that call which allowed me to live a normal life ever since.

I’m telling you, if on Monday my orthopaedic says “yep, surgery again”, I’d be in my hospital gown before he can even finish the sentence. I’m so done with this pain.

NEW SELF 1 – 0 OLD SELF

Oh my, it was quite a while since I wrote something on here. I’ve been very busy and so, so tired, so much that my brain was just not coping, and my level of forgetfulness increased drastically over the last days (someone won the lucky chance to hear about my latest forgetfulness experience on a very embarrassing Instagram confession… by the way my dear friend, I managed to retrieve my stuff in the end!!). Oh well, it is what it is, I have no shame in admitting that I’m a bit bonkers at time!

This week has been very demanding, but incredible at the same time. I feel that the universe, or some energy out there, you name it (I don’t believe in God since I’m a Buddhist sympathiser, but I guess that if you do, you can say it’s him?) it’s making me experience stuff to show me how much I’ve grown and changed so far. Or, if you like a more rational experience, I’m experiencing things as I go, I immediately reflect on what the old self would have done instead and notice the striking difference. I prefer the universe option, I like to keep my spiritual side up and running, but each to their own right?

With my closest friend and partner in crime Marge, organisation for our office Christmas party has kicked in big time. No more talking and thinking, now we are venue searching, negotiating, planning, scheduling, placeholding, the whole nine yards of event organisation top to bottom. We have asked a bit of help to an event planner who kindly sent us a list of venues that would suit our company best. Since Marge received the list, I didn’t know what to expect. We arranged to meet near Soho, since all venues at the top of the list where there: when I gave the list a glance, and when I saw the first venue mentioned on that spreadsheet, my heart sank.

St Martins Lane Hotel.

Now, unless you are a designer / architecture student, professional or just passionate, this hotel won’t mean a single thing: it’s “just” a very fancy, quirky, expensive, high-end hotel. If you do belong to the categories I mentioned, you know that I’m talking about one of Philippe Starck’s jewels.
Well, it happens that I almost have a degree in Architecture. I abandoned my studies as soon as I found a job, because I knew quite early in the process that didn’t have what it takes to get that degree and, ultimately, to make it in that world. I wasn’t smart enough for that subject, and I’m not saying to put myself down: it was honestly not my thing. Not everyone is made to do everything, this is just one of those things I am not made for. I would have been an amazing critic, or an architecture journalist, but anything else was a NO. Now I know I have other talents and this is just a learning experience on who I am not, but at that time, I felt that I was a total, dumb, stupid low-QI failure. All my peers seemed to be so smart, so intelligent, so getting what the professors were talking about, and I was just sitting there like if people were talking to me in Aramaic. They were probably naturally more inclined to the subject, way more interested and therefore putting more efforts in their studies than me, but me being me, I used this as a chance to torture myself and marinade in my self-hate and negativity.
Very few things interested me about architecture, and I remember being fascinated by quirky, interior design. That was good fun because it resonated with who I am. A friend and I enrolled in an interior designer class to complement our studies. We got both mesmerised when our professor made us study Philippe Starck and, in particular, this fascinating hotel. Aside from one exam that still haunts me to this day (San Siro council estate houses…. Gives me nightmares to this day and I’m sure my friend Giada thinks the same), I’ve never studies so hard like for that one. I remember my friend and I knew that hotel inside-out like if we’d have been part of Starck’s project entourage. His genius work inspired every single idea we had. We dreamed of having Kartell’s furniture in our house and to be hired by him. When we came to London on a three-day trip, we walked outside the hotel, daydreaming about being able to walk inside. If someone told to young, self-hating, low self-esteemed Silvia that her future self not only would have walked in, but also talked business with the hotel’s management, she would have told that someone to fuck off. Yet, there I was few days ago, staring at the entrance like years ago, only this time I had Marge telling me to get my ass in and get ready for the ride.
I put a brave face, but believe me, I was dying inside. I wanted to cry. My legs felt wobbly and not just because I was on my heels. So many emotions. I looked around in total awe and devotion. I felt like I was inside a very sacred place. The feeling of being there, walking around, seeing such an amazing work of design and pure genius in front of my eyes rather than just in my student books and dreams… I was blown away. Cherry on the cake was dining at Asia de Cuba restaurant: the food was just superb, and I was feeling like a kid at Disneyland, with all the things that I so loved studying surrounding me. It was just wow.
I spent all evening thinking about it and, as you can see, I’m still thinking about it now. I told everyone who could bear to listen to me ranting about it what an incredible feeling it was. I sat on my bed, still digesting that turmoil of emotions, thinking “my gosh Silvia, if you needed a sign that your journey is making you head towards a better place, I think you got it today loud and clear”.

I spent so much time telling myself that I would never accomplish anything in life; that I was just barely average; that I was ugly, stupid, useless; that I would be better off six feet under, no, actually, not even that, I’d be wasting good ol’ soil space; all the things that happened during these years, all the suffering, the pain, the failures, the anger, the dramas, the illnesses…
What I never noticed is that, even though all of this was reality in my head, something inside me never surrendered. Something, some subconscious force inside me, I don’t know, managed to channel them into something positive, into a growing experience; the universe gave me a very loud, final message to bloody get a grip and change, and when I listened and put the work in, I ended up on my two high-heeled feet, stronger than I could have ever imagined of being, in a “I could only dream of it” location, looking at my old-self thinking “well well, you insecure bitch, looks like you were so, so wrong all this time”.
And you know what? whatever is coming my way, bring it on, because if I managed to prove that I can do it when my mental health is at the lowest of the low, imagine what I can accomplish now that I’m working hard and building my confidence!

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WORLD SUICIDE PREVENTION DAY – MY THOUGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My heart is with you.

F (ORGIVE) YOU (RSELF)

I was talking to my close friend Marge recently about everything that has happened, all the progresses I made, all the road that is still ahead, the things that I want to accomplish now and the aim for the both of us to be healthy and fit for a special photoshoot in 2019 (yes, bitch, you and I are so fucking doing this). Anyway, the conversation at some point focussed on a very interesting point that left me meditating about it for quite a bit (and, as you can see, I’m still thinking about it):

Why it is so easy to forget everyone else in the whole world, including those who hurt us, but not ourselves?

Why we are so hard, harsh, strict, and cruel with us, but we are more than happy to come up with any justification whatsoever for anyone else to lightener up whatever they did (to us, to themselves)? Why it is so, so easy to point the finger straight at us, and keep those “it’s absolutely my fucking fault” feelings held close to our hearts, but we struggle to say “no, actually, it is also your fucking fault mate”? Why we cannot rationally assess what happened, mourn what has to be mourned, come to terms with the feelings that are left and then let go of them, a bit like flushing the toilet and there you go, all the bad stuff is now down the drains?

I was the master of always blaming only myself. Even with my latest relationship: it was my fault I loved him too much; it was my fault I was too generous; it was my fault I invited him to live with me in the hope he’d love me more and more; it was my fault I desperately wanted to believe in something that was not there, and maybe if I listened to my friends, maybe, I would have opened my eyes sooner and spared myself a massive chunk of pain; it was my fault I held on to him like he was the most precious thing in the world; oh, I could go on and on and on for hours. Same for everything else: it was my fault I had post-natal depression, I should have known from my previous mental history that it was a serious threat and not just “something you read on those scary books for first-time mums”; it was my fault I ended up being a single mum, because I should have realised quite soon who my ex-husband was and all his problems, instead I not only married him but I also brought a child into this world; it was my fault I had mental problems, it was my fault I ended up at the hospital with a severe allergy reaction to hair dye, it was my fault, my fault, MY FUCKING FAULT.

True, I am partially to blame for the things above, and all the things that happened in my life so far because well, I was alive, conscious, breathing, thinking, deciding, doing. But all of the blame? I don’t think so. Part of the blame sits in other people’s side, or in things that I couldn’t have controlled or predicted, and if I’m more than happy to forgive them like nothing ever happened, I owe the same treatment to myself, right?

Not quite.

blog2Whatever happened, we just hold on those negative feelings; we torture ourselves day in, day out. We let the blame on ourselves fester our lives like a lingering, horrible smell that you cannot get rid of, no matter how much you keep your windows open (ending up freezing to death) or how much air freshener you spray (so much that you created your very own ozone hole). We let the pain infest our wellbeing, and we hold on so tight to this rotting corpse of what happened that we cannot see a way out of our own personally crafted hell. Why? Why we behave like this?

Hear this: you won’t be an asshole of epic proportions, an egoistic maniac, a twat, a horrible person if you are kind to yourself and admit “actually, it is not ONLY my fault here”. You are not excusing yourself from your fair share of responsibility: you are just not being responsible for everyone else’s. Martyrdom won’t make you a saint: you won’t gain more friends, more popularity, more medals, you name it, only because you bear the pain of the world in your heart saying, “IT IS ALL MY FAULT”. It took me ages, ageeeees to see this (and therapy, lots of it).
For fuck sake.

Of course, with my ex I made a lot of mistakes. A LOT. But.
blog1BUT, but he was not in good faith. He used me, abused me, he tricked me into believing he loved me just as much as I did, he used my feelings against myself, he gaslighted me to hide his flaws, his insecurities, his problem, so that I could only be focusing (till the brink of mental unit recovery) into mines and not on his. He took me for granted, he hurt me for his amusement, he took advantage of myself, my belongings, my feelings and when I was not of any use anymore, he dumped me like a bag of garbage in the bin, washed his hands and off he went.
So yeah, I may have been stupid, I may have been whatever I have been, but my heart was pure, my feelings were true, I was kind, I was real, and honest, and there is just so much you can do when someone so manipulative and with hidden agendas step in your life ready to cause havoc for their own benefit. So yeah, fuck you, twat, here is your fucking (massive) share of blame, now rot in hell away from me thank you very fucking much. I forgive myself. I don’t forgive him, no, I just won’t give a shit about him, because as Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies”. I got no time for this.

Of course, it was partly my fault for everything that happened to me so far. But always, 100%, all my fault? No. Would that make me an asshole for thinking this way? So be it. I rather be a happy asshole than an unhappy, tortured, and depressed saint. Thinking “ooooh, it was all my fault, I brought this to myself, I will never be able to forgive myself for what happened” will only leave you where you are, hurting. I know because I’ve always been that person. Life went on and I was still there, sat in a corner, crying and shouting “WHY I AM LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME”. Well, the answer was “because I decided to be like this, to not let the fucking go of all these feelings, of all this pain, instead of embracing better things”.
It is a massive shift in mindset. It requires being honest with ourselves, I mean REALLY honest, not just “I feel like I have to feel like this or else people would think bad of me” honest.
Mind you, I’m not saying we should just wash our hands of our responsibilities, of our faults, because that would be absolutely wrong (and you’d be a total asshole). Just see what happened for what it was, forgive and forget.

Yes, sometimes there are things that are solely only our own fault, like when Thursday I ended up overeating till oblivion at the Indian restaurant and then praying for a quick death whilst suffering the most horrendous aftermath, or in general not being up and running with my accountancy degree because I haven’t been arsed to open a book so far, or having my face covered in spots because I was too lazy to take my makeup off and fuck you Silvia, what a moron! And you know what? We can’t be perfect and super diligent all the time. Sometimes we do stupid things. Everyone does. No point in banging our heads on the wall (not too much anyway): these are things that we did, for good or worse, and if we analyse them, we would be able to find positive lessons for the future (hopefully, though I know that, provided with another amazing Indian buffet, fuck you, I’d be swimming in curry with not a single regret WHATSOFUCKINGEVER).
What I am saying is, it would be good to rationally assess what happened, not just rush to grab all the blame that exists and then torture ourselves, marinating in the negative past forever: it is not a race, there are no prizes to be won, the only outcome is inflicting ourselves with more pain than what we should inflict. Once you assess the true share of blame, learn the lessons to be learned and then let it go for good. Forgive yourself, promise to do better, DO better and move on.

An example that is just happening as I am writing. Today, a lovely (ok, it is grey and raining here, so not lovely at all) Saturday morning, instead being a lazy mess, instead of spending it buried under 60 kg of blankets and duvets, sipping my espresso and watching Netflix, I had to wake up at 7am, and I’m sitting on my sofa, writing this (which makes what I’m about to say a little bit nicer), whilst an amazing British Gas Engineer is installing my brand new, 3k in 10 years of my life instalments, super cool boiler. The old (ok, ancient) one, died this summer once, fed up with its tremendous noise, I turned it off. Least I knew, at that time, that I turned it off for fucking good.
Yes, it is, for the vast majority of it, my fault: I never bothered servicing it.
Fuck it, I knew when I bought the house that my boiler was as old as to be in a museum, but I decided against taking the hit then. I then never bothered enquiring about a new one, and maybe changing it last year, or the year before. I just didn’t want to care.
And guess what, my care-free behaviour came back to bite my arse. So here I am, freezing my ass, longing for a hot bath and a Caribbean climate in my house.

Is it truly all my fault though? No. Fuck me, no. I had other expenses in these three years and half I’ve been living here that were more pressing and urgent. I took my chances, I decided to bet on the boiler to keep me going for as long as possible, and boy, my good old friend did a magnificent job. In addition, I had a useless ex-husband who was too busy doing his very best to leave us on the breadline, creditors at my door thanks to him, and I had to choose on whether to prioritise food on the table or which bill in scary long arrears try to clear first; on top of this, I had childcare to organise, my mental health to deal with, a lot of shit to take care of, and the boiler was the least of my thoughts. I took one last roll of dices this summer, but my boiler told me to fuck off. Fair enough. I’m not blameless, but I won’t torture myself. It happened, I’m dealing with it now, I have my punishment in the form of ten years instalment repayments, fuck it. I had a good moan, but I will also have a very long, extra luxurious bath.

Another example? It is all my fault I don’t have the gym body of my dreams? Not all, but 95% yes. I have been too lazy, too silly, too careless, too focussed on hating myself, on telling me “you cannot do it”, “you are not good at all”, “your body is shit anyway”, etc. than to actually do something about it, like, well, going to the gym and exercise, follow a proper, healthy diet, listen to a personal trainer’s instructions etc. Now, I can choose to keep blaming myself forever, especially when I see my results now and I think “why the fuck didn’t I do this sooner”, or I could just forgive myself and use the energy to squat some more, instead of blaming me some more. Guess which my choice is: JLo, I’m coming to get you.

Hey, in the category of “stuff I like to blame myself”, let’s not forget: sometimes shit happens, and it is a fact of life. You can try and make plans, you can give it a go and predict it, but hey, sometimes there is nothing you can do about it. You can either face it, deal with what happened and put it behind your back, or you can cry in a corner with your problems getting bigger and bigger. And bigger. It just happens! Don’t beat the shit out of you for it, it is what it is, as painful and annoying as it is.

blog3Besides, let’s think about it for a second: why others should get a free blame pass anyway? Why can’t we just dump their shit in their garden, rather than cluttering ours? We are not less important. Our feelings, ourselves, are just as in need of recognition and care as theirs. You are not doing yourself a favour by being harsh and not forgiving yourself, and you are not doing THEM a favour either. You cannot control other people, you cannot make them do things, or feel the feelings you want them to feel, but you can decide to not lift their fair share of weight in the shit that happened, if that is the case. You can happily let their blame go, because holding a grudge is just more pain for you, and you can also let your blame go as well, because you can tell someone to fuck off for good, but you don’t have the same luxury with your very own self.

I’m not saying it is easy, it is actually hard as fuck, but believe me, all this pain is just not worth it. It won’t serve you, it won’t teach you, it won’t make you a better person: it will just hurt you. As hard as it may sound, you are worth more than living in a constant hell. If you like to visualise stuff, imagine yourself writing down the list of things you want to forgive yourself about, imagine setting fire to that list, watch it burn and then let it go. Forever. Done, FINITO. You can also physically burn a real list (provided you go in a safe place, because you don’t want firefighters storming in your house) if you want to make the experience more realistic. It is up to you to find your way, so long as you start practicing kindness to yourself a bit more.

The only way to heal is by forgiving; sometimes, we have to forgive others and let them go. Sometimes, we have to forgive ourselves, and until we do so, we will never truly heal.

OH, YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND

I have been thinking about writing the following entry for a while, but I have never found the words, or moment, to do it. I kind of avoided talking about my best friend so far because she is the most precious person I have in my life after my son, and even though it is not the first time I shout to the world what an incredible person she is and how much I love her, I kind of kept her away from my blog because… because she deserves so much, and when this thing started I was not in the right mental place to honour her.

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This is one of the craziest pictures of me and my best friend, my sister from another mother, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my beautiful friend Sara. Yes, I was dressed as a unicorn, for the record. Yes, it is not the best picture ever, we probably had one drink too many to care anyway when we took it.

We know each other since the dawn of time, but we became very close friends few years ago: my life was shit (I had recently told my ex husband that he was, well, an ex) and she wasn’t doing great either. We started talking, and then sharing our stories, and before we knew it, we were spending every second we were awake texting each other.

People dream about finding “the love of their lives” and make no mistake, I still long to be loved romantically, but what I have found in my friend goes beyond that: she has been there on my side through whatever storm I had to face, whether big or small; she listened to anything I had to say, without passing any judgement, with her arms open to accept whoever I was in that moment (including an inconsolable, depressed mess); she gave me comfort, strength, love, care; I never, ever once felt embarrassed of being truly myself with her, because she is too special, she has always loved me way more than what I loved myself and she never failed to remind me of that, even when I was too depressed to appreciate it. She has always been the only light in my dark, horrible tunnel, and  I know that whatever life will bring, she will be just one text away from holding my hand and helping me facing my next war.

She is more than my heart, more than my soul. She is an angel. When nobody remembered I existed, she was the only one who made sure I had the most amazing birthday present waiting for me at home. When I spent two weeks crying solid because my ex boyfriend dumped me, she knitted the softest, most precious scarf so that I could have wrapped myself in it and feel her hug. When I screamed at the world how ugly I felt, she painted the most beautiful portrait of me to remind me that whoever I see in the mirror is not what she sees. Honestly, I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to receive the honour of her friendship, and I always feel like I don’t do enough to celebrate her and to tell her what a gem she is.

Hey, it is not all tears and sadness though: when we are together and the mood is right, we barely breathe so much we are laughing. We are like two peas in a pod. We could spend endless days in pyjama on the sofa without even getting up to go to the toilet. I remember the first time she came to stay for a week at my place: before she arrived, we planned billions of activities. Oh we were supposed to do everything and anything, partying hard, drinking even harder, crazy life. Well, we barely left the house, and when we did it was because we had no other choice (like when we ran out of toilet rolls…).

We can talk very deep and serious things, and three sentences later go bonkers and tell each other the most hilarious jokes ever heard. We curse like sailors, we drink prosecco like it is sparkling water and we could potentially live on a diet based on Aperol Spritz and lasagna.

There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.

My love for Sara is immense, and I’m grateful, honoured and blessed to have her in my life.

I love her so much, and to preserve our beautiful friendship, I recently felt the need to “push her away”, because I was becoming a horrible person and she didn’t deserve such an awful person like me on her side. I was in a very dark place, my head was full of disturbing thoughts. I was scared, I was badly scared I was slowly going back to my dark hell. She was living a truly magic moment and I was just not in the right mind: I got dumped by what I thought it was the love of my life (more like the leech of my life, but it took a while to see it), I was humiliated, used and abused; he managed to crush every single bit of me and I felt lost, helpless, useless, stupid…. at the same time, she was beginning a new relationship, and living exactly the opposite. I just wanted to die, because even though rationally I was absolutely thrilled for her (and I still am!), at that point in time, everything she was experiencing was exactly everything that it got ripped off from me. I had to take a break, I had to be alone this time, truly alone, to face my demons by myself, because letting her enjoy her moment was paramount and she didn’t need a negative, depressed and damaged person on her side. Also, I knew I could have hurt her down the line (not voluntarily, of course) because I was simply not remotely capable of thinking straight, and believe me, I would have rather killed myself than do anything to make her sad. Coming back to her when the dust settled and the dark, negative fog left my mind felt truly special. To quote Harry Potter (that she really loves), it was like when Ron came back to Harry and Hermione after he left, due to having his mind clouded by holding the horcrux for such a long time: he not only came back to save the lives of his friends, but also managed to destroy the horcrux with the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Ok, I didn’t save her life, but fuck yeah I destroyed my fucking horcrux for good (and boy, it felt so good being able to put “the end” once and for all to that chapter of my life).

So yes, my beautiful, gorgeous, incredible friend: I absolutely love you with every single atom of me. I damn the distance that keeps us so far from each other, but as the saying goes “true friends are never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart”. Never forget my special gift (the mighty lemon) is waiting for you, and it will be my absolute pleasure seeing it on you. You deserve everything and some more, and I will always be your friend forever.

Ooh you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh you’re my best friend”

RECOVERY 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

COOKING UP A STORM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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