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.

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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.