And then, suddenly, it finally happened: the crisis moment where I couldn’t stop crying my eyes out and feeling dreadful. Oh yes, there is no denying that. The big low, counteracting the massive (medicine-induced) high hit me like a truck on full speed, and there was nothing to do but just release all the emotions I was feeling.
I have a confession to make: since I was feeling absolutely
great, I didn’t exactly spend my days recovering, taking things slowly, resting
and just “go with the flow”. No no no.I have been out and about, I’ve been
working (yes…), I have been doing basically everything I was not exactly
supposed to even entertain the idea of doing. I was feeling great, so why
Well, I tell you why, because once all the medicines wore off, and all the “high” from the morphine etc left my poor body, I felt like dying. My brain and body clearly told me under no circumstances to attempt doing anything at all or face their wrath. I kept pushing myself, thinking “naaaa, it’s just momentarily, I’ll be fine” and guess what? Of course, I ended up not being fine. Actually, I ended up crying my eyes out, feeling dreadful, mentally and physically. I could barely speak (I’m bilingual, and I struggled with both Italian and English!), barely move, I felt like thinking and moving in slow motion compared to the rest of the world. I couldn’t do it. My boyfriend was trying to talk to me about work and important stuff, I could barely look at him and hearing his words, but not “listening” and understanding a single thing he was saying. I had to ultimately stop everything and confess I was too weak.
I said it millions of times how much I HATE to expose my
weaknesses: over years of depression, suicidal thoughts etc, I hid all my
troubles under a mask and pretended everything was ok with the rest of the
world, because I was surrounded by people who, for whatever reason, could not
handle by any stretch of imagination what was truly happening with me. It made
their life easier and my life easier too: no explanations to be given, no
dramas, no listening to stupid advices (“maybe you should get a walk and have
some fresh air” because of course, depression can be cured with air and trips
to the park, right?), no bullshit, just (fake, in my case) quietness all
I didn’t want this to happen this time. I didn’t want to hide again, pretend
all was ok and sulk in a corner full of negative thoughts, so I did the most
obvious thing to do: I told my boyfriend “I am too weak, I really need a break.
I need to stop thinking and doing, I need to just rest”. It was so hard to
admit it and ear my voice saying those words, but at the same, it was also the
most liberating thing ever. I started crying in his arms, feeling like I just
had a massive weight lifted from my shoulders. I couldn’t stop! And you know
what the best part of this was? Instead of all the past reactions I had from
various people from my past, I had a big hug, a kiss, and cuddles. Everything I
needed. No questions, no talk back, no lessons, no explanations. Bliss!
It took me years, but I finally managed to understand this
very simple concept: there is nothing wrong to be weak. Nothing. Zero. Nada. It
is absolutely ok. Of course, having zero self-esteem, I thought that if I
showed to the world my weaknesses, I would have been outcasted even more and “unloved”
because I couldn’t handle everyone’s shit as per my usual self. Now that my
self-esteem and self-care is high, well, I don’t care if people sees me not at
my best. For fuck sake, I just had a very complicated and problematic surgery
procedure, my body is all focussed on healing and recovering from this major
trauma, if someone has a problem with this they are more than happy to do one
and fuck off. Weakness is actually part of the healing process, it is a sign
from the body that needs you to just do as little as possible so all the
energies etc can be used solely to fix what has been “broken”, and believe me,
my shoulder has seen better days than these.
So yes, I am weak. Big time weak. I’m so weak I feel I can barely function above survival level at times. My brain is less foggy, yes, but still, I can’t really focus too much or dig deep into work matters because, when I do, the rest of my body shuts down to cope. To give you an (hilarious) idea of it, I have noticed that if I experience very strong emotions (be them anger, frustration, happiness…) I become so, so, so desperately tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. One evening my boyfriend and I were discussing stuff, and something upsetting from the past resurfaced which made me very annoyed and angry: well, as soon as these feelings took hold of me, I had to lie in bed unable to move, like I just got paralysed in order to process what was happening. Such a weird thing!
I owe my body respect and care. I beat it, disrespected it, hurt it and being careless with it for way too long. I don’t want to allow myself to slip back to the old ways, those days are long gone. Besides, should I be silly and disregard my body’s signals and all the medical adviced I got, I’ll fuck my shoulder up again and… put it this way, I am in no mood to piss my orthopaedic off or visit a surgery theathre anytime soon!
So, more resting and relaxing, no more superhero silliness!
Another week has gone, I haven’t been writing, I have been extra, extra busy at work and at home… aaaahhh!! I’m doing great though. Actually, I never felt this good. I dare to say it, I’m even happy at the way things are progressing. Unfortunately, though, being busy means little to zero time for the blog, and on top of that I have been in an out of the hospital a bit because of my shoulder. In this chaotic times there has been some stuff boiling up at work that made me think of how I changed, thanks to therapy and my own self-improvement. I basically went from “caring too much” to “caring ZERO”.
I think I said it already so many times that I used to be a rescuer. I thought that all I had to do in order to be loved an appreciated was to focus and spend all my energies, money and time on others. There was never a “me” moment, because if that chance happened, I would have used it to please someone else but myself. Imagine: 24/7, every single day of your life, working your ass off for others and feeling grateful for the opportunity of doing so.
Learning to curb this behaviour and attitude towards others has been a real struggle. You’d think “oh, I’ll just stop right now, cold turkey”, but when you are trying to terminate a behaviour that has been present throughout all your life, and that you most often trigger automatically because that is how you have always done, quitting it is as hard as quitting smoking or any other bad habit, with withdrawal symptoms in the form of pure guilt and fear: guilt of “not being as useful” and fear of “now nobody will ever love me because they will learn to not need me therefore I won’t have a purpose in their lives”.
I am facepalming myself as I write this tripe.
I am doing so much better now, I have learned to say no (even though at times it feels like a violence against myself), to manage my guilt and to be less dependent on my need of being needed at all times, but the other face of this behavioural coin is that now…. I kind of not care that much. Actually, I don’t care anymore at all. Worse: I feel guilty of not feeling guilty about not giving a single fuck. My friend Marge always laughs when I say “my fucks bucket has now an extremely limited capacity and this thing is not worth any of those precious fucks that I could give”. Unfortunately (or, maybe, not unfortunately) it is what I feel at the moment. What do you expect anyway? When you’ve been used and abused for years, and you are done investing feelings and your emotional wellbeing only to be treated like scum, you raise your walls and make sure they won’t come down that easily.
I reached the limit of my self-imposed martyrdom a while ago and I’m so, so fed up. Now I don’t have time or care for (almost) anyone but me. I don’t chase, I don’t beg, I don’t ask. I don’t force my help down other people’s throat, I don’t do my all to be there for everyone at any time of the day or night, I don’t put myself down to make someone else feel better. The new rules are: if I don’t care, then I won’t force myself to pretend I do to please someone else, and I will act and only go the extra mile if I want to do it because I’m happy anyway, whether it is appreciated or not.
Another thing that I stopped doing is pandering to other people’s needs just because I don’t want to hurt / upset them and, most importantly, because I fear I will lose them should I dare to say things how they are. That has been outrageously difficult to implement, but once I ran out of fucks to give to everyone randomly, being able to just express my true feelings proved to be such a relief. To be clear, I’m not saying I’m offending people or being a bitch for the sake of it; simply, if I feel like something does not sit well with me, I won’t be putting up with it for the sake of “not rocking the boat”. Examples? I had a very long and deep chat with someone close to my heart that yes, as much as enjoy this person being in my life and all the things that are happening, if I’m just nothing but a cheap entertainment then I am not interested in investing my time, energies, and feelings. This is a deal-breaker and I’m ready to walk away should this be the case. It felt incredibly hard to “lay down the law”, but you know what? In this new chapter I only want people who want to be here because they love me, anyone else can go waste someone else’s time. Zero fucks given. I have no time, nor interest for those permanently offended, for the narcissists, for the soul-drainers, for anyone who’s only a taker and never a giver. I gave them my whole life, I got only negativity and pain in return, I think it’s about to time I move on.
You don’t approve what I do? I ran out of fucks, sorry.
You don’t like my opinion on the matter? See above.
You don’t like that I refuse to put up with your shit? Aaand again, see above.
I had a very interesting talk about this aspect with my therapist, because my surgeon made the dreaded call (7th of January… how to start my new year in style) and I was chatting about how this time, compared to when I had my elbow surgery, I’m actually pretty chilled and looking forward to it. I ran out of fucks to give about what anyone would think about the call I made, what impact has on me, my son, my life, whatever…. You should have seen me when the surgeon said “ok, so, your choice: you either put up with the pain for life or we do surgery but expect to be in pain and recovery is going to be long” and I yelled back at him “NO WAY I’M PUTTING UP WITH THIS BOOK ME IN!!!!”. Put up with what? You crazy man? Hell no! Anyway, I was telling my therapist how happy I was that, one way or another, I would have solved my problem and that I was looking forward to some blissful time at home, high as a kite post-op, to just be with myself. She asked “would you need help though? Have you thought about asking someone to help you? I suppose you won’t be able to move, or cook, or lift stuff…”. Suddenly, I felt extremely uncomfortable: what? someone around the house to help me? No no no no no no.
She started digging into my refusal of getting help… till the point when it came clear why I am so against that: I see help as the old me would, as a “put up a smile, pretend it’s ok, entertain who is pretending to help till you finally go back being alone”. We discussed in depth at why I see it that way, and why I just don’t accept honest, heartfelt help from those who really want to give it. Why my “ran out of fucks” attitude crumbles when faced with me being in need? Why do I feel the need to hide my true feelings, and why I can’t just let the helpers in and, instead of “entertaining them”, I just lower my guard, let them take care of me and just be the person who had surgery and needs resting? We both agreed that this surgery will be a pivotal moment in this journey: it will be a personal test for me to see how much progress I made, I will have to face few phobias (like taking medicines to cope with the pain) and to see if I indeed have “run out of fucks” about rescuing others when all I have to do is recovering. Guess what? I already made the (I must admit, painful) effort to ask for help on the day of the surgery. Oh boy, uttering those “would you please sleep with me the night I come home? I need help, and this would mean a lot to me” words took me a massive amount of stress and anxiety… and I’m trying hard not to regret saying them!!!!!
Do you want to change?
Do you want to see change happening in your life?
Do you want to quit your bad habit, whichever it is?
Do you want to improve your life, whatever that means to you?
You lucky person, you ended up in the right place, because in this blog entry I am going to tell you the most ground-breaking piece of information ever existed amongst us fellow human beings that will change your life forever, I promise. I will save you tons of money on self-help books, endless hours on YouTube watching motivational speakers, TED talks, life gurus and coaches, you name it, because I’ve done the homework for you mate. Aren’t I so kind?
One of the most annoying things I have heard so far, when people asks me about my ongoing journey, is the following “oh, I wish I had your determination to change, but”. Generally, I just shrug my shoulders and smile, but inside I know I’m dying to answer “oh, well, what do you expect me to do, extract determination like a serum from my body and inject it into you?”. I wish it would be possible, I’d be millionaire in the space of couple of weeks, but it’s not. However, I am about to reveal the unspoken secret that will leave me just as cashflow strapped as I am, but that hopefully will spare me hearing that sentence ever again.
You know what the real, simple, dead stupid secret to “making change happen” is? WANTING IT.
That’s it. You are one decision away from the change you want to make happening. One single decision, which sounds along the line of “I WANT IT”. No ifs, no buts, no maybes, not wishes.
I want it. Full stop.
There is you on one side, your goal on the other, and the only thing you have to do to get to your goal closer is wanting to reach it. Sounds to simple? I thought that too. Especially when I was with my arse on the floor crying in total misery because I got dumped, my life was shit, I looked like shit, my mental health was shit, my finances where shit (thank you boiler for making it even worse), my au pair left me fending for myself, it was fucking nightmare everywhere I looked. This is where I took the most important decision of my life: wanting to change. Enough of living a life I hate: it’s 2018, there are options out there, I was born in the lucky side of the world where I can access these information, the help, the knowledge etc. just by clicking on a search engine, there are endless possibilities to make my life better: enough crying, let’s start working, because I don’t want to be the person that a dumb asshole can shatter in a moment by dumping her; I don’t want to be the person struggling to cope with her mind; I don’t want to be the person who looks herself in the mirror thinking “my body is just shit”.
Ok, I have to admit, there is a catch. Ah-ha, you’d think, here is the “small print” part of this. Yes, there is. See, there is “wanting” and “wanting”. You may want something, you may dreaming about, I don’t know, Jennifer Lopez body like me, or quitting smoking (been there, done that), quitting bad habits (yep, got that one too), stop stalking and texting your ex (…cough cough…), having a more balanced mental health (thumbs up), getting a degree, changing your career, the list is endless. It’s all fine. The only obstacle between you and your goal is that nasty “BUT” in your head that stops you from acting. You have to want your object of desire so badly that you are ready to do anything it takes to get it, like your life depends on it. This is the only catch.
If you are not 100% fully committed, it won’t happen. You won’t be able to put up with the struggles that you’ll find along the line. You can tell yourself “Tomorrow I’m going to stop smoking / start dieting / going to the gym….” And you’ll see that that tomorrow never comes. Or maybe it will, but the next day you will be back at square one. You can tell yourself all the lies you want to hear, you can come up with a myriad of excuses to keep your ass solid on your comfy couch, you can pretend to have all impairments existing in the world, fine by me, I’ve been there and done that for all my life so far, but: don’t cry when things will not happen, when the scale will not show any weight loss, when you’ll still be puffing that cigarette, when your liver will burn at the sight of any degree celebration, or when you still haven’t saved a penny for your desired boob job (ehm ehm….), or when you’ll cry in bed staring at your ex-boyfriend new collection of whor…ehm…..
You have to want it that badly. Once you do finally want it, like you never wanted anything before, like whatever life throws at you it’s “fuck you life, I’m unstoppable”, like you go full speed ahead no matter what, guess what? change will happen. Guaranteed, 100%, would bet my house on it.
I have been the queen of half-arsed efforts all my life. It was sooooo easy to barely try, fail, moan, blame how life is so unfair, tell myself I was too stupid to achieve stuff etc. All around me people were busy doing and improving, getting nice jobs, doing this and that, and all I was able to do was sitting at the window, jealous as fuck, wishing a fairy godmother would come round, do some magic and ta-dah! Life sorted. I’m sorry to break this news to you (and myself, every time I wake up hoping to be reborn in JLo and instead finding I’m still myself), but it doesn’t work like that. All successful people, the real successful people, they are who they are because they worked hard. Yes, even the Kardashian: do you think it’s that easy being filmed 24/7, keeping the looks, the money, the “K-Empire” just by sitting on your arse? You wished! As much as they all make me cringe and vomit, you can’t deny that it takes work to keep staying in the limelight, plotting the next big scandal, arranging the next paparazzi shot and earning money.
You won’t become a musician just because you have a bit of talent if you don’t put the hard work in. You won’t win an Olympic game if you don’t train every single day as hard as you can. You won’t lose weight if you are not prepared to follow a proper diet, tailored to you by a proper medical expert dietician, and throw some exercise in the mix (and maybe some psychological support, because let’s face it, it’s not easy at all). Every time a “but” comes in your mind, this is where the temptation to fuck it all up and be back at not changing comes: this is when you can either choose to overcome that “but” in your head, or to succumb to it. I always chose to succumb up till June this year, where I was so low, so beaten up, sad, shit, disaster all around that I decided it was time to be the phoenix who rises from her ashes, rather than just be ashes.
I read somewhere on Facebook a woman claiming, “I’m sick and tired of hearing people saying “you have to want to change, like you could snap out of mental illnesses or else just because you want to”. Part of me agrees with the sentiment, naturally: of course, you can’t just tell yourself “I want to not be depressed” and boom! You are dancing in the streets celebrating your newly-found glorious mental health. Of course I am not talking about serious illnesses which require medical expertise and treatments (if only people could beat cancer just by wanting it, wouldn’t that be great?). Of course, I ain’t that dumb to think “the power of the mind conquers it all”. And yet again, I also don’t agree with what that woman said. The fact that your situation is difficult doesn’t mean that your only option is to just be passive to whatever is happening to you. You can help yourself to improve your situation, whatever that may be, if you really, really want to, and there are amazing examples out there (Katie Piper anyone? I mean, if she is not inspirational, who else can it be! Nobel prize winner Malala Yousafzai? Shot in the head, left for dead, now studying at Oxford?). Of course it is not easy, but you face struggles with a different mindset when you really, really want something, rather than when you decide you are defeated even before you begin.
Mel Robbins, a very amazing motivational speaker, yesterday put a post on Instagram saying “It’s not that you can’t, it’s just that you don’t”, suggesting that you should give a go and swap your “I can’t” with “ I don’t” every time you face something – and see how it sting. Her point (which I fully agree with) is “Taking action is a choice… and so is telling yourself you can’t”. So yes, if you are currently reading this thinking “just bullshit, I wish I could… but”, try to overcome that “but” and see what happens.
I hate being weak.
I hate people thinking that I’m weak, and even more so, I hate when people can see my weaknesses.
I HATE IT!
The only person I allowed to be in the presence of a flawed, frail me, has been my ex-boyfriend, because I convinced myself that he loved me so much that he would have helped me heal my issues with his love.
Yeah right, it didn’t really go to plan this one…
When he dumped me and all I had was, well, me, and I realised how helpless I was, I decided to do the bravest, most upsetting, panic and anxiety attack inducing thing I have ever done: I admitted defeat; I acknowledged that, there and then, I was in no mental state to move on from that shit.
I raised my hand and I asked for help.
Not just reaching out to friends though.
I mean, I asked for PROFESSIONAL help.
Bit of a background here: I fought with my mental health since my teens. I already said in another blog post that I come from a family, on my mum’s side, where everyone has something not quite right in their head. Yet none of us ever dared to even think of going to see a psychologist, or a therapist, or anyone, really.
I grew up hearing things like “oh you don’t go to the shrink, only total coo-coo people go there” or “I don’t need to see a shrink, no way I’ll say stuff to a complete stranger, he’ll think I’m crazy, will only stuff me with pills and besides, what can he/she actually do to help!”, “it is so shameful and embarrassing, do you want people to know you are mental?” and so on.
Trying to improve your mental health by seeing a specialist was something you didn’t do and didn’t even dare to mention.
Once, when I was 17 years old, I insisted to see a consultant because my crippling anxiety was starting to take a toll on my physical health. I had to beg for months, and in the end, I ended up with the crappiest psychiatrist working in my city, because what was important was not his/her capabilities, but his/her surgery being as far away from where I lived as possible, and hidden too, to ensure that no one would have ever seen me going there – or else, shame on me, my family and my relatives for years to come. This woman I ended up seeing was rude, she didn’t let me talk, she handed me an antidepressant’s prescription and dismissed me there and then: needless to say, I decided my relatives where right after all and there was no going back.
Over the years, my anxiety only got worse. It didn’t help being bullied at work for two years solid by my manager. I reached a nice equilibrium when I moved to London, because I was too busy settling down in a new country and in a new job, so I didn’t have the time to think “wait, how am I doing?”. All went down the drains after my pregnancy: yes, the dreaded Post-Natal Depression (you can read more in my previous post). I knew it was a possibly, I read about it, I thought I knew what to do… till I had it: 3 long years of constant panic attacks and suicidal thoughts. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I slowly crawled out of that hell alone and I re-built a kind of “new normal” counting only on myself and no one else. I sometimes think it is a miracle that I’m here, writing, living, and breathing and not being locked in a psychiatric ward (or six feet under).
I knew I was not perfect, but I thought I was doing ok: I mean, I was alive. I was happy. I put up with divorcing, with being alone with a kid, bills to pay and a mortgage, I had friends, work was good and I loved it, I had an amazing boyfriend…. till he dumped me, and at that point life hit me in the face like a truck.
I was not ok anymore.
No, worse, I have never been ok, I only pretended to be so.
Everything I pushed in a remote corner of my brain (hating myself, hating my body, being a weirdo, being alone, you name it) not only reached the surface, but BANG! It was like being run over by a train on full speed.
I had to do something though, come on Silvia, you can do this bitch, you overcame worst things!
I became obsessed with “doing”. Anything. So long as I didn’t have to stand still. In the space of a month I read at least 15 self-help books (and some really did change my life) and I got still a handful around the house waiting to be read; I meditated every single day, twice a day minimum; I pushed myself to go to the gym and put some REAL effort in my exercises; I wrote my affirmations and I repeated them over and over again non-stop like a lunatic; I forced myself to think positive things, to have faith in the universe, to block any negative thoughts on the spot…. and yet the only thing that I could not manage to do was asking for help. Psychological help.
Let’s face it, you can do all the exercises in the world, you can follow all the sound advices that experts and caring friends give you, but you are barely scratching the surface of something that it is deeply rooted in you. This is, at least, how I felt. I tried very hard to avoid it, even though all the signs pointed in that directions. I fought it hard and I gave myself a million of excuses to not do it, including “I cannot afford it” and “who’s going to care for my son when I’m in therapy”.
Still, in front of the mirror shouting “I am so beautiful. Check these abs, wow, I am so fierce” I felt this…. void. It just wasn’t enough. I bit my lips and decided that I had it, that was officially it: if I really wanted to see changes, I had to stop being so up my arse, let go of my past and just
What could possibly go wrong? Do I ask for help when I can’t do something at work? yes. Do I ask my son for help when I’m cleaning his bedroom and shit reaches the roof? yes. Do I ask for help to my friends when I’m feeling down, and I need a good chat and an Aperol Spritz on the side? YES. So… I am now in need of help to dig at the core of my problems and I need someone with the appropriate shovel to succesfully do it.
Of course, I thought. Let me find the right therapist who can help me, yey!
So here is me, googling “best therapist near me” and browsing profiles, all happy and merry. I found one I liked, I read the profile, it fitted what I was looking for. Actually, it felt like “THIS IS THE ONE I FEEL I WANT TO TALK TO”.
I was all geared up. Contact page, here is the psychotherapist’s email.
I’m ready. This is my moment, let me write a lovely email.
my name is Silvia and….”
And I stopped. I just froze.
My hands couldn’t write anything. At all. My mind went blank, all of the sudden.
Then, a tsunami of negative thoughts filled the void: “WTF are you doing? What is this shit? What are you thinking of writing? What do you need? Are you sure you want to waste money chatting away to some stranger? You know the things you could do instead? Plus, what do you say to her? That you are sad because your love story ended? So what? Do you think you are the first one who ever had a broken heart? Come on bitch, you survived worse things by yourself, delete that email, go to the gym instead, have a glass of wine” and so on.
I dropped my phone. I got up, and I started walking around in my living room like a caged animal at the zoo. I’m in this whirlwind of thoughts when, like a lightning strike, I remember a quote from one of those self-help books I read:
The Big Snooze will do everything it can to stop you from changing and growing, especially since you’re attempting to obliterate the very identity that you and everyone else has come to know as “you”
Jen Sincero, “You are a Badass”
That was exactly what was happening. My brain was working against me in an attempt to stop me pursuing change, real change. I grabbed the phone from the floor, re-open that email and I simply typed
my name is Silvia AND I NEED HELP”
I wrote how hard it felt to write this request, how anxious I was at the thought of looking stupid, but that I needed to do it so please guide me into the process.
I paused. I closed my eyes. I had some deep breaths, then I pressed send.
And then I ended up with an anxiety attack!
But, what was done, was done. I asked for help. The therapist wrote me back shortly afterwards and she arranged for a phone call later the day to start the ball rolling.
The first session was… weird. I sat there, eyes wide open, like I was about to be executed at gunpoint. I just didn’t know what the hell I was supposed to do! My therapist put me immediately at ease and gently pushed me to talk.
I started to stutter and mumble a bit. Then I felt more at ease. I said something funny and we both started to laugh. I felt better, and I opened up a little more… and by the time the session finished, I realised I turned into a total chatterbox unable to shut up.
That night, I slept like a baby, happy.
Now, after a month and half, I’m here thinking: why on Earth I’ve been so dumb and stupid to not do it sooner!
I feel like every session is a pampering spa experience for my brain. My therapist engages me in amazing debates, she helps me reflect on the things I say, she guides my thought processes without judging or forcing me, and when I leave, I feel amazing. It is the most selfish thing I have ever done for myself: every week, an hour of 100% me, me, me, me. ME. No one else but me. It is the best thing ever. For someone who has always been “others first”, it is a mesmerising experience!
If you are there, thinking “mmmm I don’t know” please, listen to me: give it a go.
Think of what you’d like from a therapist: I chose mine because, amongst other things, she doesn’t do Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (been there, done that, I HATED IT) and because she is there to LISTEN.
Research carefully: we have been blessed with the power of Google, let’s use it for good things, not just to find the funniest cat memes of the month.
Then, once you got the one who ticks all the boxes, just give it a go: trust me, if you find “the right one”, you won’t regret it, and you’ll thank yourself soon!
Whad did you say? RE-SPECT! WALK! Are you talking to me? ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?!? Aaaah Pantera. They way they said it has always been spot on! If you fancy hearing where these lyrics come from, here is the link (headbanging will be required)
Don’t ask me why it is happening.
It’s been a while now since I’ve been on this path of personal changes, growth, and improvement. I’m seeing incredible things happening both physically and mentally: my abs are finally shaping up nicely; my body is getting sculped muscle by muscle by my beloved (and sadistic!) personal trainer; I’m moving to a happier, more confident, stronger place. Yes, I still crave love from a man, but I am loving myself an awful lot more and I am also more appreciative of the love I’m receiving from everyone around me.
Yet, there is something that, right now, seems beyond my control: I have no filters and I’m having a proper “HELL NO!” attitude: at work, at home, with myself.
Mind you, I’m famous for losing the plot quite easily (after all, I’m my mum’s daughter, the apple and the tree etc…), however I have also been quite famous for being able to pretend to calm down, leave the situation that’s making me furious, tell myself “yeah, I’m fine, besides, what can I do?”, go home and then hold on to resentment for days (or months, or more).
I feel like my brain is in a “dude, we just ran out of f*cks to give” mode and, since I jumped the fence to go from “I hate myself so you should too” to “if you don’t respect me, you’ll regret it”, I am in no mood to be the diplomatic looser anymore and to re-fill my f*cks-to-give bucket.
The way this all started can be compared to a tap that started to break up, slowly but steady. At first, it was leaking a drop or two here and there. Then, it became few drops per minute. Before I realised, the valve on my brain snapped for good and water came out non-stop. However, unlike for a real tap, where I would have closed the mains, rang my good friend & Chelsea FC fan plumber to get it fixed, here I’m just…. Going with the flow. I cannot hold back, and if I do, it gets only worse. Have you ever tried to stop the water flow coming out of your tap in full force? Yep, that’s exactly what happens to me.
Beyond my control, I began voicing aloud the fact that I was not having any of the shit that I was gladly suffering not long ago anymore. Once I mastered talking the talk, I began walking the walk and I started to proactively stop the crap before it reached me. The first times, it was quite a surreal experience: I could feel the “old me” pulling her hair and begging the “new me” to reconsider, stop, please, at least be kinder, and the “new me” going “fuck no!” An example? A colleague tried to make me do something he could have easily done by himself (namely: calling facilities to fix the printer). He came towards my desk with the attitude of someone who believes he is owed everything in the world and demanded that I’d do it. Before I could come up with my old ways (“of course, let me look into it, I’m busy but I suppose I’ll do it”), the new me gave him a taste of his own medicine:
“Sorry – Why should I do it? Can’t you see that I’m busy?”
“Well, I don’t have the number so you do it”
(sent the number via email)
“Now you have it”
“I don’t have time”
“Neither have I”
“How about you do it it?”
“What? First week with new fingers and still getting used to them that you can’t dial a phone number? Ask Siri to dial it for you, that is why is there for”
Confidence started growing exponentially. Whenever someone tried “to put my back in my place”, making me feel worthless, instead of lowering my head and say sorry, I stood for myself. People started getting the message: this woman is not a doormat anymore. The training course that someone was thinking of forcing down my throat because someone else messed up and these people had to cover their mistakes up by making us all pay for it? “nope, I don’t I need to spend an hour of my time to learn how to click on an icon on my screen, besides, since the mistake has been done on the other side of the world and by the IT people, maybe you should train them? How about that?”; the ex-employee chasing me for things he should have been responsible for? “Nothing I can do, leave me out of it, deal with HR, you knew when you were leaving, if you didn’t take care of it, it’s no one else’s fault but yours”; the UPS guy trying to make me pay for their mistake? His ears are still ringing.
If something is not right, I’ll call bullshit as I see it, without being able to stop it and maybe be less brutal. If I get challenged, instead of stepping back, surrender and maybe apologising for something I didn’t do, I’m jumping in the fight tooth and nail, and boy, I will make sure that shit will go down. If someone tries to bully me into doing stuff I don’t want to do, I will stand for myself and will make sure that they won’t try to do it again. If someone is being a twat with me, I will return the favour and I won’t even feel remotely guilty about it. If there is something that I want, or deserve, or that I don’t want, I will say it as it is, without trying to make it sound pretty. I ran out of patience, excuses, and fear.
Even worse: when the situation for lashing out gets taken away from me, I go ballistic because I feel like I lost a chance to test myself and get my anger out. Last Friday, for example: something happened at the office and a colleague ended up being very offended. She was storming around the office, yelling at everyone she could have yelled at. I was out, doing something for my manager, but colleagues warned me about what was happening (otherwise I would have been none the wiser) and told me to brace myself for my turn. I came back to my desk and I waited, smiling like a psychopath. Just like when you order your favourite dessert at the restaurant and you see the waiter coming with it towards you, I saw the moment coming. I was ready.
I was in a “calm before the storm” mood. She arrived, she (angrily) asked few things to establish the facts that made her angry, then, just as the momentum was building and my brain was gearing up for a fight…. She left me there and then to go and yell at someone else.
I felt so disappointed.
I rehearsed the fight that never happened in my head all weekend. I just couldn’t shake off that feeling of “I just missed out on one of my finest moments of the year”. How silly is that? I am trying to come up with explanations on why I am acting this way: what is it that is making me “unleash the beast” inside? Where are these feelings coming from? Why I am so… like this, when I used to be the opposite? So far, I came up with two explanations:
Explanation number 1: I have to “blame” the fact that in this new, more confident, good self-esteem person, I am like a “reborn Silvia” (thank Marge for that definition) and, just like babies learning and growing, I’m trying to learn who is this new self and how it feels to be in this new personality. I am therefore subconsciously pushing the boundaries of what I can or can’t do, what I can get away with it, how far can I go before being told to do one.
Explanation number 2: up till recently, I have always allowed people to treat me like crap, because ultimately, I thought I was crap and therefore I deserved to be treated as such. Now that I realised that “hold on a second here, I’m actually amazing, how dare you!”, I am not only subconsciously (and a little less subconsciously) imposing myself to demand respect at all times, but I suppose I am also extremely angry that I let people (and, ultimately, myself) to get away with murder all my life. I have these feelings inside me that are desperately trying to get out, but since, somehow, they can’t do it on their own, my brain is using every chance that life throws at me to just release the pressure.
I am going to be completely honest with you: I don’t feel, at the moment, that I want to “fix it” because I don’t think I have anything to fix. I don’t want to “tone it down”. I am not interested in going back at being a frightened sheep. I don’t want to be accommodating anymore. I have spent all my life being “the people pleaser” and guess what? Nobody gave me a medal for it. I guess I would like to find a way to let the anger out, yes, because that has to leave this body asap (any anger exorcism please?); I don’t want that the confident-me ends up becoming the asshole-me. But standing with my head held high and not giving in without a very good reason? Oh yeah, this is going to stay, because I am loving it. After all, if I don’t love, respect, and protect myself, how can I pretend that others will?
Do you want to know what’s the thing I struggled the most in this path of personal change?
Learning to be more selfish.
Disclaimer: I do not mean “being selfish” in a negative, asshole way.
That is not acceptable, and there are no excuses for that behaviour.
I mean it in a self-loving, self-preserving, positive way.
Let me explain.
I’ve spent all my life, up untill recently, being a “rescuer”. It never mattered whether I was tired, sad, dealing with big problems, feeling like I didn’t want to live another day, working 26 hours a day, swamped with shit to deal with etc.: everyone else always came first. Always. I never moaned, never complained, I never dared to say “sorry, but it’s not a good time”, in fear of losing the crown of “the amazing friend who will always be there for you”. If anyone needed me, I’d voluntarily (and happily) sacrificed myself and my needs. No question asked.
I think I already mentioned that I’ve been reading a lot of self-help of books recently, and few of them talked about the “triangle” of relationships between the victim, the rescuer, the persecutor, and the distorted, negative dynamics going on between these three figures. It made me have a serious, deep conversation with myself as to why I act as I do, how my actions made me feel and what were the real motives behind my apparently “amazingly selfless and generous” behaviour.
The first real motive is very simple: focusing on others meant that I didn’t have time to focus on myself. When you have an extremely low self-esteem, and you hate yourself, you don’t care nor want to dedicate a moment of pure “me-time”. It would mean facing your demons, or acknowledging feelings that you rather keep bottled up in a far corner of your brain, or even worse, end up being alone with yourself and no one else: who wants to be left in an empty room with a person you detest to bits? Yes, no one.
The second real motive is… ok I really had to be honest with myself here, and it is not even easy to put it into words to write. I’ll just say it as it is, without making it look prettier or playing with words: the second real motive for me behaving like this is that I was desperate to keep holding on to people. I feared being alone.
No, that’s not even the full story.
I feared being UNLOVED. I craved (and I still crave) love so badly that I just grabbed it wherever I thought I could find it, even if it was unhealthy, unreal, or not enough. I thought that by being so… everything, and more, that people would think “I can’t imagine my life without her”. This goes for friends, boyfriends, colleagues, and any person in my life who I felt the need to keep close.
Of course I will lend you money I don’t have, this way you’ll have to stay with me at least untill you’ll give it back (but you’ll stay more because you’ll always need me); let me take all your pain away and put it on my shoulders so that you can be happy and love me for being such a martyr; sure, let me work harder, let me love you with more intensity, let me sacrifice myself further, so that I can show you how amazing I am and then you will stay.
My life has always been a race to go above and beyond the call of duty to make people happy. Even better was if I could anticipate other people’s needs or if I could anticipate needs they weren’t even aware they had, but because I loved them dearly I knew so here it is, enjoy.
Yes, I am the Ultimate Martyr of Love.
Marge used to warn me all the time: “be very careful at being the way you are, because the more you give to people, the more people will want, and you are not paid, or loved, enough to keep doing what you do, and when you’ll have to stop, it’s going to hurt”.
Did I listen? Of course not. I knew better! I love my job! I love my friends! I love my boyfriend!
How did it end?
The boyfriend dumped me because I loved him too much, and I was suffocating him with my love.
The friends just kept asking and asking, even when I had nothing to give, and I became (very) resentful.
The work? I ended up working every hour under the sun, plus weekends, holidays and medical leave, just because I wanted to be so helpful, doing stuff I wasn’t even supposed to, and of course, I didn’t get any special award, any pay rise, not even a single thank you.
I sat in my room, in the middle of the night, trying to make sense to all these feeling, and I was reading these books begging me to love myself more, to care for myself more, to do more of the things I really wanted to do… and to say a very simple, powerful and yet so frightening word: NO.
In solitude, they will learn that saying no does not always show a lack of generosity and that saying yes is not always a virtue Pablo Coelho, Manuscript Found in Accra
Can I really do that?
Can I really say “NO”?
What would other people think if I do it? If I’m not there for them, if I become….
There are two reasons you tend to give a fuck about what other people think: one, because you don’t want to be a bad person, and two, because you don’t want to look like a bad person Sarah Knight, The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”
Well, it looks like I’m in a deep shithole here. I’m sad, I’m crying, I’m unloved by the only man I desperately wanted to be loved from, I feel like everyone is draining my extremely limited energies and that they are ignoring my pleas to give me some breathing space (after all, that is what I got them used to, right? “don’t worry about me, even if I’m not ok I’m here for you”, right?), and work… I dread to check my phone and see how many emails I have to read.
I realised I became desperate to care for myself, but to do so, I needed (badly, I should add) time, energies, focus, and not to be dragged into stuff that was not giving me anything back. I told myself:
“This is something that must change.
This is something that must stop.
This is something that no one can stop, but me”
It’s about respecting yourself, instead of catering to your insecure need to be liked Jen Sincero, You are a Badass
I started to force myself to say no. More so, to quit with the victim attitude of “I have to do it or else the world will end”. I cut the crap of “ok, I suppose I got no choice”.
Gosh, the first few “no” felt like I was doing something so outrageous, so horrendous, borderline illegal; I felt guilty like I murdered someone with my own bare hands, and with the full intention of doing so.
It was awful.
You know what I discovered though?
To begin with, the world didn’t end.
Last time I checked, it is still spinning around the sun, not giving a flying f@ck about me saying “no”.
Then, you know what? Once I overcame the fear, guilt, anxiety and… yes, novelty, of saying NO, I discovered that, actually, it wasn’t too bad after all.
The more I grew confidence, the more I realised that I did have a choice, and a very powerful one: the choice between “it is relevant to me, ok, yes” and “I cannot be arsed, leave me out of it”
“No, I am not coming to those drinks. Sorry, I have other plans (aka: I am going to bed at a decent time, because I want to be nice and rested for the gym tomorrow)
“Sorry, I know you really want to share this with me, but it is not a good moment right now”
“No, I don’t have the time to hear about this useless drama”
“No, I cannot help you, I’m busy already as it is, you’ll have to either do it yourself, wait for me to be less busy or find someone else to help”
“No, this is not something I want to be involved with”
You know what’s very important to learn, and learn quickly, about saying no? Mean it.
Saying no is a piece of cake. It’s just two letters: N and O.
Holding your ground and not backing down, however, that requires balls. You better grow up a pair as quickly as you can, because you either have them or your NO will turn into a “…(puffing)… ok, YES”.
And you know that will happen next? You’ll end up feeling guilty that you said no when you could have spared yourself the pain, say yes and put up with whatever you are (unwillingly) agreeing with; you’ll have tons of resentment for being made to do stuff you didn’t really want to; you’ll get tired, because you used energies you don’t necessarily have for something you don’t necessarily care; ultimately, you’ll end up being angry, very angry with yourself because “here we go again”.
People will naturally push back when you say no, especially if you got them used to you saying yes straight away, or “no but ok, yes, fuck it”. This is where guilt will make its glorious entrance in your brain. I know it is hard, but push that guilt away and just reiterate that you said NO, and that.you.said.it.because.you.mean.it.
Don’t give too many explanations, because the more you do, the more you
a – give people reasons to make you change your mind, and
b – give yourself reasons to feel guilty, and silly, and unreasonable, for having said NO.
It’s a no, you said because you know it is right and that’s all that matter.
What you chose to do, instead of what you are being guilt-tripped into doing, is no one’s business but yours.
“Sorry, but no eating shit for me or drinking more than one glass of something” (I committed myself to work hard at the gym in order to enjoy having a JLo, gym-toned ass).
“Nope, I’m not staying later than 6pm tonight” (I want an undisturbed, love making session with Sky Sports and my bed)
“Sorry, I am really not in a good place right now to listen to you” (I’m trying to mend my broken heart, I don’t need you rubbing salt on my wounds)
“no, I have to give this one a miss” (I will be too busy attending Slayer’s gig)
“no, sorry, I cannot afford this (boring as fuck) dinner this month” (I could, but I don’t want to)
…the list goes on and on.
Hey, in your “learning to say no” path, you better learn to say no to yourself as well, so you don’t end up doing stupid stuff you know it won’t do you any good at all (“no I am not texting him today”, “no I’m not stalking him on social media” and “no, I’m not giving myself any excuses for his behaviour – he does not want me and I must stop sugar coat this truth”… yes, it is something I can’t quite master yet…. I know….). Stop the things that are making you hurt yourself, hate yourself, be negative about yourself etc. These are the hardest NO you’ll ever learn to say. It is the NO to that cigarette you are so craving but you have decided to quit smoking (been there, done that). The NO to spend time with people you know are not healthy for you. It is the NO to overeating, or undereating, or eating shit, when you committed yourself to improve your wellbeing. The NO to anything that falls in the “if I do it I know I will regret it” category.
What you’ll gain from all of this, it is something no money can buy: self-love, freedom, time. I know it seems hard to believe, but you’ll also end up having better, more balanced relationships. Your true friends will still be your friends, and they will respect you more for (finally!) respecting yourself.
At work, you’ll have all the time you need for the things you really need to do, and you will do them better because you won’t be distracted. My boss is loving my new “hell no” attitude, because he finally is spared the pain of yelling at me stuff like “I told you so” and “Don’t moan with me about it, I told you to say no and that I don’t want you to work extra hours!!!”. Your love life will benefit as well, because you will learn that it takes two to tango, not just your loved one and his needs: you are just as valuable. You’ll have plenty of energy for the things that matter, you’ll be more confident, you’ll learn to demand respect and to respect yourself…. And that will only lead to love yourself more.
There are two exceptions about saying no that you should be aware of though.
The first one is that you must not become a twat. I already said it, but I want to reiterate it to make it VERY clear. This is not about saying no to hurt people, or to offend them, or to put them in a position where they are screwed as fuck and you tell them to do one. You are still the same decent, caring, loving, brilliant good friend, partner, colleague you have always been, and therefore if you are genuinely needed, you HELP, and you keep doing as you always did. Don’t be a prick.
Your new “sorry, but no” is for all the “noise” that gets generated around you, and that will distract you from yourself, the real meaningful stuff and the truly important things you should be focusing on.
The second one is that you MUST NOT use the power of no as an excuse to avoid doing things that you are scared, anxious or petrified at the thought of doing, even though you know that you’d greatly benefit from them such as “going to this new place and see whether I can meet new people? Mmmm maybe not”, or “should I just spend this hard-earned money to pamper myself for once? Naaa….”, or “I have an hour for myself: how about I read a nice book? Nope, let’s waste it checking Facebook and twist the knife in my poor, broken heart”.
In conclusion, love yourself enough to say NO to those things that are are making you hating yourself a bit more. Sound so easy, and yet, if you are anything like me, it is like climbing Mount Everest when the only physical activity you ever did is getting in and out of bed.
There is one amazing book I would like to suggest you. It is incredibly funny, but full of very helpful learning stuff. You’ll read it in a bang, and then you will re-read it couple of times to really get the lessons drilled in your brain.
I must admit, I have never truly appreciated the power of meditation till after my ex broke up with me. Before that, it was just an exercise I used to do (when I was arsed enough to do it). I used to sit, spend 5 minutes or so trying to clear my head, get bored to death, decide I was done for the day, tick the box of “I did it”, the end.
One day, the shitstorm happened. Meditating quickly became the only resource I had to preserve my sanity. My brain was in overdrive with all the negative emotions, my heart was bleeding, my body was in pain, I was in the eye of the storm and hell was breaking lose. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t think straight, I was exhausted. I needed a mental break. I clinged to this practice like my life depended on it and I never abandoned it since.
Let me set the record straight: meditating is HARD. It is one of those things that everyone brags about doing, it is so hipster it hurts. Everyone will try and shove it down your throath:
Be more mindful!
Mindfulness is the secret of success!
Meditate or die!
And so on. So, you think “yeah, why not, lemme give it a go”. You google “how do I start meditating” and you find a mammoth amount of all these coaches and teachers that explains what to do, making it look so damn easy: sit there, breathe, clear your mind, see your thoughts as clouds passing by, imagine this, imagine that, visualise stuff, add a mantra or two and job done!
Believe me, it is so fucking hard. Do not believe who says it is a piece of cake. REAL meditation requires training, dedication, and an unbelievable level of discipline. You must practice it over and over and over again, every day, and you won’t get the benefits of this practice till you master the art of it. Proper meditation means that you have total power and control over your body and your brain. If you have an overactive mind like mine, where you just cannot stop thinking and overthinking, meditation won’t come naturally to you.
It will be a struggle.
Couple of minutes after you sit down and get into it, you’ll realise that everything is actively conspiring against you to make you fail. The more you’ll try to clear your mind, the worse your chain of thoughts will become. If your brain will not succeed into making you give up, your body will work against you and you will start becoming restless. You’ll feel the urge to scratch a sudden itch on your foot or your head, a song will pop up on your mind and you won’t be able to make it stop, then you’ll be thirsty, or your throat will feel dry, you’ll feel too cold, or too hot, your clothes will be too tight, or too loose, then you’ll need to scratch yourself again; if you are in the lotus pose (I beg you, from the bottom of my hearth, do not attempt to do it or meditate in that pose unless you have few months of yoga under your belt), pain will drive you to the brink of madness and then you’ll think “mmmm maybe I should move a bit so I can feel comfier…that’s it… so… what was I thinking about anyway?” and you will give up shortly afterwards. Oh, did I mention that you’ll feel like it was a very stupid idea and a waste of time? Yeah, that will happen too.
Don’t surrender. Please, don’t. If you stick to your guns and impose yourself to keep going, I promise you, meditating will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It took me a while, but now I consider it a pampering session for the brain. My days are less stressful, less emotional, less chaotic and I am much more relaxed that what I used to be. I try to do it first thing in the morning and right before I go to sleep.
My morning meditation gets me all geared up for the day: I go through a list of my tasks, I visualise them in front of me and I’ll prepare myself mentally to face them. It really helps if you struggle with anxiety like me. Then I add few positive affirmations: these acts like an injection of power and strength. I know, it seems totally dumb telling yourself stuff like:
“you are strong”
“you are fierce”
“you are beautiful”
“you are full of love, and energy, and power, and you can accomplish everything”
“there is nothing that you won’t be able to face”
I swear though, it works. BUT! You really must BELIEVE that those affirmations are true for them to work. Just saying them for the sake of “there, I said them, ok?” with a “this is just bullshit” attitude it’s a no-no.
STOP IT: I know what you are thinking right now. It is something along the lines of “yeah right, because I’m going to sit there, telling all this shit to myself, right? How embarrassing is that? Only losers would do it.” How do I know it? Because I thought exactly like that too. I was “better than this bunch of crap”. Until I ended up with my arse on the floor, desperate to try anything to feel better.
I gave it an honest, humble go. I didn’t have anything to lose. I chose to believe. I chose to re-wire my brain with positive messages. It is SO.DAMN.HARD. But. It works wonders. The more you do it, the more it gets easier, and at some point, you’ll realise that you won’t need to force yourself into believing those affirmations: you will own them, and saying them will become a “reminder” game to keep you in the positive loop.
To think what you want to think is to think the truth, regardless of appearances
Wallace Wattles, The Science of Getting Rich
My bedtime meditation is my decluttering, release-all-the-stress session. This is the moment where I let go of everything that happened during the day. If there are lessons to be learned, I will acknowledge them. If something pissed me off, I will analyse it, I will take any positive thing (if any) and then I will let it go. If something made me happy, I will cling on the beautiful feeling I experienced. I will say another round of affirmations, then it’s sleep time, goodbye world, see you tomorrow.
I am, by no means, an expert on meditation, so what you just read is nothing more than my ritual; of course, I invite you to try it and do the same, but you may find out that you’ll need to tweak a thing or two (or everything!) to make it work for you. And that’s the beauty of meditation: once you learn “the basics” and you get the hang of how it works, you’ll make it work for you, there is no right or wrong, good or bad: whichever way you’ll do it, so long as you’ll do it and you’ll do it seriously, you’ll experience the benefits of the practice.
If you are a total beginner, I suggest to start with some guided meditation. Having someone talking you through the process it’s incredibly helpful: it takes away the stress and anxiety of “I don’t know how this shit works, what do I do now. Am I doing good? Am I doing anything meaningful?”. Plus, it makes it easy to learn how to focus and how to deal with all the thoughts that will run around your head, since you basically have to follow the lead and do as told. I still use guided meditation, especially when I’m tired, or sick, and I need to be dragged into my subconscious because I don’t have the strength to do it by myself.
For your meditation resources, Google is your friend, and in Amazon (or any other shop, virtual or physical) you can find books, CDs etc… and then, you got YouTube. Speaking of that, I want to close this post with a bang and share with you the BEST meditation ever. Marge, my close friend and partner in crime, found it and shared it with me. Disclaimer: it is rude, so if you get easily shocked by swearing, maybe don’t click on the following link…
We listened to it so many times that now we know the words by heart, and to thank her I bought her (and myself) the book version. We love it! I even got the app! The best bit? If one of us is feeling a bit low, or is having quite the day at the office, the other one will start reciting this meditation… and we’ll be laughing our assess off till tears.
“..and as you slowly open your eyes, greet the world and everything in it with a new, beautiful breath… of fuck that!”
Jason Headley, F*ck That, An Honest Meditation