THE ONLY WAY IS UP BABY

You can see I istill have “the shoulders” and some abs, but the rest? bye bye……

I promised I’d do it, I feel ready for it, so here we go: this is me, right now, no shame or hiding, two months and something without stepping foot into the gym and one big surgery procedure to my shoulder later. There is no sugar-coating the truth: I lost all my body definition, all the muscles I had are practically gone, some of the weight I worked hard to gain is gone too, I’m very far away from the body I would love to achieve and yes, even though I know that everything is just dormant, ready to snap up back again as soon as I put some work in it,  I feel like a jelly who has never set foot in a gym since the day she was born. I know, I’m so dramatic at times!

Having said that, I’m ok with it. I really am. If this happened to me a year ago, I would have been on the brink of depression and I would have hated myself even more for “putting the effort and then look at you, you failed again, what’s the point of even trying if you are not capable of continuing, you stupid idiot”. I would have massively regretted the journey at the gym, treating myself like a deluded fool for even starting it in the first place, all because I didn’t manage to achieve (as usual, I would have specified) what I set myself to achieve so fuck this shit, let me go back at hiding under the covers to hide, let me get those black baggy hoodies and trousers so that nobody sees me ever again. I’m so glad that the music in my head is very, very different right now!
Yes, I don’t look exactly like I want to look. Yes, I am not exactly a mega fan of my body right now. Of course, if instead of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and surgery I had other two months of training, right now I’d be very fit and happy, but you know what? It’s ok. I am really not (too) upset.

I have learned during these months of therapy and hard work on myself, physically and mentally, that it’s ok to not be ok, and that I have always two ways to see things happening in my life: a negative one, and a positive one. Now, if I were the old me, I’d see this situation I am in now as I explained above. The new me, right now, prefers to think “ok, it happened, it’s a bit upsetting, BUT: I had a massive thing happening (surgery), that I had to have it, because if I didn’t, my body would have stopped me anyway down the line, probably with a ruptured tendon, and the dream about deadlifting and shit? Oh, forget about that. I’d be in constant pain all my life and maybe, maybe, I would not be able to hit the gym period. Yes, it is a stop, but it’s only a pause on a bigger, more fulfilling journey”. It’s just that. There is no hating myself, no holding a grudge, no banging my head on a wall in total despair. I’m on a pause to recover and be better, and just like any pause, once you press “play” again, everything will go back to normal, even if in my “gym-body” situation it’s like I press “rewind” a bit and now I have to re-live the beginning of my journey to progress further.

Another very important factor that changed my mindset is that I learned to love and be more caring towards myself. It’s so weird how I’ve always been able to do so for everyone, but never for myself. I could have never had a down moment, I have never allowed myself to be sick, to be tired, to be unwell, and to “cuddle” myself to feel better. No: I was a failure, I was stupid, I was weak, I was useless, I was proving to the world I was fighting against that I was not worthy, that I couldn’t make it etc… Even when I had my post-natal depression hell, and I was suicidal, I didn’t think “I need caring, I need help, it’s a medical condition and I must help myself rather that fight against myself”. There was no empathy or anything. I’m so glad things changed in a very positive way for me, because now I’m here, staring at myself in the mirror thinking “oh well, next challenge is now officially on, let’s see what I can do now…. And what I will be able to do once my shoulder heals!”.

You know how much energy you waste when you hate yourself? Uuuuh, let me tell you, an awful lot. And you know what you gain out of that? Nothing. Actually, you only lose. You lose self-esteem, you lose self-respect, you lose confidence, you lose yourself. Yeah, ok, you (just like me) may not be the exact replica of Charlize Theron or Jason Momoa, but who cares? It’s what you have inside you that will beautify the way you look outside. Ohhhh, let me tell you this, because this has been the bane of my life for years and years.

This is so true and yes, I was ugly to the bone too for a long while

You know that horrible, negative way of seeing the world and relationships like “I can’t believe that those ugly people there have beautiful relationships and me, meeeeeee (!!!!!) I am all alone, and nobody wants me (insert sad, grumpy face, and attitude like “I don’t get why the universe hates me so much”)”. I raise my hand in shame and include myself in the people who had that thought (more than once), and who have voiced it out loud too, only with the slight difference that I was sure I belonged with the “ugly people” and therefore why this miracle of “being loved” never happened to me? Boo-ooooh. You know why that “miracle” never happened? Because first, it is not a miracle and second, because I may have been average-looking on the outside, but I was such a negative, ugly person on the inside that, of course (duh!) I was not attracting positivity! Of course the “ugly people” were not at the receiving end of miracles, they were just smart, funny, loving, caring, beautiful people, no matter how they looked or I chose to look at them (with infinite jealousy), and they were shining so much of their positivity that they attracted exactly positive things and nothing less. It took me more years that

I’m happy to admit in realising this simple concept, and only after I experienced it myself I was able to see how truly important it is to focus first on what’s going on inside you, and then act on the outside, rather than doing the other way round. Because of this, I’m not too bothered about my body being a bit off at the moment, and being at the stage where I have to start again my quest on being “the Italian version of JLo”. I’m still the beautiful person I was two or three months ago, and with this positive, strong attitude, I’m sure I will quickly bring my body back to what I left it when I had to stop, and take it even further to achieve more and more. Negativity must not have a place in my life, I don’t want it to drag me down and cloud my head any longer. Besides, I LOVE a good challenge, I love when I test myself and I beat all my odds so…. Dear body, bring it on!!!

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I’M GONNA PARTY LIKE IT’S MY BIRTHDAY

Dear all, I successfully celebrated my birthday after years and years of refusal, hate, depression, sadness, negative feelings and it feels GREAT. It feels such an achievement, I’m so thrilled, happy, grateful, you name it. I’m going to party all week long and you can’t imagine how being able to finally celebrate myself without reserves makes me feel happy.

Birthdays have always been a very sensitive topic for me. I started not liking celebrating my birthdays since I was very young, and every year it felt more like a chore than a lovely gathering with cakes and friends. I know why I had these feelings: most of the time it felt like my party had to please relatives and other people rather than me, from the cake to the location to any activity involved. I hated being at the centre of attention anyway, imagine that plus being somewhere I didn’t like, doing stuff I didn’t care about doing together with people I was not interested in being with anyway.
Over the years these feelings have only been exacerbated: the more my mental health declined, the lesser I wanted to attend any party whatsoever, let alone mine, and the more my self-esteem became practically non-existent, the more I found the idea of “celebrating myself” alien to me; who wants to celebrate someone you hate? No one, especially if that someone is, in fact, you.

Every single year my negativity, in addition to my depression, made me behave in a truly awful way in the months leading to my birthday. No, actually, let’s be honest: I was a horrible mess.
I started annoying the shit out of everyone at the first signs of Christmas celebrations around October, and I kept being a moaning, negative, sulking brat till after my birthday. I pestered everyone with my constant “I don’t want presents! I don’t want a party! I don’t want to celebrate anything! There is nothing to celebrate anyway! I hate this, people would only do it because they feel compelled and not because they truly want to do it, and anyway I don’t want it” and on and on and on.

I’m annoying myself just at typing this.

Now, imagine this negative mantra over and over again to whoever dared to listen to it.

I have even been very annoyed at those who gave me presents anyway despite my constant moaning because, listen to this contort brain process, they spoiled my dream of spending a sad Christmas or birthday with no presents and no attention received whatsoever.
I was sad because I couldn’t be sad.
I know it feels the most stupid thing ever, quite the drama queen teenager emo shit, but believe me, I was in such a dark place that nothing made sense anyway to me. Whatever I was going through, it was so bottled up inside me that probably I was looking for these chances to release some of it this way. I was so… in a world of “everything is bad” and “everything is negative” that nothing looked for what it was. I know I sounded totally unreasonable, and that I behaved in a way that “normal” people would have deemed ungrateful, horrible etc. but to me it was the world that was unable to understand me, that was behaving disrespectfully and forcefully violating my wishes of doom and gloom, so much I was hooked up in my brain jail.
On top of that, I married someone who has narcissist traits, and who doesn’t cope well with not being at the full centre of attention, so in addition to my personal frustrations etc. I had someone who, subconsciously or intentionally, managed to ruin every single occasion where I was the celebrated person. Needless to say, if I even dared to think of a “maybe I should have a party this year”, that thought got immediately ripped off my mind with a ton of negativity and the additional “he’ll ruin it anyway”.

I must admit, my old self started to play few games here and there for my birthday this year as well. I was not too comfortable at the thought of celebrating, even though I arranged a pin up birthday party with the ladies at Dollhouse Photography. It still felt a bit weird. I told my boyfriend that celebrating myself it’s something that I’m progressively learning to do, and that I’m not used to be spoiled, loved and taken care of: I’m the one who does those things and I’m never at the receiving end! I had various sessions with my therapist about it and, ultimately, I told myself “actually, Silvia, with all the things you did, with all the issues you overcame, it’s like you are a re-born person, so we might as well start a new tradition and celebrate yourself!”.

the way I hoped my cake looked like… nope… it didn’t happen

I bought more than a hundred purple balloons, I bought myself a purple dress, I let my colleagues, friends and boyfriend spoil me as much as they liked without a single objection to it and I forced myself to keep a happy, positive attitude about the hole thing. The result? I had the time of my life. I felt so loved like I’ve never been before. I savoured every single moment, and even when my cake turned out of the oven looking anything but purple (the food colouring I used was absolutely shit, and instead of a vibrant purple cake I ended up with a grey-ish mess…!), I just laughed about it.

I feel so happy and at peace with myself in a way that I have never experienced. I know it may sound quite odd, but when you spend a lifetime hating yourself and then you go into a journey to rip this negativity out of your brain and turn it into positivity, being able to be comfortable with who you are feels extra special, because it was such a struggle to achieve it. I feel the beauty of accepting myself for the beautiful person I am, without having to always dragging me down for no apparent reason. It is a very nice place to be. I feel like I’m living a brand new life – I am, indeed, living a brand new life, with a brand new set of eyes to see myself and the world I live in differently. I appreciate even all the negative things I experienced, because now I know exactly what I don’t want to go back to and what I rather keep experiencing.

Having said that, you know what are the few things that I don’t like?
Well, first of all, my house looks like the aftermath of a purple balloon apocalypse. Oh, and my son went crazy raging madman when he ripped the poor pinata my boyfriend bought, so on top of the balloons I have pieces of that poor thing everywhere. Aaaand…. Oh my, I’m so tired, I can barely keep my eyes open! I’m getting old, no doubt about it!

I now have two more parties to go, and hopefully a weekend of pure, total, blissful sleep in my pyjama. And this, my friend, is the tale of how I went from “no more parties ever – I hate myself” to “no more parties for a while, I’m frigging knackered and I need my beauty sleep”. It’s the best feeling ever!!

OOOPS I DID AGAIN, ANOTHER PHOTOSHOOT!

Last week I had a moment of craziness, one of those “fuck it, I’m so doing it” and I ended up at Dollhouse Photography studio in Birmingham for my third (THIRD!!!!) photoshoot.

What can I say? I love that place way too much, and if I could, I’d be there every day, even just to see what amazing things those ladies can do to all their clients. That place is like a beautiful, empowering dream: you get there looking plain and normal, wearing your comfy clothes (I always go there in something that’s just one tiny step from being my pyjama), and after couple of hours you become one smoking hot and super jaw-dropping babe, wearing the most luxurious lingerie and accessories, ready to pose like a professional model (because yes, they guide you into posing like one even if your only shoot experience is the pictures with your family and friends – told you they are amazing!!!).

The first time I went there, I took it as a challenge on myself: I was at the beginning of my journey, my therapy sessions started having breakthroughs in the way my brain was (badly) wired, I was more committed to my gym workouts (rather than just hanging around the gym pretending to do stuff) and I wanted to prove to myself that I was up to get out of my comfort, ugly zone and into a world I never even dared to dream. I will never forget the total panic I had when walking through the studio’s door: all I was thinking was “I’m so fucked – this is such a big mistake”. I wanted to run away. The “ugly, zero self-esteem” me wanted badly to hide. BADLY. I told myself “there you go, stupid idiot, you’ll see now how you’ll end up feeling even uglier and more stupid than before you walked through that door”.

Well, it didn’t take long before I discovered how massively wrong I was, and yes, I felt stupid as well: not for the reason I was predicting though, but because I was so so so so so so so succumbing to all my fears and negativity in thinking the way I was thinking.
Amie, the amazing PA (who I love dearly, not only because we share the same job, but also because she is the kindest, sweetest, most caring person ever), gave me the warmest welcome and made me feel sooooo at ease, like I was amongst friends I have always known. She made me feel extra welcome, so much than when she asked me why I decided to have this shoot, I didn’t shy away from telling her the truth: I came out of a very bad breakup, my life has been in tatters, I always thought I was ugly, I had zero self-esteem and yes, I have been suicidal too; this was a challenge for me to see the woman I was working hard to get out in the world, and I was there because I felt they were the only ones capable to make me see her for real. The makeup artist, Nav, listened carefully to what I had to say, and once we settled on what looks and poses we were going to do, she made me steer clear from the mirror till she finished her magic: she decided I needed a “shock” wake-up call there and then, rather than seeing each step of my transformation. Hand on heart, I can tell you, when I finally saw myself, I almost had a heart attack: it was me, it was me the woman I saw staring back at the mirror, only I was looking like a million-dollar Vegas babe. I just couldn’t believe my eyes.

Me trying outfits, feeling AbFab!

You see, I was scared I’d be looking like “fake”, you know, that kind of look where you say “yeah but that’s not me”. No, no, no. That was really me. That was “Yes, of course I’m smoking hot thanks to a very talented makeup artist, but if I wanted to, I could be like that every day with some efforts on my part”. Amie then came round with the most amazing lingerie sets, and wow…. All my worries, stupid self-doubts, low self-esteem, any issue I had just disappeared: I was feeling great in my skin and I was having such good fun. I felt the most gorgeous creature on Earth. Me. It was so unreal. I never felt like that, not even remotely, it was an amazing first and I was so happy it was happening whilst surrounded by such a supportive group of women. Shooting has been amazing, though I must say, holding a pose is not as easy as you can think!
I remember being in what I thought was a very awkward pose, and my body language (not to mention my face) must have screamed “da fuck am I doing” because Monica, the photographer, stopped everything and she showed me the way I looked through her camera’s screen: my jaw dropped. I could not believe that, with no editing or else, I looked that stunning, and that the pose I was desperately trying to hold whilst feeling dumb was making perfectly sense – I just couldn’t know because I’m no model and I don’t “see” what the photographer sees. Needless to say, from that moment onwards, I trusted her and didn’t question anything she was saying. When I left that day, I felt on top of the world, so much that I immediately booked another shoot! Before I left the studio, Monica said to me “now that “the magic” is over, and you go home, hold on to these feeling, because yes, the makeup will be washed away and the clothes can change, but the million dollar woman was you and will still be you, so don’t forget that”. It was something “small”, but it truly changed my life: during the struggles I faced between then and now, I always held on to the million dollar babe feeling, to that confident, fierce, beautiful woman, because that was the “me” I want to be every day from that moment onwards, not the ugly old sad me.

Oh, the day Chrissy (who founded Dollhouse and who’s the outstanding, incredibly talented photographer and picture editing queen) sent me the pictures… I cried. I cried for what it felt like an eternity. I was so, so happy. No, I was more than happy. I was over the moon. Not only the pictures were simply outstanding, but Chrissy and her fantastic team managed to portrait exactly what I needed to see: a mega pink and feminine babe on one side, and a super cool fierce queen on the other. They heard my most secret, hidden-in-my-head dreams and turned them into spectacular pictures. To this day, I look at them in total awe.

one of the pictures I’m most proud of!
Me before Jennifer did her magic….

The second photoshoot… that was something else entirely.
To begin with, I was way more relaxed: I knew what was about to happen, so I was not overwhelmed by the whole thing. I knew the team already (and became friend with Amie in the meantime) so I was more in the mindset of “going to see my friends and have a jolly got time” rather than “I’m going for a photoshoot”. And then… to be really, really honest… I killed myself at the gym every day for a month: my confidence lever was pretty high, I couldn’t wait to show how different I looked since the first shoot. Oh my, we had so much fun. I think I never laughed so much in my life. My body felt just ace. My mind, after all the therapy, was on a totally different planet. This time, I didn’t do it for a challenge: I did it as a celebration.

…and after Jennifer’s amazing makeup session!

A celebration of who I am, of all the things I’ve done, of the war I so hardly fought to be happy and healthy. Jennifer, the super amazing makeup artist, created three killer looks for me, each one fiercer and sexier than the previous one. Monica came up with some awesome and very daring poses whilst Amie made me wear the raciest lingerie sets she found in the magical Dollhouse wardrobe to turn me into three different goddesses. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I can tell you, it’s going to be a blast!!

with Jennifer few moments before the shoot happened – I love her so much!!!!

Last week? Well, that was a decision I took on the spot. Chrissy released a special Christmas promotion, I took it without even thinking too much about it and bam! Here I was again at Dollhouse! I don’t want to say anything about this shoot because… aaahhh it’s too exciting. Potentially, the best so far. All I can say is that, again, Jessica, Monica, Amie and Chrissy blew my mind, and I had the best day ever.

I know, I sound way over excited about this place and the team who runs it, but you know what? I have never met such a group of sweet, caring, kind and talented ladies. It’s so special what they do. It’s way, way more than just “taking a very fancy picture”. It’s even more than “I get to be a model for an hour or two”. I told them more than once that these shoots should be prescribed as a special anti-depressant and self-esteem therapy. Forget the clothes, the makeup, the editing: at the core of what they do, is empowering every woman, no matter how they look, their age, their past, their imperfections, their issues. There is no way you can feel anything but the most special human being living and breathing on this planet when you are in their caring hands. To me, what they did was like a very special therapy session in self-love and self-appreciation. Every time I am tired, and I feel a bit low, I just have to think of what happened to make me smile again. I just need a glimpse at one of my pictures to remember those awesome feelings, and suddenly my day goes to “meh…” to “no, come on, cheer up dude!!”. I think I’ve annoyed the shit out of everyone I know in telling them to go and have one shoot done. It changes you forever, in the most positive, incredibly magic way. You cannot possibly see yourself in the same way afterwards.
Besides, it also helps you understand A LOT of what you see in the media etc. I never look at pictures in the media with the same eyes, now that I know what it takes to make them that way: yes, everyone tells you that “it’s all photoshop, perfect lights and makeup” but until you are there, living it and see it with your eyes, you never really “understand” it.

Anyway, for the record, guess what is my after-surgery prize? That’s right: a fourth shoot! This time it will be a Pinup birthday celebration and I’m telling you, it doesn’t matter how hard and painful my recovery will be, I’ll do everything in my power to be ready to pose and celebrate my birthday (something I NEVER do, and maybe I’ll write about why in another entry) with my dearest amazing ladies. Chrissy, Amie, Monica, Jennifer, brace yourselves, cause hammer time is coming soon!!!