Oh my, it was quite a while since I wrote something on here. I’ve been very busy and so, so tired, so much that my brain was just not coping, and my level of forgetfulness increased drastically over the last days (someone won the lucky chance to hear about my latest forgetfulness experience on a very embarrassing Instagram confession… by the way my dear friend, I managed to retrieve my stuff in the end!!). Oh well, it is what it is, I have no shame in admitting that I’m a bit bonkers at time!
This week has been very demanding, but incredible at the same time. I feel that the universe, or some energy out there, you name it (I don’t believe in God since I’m a Buddhist sympathiser, but I guess that if you do, you can say it’s him?) it’s making me experience stuff to show me how much I’ve grown and changed so far. Or, if you like a more rational experience, I’m experiencing things as I go, I immediately reflect on what the old self would have done instead and notice the striking difference. I prefer the universe option, I like to keep my spiritual side up and running, but each to their own right?
With my closest friend and partner in crime Marge, organisation for our office Christmas party has kicked in big time. No more talking and thinking, now we are venue searching, negotiating, planning, scheduling, placeholding, the whole nine yards of event organisation top to bottom. We have asked a bit of help to an event planner who kindly sent us a list of venues that would suit our company best. Since Marge received the list, I didn’t know what to expect. We arranged to meet near Soho, since all venues at the top of the list where there: when I gave the list a glance, and when I saw the first venue mentioned on that spreadsheet, my heart sank.
St Martins Lane Hotel.
Now, unless you are a designer / architecture student, professional or just passionate, this hotel won’t mean a single thing: it’s “just” a very fancy, quirky, expensive, high-end hotel. If you do belong to the categories I mentioned, you know that I’m talking about one of Philippe Starck’s jewels.
Well, it happens that I almost have a degree in Architecture. I abandoned my studies as soon as I found a job, because I knew quite early in the process that didn’t have what it takes to get that degree and, ultimately, to make it in that world. I wasn’t smart enough for that subject, and I’m not saying to put myself down: it was honestly not my thing. Not everyone is made to do everything, this is just one of those things I am not made for. I would have been an amazing critic, or an architecture journalist, but anything else was a NO. Now I know I have other talents and this is just a learning experience on who I am not, but at that time, I felt that I was a total, dumb, stupid low-QI failure. All my peers seemed to be so smart, so intelligent, so getting what the professors were talking about, and I was just sitting there like if people were talking to me in Aramaic. They were probably naturally more inclined to the subject, way more interested and therefore putting more efforts in their studies than me, but me being me, I used this as a chance to torture myself and marinade in my self-hate and negativity.
Very few things interested me about architecture, and I remember being fascinated by quirky, interior design. That was good fun because it resonated with who I am. A friend and I enrolled in an interior designer class to complement our studies. We got both mesmerised when our professor made us study Philippe Starck and, in particular, this fascinating hotel. Aside from one exam that still haunts me to this day (San Siro council estate houses…. Gives me nightmares to this day and I’m sure my friend Giada thinks the same), I’ve never studies so hard like for that one. I remember my friend and I knew that hotel inside-out like if we’d have been part of Starck’s project entourage. His genius work inspired every single idea we had. We dreamed of having Kartell’s furniture in our house and to be hired by him. When we came to London on a three-day trip, we walked outside the hotel, daydreaming about being able to walk inside. If someone told to young, self-hating, low self-esteemed Silvia that her future self not only would have walked in, but also talked business with the hotel’s management, she would have told that someone to fuck off. Yet, there I was few days ago, staring at the entrance like years ago, only this time I had Marge telling me to get my ass in and get ready for the ride.
I put a brave face, but believe me, I was dying inside. I wanted to cry. My legs felt wobbly and not just because I was on my heels. So many emotions. I looked around in total awe and devotion. I felt like I was inside a very sacred place. The feeling of being there, walking around, seeing such an amazing work of design and pure genius in front of my eyes rather than just in my student books and dreams… I was blown away. Cherry on the cake was dining at Asia de Cuba restaurant: the food was just superb, and I was feeling like a kid at Disneyland, with all the things that I so loved studying surrounding me. It was just wow.
I spent all evening thinking about it and, as you can see, I’m still thinking about it now. I told everyone who could bear to listen to me ranting about it what an incredible feeling it was. I sat on my bed, still digesting that turmoil of emotions, thinking “my gosh Silvia, if you needed a sign that your journey is making you head towards a better place, I think you got it today loud and clear”.
I spent so much time telling myself that I would never accomplish anything in life; that I was just barely average; that I was ugly, stupid, useless; that I would be better off six feet under, no, actually, not even that, I’d be wasting good ol’ soil space; all the things that happened during these years, all the suffering, the pain, the failures, the anger, the dramas, the illnesses…
What I never noticed is that, even though all of this was reality in my head, something inside me never surrendered. Something, some subconscious force inside me, I don’t know, managed to channel them into something positive, into a growing experience; the universe gave me a very loud, final message to bloody get a grip and change, and when I listened and put the work in, I ended up on my two high-heeled feet, stronger than I could have ever imagined of being, in a “I could only dream of it” location, looking at my old-self thinking “well well, you insecure bitch, looks like you were so, so wrong all this time”.
And you know what? whatever is coming my way, bring it on, because if I managed to prove that I can do it when my mental health is at the lowest of the low, imagine what I can accomplish now that I’m working hard and building my confidence!
I have been thinking about writing the following entry for a while, but I have never found the words, or moment, to do it. I kind of avoided talking about my best friend so far because she is the most precious person I have in my life after my son, and even though it is not the first time I shout to the world what an incredible person she is and how much I love her, I kind of kept her away from my blog because… because she deserves so much, and when this thing started I was not in the right mental place to honour her.
This is one of the craziest pictures of me and my best friend, my sister from another mother, my soul mate, my partner in crime, my beautiful friend Sara. Yes, I was dressed as a unicorn, for the record. Yes, it is not the best picture ever, we probably had one drink too many to care anyway when we took it.
We know each other since the dawn of time, but we became very close friends few years ago: my life was shit (I had recently told my ex husband that he was, well, an ex) and she wasn’t doing great either. We started talking, and then sharing our stories, and before we knew it, we were spending every second we were awake texting each other.
People dream about finding “the love of their lives” and make no mistake, I still long to be loved romantically, but what I have found in my friend goes beyond that: she has been there on my side through whatever storm I had to face, whether big or small; she listened to anything I had to say, without passing any judgement, with her arms open to accept whoever I was in that moment (including an inconsolable, depressed mess); she gave me comfort, strength, love, care; I never, ever once felt embarrassed of being truly myself with her, because she is too special, she has always loved me way more than what I loved myself and she never failed to remind me of that, even when I was too depressed to appreciate it. She has always been the only light in my dark, horrible tunnel, and I know that whatever life will bring, she will be just one text away from holding my hand and helping me facing my next war.
She is more than my heart, more than my soul. She is an angel. When nobody remembered I existed, she was the only one who made sure I had the most amazing birthday present waiting for me at home. When I spent two weeks crying solid because my ex boyfriend dumped me, she knitted the softest, most precious scarf so that I could have wrapped myself in it and feel her hug. When I screamed at the world how ugly I felt, she painted the most beautiful portrait of me to remind me that whoever I see in the mirror is not what she sees. Honestly, I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to receive the honour of her friendship, and I always feel like I don’t do enough to celebrate her and to tell her what a gem she is.
Hey, it is not all tears and sadness though: when we are together and the mood is right, we barely breathe so much we are laughing. We are like two peas in a pod. We could spend endless days in pyjama on the sofa without even getting up to go to the toilet. I remember the first time she came to stay for a week at my place: before she arrived, we planned billions of activities. Oh we were supposed to do everything and anything, partying hard, drinking even harder, crazy life. Well, we barely left the house, and when we did it was because we had no other choice (like when we ran out of toilet rolls…).
We can talk very deep and serious things, and three sentences later go bonkers and tell each other the most hilarious jokes ever heard. We curse like sailors, we drink prosecco like it is sparkling water and we could potentially live on a diet based on Aperol Spritz and lasagna.
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for her.
My love for Sara is immense, and I’m grateful, honoured and blessed to have her in my life.
I love her so much, and to preserve our beautiful friendship, I recently felt the need to “push her away”, because I was becoming a horrible person and she didn’t deserve such an awful person like me on her side. I was in a very dark place, my head was full of disturbing thoughts. I was scared, I was badly scared I was slowly going back to my dark hell. She was living a truly magic moment and I was just not in the right mind: I got dumped by what I thought it was the love of my life (more like the leech of my life, but it took a while to see it), I was humiliated, used and abused; he managed to crush every single bit of me and I felt lost, helpless, useless, stupid…. at the same time, she was beginning a new relationship, and living exactly the opposite. I just wanted to die, because even though rationally I was absolutely thrilled for her (and I still am!), at that point in time, everything she was experiencing was exactly everything that it got ripped off from me. I had to take a break, I had to be alone this time, truly alone, to face my demons by myself, because letting her enjoy her moment was paramount and she didn’t need a negative, depressed and damaged person on her side. Also, I knew I could have hurt her down the line (not voluntarily, of course) because I was simply not remotely capable of thinking straight, and believe me, I would have rather killed myself than do anything to make her sad. Coming back to her when the dust settled and the dark, negative fog left my mind felt truly special. To quote Harry Potter (that she really loves), it was like when Ron came back to Harry and Hermione after he left, due to having his mind clouded by holding the horcrux for such a long time: he not only came back to save the lives of his friends, but also managed to destroy the horcrux with the sword of Godric Gryffindor. Ok, I didn’t save her life, but fuck yeah I destroyed my fucking horcrux for good (and boy, it felt so good being able to put “the end” once and for all to that chapter of my life).
So yes, my beautiful, gorgeous, incredible friend: I absolutely love you with every single atom of me. I damn the distance that keeps us so far from each other, but as the saying goes “true friends are never apart, maybe in distance but never in heart”. Never forget my special gift (the mighty lemon) is waiting for you, and it will be my absolute pleasure seeing it on you. You deserve everything and some more, and I will always be your friend forever.
I have always been an extremely skinny girl. You could have easily counted my bones if you’d seen me naked. I take it from my father, who was just as skinny when he was young. Having said that, I have also been underweight all my life because I barely ate. Just as for being a tomboy, to me not feeling hungry and eating the tiniest amount of food was nothing strange.
I just never felt the need to eat. No, I have never been anorexic, nor I ever had any eating disorder. I was born with it. I grew up nicely and hit every milestone with a swiss clock precision, but I simply ate nothing at all. My mum, who has always been an extremely anxious person, had me checked millions of times by any doctor she could find. My father still recalls the embarrassment of having a doctor who just left the house crossing his path with another one that was about to get in, waving at each other and commenting “first child syndrome?” “yeah, good luck!”. Anyway, no matter how many consultants my mum rang, the diagnosis was always the same: “Madam, your daughter is just not hungry enough”.
You would think that, after 100+ doctors, my mum would just resign to the fact that there was nothing that could have “healed” me from this “horrible issue”, but we are talking about my mum here, who always knows best and who definitely knows more than any doctor in her (often deluded) head. I don’t know, to this day, why she took it so personally and why she made such a drama about it (she still does, by the way: when I told her the other day that my personal trainer at the gym put me on a diet – to build muscles – she screamed blue murder because “YOU? DIET? YOU ARE SO SKINNY YOU LOOK LIKE ANOREXIC”). All I know is that, even though she was doing it for my own good, she made my life hell on Earth.
OK, to be fair to her, in addition of not feeling the need to eat, I became quite soon an extreme pain in the arse with my fussy eating habits. The combination of having an extremely low level of hunger with an extremely high level of fussiness and squeamishness, meant that almost everything triggered my “nope, my stomach is closed” feeling. Believe me, it was so dead easy to upset me. If cutlery, glasses and plates were not absolutely spotlessly clean (including no water stains) I just couldn’t bring myself to eat, and because I have a very sensitive nose, these better not have smelled of eggs (it is still one of my pet hates today!). Meat had to be cut into microscopical pieces, because I would have spit everything back on the place if any amount of fat reached my mouth. My plate had to be half full. Pasta had to be barely cooked. Fruit had to be as unripen as possible as I couldn’t eat it if sweet (I still have a thing for sour flavours) and in case it had a stone in it, like peaches or apricot, my mum had to dispose it before I saw it or – shock horror – touch it: It makes me feel weird just thinking about it (And writing about it, aaaaahhhh), it gives me goosebumps and it totally freaks me out.
Lunches and dinners were dramas, with my mum trying to feed me anything she could and me refusing it. The story was always the same: she put food on the table, I would barely touch it, she proceeded in losing her cool, frustration would rise to the roof, she would demand I eat, then she would start threatening, then yelling, then my father would intervene by barking at me to fucking eat my food and I would end up crying staring at my plate, praying my food would just evaporate like water in the heat. This drama at some point changed though: my mum discovered a medicine called Carpantin: it was liquid, it had a sweet, absolutely vile taste and it made me drowsy as fuck. I think my mum made me drink litres of it throughout my childhood. It stimulated hunger, and it kind of worked as, during “the cure”, as my mum would call the month or so she made me have that shit, I ate more than I normally would. Whenever I saw those bottles in the medicine’s cabinet, my heart sank. I don’t remember why, at some point, this hell ended (I think that there has been a shortage of it and my doctor just stopped prescribing it because “enough is enough”).
The mantras I heard day in, day out, was that I looked sick, that I was skin and bones, that I looked like a stick with clothes. When I was a child, I almost felt a sense of pride: I looked like a boy and I didn’t mind, I fit into tiny clothes, nobody teased me for being overweight (though in the 80s being overweight was rare) and it just seemed a fun thing, so I was welcoming those negative comments about my body because to me they were something cool.
Not so much when teenage years started: my peers started to have boobs and curves and well, I still had bones on show. Hearing constantly “you will go to the hospital because you are all bones! “you have only skin attached to your bones!” “look at you, you are so skinny you look sick!”, “you are a stick with clothes on”, “you should stay in the science room as you’d be perfect as a skeleton” went from fun to steadily eroding my self-esteem, and once that was gone, it fuelled hate for my body.
Partly because of my fussiness, and partly because I wanted to gain weight and shush all the “skinny bitch” shit, I started to learn how to cook by myself. My mum is worldwide famous OCD: if anything is not spotless (especially her kitchen), hell will break lose, so she never taught me anything in case I made a mess in her house. I didn’t mind, I wanted to do things my way and learn flavours, techniques and recipes all by myself: yes, I’m a loner when it comes to learning and I thrive when I am left alone to do my own things (this is also the way I managed to get a Law degree: no classroom, just me, my books and a tutor for help).
Turned out, cooking became a relaxing session for my brain: I didn’t have to think anything but what I wanted to eat and what steps I had to follow in order to feed me what I wanted. There was no fussiness, no anxiety, no drama: I had total control on everything: the flavours, the portion sizes, the recipes. Moreover, it helped me be more curious about food, more inclined to taste and give it a go. An amazing world of possibilities opened its doors for me and I loved it because I was the undisputed Queen of it.
Cooking became my life saviour when my post-natal depression took a turn for the worst, and I lived on a chain of endless panic attacks. Guess what was the main thing who triggered my attacks? Yes, food: I became scared of dying of an anaphylactic shock from a random allergy. I know, rationally, that it was absolutely insane, but there and then? No way, Jose. It took me 2 years to discover that the feeling of suffocating and dying triggered by food was due to a combination of asthma and gastric reflux, but in the meantime it was constant horror.
Anything that was not plain pasta (and I mean just boiled, no oil, cheese, nothing), plain rice or water sent me in a terrible meltdown. I lost so much weight in the space of two months that I (truly) became a skeleton with clothes on. No one seemed to care though: doctors brushed me off with “first time mum syndrome”, “it’s just baby blues”, “cheer up and enjoy this moment”, like I was having a blast living in that horrible.
I could have never tolerated anyone cooking for me at that stage. I would have never, ever, trusted anyone to cook exactly how my anxiety dictated and with the only few things that spared me a panic attack. I spent more time than I’m happy to admit staring at my kitchen thinking “here we go again… Russian roulette bring it on….”. I started re-introducing things little by little, one item at a time. Depending on how brave I felt in that moment, or how strong I felt to push myself, I increased variety, I added spices and flavours. It took ages but being the master of my own resurrection has been very empowering (but please, if you read this, don’t feel like there is no help out there: there is. Don’t surrender like me. SEEK HELP. I beg you), but it left massive mental scars that only now I’m managing to heal.
Now that I’m better, I am back at loving cooking for what it is. Over the last couple of years I have also improved my baking skills, and every now and then I test my creations on my colleagues. Funny thing is, when I started bringing cakes at the office, their feedback was “good”, “nice”, “ok”, “amazing”; now that it happens quite often, they are used to it and their feedback is like Michelin Star inspector: “needs more moisture”, “this was good but slightly too lemony”, “amazing, but decoration could have been neater”.
By the way, since I see that my blog gets read all over the world, if you have any recipe please please please share it with me (any good dhal recipe would be greatly appreciated!)!
Before anyone says anything: yes, I am a metalhead and proud.
Yes, I grew up with Kreator, Megadeth, Slayer, Testament and the whole lot of thrash metal; I got more band merchandise than what a “normal” person is supposed to own; I probably spent way too much money on heavy metal gig tickets than what I should have done and yes, I even got Slayer tattooed on my left leg.
I have an insane love for Britney Spears.
I love her, I worship her, she is the mighty Britney bitch and I’m a devoted, proud fan. Whoever says anything bad about her in front of me ends up at the receiving end of a massive rant so don’t you ever dare do it, ok?
LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE, OK?
Lot of people teased me for being a Britney fan in the past, and some still tried to teas me nowadays. As you can imagine, I care about it just as much as I care about what Kim Kardashian ate for lunch today: a big, fat zero.
People think it is absolutely odd for a metalhead, who is all Slayer and horns up, to listen to such a cheesy popstar. The fact that I (predominantly) listen to Heavy Metal doesn’t mean that I cannot appreciate anything else, I mean, I grew up being Madonna fan, and maybe one day I’ll tell the funny tale of that time I went to see her gig alone lying to my mum, but for some reason people are not that bothered about me being Madge’s fan as about me adoring Britney.
I have never bothered to explain the reasons why I am such a fan to these people, mainly because:
a) I knew the people having fun at me were not really interested in hearing them anyway, they just wanted more stuff to laugh at my expenses (like I give a single fuck about it), and
b) because, fundamentally, I couldn’t have been remotely arsed to waste my time and energy to do it, and since it involves my mental health too, the less thing I shared the better.
I did a post on Facebook once about it, but I have been stupid enough to cancel it because it was very personal, and I didn’t want my ex to see it (yeah, call me Queen Dumb, I deserve it). I’ll try to re-explain it here, and I promise this time I won’t remove it.
I hated Britney Spears.
It took me a split second to hate her, as soon as I caught a glimpse of her on tv. She was a fabricated cute little girl vomited out of that Disney club where everyone seemed to be pushed out to make money: Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera… you name it.
When she came out with “Baby one more time” I was already a metal head, and she was the personification of everything I hated in a girl: pretty blonde hair, pretty body, dumb acting like a teenager, silly girlie face and behaviour, that horrid baby voice, the hideous clothes, the even more hideous dance moves…
Shivers down my spine.
She was indeed beautiful, a classic case of “all the girls want to be like her and all the boys want to be with her”. Everywhere you went, every time you turned MTv on, she was there, with her stupid bimbo songs about stupid bimbo stuff. Jeez she made me want to pull my hair and rip my ears! She became big like very few pop stars did, she sang with Michael Jackson (think whatever you want about him, but he was the King of Pop ok?), she did a song with Madonna (!!!) and who can’t forget her performance at the MTv VMAs 2001, with a massive snake on her shoulder? Or the one with Madonna and Christina Aguilera? I watched all of them in a sort of shock horror (for the record, “I’m a Slave for You” it is not one of my favourite songs still today).
I kept disliking her for years, who cares about that American, ex-Disney stupid girl anyway right? She is nothing like the Real Queen of Pop Madonna, I don’t care.
However, the picture-perfect image of this lovely cute girl suddenly started to break. She became like a wild beast in a cage, trying to get out of a very gold prison she wasn’t happy to be locked in anymore… and one day she just lost her shit. Royally. Like a supernova explosion, she literally exploded in a massive, full blown mentally insane fit: she shaved her beautiful, gold blonde hair, she beat the shit out of a paparazzi car with an umbrella, she was completely, completely insane. Her eyes when she shaved her head where those of someone who’s not right in their head and that cannot be stopped unless sedated. Everyone who was there with her was either trying to get a picture of her or trying to upset her even more to make her go even crazier. I felt sick in the stomach.
I remember watching the footages (the “perks” of being a celebrity is that all your ups and downs get ruthlessly broadcasted on and on and on….) and I just felt… sorry.
I was so sorry for her.
I wanted to hug her, to hug her like I would have hug my best friend in a similar fit of rage, and just cry with her.
For once, I felt even luckier than her: very few people witnessed me losing my shit, having panic attacks, and ending up in a very horrible meltdown, or not making it on time to get to the toilet during one of my anxiety attacks and… well… etc. etc. Everything people know about my problems is what I decide to share. It is up to me what I want to make people aware of, I have full control of it. When I cut my long hair very, very short, not too far from Britney’s shaved head, because I hated myself and I wanted to rip off the only thing I liked about me, I didn’t have an army of people outside, taking billions of pictures of me and laughing at my expenses. It was just me and a stupid hair stylist, who should have spent a bit more time talking with me and maybe, just maybe, convince me to gradually shorten my hair, rather than chopping all my locks in one go then grabbing the razor like he had been waiting for that moment all his life. It took me 6 years to set foot in another hair saloon, such traumatic was that experience. Still, no one waited for me outside to laugh at me and my almost bald head. Thankfully. I would have killed myself there and then, and I mean what I’m saying (I was that fragile).
Britney? Not so much. Every single detail fed tabloid for months, and years. Her pictures, the measures that her family had to take in order to keep her alive and (medically) cared for, the custody of her kids gone to that work-shy sleazebag of her ex-husband, everything. It still haunts her today, 11 years later. Everything she does, good or bad, she will always be “the one who went mental” in 2007. All. The. Time. Give it a bloody rest, we got it!!!
That day, Britney may have lost her marbles, but she gained a fan: me.
I started rooting for her. Every progress she made, I was there cheering for her. When “Blackout” came out, I bought it immediately, and much to my surprise, I loved it to bits. It is still amongst my all-time favourite albums ever, together with Slayer’s “Reign in Blood”, Kreator’s “Endorama” and Megadeth’s “Rest in Peace”. If you wonder, my favourite song from “Blackout” is “Break the Ice”. No discussion about it mates.
When she performed “Gimme More” at the VMAs in 2007, not in her best mental and physical shape, I cried all my tears in front of the tv: everybody bitched and trashed her, saying she was a fat cow unable to move and sing. Yes, she wasn’t exactly in the same shape of when she was dancing with that bloody yellow snake years before, ok. However, what I saw was more than what the tv transmitted: I saw a strong woman, performing in the face of all the shit that happened to her, still trying to do her bit in the best way she could. Yes, it was atrocious, but I dare you do the same when your mind is in a blur: best of times, when I’m in my worst states, I can barely tolerate to function, let alone get on a stage and putting up a show. When it was my turn to go to work even though I was suicidal and out of my right mind, that performance kept playing in my head: “if Britney did it in front of a huge crowd, live on tv where millions of people were watching, so can I” I kept repeating myself. Every single minute of every single day.
Still today, every time I have to face something difficult, I channel that thought in my head and off I go.
I am so happy that not only she recovered, but that she is still a successful performer, has her life back on track, a smoking hot body, her kids back with her and so many good things. Think what you want, I don’t care, she deserves everything she gets.
Why all this blurb about Britney?
Well, on Friday I went to see her live in London, for the very first time in my life.
Yes, I was still recovering from food poisoning, but I was there.
I wore my hair extensions, some very pink and funky makeup (I had to get ready at the office, in the only Friday where everyone was in, so I had the pleasure of doing a walk of shame out of it) and yeah, as you can imagine, I was so agitated and emotional that I felt almost sick.
The gig was…. Well, the only thing I can say is that I cried all my tears. All my emotions, all my suffering, all my mental problems… I felt like it was the beginning of a new era for me. I sang all songs, I danced like crazy, I laughed and had fun with everyone around me, it was just magical. Magical.
I don’t care if she lip-synced all her performance, or if her moves where not super complicated: the whole show was just exceptional, and I had the night of my life.
Before anyone asks: no, I didn’t take any picture of video of the show. I kept my phone in my pocket and just lived the moment as it was unfolding (and I was too busy trying not to lose my fake eyelashes because I was in a flood of tears).
The next day I felt like I suddenly became a 98 years old woman, since part of my body ached (including my hair: fucking hell, hair extensions are heavy!!!). I regretted not having bought tickets to see her even Saturday and Sunday, but hey, I’m sure it won’t be her last tour and who knows what the future holds for both of us?
I suffer with anxiety.
Well, I always suffered with anxiety.
I think it is fair to say that anxiety has been my loyal, faithful partner for as long as I can remember. The only partner I wished would have cheated on me and leave me for good! But nope, not a chance in hell…!
Anxiety has affected the vast majority of aspects of my life, and even now that I’m therapy and I am more equipped to fight it, I still feel the stomach turning, the bowels moving, the breathing getting heavier and that frigging feeling of an anvil suddenly pressing my chest and making me gasp for air.
People think anxiety is just in your brain. Yeah right, maybe when it is mild.
When it’s crippling, and severe, and ruling your own life, you’ll soon see the nasty, physical effects of it: feeling sick like you are about to vomit; having to keep track of every toilet, everywhere you go because you know your bowels won’t wait for you to talk yourself out of your sudden attack; feeling like your blood pression is suddenly going down and that you’ll soon faint; your face getting covered in spots as soon as your stress level hits the fan…. No, nothing pretty indeed. I wish there was a mental illness who made you look red carpet ready….
Anxiety has been my worst enemy at times, especially when it stopped me from experiencing things, participating into various activities etc.. How many times have I avoided the gym because I was too anxious to faint? How many Sundays have I spent dreading going back to work on Monday? How many times I have avoided meeting friends because I was too anxious to feel sick after eating?
To be fair though, it also saved me from a lot of stupid stuff: I have never ever dared to entertain the idea of trying drugs because of my anxiety, but at the same time, whenever a doctor puts a medicine in front of me, I struggle to convince myself to take it (as we speak, I’ve been six years taking only paracetamol such is the anxiety about everything else).
I don’t want to write a sad, commiserating post about anxiety though. No no no, I’m not in the mood, and one of my best features is the fact that I’m an amazing clown and I can laught about anything regarding myself… and don’t they say that laughter is the best medicine? Well, I would like you to join me in some of my most hilarious anxiety episodes. Come on, anxiety can make you do rather crazy stuff at times, it is only fair that we use them for a more positive aim!
Episode 1 – the dreaded dentist
I was… I think…. 20 years old. I know I was older than 18 because I was driving my own car. Anyway, I used to have a phobia of the dentist. When I was a kid, dentists in Italy (or, at least, then ones I saw) were more like butchers than teeth’s angels. I know for a fact that more than one person has been traumatised like me and had to endure a life of crippling anxiety whenever they had to have their teeth fixed.
I have avoided the dentist like the plague since my teens. I have been so scared and traumatised that I preferred to keep my wonky teeth rather than having anyone sticking their hands in my mouth. Unfortunately for me, a single, annoying as fuck wisdom tooth decided to pop in my mouth, and I had to resign myself to the fact that I had to have it removed.
A friend of my mum told her that she had a great experience at a hospital nearby where I lived. With a feeling of doom and gloom, I decided to face the situation and book an appointment.
Worst thing that can happen to someone with anxiety? Waiting rooms. You are there, on your own, in these kind of ok rooms, and you feel like an animal trapped in a cage waiting for your turn at the slaughterhouse. The more you wait, the more anxiety builds in you. If you have the nurse popping in and out calling a name that is not yours, it feels like you just barely dodged a bullet. So, there I was, trying to not vomit, faint or die of heart attack. My legs were restless. I felt like I was sitting on a hot surface. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t think straight, I could barely, just barely keep a straight face and not cry.
The nurse called my name, and I kid you not, my legs became the consistency of jelly. I walked towards the dentist room like “dead man walking”. The dentist was quite nice, I must admit, but I couldn’t listen to anything he was saying: I was in panic mode. I sat on the dentist chair and I felt trapped. I started to sweat like all the water in my body suddenly wanted to get out.
I had to do something.
I had to get out of that room.
As soon as the dentist grabbed his mirror to check my mouth, I begged to go to the toilet.
The dentist tried to talk me out of it, but I begged him – my bowels were having none of it, you know, anxiety. The nurse, a bit annoyed, showed me where the closest toilets where located.
With the chilliest, calmest attitude, I thanked them, left the room…. And I felt my legs moving way faster than what I wanted them to move.
And not heading towards the toilet either.
I was running, running like my life depended on it, running like Ussain Bolt trying to smash his Guinness World Record. I’m telling you, I ran like the wind and some more. To this day, I never managed to replicate that awesome performance – I would have been recruited at the following Olympic Games for sure!
I sat on my car, turned my phone off and I drove away as quickly as I could, in case they chased me.
At the time I was crying hysterically, now that I think of it I just can’t stop laughing: gosh, imagine the dentist and the nurse… I am still embarrassed to this day… a bit… (but I’m laughing hard).
I’m happy to say that this year I decided to do something about this phobia: I swear, I googled “dentist for very anxious patients” and I discovered that, at least in the UK, there are dentists specifically trained to deal with patients suffering from severe anxiety. Not only I managed to fix my cavities (yey!), but…. Yeah, I got my wisdom tooth removed! Ok, I had to be highly sedated, but still, I didn’t run away and the day of my surgery I showed up and went ahead with the operation.
Oh, and for the record: I even warned my (new) dentist saying “I have a tendency to run away from hospitals”. His answer: “I won’t stop you, but just so you know, taking that tooth out will be a 2 minutes job, and then you’ll be back in your room where a massive bowl of ice cream will be waiting for you”. Fair play to you dentist, you smarty pants!
I felt so proud of myself!! Next step? Straightening my teeth!
Episode 2: meet your hero
In one of my previous blog posts I talked about my absolute, crazy love for heavy metal. Every single time I thought I was helpless and alone, music has been right next to me, giving me last final push to do amazing things I never thought I’d be able to achieve.
This happened two and a half years ago. The worst and most horrendous part of my post-natal depression was finally behind my back. Mind you, I was not doing great, but I wasn’t suicidal either. I was doing ok and I was relieved to be able to live a rather normal life. My ex-husband and I, at that point, were married just on paper: he didn’t stick with me (and he even made things worse for me) when things got rough with my mental health, and now that things were improving and I was re-discovering who I was and how I functioned, it was me who didn’t want to stick with him anymore. To me, overcoming my mental ordeal alone and using only my willpower was the Ultimate Proof of my Strength and Fierce Independence. He proved to be a narcissist attention seeker, and I was not in the mood to feed any of his martyrdom needs.
Anyway, I was scrolling my Facebook newsfeed one day and BANG! Great news: one of my favourite singers ever, Mr Udo Dirkschneider, was announcing the ultimate tour of my secret dreams: with his band U.D.O. he would have played all the best and most famous Accept songs. Oh my gosh I grew up listening to Accept, and Udo has always been one of my German heavy metal heroes. Was I going to miss this event? No fucking way in hell.
Without even thinking too much I bought my ticket and my VIP upgrade so that I could meet my hero. I was geared up, I was excited, I was already singing and savouring the moment. I remember it clearly because it was around my birthday in January, and the gig would have been in April. I told my ex-husband what I did, and he said “oh, so you are going alone?”, expecting me to say “do you want to come with me?”.
I just answered “yes I am”.
And then I realised.
I was going to go alone.
Anxiety hit me like a tsunami. A barrage of negative thoughts filled my head: what if I have a panic attack? What if I have more than one panic attack? What if I freak out and I’m in the middle of the room, full of crazy, headbanging metalheads? What if I faint? What if my anxiety gets so much that I can’t even come back home? What if, at night, I get stuck on a train back home and I am in such an anxiety state that I forget English and I can’t ask for help? The list goes on and on and on. I tried to calm down: I still had few months to go before the actual gig, and anyway, its’ not like I’d be held at gunpoint forcing me to go if I decided to not go last minute, right?
Time went by and April arrived. I had that gig in my calendar and it felt more and more like a death sentence the closer it got. Then, the day arrived. I spent a day at the office totally restless. I think I’ve annoyed the shit out of everyone that day. I begged everyone to give me an excuse not to go (do you want me to finish this work? To do anything at all? How about we have a meeting at 6pm….) but… there were none.
Ok, what do I do now?
I decided to take the evening one step at the time.
First, I decided to get there and see how I felt. The tube journey was ok, I mean, nothing different from what I do every single day, twice a day.
Next step, queuing up at the venue’s entrance. Having a VIP ticket meant I had to get there earlier than everyone else, so the place was basically empty. That helped a lot, since it took away the “oh my gosh, all these people and I’m in the middle” anxiety bit. Having said that, someone with anxiety doesn’t really cope well with waiting, and I surely wasn’t happy. I started walking around, increasingly more nervous as time went by. I could feel my stomach twisting and turning. I was about to say “fuck it, I’m going home” when I heard the guy managing the VIP list gathering people for the Meet and Greet.
Deep breath, ok. At least I can meet Udo.
I got into the venue and my heart was racing. I could feel it beating in my head.
We had to go two floors down, and the more steps down the stairs I took, the more my legs became wobbly: I thought I would have ended up fainting, falling down, breaking my head and dying there and then. Without meeting Udo! For fuck sake!
I managed to get there intact. And after few minutes…. Udo came from backstage. I started crying like a baby.
He has been super sweet and kept hugging me till I managed to compose myself. I was over the moon! I kept shaking like electricy was running up and down my body. When we took a picture together, I couldn’t stand still. Udo laughed and said (with a very german accent) “no, stop shaking, we need to take beautiful picture now. And if the first is not beautiful enough, we take another one ok? No panic”. Sweet! He made my day (of course I hugged him again, and again).
When the Meet and Greet ended though, it was time to face the gig alone.
I went back upstairs, and I decided to stay on the side of the stage, avoiding the crowd. The supporting bands did their shows, and everything was ok. Then, U.D.O. time came… as soon as the first song started, I started singing and jumping. By the third, I was in the middle of the crowd. Mid-set, and I was front row singing my heart out. My brain just shut down and filled itself with music. It was the best feeling ever. I cried, I sang, I headbanged, I laughed, I was in heaven.
I even waited outside to meet the whole band, and I can’t thank Sven Dirkschneider enough for being a truly amazing guy. It was dark, it was cold (as fuck), I was the only female human being out there, but he spent few minutes with me and made sure I was ok and happy. Sven, if you ever read this, I have never forgotten how kind you have been with me, and I owe you!
It sounds a bit weird to say that, but without my job, I would probably be dead by now. My work has been my life saviour when my mental illness reached its worst bit, and if I’m here typing this blog with my sanity (almost) fully intact, it is only because I had an office to go to 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.
I am an Executive Assistant, which is like a Personal Assistant on a higher level, or as I like to say it, I’m either a “glorified secretary” or a “babysitter for adults in the corporate world”. Jokes aside, my job is only one thing about me that I have always loved desperately, fiercely, and immensely.
I have always been a person full of hate for everything regarding myself: I hated my body, I hated my life, I hated my brain and all the mental stuff going on in there, I hated the way I look, the way I talk, the way I dress, I hated everything and anything and some more, but never, ever, EVER my job and the person I am once I close the office’s door behind my back.
Outside work I was a mental mess, weak, ugly, shy, insecure, with barely any self-esteem; at work, I transformed myself in a highly confident, strong, efficient, tireless, unstoppable Silvia, who can do whatever it’s requested and some more on the side.
My work has been instrumental in moulding the person I am today, and the reason is because I met amazing people who have coached me and helped me grow, both inside and outside the office.
I remember my first ever job as a guest assistant in Milan’s main business exhibition centre. For a shy person like me, who could barely look at people in the eye, let alone speak, it turned out to be a baptism of fire. Having said that, the buzz of wearing a uniform and be helpful made me feel on top of the world. When I stepped in my first office as a junior secretary aged 20, I was both terrified and fascinated at the same time. I got hired by this family-run company who traded in the production and supply of concrete materials for the building industry.
I knew absolutely shit nothing about it, and I was only supposed to be the pretty lady who opens the door of the show room to our customers, the one who brings the coffee to the boss and does very basic secretarial stuff (answering calls and emails, buying stationery and keeping everything tidy). My manager didn’t take long to see the potential I had and not only he gave me more and more responsibilities, but he also encouraged me to come up with my own ideas to improve things in the office: from re-arranging the showroom, to re-organising the way he kept track of all sales, together we revolutionised that small office and made it in a highly efficient one. My manager soon became my best friend and we had the greatest time ever. I loved working for that company to bits. Unfortunately, mismanagement and a though economic situation in Italy meant that the company had to cut costs, my office got sacrificed in the name of savings and I got made redundant.
I cried all my tears.
Thankfully I got hired pretty quickly by another company, this time a worldwide Certification Body (ever heard of 9001, 14001 and 18001 certifications? Me neither before that job). The best way to describe those two years is: hell on Earth. My manager was the most hideous, horrid and nasty piece of work I have ever encountered in my life. He hated me from day one, because I got hired by someone he hated (like it was my fault, right?) so in his eyes I was “the enemy”. Like I could have cared less to go at war with someone who pays my salary! He insulted and humiliated me very single day for whatever reason he could have thought of, whether work or non-work related. Anyway, this two years taught me a lot more than I’m happy to admit, and all for the wrong reasons: I became an ace at covering my back, at protecting myself against anything and everything thrown at me. I learned to mask my true feelings, to watch my back like a CIA spy, to solve any issue as soon as I became aware of them and before they landed on my manager’s desk, and to keep a straight, imperturbable face anytime I got yelled at (only to run and cry in the bathroom, or in my car). Gosh, I don’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. Two years of pure bullying. I prayed every day, whilst driving my car, to have an accident and end up in hospital for months. Thankfully it never happened.
My saving grace came when I decided that I had enough, and I wanted to change so badly that I was ready to go and work anywhere, for anyone, as long as I could get out of that shithole.
Every day, driving to my workplace, I could see the headquarters of this very famous American company. One day I told myself “why not checking their website. They must be hiring someone. Maybe I could send my CV there and then who knows, my commute would be parking there instead of here”
Me being me, I got all fired up, I started browsing their website and applying to every job I could without not even remotely caring about the actual location of it. Two days later I get an email back from the HR leader saying she was very interested in my profile and to give her a call to discuss the role and get to know each other. Her phone number started with 02, which is the same as Milan. AWESOME!
I call, and the number is not working.
I check the email back. No, I typed the number correc… hold on a minute. I scroll the email to the bottom. I read her signature. I check her phone number. It is actually +4420something something.
Shit, it’s London.
Oh well, I’m sure that’s because this is a worldwide company, with offices all over the world, I bet they want to test my English level.
No. It didn’t take long before the HR leader asked me where in London am I living because the office was going to move from Mayfair to Hammersmith and she wanted to make sure my commute was not an issue…. And I had to tell her that actually, commute-wise, I had quite a journey since I lived in Italy! We liked each other though, and she told me she was coming to Italy for her holiday in the next couple of weeks and she would have loved to meet me.
We did, and it was love at first sight. However, I didn’t hear a single thing till a month after that meeting (and my hopes were already dead by then). She apologies profusely, asked me if I was still available and if so, if I was interested in relocating to London and join the company.
I think my heart stopped for what it felt like a lifetime.
I ran in my living room screaming like I was on fire. When I broke the news to my parents, my mum started crying and screaming “my baaaaaaabyyyyyyy going so far awaaaaay” (…..), whereas my dad tried to keep his cool and calm me down. I cried, I didn’t know what to do, but my dad talked me into accepting the offer and give it a go: a month, maybe six, at least a year…
8 years (and counting) later, I’m so grateful for having grabbed that awesome chance.
I moved to London as a young, fragile, ultra-shy girl, still traumatised from two years of bullying. I have been welcomed by a team of wonderful people, who took me under their wings and worked non-stop to re-build my self-esteem, to inspire me into trying new things to improve myself and, most importantly, they became my new family and they moulded me into this crazy, confident, no-shit taker and no fool suffering fierce woman. I remember the very first time my manager called me on stage after a two-days long convention I organised for him to praise me in front of a 100+ colleagues. As soon as everyone gave me a standing ovation, I burst into tears (and I’ve been inconsolable for a good half an hour afterwards!). I still cry whenever I get any gesture of appreciation. I’m a softie, what can I say!
When my mental health took a turn for the worse, it was my workplace who stepped in and saved me. I never told anyone what I was going through at the time, but the fact that I had things to do and people who trusted me to do them well turned out to be a massive help. Even though I felt more like wanting to (seriously) die than face my day, knowing that I was going somewhere safe and caring gave me that strength to get out of bed and keep going on.
I still work for that awesome American company, even though I had a three years stint at
the BBC at some point. My office is made of crazy, funny, awesome people. We work really hard and we party even harder. I became famous for my acts of craziness. Everyone knows that when I go “I have an idea: how about….”, something totally bonkers is about to happen, like when I decided to not sleep one night to chat with my Chinese colleagues in order to get some documents one of colleagues desperately needed, or when at Christmas I started a “decorate your desk” challenge, and since very few decided to participate, I took the matter in my own hands and I wrapped every single desk like a Christmas present……
My boss is awesome. He is at the receiving end of my rants every Monday mornings. Seriously, he is a legend, and the team I work with is just fantastic, we love each other to bits and there is no better cure for my sadness than hanging out with them. The day I got dumped and I was unusually quiet, everyone rallied around me to cheer me up. Well, every time I’m too quiet they check on me, because it means that I’m either very sad or scheming something….
And when I’m plotting something, it is generally one thing: a proper prank.
It started one day that a colleague pissed me off by not complying to my instructions, meaning that I ended up sorting a massive mess. I wanted to make him pay for what he did.
I made a mistake ordering stationery few days earlier and I found a way to sort that problem and avenge myself: I covered his desk in post-it.
I patiently peeled them one by one and covered the whole thing. Not a soul that day dared to stop me. I was mad! His face when he saw it the next day… PRICELESS!
Oh, the day the same colleague stole my spot at Wimbledon by convincing one of the managers to take him and not me!!! I was FURIOUS. I was hysterical. I slammed my fists at my desk and yelled “SHIT IS GOING DOWN TODAY!”.
I stormed to my colleague Marge’s desk, told her to get ready cause Wimbledon was coming to the office. She looked puzzled but let me get on with my madness.
It took me a good hour to get everything I needed whilst cursing and hissing, but in the need I turned his desk into a Wimbledon court. A work of art.
I’m still proud as fuck about it. It was so good that Marge and I went to Tesco, bought champagne, strawberries and cream (traditional of Wimbledon’s tournament) and had an office party there and then. We even sent the pictures to our colleague saying, “when we can’t come to Wimbledon, we make Wimbledon come to us”.
For another colleague/friend who always had a massive breakfast at his desk every morning, I turned his desk into a breakfast heaven for his birthday. The look on his face when he saw it: his jaw dropped to the floor.
The very best? One of my managers resigned and I cried all my tears when he did. He is a Liverpool FC fan to the core, which I hated since my ex is a scouser and anything Liverpudlian makes me sick because of him. However, I loved my manager too much to let him go without a special present.
On the Monday of his last week, I printed everything I needed. Then, on the Tuesday, I woke up at 4am, got to the office at 5am, locked myself inside his office room and turned it into Anfield stadium, completed with football pitch with Chelsea FC (my team!) against Liverpool FC.
It was just magnificent.
He worked his remaining days without even moving a single picture because he loved it to bits.
To this day, I haven’t managed to make anything that special (yet), but something tells me I should start coming up with something soon….
When people say “music saved my life”, I don’t have to make any effort to believe it.
I am one of them too.
My life saviour was Heavy Metal, discovered through MTv (dinousaur mode on: back in my days, MTv was a true music channel!). In Italy, we could only watch the US version of it, and just for a handful of hours a day, as it was hosted on another italian tv channel. MTv Italia came later on, when MTv headquarters realised that Italian youngsters were eager to have a brand new, modern channel dedicated to them.
Being a teenager, I soon decided that sleeping a decent amount of hours at night was overrated, and that staying up late at night (and waking up with massive dark circles around my eyes) was super cool; Star Trek The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine were on at 1am, so there I was, cup of tea in my hand, mesmerised in front of my best friend forever the TV, and who cares if the price to pay was being a zombie at school the next day.
One night, skipping channels out of boredom, I ended up watching a programme on MTv called SuperRock.
That music! Those guitars! Those sweaty, long haired people shouting anger and fury at a microphone, surrounded by even sweatier and angrier people down the stage. I had an epiphany there and then. Like for all my passions, I went from nothing to “I’m so into it like nobody can ever be able to”. Out with the colours, in with all black clothes.
Yes, Madonna was my hero (because she was so doing whatever she wanted to do, whether it was appropriate or not, and to me she was an inspiration of the woman I wanted to be), I quite liked rock music and I am still a proud Queen fan, but other than that, pop music never spoke to me at a deeper level. Boy bands? oh dear me no… I found them embarassaing (now, 20 years later, I am one with Gary Barlow and Gary Barlow is with me. Oh, and Backstreet’s back alright!).
Spice Girls? PPPlllease. Bunch of chavs (I didn’t know what a chav was, of course, but in Italy we called them “zarri” o “tamarri” which is kind of the same thing).
That creepy dance music? What is love (baby don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more – sorry I HAD TO!)?
Heavy metal didn’t need me to be anything but myself. All that frustration, all that fury, all the drama of being so not the norm, suddenly it had a voice, and a fucking loud as hell one. I finally found something I could relate to.
Hiding in my bedroom now went from “I hate everyone, I don’t want them to see what an ugly, stupid disaster I am” to “I’m meditating about life whilst listening to Slayer”. Hours and hours with headphones on, crying over those lyrics, raising my horns up in the sky, releasing through those guitar riffs all the pain I had inside. Those people really knew what I was going through, they were just like me, only older and more famous. I found my dimension.
My parents were not convinced at first, but being my parents and being used to my craziness, they decided it was best to allow me to enjoy my latest passion rather than denying it. They hoped that, like other previous stuff I got into, I would grow out of it at some point (hopefully sooner rather than later) and maybe, just maybe, that I would pick something less doom and gloom next (unfortunately for them, it never happened).
I saved like a crazy Uncle Scrooge every single penny to afford any metal album out there. I was like a drug addict, I needed more, more, more, more! On the subject, I would like to officially blame Luca Signorelli (HAHAHA I love you!) who, thanks to his album reviews on the italian version of Metal Hammer, made me fall in love with some amazing bands I still adore to this day (Kreator, Megadeth and Testament, to name a few!). My poor dad had to be dragged every single Saturday to the music store to buy CDs (“dad, Luca says that Endorama is a bomb, I have to have it”; “dad, you don’t get it, I know, but Machine Head “The More Things Change” is like… omg dad… read Luca’s review, come on, I MUST OWN IT RIGHT NOW daddy please daddy he is raving about it I will die if I don’t listen to it”). My dad rolled his eyes, resigned himself at spending another Saturday amongst the weirdos at the music store and stared at me and my peers, surrounded by those CDs with these quite creepy covers, pretending to be totally fine even though he looked like a fish out of water, because yeah, she is my daughter, she is cool, poor you other dads who don’t get it.
My mum, eager to do shopping with her daughter even-if-not-for-the-lovely-pretty-dressed-she-hoped-for, came with me to all those metal-dark-all black shops full of band merchandise (SoundCave and Mariposa, I salute you!) and helped me pick the best t-shirts (“no that dragon is too brown, get this one instead, the red writing matches your new jeans better, oh and you definitely need this one with all these skulls and blood. Oh, get this long-sleeve, for colder days. Oh, accessories! Get this necklace with this 15cm sword pendant”). Of course, she also got me a leather jacket because you ain’t a metalhead without having one. FACT!
Best of all, I was allowed to wear those t-shirts at school. My mum said so. Who am I to go against my mum?
Yes, ladies and gentleman, we didn’t have school uniforms in Italy (and we still don’t)!
Once a teacher dared to make me feel bad about my beloved Blind Guardian t-shirt, featuring a scene from J.R.R. Tolkien’ Silmarillion; she said I should have worn it upside down because she couldn’t stand that horrible drawing of some creepy satanic scene. I went histerical and I basically told her she was ignorant as fuck (ok I didn’t say it in these terms, of course, I was a good girl, I didn’t want to be suspended) because those satanic drawings were, in fact, a scene from the Silmarillion written by Tolkien, and that maybe she should have studied some proper literature before saying shit about my shirt.
Read some books bitch!
Of course the teacher was not impressed at my attitue and of course she called my mum. If you read my previous posts, you know that my mum is… my mum. Yeah, she stormed in my teacher office telling her to mind her fucking business, that her job was to teach me Latin, not to be fashion police, besides what the hell she thinks she knew about fashion anyway, it is known that black is flattering, skulls are cool, and I picked the t-shirt for my daughter, it is not offensive in any shape or form, it is art, this is Tolkien ok? Never heard of the Lord of The Rings? Hey I will make my daughter wear it every single day till the end of the school if I have to OK? How about you get the book and you read it in class so that you can teach the kids some culture?.
Aaaaand I ended up parading metal shirt all school year long.
Cheers mum, you da best!
I remember the very first time I went to a metal gig: Blind Guardian were playing in a little, punk / rock place called Rainbow in some dodgy area somewhere in Milan. A friend and I, both 14 years old (I think) went there totally unprepared for what we were about to experience: we thought we were super cool and super alternative, probably amongst the older chaps in the place. Turns out, we were just… exactly who we were. Two kids. Amongst very hairy, older, taller, bigger people than us. We kind of lied to our mums to be able to go (“noooo don’t worry it is just… some Germans…. Fans of Tolkien…. Yeah super cool thing, fantasy lovers, nothing to be concerned….”), and I can still see as it happened yesterday the look of pure horror and terror when they realised where their precious 14 something years old offspring were about to spend their evening. We smiled and waved, then run inside in the hope they would not chase us and drag our sorry asses back in the car and home. We were sure we’d be grounder for couple of years after this, but fuck it, we were too cool to care. We had the time of our lives. Metal has always been (at least back then) such an inclusive community, because at the end of the day we were all in the same condition of being outcasts, and weird, and different, so if you had a band t-shirt and you lived and breathed metal, you were part of the family and be looked after. Period.
Incidentally, my love for heavy metal happened at the start of what I like to call “The tech revolution” in Italy. It was the beginning of a “fast”, reliable, affordable 24/7 internet. Before that, internet was only for those who could pay quite the eye-watering telephone bill, and if you wanted it for free you were allowed only 30 minutes a day. But there’s more: you had to unplug the landline phone, plug the internet one in, turn on that fucking noisy 56k modem and hope for the best. Ahhhh, those where the days where websites were 4 lines of texts and a picture or two, and you’d see it loading line by line. You had to have patience. Now I freak out if my 4G doesn’t load BBC Sport in 3 seconds. Our parents used to yell at us if we forgot to re-plug the landline back, and important calls went missing (yep!). Google made its debut and suddenly everyone discovered what a search engine was. Gosh I feel ancient! ANCIENT!
The world started to feel smaller. In the comfort of my room, I discovered I could connect with everyone, from Australia to Peru; most importantly, I discovered something totally ground-breaking: I was not alone.
I was NOT alone.
Out there, thanks to my computer, I had the power to reach tons of people that were like me.
Weird, like me. Different, like me. Listening to heavy metal, like me. Wearing black, like me. Being outcasts, and nerds, and crazy, and fun, and intelligent, and non-judgemental…. And the list goes on and on. Words cannot express how good and relieving it felt to finally be part of something, to have a gang of friends always ready to be there for me and chat with me and have fun with me anytime I switched my computer on.
Of course, my parents wanted to make sure I was not ending up in some satanic cult, so they met all my new friends, and because all of us were based in various cities across Italy, they drove me to whatever city we decided to have our meeting in (and joined the fun too!). By the way, I was the youngest amongst my friends. Most of them were at university already, some were older and were working, some had family and kids. Still, at the end of the day, it didn’t matter. What matter was what we had inside, what we had to say, the music we loved, not what society labelled us (“old”, “freak”, “ugly”, “student”, “son”, “father”, “wife” etc…). To this day, I’m grateful for this experience: it taught me you can be friend with anyone, anywhere.
To this day, I’m still a metalhead, and I’m still crazy at heart.
My wardrobe is full of black band t-shirts that I wear to go to work: I traumatised few colleagues with my t-shirts; one of them had the “baptism of fire” the day he started: he was all suited and booted (corporate, finance world attire) in reception, waiting for “Silvia” to pick him up. He was expecting, well, a corporate dressed woman…. and instead, he got me, Slayer t-shirt, ripped jeans, scruffy hair, storming in the reception, phone in my hand, yelling at whoever forgot to tell me that guests needed to be picked up.
Oh, the day I turned up at my desk with my Kreator “Satan is Real” t-shirt: hey, it was casual Friday, nobody said anything about “maybe NOT that casual”…!
If someone wanders around my office looking for me, my desk is easy to spot: there are pictures of Slayer everywhere, including on my stapler, and before we moved area, I even had a German corner with all my German favourite bands (sorry, Ich liebe Deutschland sehr).
Heavy metal made me travel countries for gigs like crazy, to the point I ended up being in a special, secret EasyJet club for frequent flyers (no lies!).
I met almost all my favourite musicians and I got some funny stories to tell about it… ah, the day I almost fainted in front of Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, the poor guy kept hugging me, telling me “it’s ok, it’s going to be fine, give me a big smile”; the day I spent hanging out with Testament thanks to the cake I baked for Chuck Billy’s birthday, or
Steve Souza of Exodus on stage dedicating “Blacklist” to me as he met me outside the venue before the gig, I was in tears ’cause I got dumped recently (by the same guy I got recently dumped, I should add)…. or when I froze to death to meet Sven Dirkschneider, or Wolf Hoffmann, or Kreator, and the time I met Anthrax and Frank Bello shouted “this picture will be called Amongst the Italians”….
And those friends I made on the internet? They are still (!!!) my friends. We chat on Facebook all the time, we meet if we have the chance and we have fun just like we did when we were younger. Over the years I met some incredible people thanks to this music. Hand on heart, the sweetest, craziest, funniest guys on Earth. Boy, they have to handle me, and some of them learned the hard way what it is like to have me as “your
BFF”. Rosario, my dearest of all, still has nightmares thinking about going to gigs with me: to give you an idea, the time we saw Kreator together, I began the gig by promising him I’d behave, but by the time the lights went off, I have been told I threw my beer up in the air shouting “OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD” and I began ramming people down to reach the front row…. Rosario eventually found me, headbanging the hell out of that gig somewhere in the venue, totally mental. Slightly better than the time we saw Slayer, and I kept texting him a barrage of messages, then I started jumping around him, yelling in hir ears and be a total nuisance. He still loves me, somehow (till the next gig).
For the record, since when it comes to Heavy Metal I’m still the bonkers teenager at
heart, my friends still treats me as such, and to this day, they still tease me for having Slayer tattoed on my leg (of course!) and, most of all, for still fancying Mille Petrozza of Kreator. Hey, 20+ years of pure, undisputed love here guys, I travelled half of Europe to follow the guy, I even mastered to learn some German for him! Show some respect!