When life gives you lemons.

November gives me chills. And not because it’s freaking cold outside but because November is my reminder. Reminder to be grateful for being alive.

So here’s the thing, I had cancer. And before you give me your pity and puppy eyes, please note that I said had. Which means I have no more. And yes it was “traumatic” and fucking hard but truth be told there is people who are going trough worse shit every day so let’s just acknowledge that, and that I am not anymore. I am healthy.

I don’t mean to sound like a twat. I’m sure you’re very kind and respectful individual, and asking if I’m ok? is more than nice but I don’t want this story to be my cancer story. Simply because I’m not ready to share it yet. I’m still bubbling it in my inner self and trying to form it into words that won’t sound too painful but also too vain. But that story will come out one day. And it might be an essay, it might be a book, who knows? But this is not it.

This November marks eight years of me getting leukaemia diagnosis and I’ve been reflecting A LOT. Whenever I catch myself being ungrateful little shit and care for material more than I should (which I hate to admit I’ve been doing quite a lot lately) I just stop and give myself a huge fucking reminder how good my life actually is.

Apparently there are two kind of people in the world: when life gives you lemons you can either throw them back at it or squeeze them and make a lemonade. However I’m more of a take a lemon, slice it and bite into it after shoot of tequila kinda gal.

What can I say, I do love tequila. But also I am not letting anything or anyone else being in control of my life.

I spent too long just sort of drifting and letting things happen to me. Both good and bad things. And I know how fucking miserable and little I felt during that period of my life. Those crippling feelings of emptiness and uselessness.

We’ve all been there. For one reason or another, we have ALL been though something that made us wonder if we’ll make it. That’s why I’m writing this after all. For you. So you know you’re not alone.

Life is hard on it’s own. Without depression and anxiety thrown in there. And sometimes life doesn’t seem to be fair. Or even remotely good. But you can’t live surrounded by your troubles and worries EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. for the rest of your life.

I read an article recently that says how people who are happy are desperately looking for things to make them miserable.

MIND.BLOWN.? To me it sounds very familiar. I’ve been doing that over past few months. Whenever I woke up feeling good and my mental health was under control I’d find a thing that I could moan about.

Well I think fucking not Barbara. Get yourself together. AND I DID.

I flicked through my diary and photos from eight and seven years ago. It was enough of a reminder.

And you know what I’ve learnt? GRATITUDE. AND HAPPINESS IN EVERYDAY little things. Like having time for yourself. First sip of your morning coffee. Or fresh bread. Hot showers. Nice face cream. Or breathing crisp air.

I had power of being in control of most important thing – my happiness.

And I am happier than ever before.

A lot of it is about being in control –you can worry about not having a secure job, or enough money or reliable network of people but this level of control is something we can all create ourselves.

It’s normal to occasionally whine about the weather, and tube delays and how the dress on your wish list is out of stock – we don’t have authority over that.

It’s ok to keep dreaming bigger and aiming for more that doesn’t make your less grateful. It makes you having a purpose in life.

I want to have a family and write a book and buy my own home – but I won’t be unhappy because I don’t have those things yet, because I’m grateful for everything I do have and I am more than aware that something more awful than being in my overdraft, or gaining weight, could happen.

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Today has been cancelled, go back to bed.

To anyone going through a hard time but still showing up, getting dressed and putting their damn shoes on every day, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Also to anyone who’s going through it and isn’t able to get out of bed because of it-YOU ARE ALSO NOT ALONE. Whether it’s for physical, social, emotional or any reason-your journey is valid and you deserve to be seen and get love or space if that’s what you need in order to heal. You are a beautiful human and I promise that it’s going to get better.

And there is goes. Just when you think life is great, all there is are sunshine and rainbows, you’re more than satisfied with what you’ve got and who you are, you look yourself in the mirror and you’re happy with how you look, you finally think how you got this, this balance between everything

THERE IS GOES. LIFE GOES TO SHIT.

I’ve been bottling up some feelings for sure. I mean we all have a mini drawer in our brains where we send all those problems that can either be dealt with later or are Major problems (yes with capital M) you absolutely have no fucking willingness or mental power to deal with so we just lock them away. That’s what 90% of adulthood is anyway.

BUT all this is fine. You see, I AM USED TO ALL OF THIS. However what I am absolutely not used to is when something I completely got over, patched it back together until it was healthy enough to put in the past comes back in my life knocking on my mini drawer in my brain until one massive motherfucking Kraken of the emotions erupts.

Now it doesn’t really matter what exactly happened to me. What or who caused that carnival in my head. But it happened. It is now first time it did and let me tell you it won’t be last time either. BUT here is what I learnt this time around.

YOU ARE LOVED NO MATTER HOW YOU FEEL.

1.) Try not to be hurt by people. Especially if you know they are hurting as well. And this is I know not a walk in the park my friend. Relationships are complicated and I am not a big fan of anything complicated because I strongly believe everything is simple (except maths, f u c k that) So I try to stay out of complicated relationships. But sometimes you are related to people. Or married. Or you’re under a 12 month contract together. So you can’t exactly escape them.

It is then that you have to decided whether this person is worth your time and love and mental ability to forgive them. Is this person worth you. Or is you and your inner peace more worthy.

I long for the day I decide to put myself first! (and so does my therapist) And I know I always preach about that, how it’s not selfish to choose yourself, to protect your feelings and your mental health over anyone else, but here’s the thing! I mostly talk about it all the time because I suck at being that person and it’s me reminding myself to do so.

I can’t emphasise enough how important is for us humans to realise that we are the only ones who are in our lives ’til we die. So putting you as your top priority is not only ok, it’s mandatory.

And sometimes other people decided to choose themselves over us, and that is fine. Don’t take it personally. Take it as a chance to work on yourself, for yourself, by yourself.

2.) You are loved no matter how you feel.

I’m a talker. I literally talk about everything, with everyone. But when it comes to hurt feelings, feeling small or desire to spend an eternity under your bed covers and pretending that everything is fine, then I don’t talk. I lose all my words and only thing I have left is my thoughts. At least I am very good at thinking that. Truth is that I have much more than what I think.

I have a family who loves me unconditionally. Friends who are struggling as much as I do yet are willing to show up anytime and anywhere. And most importantly, I’ve got me.

A very sad, hurt and hopeless me. But I know that this person isn’t really me. It’s someone who going to a rough patch and need just needs a little bit of time and a little bit of extra love to go through it.

The best thing I can do for myself is to love myself on bad days as much as I love myself on good ones.

No matter how melancholic this sounds but just because you’re taking time out, time to think and recover an get back on track doesn’t mean that the Earth is going to stop. But it also doesn’t mean you’re worth less. Loved less. Or even strong less. Your journey is important. TAKE YOUR TIME. And when you’re ready to come back the Earth is still going to spin, you are still going to be loved and your place under the Sun is going to be waiting for you.

3.) Time heals.

It will take time. And believe it or not you will get better. And then you’ll hurt again. At some point even more than before. But then one day you will wake up and you will be one-hundred-percent OK.

Sometimes it takes 3 weeks, sometimes 3 years and sometimes 3 days.

From time to time you’ll only need a 3 minute cry out in your office bathroom or if you’re more like me in front of your Starbucks cashier because they didn’t heat up your toastie.

But trust me when I tell you, the misery and emptiness you’re feeling on your worst day are not staying there forever.

It is going to be OK.

Shout out to everyone making progress that no one recognizes because you never let anyone see your darkest moments. You’ve been silently winning battles and transforming yourself, be proud of every step you’re making in the right direction. Keep going because you got this.

Let’s talk about: love for your body

As last week was a Mental health awareness week focused on body image I’ve done lots of self reflection on that topic. Although I’m only 24, I’ve been to emotional hell and back when it comes to body image.

But haven’t we all?

 As I’ve always been bigger than any girl my age and people would always point that out as something that was incredibly wrong with me. I was called  names and made fun of my looks simply because I was taller (mostly by undeveloped little boy twats), and had like extra ten-ish kilos.

Little did they know that I don’t actually give a single fuck what they think  or say.

I first came in touch with body dissatisfaction in high school when my best friend developed anorexia and bulimia.

 I didn’t know what the fuck to do.

How to help.

Or even what to say.

To me, she was the most beautiful, smartest, funniest and kindest girl I ever knew, that I know.

I didn’t understand.

I would stuff my careless face with pastries whilst she’d tell me stories about how she lives on half of the apple a day because her tights don’t have a gap size of the Grand Canyon between them. It was abolutely devestating to see her think and act like that.

But that’s the thing about eating disorder, isnt’t it? It makes you tell yourself that you’re not skinny enough, that you’re not pretty enough and all of a sudden you’re not good enough.

It is so fucked up.

What she’s gone through marked me a little as well. It put that little bug in my ear that said: well if you ever do feel like you need to lose weight this is the faster/easier way. Because nothing feels as good as skinny!

WRONG, I’d tell myself, sausage rolls do!!!

And as a every sixteen-year-old I too was obviously very delusional.

Pressured into it just to fit in, my time of no eating anything or barely something came as well.

Luckily enough my mom shut it down after two months of me pretending to live in Skins tv show with a threat she’ll smack my bottom and send me to live with the nuns.

It wasn’t really until I was 18 and have been to through some serious medical shit that changed by body literally over night that I was left with a seriously poor self image.

Next five years of my life was me living in a body that I didn’t recognize.

A body I was ashamed of.

I tried hiding it and didn’t love it, like at all.

On really bad days I’d actually hate it. I’d scream at doctors asking why the hell would they try to fix me by ruining my body?

How dare they saving my life if that meant losing all of my hair and gaining weight and having mulitiple scars, muscle atrophy and let’s not even mentions cheeks as a squirrel caused by sterioids because I CAN’T.

It took me five years to even consider myself beautiful.

To even try to look like a girl.

 To feel confident.

To tuck my shirt into my jeans.

To wear heels.

To wear a skirt above my knees.

To wear a tank top.

To wear something that shows my scars.

To put on a bikini.

To not worry if I’m going to fit between tables in a coffee shop.

To feel like a woman.

Five years of practising self love and self care.

 Lot’s of therapy.

Pep talks from my friends but mostly mother.

Accepting I am good enough the way I am.

Finding a workout and a routine I love.

 And lots of deep self analyzing to be able to even like my body.

I did lots of journaling.

Listened lots of podcasts and read few books.

I unfollwed all unreal Victorias and her secret models on social media and started following body positive advocates.

But the hardest thing was letting go.

Letting go of things I can’t change.

Letting go of man that make me feel like shit.

Letting go of people don’t accept me for who I am and are constantly trying to change me.

Letting go of diets.

Letting go of that control freak I was.

 And accepting who I am is enough. I am perfect the way I am. And if I am too much for some people, well then they weren’t my people to start with.

A letter I wrote to my body

Dear body,

I am so sorry.

I am sorry for the way I treated you most of my life. For not caring enough about you and not liking you enough, sometimes even at all.

I am sorry for eveytime I hurt myself by bumping into things and for all the broken bones, total of 9 throughout my childhood.

I am sorry for all the cigarettes I smoked.

All the alcohol I drank and continue to drink.

And all the drugs I’ve put you through.

I am sorry for every 2am McDonald’s.

I am sorry for late nights and lack of sleep.

 I am sorry for googling plastic surgeries I can get in order to fix you. God knows I’m too much of a wuss to even get a lip filler not to mention liposuction or mastopexy.

I am sorry for every bad sex that left both you and me very unsatisfied.

 I am sorry for every single time I over fed you.

I am sorry for every single time I starved you.

I am sorry I’ve got sun burnt every summer so far.

 I am sorry for all the tight clothes I used to squeeze you in. (we both know that Spanx didn’t change anything)

I am sorry for all the comparisons I made with skinny girls in magazines. And all the Kardashians who drink shitty teas and have armies of people who make them look like brand new Barbie dolls.

I am sorry for all the damage I’ve put you trough whilst doing squats and dead lifts completely wrong.

Dearest body,

I also want thank you.

Thank you for fixing yourself after all the damage I’ve done to you. It still amazes me how incredible you are.

Thank you for getting me places even when I didn’t want to go.

Thank you for getting me through cancer. For putting up with all the chemo and other shit that we needed in order to get cancer free.

Thank you for not giving up on me when it was life or death.

Thank you for loving me back even tho I didn’t love you.

It is just you and me on this journey life is and I need you to serve me as long as you can so we can have more fun, see places we’ve never been to and walk down the aisle to marry a man we are going to have many dogs with.

Or even a little baby. Would it be okay if I let another person live in you as well? It’s just for 9 months that according to my sister go by very fast.

I am sorry it took me nearly 24 years to do so but I love you.

Love every scar.

Every strech mark.

Every bump and lump.

Every grey hair.

Every line on my face.

All the cellulite.

Hair that doesn’t listen even on a sunny let alone rainy day.

My bad knee that doesn’t bend properly because I fucked it up skiing.

My shrek fingers that look very wonky.

And even my hobbit feet that I got from my dad (and his nose!)

I love you dear body.

I will take care of you for the rest of the life. (and yes, I will try to cut my alcohol intake)

I promise.

Let’s talk about: grieving for a loved one

As May rolled in, a funny crippling feeling in my stomach came with it.

I used to love May, it is a month that says: come drink cinder on a common and enjoy the sunshine because proper summer is still not here but that careless feeling is starting to kick in.

Until last year, when my sister called one Friday afternoon crying. Now, there was two things shouting that something is wrong. First, my sister never calls during my work hours. Second, she never cries. After what seems like ages of her trying to catch her breath and stop sounding like a wolf howling at the moon she finally managed to tell me what she intended.

That was a phone call I knew it was coming yet hoped it never will.

I was ready for it ever since I moved to London yet it brought me to my knees.

A phone call that I remember every word and awkward silence of.

A phone call that made me run to the toilet and vomit.

A phone call that told me my granddad Pepi has passed away.

My granddad Pepi.

The strongest man, who’d easily lift all of his seven granddkids at once. He and Grandma would take all of us on holidays and were trying to spoil us rotten. We were their whole world, and they were ours.

Pepi was extraordinary human. He gave me my first alcohol to drink, he taught me how to shoot out of an actual gun and took us hunting (yes us girls as well).

He told me I was capable of great things.

He taught me German and would let me climb the trees.

He would always hug me even if I’d do something to make him upset.

He’d say that it’s ok to make mistakes because we learn from it.

But he’d also say: “You fucked up, make sure to own up to it.”

My granddad would always offer you a glass of his homemade wine when you came for a visit (yes, even if you were 12) and would genuinely take interest in everything what’s happening in your life.

So I made sure he was always up to date with all the happenings in my life. In return he’d tell me everything he saw on the news or heard from the neighbours.

He’d tell me how is his vineyard, how he has no idea why is Grandma upset with him today, how’s all of his brothers and sisters doing and how many eggs did he find in his chicken house that morning.

He’d also always ask to go a buy something nice for Grandma because he doesn’t really know what, but he wants to surprise her. And he’d throw some extra money and tell me to buy myself something too.

He would keep telling me to work hard and party harder, just like he did. He’d always make us laugh behind Grandma’s back because he knew it’d make our day.

He always corrected us talking, writing, reading in the most educational, non-judgemental and loving kind of way. He taught us how to behave in restaurants, how to set a table, how to light a fire, how to pick grapes and what mushrooms are edible.

He’d make us wooden sticks for many walks he’d take us on (each with it’s owners initials) and would make us flower crowns from daisies we’d find in his backyard.

He always shared comic almost not believable stories from his childhood and sang old songs and danced funny dances.

When in church, he’d just make up words of chorals and prayers as he’d go as let’s be honest the only reason he’d go in a first place was Grandma making him go.

He’d always wear a suit with a tie, and a hat for a fancy occasion.

He owned a pocket watch we’ve all eventually learnt how to tell time from.

His words to us, although very strict were filled with love and understanding.

He was a very simple man. And he would always treat us as equals rather than children.

A man with a tough life but who never complained about it.

A man who I know wasn’t perfect, but who was everything to me.

But last few years of his life he wasn’t really this version of my granddad.

Because he had dementia he was nothing like the person I knew. He was this calm, lost, sweet man who’d ask me who am I and how do we know each other?

He’d wonder how come I look so much like my mother (his daughter) and when I explained why, why hasn’t anyone told him he had a granddaughter. He was a person battling dementia, after he survived cancer and two heart attacks, he was strong without even realising it. He died not knowing how much I love him and how much I appreciate everything he’s done for me because he simply couldn’t remember.

Due to dementia I already mourned for this beyond remarkable man I knew, who changed my life and made me a strong independent person I am today. I cried over the fact he doesn’t know me. Doesn’t know his daughters. Over the fact that I wasn’t patient enough with him. That I thought he will never stop being that strong man on whose shoulders I felt like I could conquer the world. I thought we had forever and that he will never die. That although I had to settle for a granddad who isn’t my granddad anymore, we’d still go for walks, hold hands and laugh at Grandma together. He didn’t know me but I knew him. His big, warm, brown eyes would still bring me so much comfort and love.

But he left. And I had to do it once again.

I had to pick my broken pieces, say my goodbyes and give him a kiss on his freezing cold forehead. Just like he used to do it to me.

A photo of my Pepi a week before he passed away.

LET’S TALK ABOUT: HOW TO SAY NO

Hi. My name is Barbara and I am a workoholic. (my mothers daughter my father would say)

I would work 24 hours a day, seven days a week if I physically could (not even exaggerating right now, I get job offers all the freaking time) but Hello, sleeping and Netflix are life.

For those who know me (not on a deep emotional level) and follow me (and my overly enthusiastic quotes) on Instagram probably noticed that I always smile and joke. I’m always trying to boost people’s moods and to motivate them as being a person is hard as fuck. But let me be real with you (AND never expect less from me), I am not always this bubbly, smiley, forever happy flower child I like to represent myself as.

BECAUSE you know, some days are shit. Life overwhelms you to the point you fall on the floor crying and you can’t get up anymore.

To be precise, two weeks ago when I finished my usual 60 hour work week (you did this to yourself gurl) and felt so emotionally paralyzed. At this point I was so emotionally and physically drained I felt like a bloody raisin. I once again got ill and was prescribed antibiotics. So everything I was fit to do was sitting in my shower and let the rivers of Babylon come both out of my shower and my eyes.

After aprox. 20 minutes of what felt like Dante’s ninth circle of hell pouring down my back, bloody cold water started rushing out making me feel like I about to turn into an ice sculpture. And it sounds like almost cathartic experience, but no it wasn’t pleasant at all.
It made me weep even more.

As I was about start feeling numbness in my limbs, I decided to pick myself off my shower floor and place myself on my bed. All wrapped up like a little burrito of sadness I decided to call my mum thinking: Hey, if anyone knows how to make me feel better it is a women who pushed me out of her vagina, nursed me and loved me until I was ready to take on this cruel world. However, this is also a women who after she makes me feel better and helps me to solve all my life problems puts down a phone and worries about me. So, being an adult I aspire to be, I made a sensible decision of not calling my mother but to figure my personal shit on my own.

You see, I am great at figuring out shit.

You got boy drama? LET ME TELL YOU WHAT TO DO.

You broke? Listen to my advice.

You tired and over-worked? You should definitely do this.

YES.

I AM AMAZING AT SORTING OUT PROBLEMS. OTHER PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS.

I am a unlicensed but devoted psychotherapist, personal love guru, life coach and fitness trainer to the people in my life. To all the people, but me.

So there I was, laying like a fetus on my bed, unable to move, trying to suffocate my crying with a Coldplay song (oh the amounts of time “Fix you” didn’t fix anything for me) and waiting for the universe to give me an answer on how to feel happy again. Or just too feel would be nice for starters. And to completely surprise you with what came next, NO universe didn’t do shit. It only let me dwell on my misery even more until I was left with dry mouth and wet bed sheets.

So I tried breathing it out. I mean that’s what they teach you to do in yoga? Connect your thoughts with your breathing, slow down and release. UM, IT’S WAS A NO FOR ME.

I tried turning on my essential oil diffuser and let “Calm down” blend do it’s magic. IT DID NOT WORK.

I put on my very loved classical music playlist that usually calms the fuck out of me. NOT this time Mozart.

I even considered ordering “Five Guys” from Deliveroo and binge watching “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix, but I wasn’t even remotely interested in what usually is a gold combo for me.

And as I was about to surrender and let the darkness take over my mind, as I was about to take an antidepressant (I hate taking but my doctor prescribed me to take when feeling like Snape when he saw Lily died) and go to sleep at 9pm on a Friday evening I kept wondering why, why, why am I feeling this way for no obvious reason??? What is wrong with me? Am I just a big drama queen?

So haunted by this questions I put on my comfy pjs, made myself a cup of mint tea, turned off Chris Martin’s depressing voice (FYI, I’m your fan no. 1) and took out a notebook and a pen. I started writing about how I feel. And most importantly, WHAT made me feel that way?

I was very confused. My life routine has been same for months now and it seemed to be effective. I was happy. I was always very proud of how good I am at balancing it all out, work, gym, meals, social life, etc.

BUT WHAT CHANGED?! Somewhere along the way I stopped being happy. I stopped feeling fullfilled. I stopped enjoying little things in life. I stopped focusing on what matters. I stopped living in the present. I stopped going out. I just stopped.

WHY? I don’t know. People change. I changed.

To fast forward, it is 2am and I finally got my shit together. (well kinda) I wrote down every good thing about my life, and everything that I’d like to change because it makes me miserable and not happy at all.

It all led up to next decision.

  1. Quit my third job to get some “me time” during the week.

Of course I slept on it. It was not easy for me because I really like working. It was not easy because less work means less money. It was not easy because although I get job offers all the time, it is never easy to actually quit one. I felt very ungrateful and scared of being judged as “lazy millennial”.

BUT I DID IT. I QUIT THE JOB. And it was quite hard. I got offered more money. Different timetable. I was even promised less responsibility. But I told myself I am not going to be scared of saying NO.

NO to things that I actually don’t want to do and NO to people I actually don’t want to spend time with.

I have right to change my mind. I am allowed to start thinking differently. I am allowed to get rid of things in my life that no longer serve me or make me grow. I can do whatever the fuck I want.

And although it’s only been two weeks (one of those weeks has been me on a very deserved holiday) I have to point out that I feel so much better. I don’t feel trapped or like there is a massive lump in throat.

I realise there is no shame in what I did, admitting I needed to slowdown.
It feels so good to be on top of your life everyday but it also feels good to step back and realise you don’t have to bring your A-game every day.

And this is your reminder that you’re not failing in life if you need a step back.

Are you allowed to say NO? Abso-fucking-lutely.