Any other Lily Allen fans out there?

I love this song. In fact, it’s my favorite song to sing when I’m playing Karaoke Revolution or when I go karaoking with my friends (hey Nancy!) The reason why I started with this song is because the title of the song is Smile and that is a loaded word for me. Let me explain to you why…

I’ve had parts of this post in my drafts since June and I kept wanting to post it but then would hesitate and just banish it to the limbo of wordpress drafts. First I have to say that this is a very difficult topic for me to talk about because it’s such a huge source of insecurity for me. Someone asked me if I consider myself “handicapped” and I said no, of course. I guess you could consider depression a disability because it certainly does incapacitate you, but I am thinking more along the lines of an actual physical disability. I am able-bodied; I can run (if I try real hard lol); I can do anything…except smile. I bet that sounds weird, but let me explain a bit. About 10 years ago, I came down with a case of Bell’s Palsy. I had never heard of Bell’s Palsy before my doctor talked to me about it. At that point, I was working 2 jobs and going to school full-time so I was basically working myself ragged. One day I woke up and couldn’t move the right side of my face. I remember getting up and going to the bathroom to wash my face and taking my face wash and lathering it up before massaging it onto my face. OUCH!!! Why is there soap in my eye?! Why is there even more soap in my eye now?? I rinsed off my face and I knew water and soap were all over my eye. What the hell is going on?? I looked up and saw that half my face was sagging. I looked like one of Salvador Dalí’s melting clocks.

I wasn’t as concerned about it as you might think because beside the sting of the soap in my eye, I felt fine. Of course my mom ran around the house screaming that I had a stroke so we headed over to the ER. The doctors assured me that it was not a stroke and that it was actually Bell’s Palsy.

Bell’s palsy causes sudden weakness in your facial muscles. This makes half of your face appear to droop. Your smile is one-sided, and your eye on that side resists closing.

Bell’s palsy, also known as facial palsy, can occur at any age. The exact cause is unknown, but it’s believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. It may be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.

For most people, Bell’s palsy is temporary. Symptoms usually start to improve within a few weeks, with complete recovery in about six months. A small number of people continue to have some Bell’s palsy symptoms for life. Rarely, Bell’s palsy can recur.

They gave me some information, a prescription for prednisone and an anti-viral and sent me on my way assuring me that Bell’s Palsy was not life-threatening and that most people recover after a few weeks. By that point, I was unable to close my eye so I had tape it shut at night and had to wear an eye path during the day since I couldn’t blink. I had no control over the right side of my face including my mouth. Imagine drinking something and the liquid dribbling out through the right side of your mouth. Yeah…comical. As the weeks passed, I started seeing small improvements which reassured me that things would continue to improve until I recovered. However, that was not to be the case. 10 years later, I am still dealing with the physical remnants of my bout with Bell’s Palsy. Physically, I am able to blink, close my eye but I still have residual weakness  on my eyelid and on my mouth which means that when I try to smile, my eye and mouth don’t fully cooperate. One of the more annoying things is that when the inflamed nerve regenerated, some cross-wiring happened and I now have something called “crocodile tears” which means that my affected eye tears up when I am meant to salivate. So basically my eye will tear up whenever I eat. How annoying do you imagine that being? These are just some of the physical effects which are nothing compared to the psychological effects.

What does a smile mean to you? To me it means friendship, like, acceptance. Imagine not being able to fully convey those feelings. Part of me feels that this is just a question of vanity and that I should be grateful that I don’t have a “true” disability, but it doesn’t feel that way. I miss my old smile. I miss my old face! It always makes me so self-conscious when I meet new people and I find myself always looking down….looking away. I try so hard not to let people close to me know how much this bothers me so I almost never talk about it because I don’t want to bring more attention to it. Whenever I am already feeling down, this is a big source of what pushes me to feel even worse about myself. I think we are always very critical of ourselves–more than other people would ever be–so I always imagine the worst of myself and how others see me. I had a co-worker who came down with a case of Bell’s Palsy so she came to me to ask questions. We talked about it and she was relieved when, a few weeks later, she had recovered 100%. She then said to me: “Oh my God, I would have killed myself if I hadn’t recovered!” Gee, thanks. Sometimes I wonder why people don’t think before they open their mouths.

I don’t know why I decided to write about this today. I guess that on the heels of writing about Depression Awareness Month, I wanted to just have a little episode of verbal diarrhea to just get it all off my chest. If you’re still with me, thank you for reading all the way through.  Sorry to disappoint: no Bell’s Palsy Awareness Nails. 🙂  Hey, at least I can laugh about it…even if somewhat lopsided.

13 thoughts on “Smile

  1. I don’t really know what to say. I’m sorry seems like the wrong thing. People are insensitive and I hope you said something back to that coworker. My mom had to have surgery on her mouth several times due to skin cancer and those have left her w a lopsided smile and a bit of a Elvis style lip curl and I know she’s really self conscious about it but I always just want to say to her- you’re pretty! Even if you don’t look like you used to, even if you feel different now you’re pretty and the same pretty person you were before. I know it’s easy for me to say that but that’s what I would say to you, too. You’re still pretty, you’re still a good person and I just wish there was some magic way to make you and my mom just focus on all that and not feel self conscious. There are people w much more prominent differences. Since you and my mom can probably really relate to each other what do you think I should say to her? What would you say to your best friend if she (well, he) had this or some other sort of facial difference?
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  2. I know how debilitating depression can be, and people on the outside don’t understand until they go through it. To fight with that and Bells Palsy is a daily struggle, and to not let it shut you down is a testament to how strong you are 🙂 That, and with beautiful nails & a polish stash so awesome- you have a reason to have a skip in your step! *high fives*
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  3. Oh, Cynthia! I’m just happy that you finally felt comfortable and confident enough to share this publicly. I teared up a little just thinking about how I know you struggle with this while I read through your post. <3

    PS. You tear up whenever you should be salivating?? So, what if you think about lemon heads or jolly ranchers? Or is it just eating that makes you cry? 😛 (I'm totally teasing!) I'm fascinated, I had no idea that regenerating nerves could end up all backward!
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  4. I love your blog Cynthia and I read it everyday. I know how insensitive people are for a million reasons myself. But I just wanted to say from reading you everyday, I can see you smiling because your heart smiles in all that you do here!

    1. That’s cause you love me. 😛 I just saw your message about hot yoga. Are you going to do it? What about Nancy? My stupid FB is acting so weird…

  5. I’m glad you were able to get this off your chest. Sometimes the issues that weigh us down just need to be addressed instead of holding them in all the time, it won’t change a thing but at least you can get some of that shit out and hopefully make room for even more shit! LOL I have a good friend who has bell’s palsy, and I never noticed it until she pointed out to me, 5 years after we met. So you’re right, we are more critical of ourselves, most people never notice the imperfections we obsess over, and the ones who do and are big enough a$$holes to make a big deal of it tell em to kiss your a$$! Your smile may not be what it use to be but you are still the same person, don’t rob the world of the smile you have inside! <—Yes I know that was cheesy!
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  6. I applaud you for having the courage of being so open and sharing with you friends and followers. Your are a beautiful person inside and out and aways remember that. Thank you for sharing! Xoxo

  7. well.. i must confess that I’m the kind of person that doesn’t think before speaking.. i’m so used to apologize for “spilling the beans” all the time..!!
    as I say, people need to learn to love me haha! what I want to say with all the 2 non sense lines is that I know it’s frustrating when people talk without thinking what they’re saying, but because I’m that way I learnt myself how to filter what people say to me:
    1st filter: Do I care about that person?
    2nd filter: Does that person even really know me?
    3rd filter: will that comment change my life?

    It is fast, and almost always I come to the conclusion that I really don’t care about that person, she\he doesn’t know me that well and.. what do they know about what I’m going through? So.. I think about what they say and try to take like a “moraleja” of what they said, you know, take the good thing and forgot about the wrong/bad things they say..

    Now, just to shut up because I feel like I’m not saying nothing new here, I would say that, people who loves you, doesn’t notice it! And that’s the people you should care.. and when people stares at you, SMILE, even though you don’t like it.. believe me, people will feel bad about starring.. don’t they know it is de mala educación!?
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  8. Wow, Cynthia. This post is really touching and beautifully written. I read it earlier and wanted to wait until I got home from work to write out a reply that I could give my full attention to.
    Firstly, you have educated me because I did not know about Bell’s Palsy. I suppose I have heard of it, but never knew the specifics.
    Hearing about those specifics is just heartbreaking to think about you having to go through! I am sorry to hear that you haven’t fully recovered, but I also agree with others that these residual effects are likely much more noticeable to yourself than to others.
    I have a close friend who has some crazy stuff going on with her jaw (just came out of the blue one day and requires major surgery) and she insists her face looks different and always says tell me the truth, do I look different to you?, and I always say NO! I feel that, if we personally know there is a difference, it is always in our heads. I’m not sure how to overcome that, because I know I personally would be affected by it (hell, I think it enough just due to aging!), but I suppose 1. most people don’t notice and 2. people who are close to you, who love you and care about you, love you and care about you for who you are, no matter what!
    I tend to look down or away from people when I am severely uncomfortable around them (see: friend above’s ex-boyfriend, haha), so when I read that you do this when you meet people, it made me sad! Try to be more confident, sweet girl – they’ll only notice you, not your “flaws!”
    A friend told me something nice today that was unexpected that I feel applies to you, too! He said he is really proud of me for who I am because many people who have faced many of the things I have faced would essentially be non-functioning human beings. He said that I say what choice do I have?, and he said the fact is that I do have a choice and I could be hiding from life in a number of ways, but I am not and I keep going. I actually feel like I should be accomplishing more and am hampered by my life’s problems getting in the way, so that was somewhat surprising. Anyway, the point is that I think you have had your fair share of hard times over the past 10ish years, too, and I think there is a lot to be said for how you are doing now! You are smart, funny, entertaining, a good sister, daughter, and friend…plus you have access to all “the coolest” (said in Billy Madison voice) nail stuff! ;p Thanks for sharing with us, both stories from your personal life and nail porn! *Hugs*

  9. Can relate a lot to how you feel.
    I have very skew teeth and I never smile in photos. I smile with my lips closed. I also don’t like being in photos.
    I do miss my smile though even though I don’t have recollections of ever smiling where it touches my eyes and shows my true happiness.
    But Cynthia *hugs*

  10. Thanks for sharing. Canada’s Prime Minister (well, not the one we have now….a past one) has Bell’s Palsy, and he hasnt recovered, so I always thought you couldnt recover from it. I’m sorry you are still dealing with those after effects, but I’m glad it’s so much better than it was. You know you have a support group here, and can talk about it whenever you like, so smile in your way ^_^ (I smile with my eyes!)
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