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.