bellspalsy

How I Got My Smile Back

September 28, 2017


One year.

It's been one year since the day my face was paralyzed. One year since being diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. 

It's been the hardest year of my life, but also the most pivotal. When you wake up one day and can no longer do the things you did the day before, you change. Everything changes, really.

While I struggled with the temporary vision and hearing loss, the nerve pain and inability to move my face, I struggled most with how I looked. It's an interesting feeling, to be so utterly devastated by your appearance overnight. To look in the mirror with blurry eyes and feel completely unrecognizable. But in reality, that disfigured face wasn't the only part of myself I no longer recognized when I looked in the mirror one year ago.

At that point in my life, fear had completely filled my soul. Fear paralyzed me in ways I could hardly understand. I fought it, but it always lingered. There was constant worry, constant doubt, constant stress. I knew it was a problem, but when I looked in the mirror this time, I just broke down.

I thought I was a happy person. I thought I was doing well. But when you have such a life changing experience, which we all have at one point, it changes you. It's that pivotal moment when you are forced to reevaluate and reestablish and readjust your life. When you're forced to change.

But we fight it. We fight change and we fight our reality.

Even after I realized how problematic the fear was, I was still absorbed in it - and it manifested in even more ways than before the bell's palsy came. Fear of judgment, fear of not recovering, fear of not being loved, just so much fear. It was crippling fear even deeper than the pain of the nerve damage.

I remember thinking over and over again, this can't be my truth, this can't be my story. I can't be the girl that can't smile. But I also knew that I can't be the girl that ruins her life over this.

There were periods of time when I came to terms with how I looked. There were so many moments of triumph, but I always went back to the fear. As my face began to heal, slowly..so slowly, why wasn't I liking how I looked? Why didn't I suddenly change and burst and glow like I imagined? The transition was brutal and ugly and filled with so many tears. Why did I care so much about how I look - why do I still sigh and let those feelings of disdain and disappointment creep in when I see myself? Why am I so afraid that I'll never look the same?

For a few months, I said I just wouldn't smile. I just won't show that side of my face. I just won't do this, or that, or whatever. I just won't. And that fear of judgment and fear of not looking my best consumed me.


Then came the guilt.

It was a simple diagnosis and a simple situation compared to so many. Not a big deal, nothing to worry about. But it wrecked me, and it wrecked my already dwindling self esteem. I felt so much guilt for all the emotions I was feeling. I especially felt guilt for how I would always make my way from triumph and joy back to the fear, the anger, the bitterness, the sadness, and the confusion. I felt guilt for skipping out on events and isolating myself just because I was embarrassed of my looks.

But who was I outside of my looks? What reason would people have to like me beyond my smile?

Putting the pieces back together of my inner core and soul and spirit and rediscovering the goodness that had to exist within me - because it exists in everyone else, right? - so it had to exist in me. Well, it sometimes felt impossible. The longing and comparing and doubting was all encompassing.

But slowly, as slowly as the progression took place, I began to see more clearly: literally, symbolically. I began to see that people didn't value me for the way I looked, and that they never did. I began to realize that they saw and cared far beyond what I looked like. I began to realize that I didn't need to apologize for my looks, and that I was apologizing far too much for the wrong reasons.


I began to recognize that deep within me, somewhere along the line, I had lost sight of my value.

I had lost sight that I matter as a person, and I had lost sight that it wasn't selfish or wrong to seek self confidence and happiness and complete joy. I had lost sight that THAT was the point of it all: to find joy.


I've spent this past year growing and regressing, growing, regressing. Falling, stumbling, growing, getting back up. Running, sprinting in that search for happiness.

It's been an emotional roller-coaster to say the least. I've had to work hard to be in a place where I not only am getting through life okay, but to utterly and completely allow myself to enjoy my life for what it is NOW and not in that past that I always go back to. Or the future I envision, that my mind spends a lot of time in. And I would be lying if I failed to mention that this whole journey to self peace and self acceptance is still that: a journey. There have been so many days where I have to tell myself to just endure and to remind myself that it'll get better. It'll get better.

However, I still find myself running to the mirror, is it better? Is it improving? Do I look normal again? Will I ever look normal again?

But then again, why does it matter? Why does it matter that I have a crooked smile and a lazy eye. It's not who I am. I am not the freckles on my skin or the long red hair. I am so much more. And it feels uncomfortable to write that out, but it's something I'm trying to embrace.

It's easy to remind someone else that they are so much more. It's easy to encourage, and to speak this truth to others. It is far more trying to attempt directing that love inward. To speak kindly to ourselves.

It's hard because if you are like me, you are so fearful of pride that you disallow yourself from self love. And what a struggle that can be.

There have been so many baby steps throughout the year. Progress, then plateau. There has been time for progression, time for growth. Time to fight for acceptance and time to fight for change. 

The thing is, I knew I couldn't let a paralyzed face ruin my life. I had a decision to make, it was clear. I could pity myself and pity my situation. Have anger and bitterness that this happened. To stay stressed, to keep hiding. To let it ruin my life. Or I could pick myself up, forget myself, and serve. And work. And live.

I could hide or I could help.

And whether you have a paralyzed face, or whatever it may be, there will be days when you're going to stay in bed and cry and hate all that your life is about, and some days you're going to get up, and go, and appreciate. You're going to conquer fears and accomplish goals and love and grow. And it's okay to have both. It's okay to have bad days and bad weeks, but it can't be the entirety of your existence.

Letting go of the unrealistic expectations I had of myself to always look put together and perfect and pretty was one of the hardest things I had to do, but one of the most valuable. I would much rather be known for my eagerness to be real than my red hair. To be known for overcoming my fears instead of my freckles. To be known for my sincerity instead of my smile.

And as I've worked hard to move past this trial, I'm happier. My life is more full. And I have gained such a deeper perspective about the reality that we are so much more than what we look like. That people don't love us for how we look, that they see beyond the crooked smile and the messy hair and the tired eyes. They see us for who we are and for who we can become. They see us as our potential and our struggles. Our strengths and weaknesses. Our talents and gifts. Our sense of humor, our wit. Our love for others and love for this world.

I am not the person I was the day I lost my smile. I am better, and refined, and learning, and a work in progress. But most importantly, I'm happy. I'm happy where I'm at, right this very second. I'm more open, and honest, and more accepting of help. I'm more comfortable with who I am and how I look.

I am happy. I am whole. I am a better person than I was. Bell's Palsy was my blessing in disguise. The goodness hidden by the ugly.

A year ago I lost my smile, and because of that, I have never been happier.


LetsTalkMotherhood

Let's Talk Motherhood - Staying Present with Little Ones

September 19, 2017


I am so excited to be back this month with the Let's Talk Motherhood series! I've teamed up with some amazing moms to share in a conversation from each of our perspectives on staying present with little ones. These bloggers have answered the following questions on their own websites, and all of their perspectives are linked at the end of this post for you to read! This interview collaboration series was created to connect, encourage, share, and relate with other moms. No matter how different our perspectives may be, we're all in this amazing and challenging journey of motherhood together.

On staying present with little ones:

1. As a blogger, how do you balance working from home and staying present with your children?
I've made a rule for myself that my computer needs to be put completely away when I'm with Conrad. So, all of my blogging is done either while he sleeps or when he is in another room playing with his dad. I don't want my son to ever feel like I spend more time on a computer than I do with him, so it's really important to me that I work my schedule around him - even if that means staying up late or waking up early to write. I think the biggest thing for myself is just always keeping in mind that when it comes down to deadlines or anything work related, my son will always come first. Always.

2. What is your favorite way of spending quality time with your little ones?
I absolutely love when my husband is home and we can spend time playing with Conrad together. Rad loves being chased around and exploring, so my favorite times are when we just drop everything and follow his lead. It's the best feeling to let go and just laugh, and I know that those simple moments are going to be some of my fondest memories looking back. 

3. In such a fast paced world, how do you slow down with and without your children?
Three words: stop, look, breathe. I often let my anxiety get the best of me and feel that I need to be going all day long. That leads to burnout, and ultimately keeps me distracted from what really matters. So I take time every single day to stop what I'm doing, breathe, and look at what is right in front of me. THAT is what matters. When I can take a step back and realign my perspective, it makes it so much easier to slow down and stay in the moment whether I am with my son or not.

4. What is something you do every day to be present in the moment?
I once listened to a podcast that mentioned that when you are struggling to be present to ask yourself, "what is my next thought?" When you force yourself to stop and wait for a thought to come, it helps to instantly bring you to the present moment and slow down. I try to ask myself that question when my mind is going a mile a minute, and it has helped me tremendously. I've also found that staying present has gotten a lot easier since I started a gratitude practice. When I am visualizing what I'm thankful for, it makes me feel grounded and calm, which is exactly what I need to be present in the moment. 

5. What advice would you give to new and future moms about staying present as a parent?
Your child needs to know that you see them - truly see them. When we let distractions get the best of us, we are missing so much of what is really going on. Your child will look to you so much more than you could ever realize. As you are feeding them, as they are playing, all the time. Be there when they look at you. Let them know you see them, and that you love them, and that they matter. Watch them grow, and watch them learn - no matter how much you'd rather be getting work done or scrolling through social media. Be there with them. Sit next to them and play with them. Put away all of your distractions and just look. Remember that these years will all go by so quickly, so make the most of them. 


Be sure to check out the rest of the perspectives linked below!

depression

5 Things I Do To Combat Depression

September 18, 2017


As many of you know, I've been pretty open about my struggles with clinical depression and anxiety over the years. Since my diagnosis nearly 7 years ago, I've been asked the same two questions time and time again: "How do you seem so happy all the time?" and "How do you work through the depression?"

I'll write more about that first question later, but the thing is, there have been days in my life that are too dark for me to comfortably talk about. I've had to dig deep and fight hard to keep living, and I think one of the main reasons I don't often "look depressed" is because I've learned a few ways to combat my depression when I feel a wave of it coming on.

I know that it can be a difficult topic to touch on in general, and I think it's important to clarify that I wholeheartedly believe that pharmaceuticals are the right answer for many, and there is absolutely no shame in that (I was on medication for nearly 6 years myself). But with that being said, here are the 5 things that I do to combat depression:

1. Take a step back. The most freeing thing I have learned about depression is that there doesn't always have to be a reason for feeling the helplessness and sorrow. I used to let myself feel guilty for being depressed when I didn't think I had a real reason to be sad. When you can take a step out of your body for a moment and ponder whether there is a trigger for what you're feeling or that you're just simply feeling it, there comes a sense of control. Let yourself feel your feelings, and allow yourself to be guilt free of what is out of your control. This leads to number two.

2. Let go of what is out of your control. This definitely ties in with anxiety, but letting go of what I can't control is something that really helps me to get through those bouts of depression. Reminding myself that I can't change my chemical makeup and that what I am in charge of is my reaction has helped me tremendously. Sometimes I've had to write out what's bothering me and list what I can actually control and what I cannot, and that has helped me to better visualize what's really going on and whether I'm reacting to a situation or experiencing depression without an identifiable reason.

3. Do the things that bring you joy - especially when you have no desire to do them. When I'm in the thick of depression, I start getting numb and just don't care - about anything, really. It's such a scary thing to experience, to feel like you have no reason to continue, but if you can catch the depression as it is coming on and literally FORCE yourself to do something you know will bring you joy, it helps so much. If you aren't quite sure what brings you joy, here are a few things that bring me joy: writing, taking pictures, playing volleyball, staging my house, reading, pinterest, handlettering, going for a walk, watching an episode of the office, chasing my son around and making him laugh, facemasks, candles, listening to good music, a podcast, or a church talk. Very simple things that may seem silly to people, but they really do bring me joy. So whatever it is that brings you simple joy - DO IT.

4. Get in a routine. This one was tough for me when I graduated college, because I was SO used to routine that I didn't realize how much I needed it. So, I wrote down what my "ideal day" would look like. And I started adding one thing from the list at a time into my day until it eventually became habit. The more of a routine you are in, the less you'll feel overwhelmed, which will ultimately aid in working through the depression.

5. Pray throughout the day. Whatever prayer looks like for you, whether praying to God or giving yourself some quiet time to meditate, this is what helps me more than anything else. When I am struggling, I turn to God. My belief in Him has been life changing, and I truly feel supported and uplifted. I feel strength beyond my own and attribute my ability to work through depression to this higher power. So again, whether you are meditating, praying to God, implementing a gratitude practice, or all three, do it and do it often.

There are so many more things that I do to combat depression, but these are definitely my top 5. If you are currently struggling with depression, I would encourage you to try and implement these 5 things (or your own version of them) today. And, as always, I hope you know that you are so loved and so not alone in this battle. If you are feeling alone, know that I am always here to listen - no matter what. I promise you that there is a bright future for you, and that you will overcome even your most challenging days. Hold on. Don't give up. There is hope, joy, and peace ahead - and plenty of it.


joy

Celebrating Simple

September 05, 2017

I used to envy the lives of people I saw exploring the world while I stayed at home, seemingly overrun by the mundane tasks of my life as a stay at home mom. The parties I was missing, the perfectly decorated homes that weren't mine, the gorgeous outfits I didn't own. I fell in to the trap of just accepting that my life was boring, and comparing my life to those around me. 

It took me a while to work past those feelings, but when I did, I realized how deeply blessed I really am. The more I take a step back and look at my life, the more I see that it is worth celebrating. Every single day.

This morning I took my sweet baby boy on a walk. The weather was perfect, I listened to one of the best podcasts I've ever heard, and even got to pet a cute dog (small victories, but totally worth celebrating). Then Conrad played in his pool while we listened to music, ate some good food, and now he's napping away (BIG victory there, and definitely worth celebrating).

I'll likely spend my afternoon chasing my baby around the house until my husband is home from work. Next comes dinner, some more chasing and playing with blocks, probably a melt down or two, and off to bed.

My life is simple. My days are filled with cleaning, and cooking, and chasing a baby. Sometimes I'll sneak in some pinterest and blogging. Other days we take pictures and go on trips to target. There's lots of love, and lots of laughter, and lots of simplicity.

 I know it's something that I should've learned a long time ago, but I'm finally coming to realize and embrace that my life doesn't have to look like others, and it really shouldn't. I'm learning that not only is there nothing wrong with a simple life, it is worth celebrating.

And the more I really try and make a wholehearted effort to love and appreciate the simplicity of this season of my life, the more I crave simple and slow. This life that I struggled so hard to love is now exactly what I need, and often feels so much greater than what I think I deserve.

In the next hour or so, I'll get to pick up my baby out of his crib and hug him tight. I get to read with him and help him walk and chase him all over the place. You won't see me in a perfect house with the perfect clothes, and you definitely won't see me at a party anytime soon. But you'll see me happy, soaking up all the simple joys that come with this life of mine.

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." 
-J.R.R. Tolkien


motherhood

More Than Just a Mom

September 01, 2017


I always knew that becoming a mom would mean a lot of sacrifice, a lot of selflessness, and a lot of hard work. What I didn't know, however, is how easy it would be to lose myself in that role.

10 months doesn't seem like a long time, but I look at the person I was just shy of a year ago, and I hardly recognize her at all. She's not who I am now, and I'm okay with that. But for a long time, I really wasn't.

As hard as it is to admit, I really mourned my old life and who I was before motherhood for those first few months after having my baby. I would see all of my friends without kids and envy the freedom they had. I missed when that life was mine, and struggled to embrace the new chapter of life I was in. But most of all, I envied their sense of purpose and their sense of self that I no longer had.

I think what a lot of people don't realize is that being a mom isn't just physically tiring, it brings on a whole new level of emotional exhaustion too. The moment you become a parent, it feels like your whole world is different. You're navigating this new chapter of life and, at least in my case, you forget who you were even the day before.

For what felt like the longest time, I just couldn't figure out who I was outside of being a mom. I struggled so hard with this sudden loss of identity.

Through the sleepless nights and the days that felt like years, it was hard to feel a sense of purpose outside of motherhood.

I couldn't seem to remember what I enjoyed in life anymore. I was so consumed in the mundane tasks that come with being a stay at home mom that I stopped taking care of myself, and just forgot myself altogether.

I'm not sure if every mom experiences this loss of self identity, but I know I sure did. And when I was in the thick of my postpartum depression and anxiety, I really felt that loss at an even deeper level.

I truly and firmly believe that motherhood will always be my greatest calling in life, but it has been hard to remember that it isn't my only calling. It's been hard to remember that I am more than just Conrad's mom.

It took me a long time to put together the pieces of who I am again. I think I was trying so hard to fight change that I forgot that it's okay to not be the same person you were a year ago, or a month ago, or even a day ago. And I think that's the beauty of life, that we have this opportunity to change and grow every single day.

As I explored new hobbies and met new people, I began to see those gaps in my identity start to fill back up again. And not all with the pieces of who I once was.

I think it's important to note how dearly I love being a mom and that I would never take that role for granted. But as my son grows up, I want him to remember me for more than just being a mom. I want him to see that I still have passions and hobbies and so many more things that I love dearly.

I want him to see that I am still passionate about volleyball even after all these years and all the injuries. I want him to know that I love to write. I want him to see that I care about people, and that I want to bring peace to this world. I want him to see that I love photography and design and I want him to see even the silly things like loving grocery shopping, and lemonade, and listening to podcasts every morning.

I want him to know that I am so much more than just a mom. I will always be his protector, his number one supporter, and his friend, and I will also be more than just those things.

Being a mom is such a tricky balance between caring for yourself and caring for others, but once you can establish your own sense of purpose and identity again, things seem to fall into place with a lot more ease.

Being a mom is my greatest blessing, but it's not my only one. And how thankful I am to finally realize that.


Popular Posts