Beauty means different things to different people. I never thought I was a vain person by any means, however, I was someone who wore makeup, maintained highlights in my hair and tried to keep up with the latest fashions (if my budget allowed). So I guess you could say I was a little vain. I am not going to lie, I cared about my looks. It wasn’t until Wednesday, May 20th that my perspective about my looks and how I felt about them changed forever.
We were waiting. And waiting in the ER. My symptoms were beginning to worsen, my then fiance, now husband, Sidney, approached the triage nurse who did the initial assessment on me until she put me in a bed in the back. I was in the hallway because it was a busy that night. My head hurt but not to the magnitude of a terrible migraine. I know pain, and this wasn’t one of my normal pain levels.
Since I was a young girl I have always measured my migraine pain levels on a scale of one to ten. When I was really small it was a way to communicate with my parents as to how much pain I was in and how much I could tolerate. We had seen a specialist who taught us this was the best way to manage them as they were severe and I was young when I started having them. Also, how does a five or six-year-old explain to their Mom or Dad my head hurts really bad, but this one is different and hurts more. On an average day, I sit with a level four and when I get a migraine where I have to go to bed and have lights out, silence and my routine it will go above a six. I used to have a ruler with smiley faces on it that would act as my one to ten. One being a “happy” face meaning no headache and ten being an “angry” redface crying, meaning head for the hills, call in the troops it’s a bad one. I would point to which one I felt like on the ruler to help me communicate. I still to this day have this ruler.
So while we were waiting in the hallway on the stretcher I was focusing on my hand. I thought if I focused on it, like a Jedi mind trick maybe, it would move. Nope, it still layed there like a dead fish. What I wasn’t noticing was the left side of my face starting to droop. My eyelid was slowly descending and starting to close. I was paying more attention to my hand and failed to notice melting like play-doh left out on a hot summer day. The ER physician that night, Dr. Hasting, a wonderful man I cannot say more amazing things about came over to examine me asking what I know now as the neuro examination. In the end, he asked my fiance how long had there been facial drooping. I looked over at him in horror. What do you mean my face is drooping? What is wrong with me face? Tell me what is happening. I looked at Sidney and he had a reassuring smile but fear in his eyes. My eyes started to well up with tears. Dr. Hastings said, “Don’t worry we are going to find out what is happening. We are sending you for a CT right away”.
After he left I turned to Sidney and asked how long my face had been like that and he said for a bit. I then began trying to fix it. I focused, scrunched my face (or so I thought) and then looked at him. “Did it work, do I look normal?” He looked at me with a soft smile and rubbed my arm. “It looks the same hun”. I immediately started to cry, tears streaming down my face. I looked at him and it was this picture that I had built up in my mind of what I pictured my face to look like. I couldn’t see myself, but I could only imagine the stares that I have already been getting as well as the from the sympathetic looks on the nurses and doctors faces that this was bad. I turned to Sidney and said, “Am I ugly?” he laughed, looking on the verge of tears too. “No. (laughing) It looks the same. You are beautiful. Don’t worry it’s going to be okay.”
“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder”, said Plato. I think he was one smart cookie. After this all happened and especially starting on this day beauty has become your own definition. It has taken me a while to recognition this. Beauty is your meaning. I saw the beauty in so many people when this happened to me. The inner beauty of caring family, supportive friends, compassionate staff who went above and beyond for me at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance when I moved in there for five weeks. That is my new definition of beauty. The beauty of individuals caring and loving for one another in a time of need. No one needed to do that for me. No one needed to offer their love and support, text messages when they knew they I wasn’t going to answer back. Beauty to me is the kindness and compassion of others not expecting anything in return. An ugly thing happened, but beauty came out of it.
I knew that I offered more to the world, but before this happened everything was just talk, words. It took something like this for me to realize that saying something is actually different than doing it or feeling it about yourself. Confidence and self-esteem were something that I valued and I had. What I had to offer the world was something more than just my looks. It is this new definition that I want to live my life by.
Looking at myself in the mirror has been one of the hardest things to do since this has happened and to this day I still cannot look myself in the eye. When my face initially “went funny” as I like to say, I felt like I was a monster. I didn’t recognize myself. I might also like to add that I was supposed to get married in two months. Every thought circled in my mind constantly; was my face going to look like this forever, how did this happen, was I having a stroke. It is an everyday struggle, some days minute by minute, but it has allowed me to see the beauty in each and every moment and hopefully try and become a better person because of it.