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Would you still be my friend?

Although the paper isn’t published on Thursdays, I want to throw it back anyway.  Remember the game we played as kids called, “Would you still be my friend if..?” We would all plug in phrases like “if my finger was attached to my nose” or “if my face always looked like this [insert contorted face].” Well, I have recently reached a point in life where I actually get to play without the hypotheticals.

In the middle of August I came down with Lyme disease that led to Bell’s Palsy, which means that half my face is temporarily paralyzed due to an inflamed nerve. I am now that girl with the contorted face whom we all joked about as kids. The good news is that my friends have all answered “yes” when I flash my broken smile and say, “Would you still be my friend?”

The inability to move the right side of my face has posed many challenges including expressing emotions and engaging in normal social interactions. A few others consist of: blinking, drinking fluids, speaking clearly, closing my eye, spitting when I brush my teeth, putting on lip balm, focusing my vision, putting on makeup, washing my face, working out and blowing eyelashes off my fingers.

Joni Mitchell once sang, “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone?” Overcoming the challenges I listed has given me a greater appreciation for the littlest things in life. I have always tried to appreciate the green of the trees and the feel of the wind, but I have never considered thanking my nerves for allowing me to enjoy the greater pleasures of life.

To give you a better understanding of managing an uncontrollable eye: every morning I wake up and carefully peel tape off my eyelid while trying not to rip out my lashes; I carry eye drops with me at all times and use them every 30 minutes; I consciously have to remember to use my fingers to close my right eye; and when I wash my face I have to hold my eye closed to avoid pain from water contact.

These daily struggles have been challenging to manage, but my friends have been incredibly supportive and have laughed with me at all the things I can’t do. I have learned a lot about gratitude, acquired the ability to embrace insecurity and can see beauty in imperfection.

If you take anything away from this column, I would like you to notice the next time you blink, smile or fill your mouth with water and be thankful you can do so with ease. Instead of worrying how your teeth look when you smile, just be happy you can do it.

If and when I regain control of my face, you can bet I will be batting my eyelashes at everyone and my smile will never stop. Currently I look like I’m always snapchatting or giving people the stink eye. Please remember I’m happier than I look and I’m just trying to smile and say hello.  Enjoy your health.

Leslie Barrett is a senior majoring in business.

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