Behind The Smiles

Behind The Smiles

​Behind these smiles are stories. Stories of tribulation, suffering, fear and uncertainty.
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Someone I hold close to my heart received some difficult news today and I was inspired to write about the unspoken and melancholy effects critical illnesses have on a patient. While medical conditions cause severe emotional distress amongst family members, we sometimes forget to address the flood of emotions the patient is facing.

Coming from someone who fought for their life for 2 years, the array of emotions felt during an illness is overwhelming. The minute you get told your prognosis by your doctor, or in my case, unknown prognosis, you definitely go through the 5 stages of grief.

It starts with denial. It’s honestly hard to believe that you went from having a somewhat normal life to having a tube implanted for life support, intensive chemotherapy treatment to kill your cancer or even a time limit put on your life. Perhaps you woke up with a side ache, and that night you’re going to bed knowing you have a kidney disease. The news can be hard to comprehend, but eventually reality sets in.

The denial then turns to anger, but the anger usually doesn’t last long. It’s common to ask the question, “why me”? It’s understandable for a patient to lash out on family over little things, because inside they are trying to cope with the fact that their life is forever changed. Like I said, the anger doesn’t last long, because no one likes to be angry.

The anger transforms into bargaining, because the patient is racking their brain trying to decipher the reasoning for their situation. They feel helpless and vulnerable and want to have control over their life again, so they’ll question whether the outcome would be different if they had sought medical attention sooner or if the prognosis would be different if they got a second opinion. This is completely logical. It is tough to conceptualize the fact that you may no longer be seen as “Alex”, but rather “the sick girl”, “the girl with the tube in her nose”, “the girl in the wheelchair” or even “the girl that almost died”. But, when reality sinks in deeper, the bargaining stops.

The more and more you continue to live your life knowing you have a certain medical condition or in pain and discomfort, you simply get sad. I remember the numerous nights I sat in the hospital bed crying and crying until, literally, I had no tears left to cry. I was tired of fighting, I was tired of the hospital, I was tired of the endless examinations, IVs, vitals, ER trips and doctors. I wanted my bed, I wanted my dog, I wanted my family and I wanted my home. Home is where I felt comforted, it was familiar and it was a place I didn’t feel like a patient. I just felt like Alex: a daughter, sister, cousin and friend. But, you can’t pity yourself forever when you’re in these situations.

It doesn’t take long for patients to accept their condition and to live life with optimism and gratitude. It’s funny, because all the warriors fighting medical battles that I have met, always have a positive attitude and smile on their face. But, when I was in the hospital, my mom would get distressed when countless doctors would ask her, “Are you sure her illness isn’t self-inflicted? She doesn’t seems like a sick kid, she always is smiling, bubbly and laughing.” That was my way of coping; if I was going to spend all of my holidays for 2 years in a hospital room, then I was going to decorate my room, make friends with the nurses, take laps around the hospital with my IV pole and find unexplored avenues I hadn’t been through yet.

I wasn’t always an upbeat patient though, I definitely had my fair share of trials and defeats.

The day I got my feeding tube implanted, I had had an endoscopy procedure earlier in the day. The endoscope tore my throat up and left it completely raw, exactly in the spot where my tube pressed against as it passed through to my intestines. The pain I felt that night from the pressure of the tube on my completely exposed throat was excruciating. I couldn’t talk or swallow it hurt so bad. All I wanted to do was cry, but the minute I started to cry, the pain got even worse. That was one of many moments I admitted defeat and wanted to give up my fight. But, deep down I knew I couldn’t stop fighting. The thought of letting my family down, relinquishing my fervent foundation of faith and giving up on myself fueled me to persevere.

My brother, who has been blessed with the gift of humor, used his jokes to his advantage. He learned through my illness, that he can use his humor to uplift others when they are down. He used to put his white computer charger into his nostril and wrap it behind his ear to pretend he had a feeding tube, just like me. Being a typical 15 year old boy, he took my giant teddy bear and taped it above the sink and turned the faucet on. Of course, as juvenile humor does, I laughed and a smile grew across my face. I realized the amazing support system I had to pick me up when I fell down was worth far more than the pain I endured.

We have a smile on our face, we offer smiles and laughs to friends, family and strangers. We have a love for helping others and living life like everyone else. We handle our situations with grace and dignity. We don't give up. We may look okay, but everyday brings pain, trials, fear and sadness. But everyday, we smile, we love, we laugh and we remember...we are fighting this battle for ourselves, our family, our friends and our futures.

Behind these smiles are stories. Stories of tribulation, suffering, fear and uncertainty.

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)

Cover Image Credit: Give A Smile Today

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65 Truths College Students Need to Hear Right Now

Truth every college student needs to hear.
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1. The best memories are ones you actually can remember.

2. God isn’t going to ask you if you were in a top-tier sorority or fraternity at the gates.

3. You failed a test, not your life.

4. Numbers don’t define you.

5. That includes the number you see that is your grade.

6. Also, how much you weigh.

7. As well as if you are a “7/10” on a so-called “hot scale.”

8. Or if you can bench press 200 lbs. (@ all the guys at the gym, please chill.)

SEE ALSO: 7 Reminders Every College Student Needs To Hear Before The Semester Ends

9. Innocence is nothing to be ashamed of.

10. Neither are mistakes.

11. But learn from your mistakes. Mistakes can be lessons, which can be the biggest blessing.

12. Your metabolism isn’t what it used to be and that is okay.

13. You may not always understand what God is doing, but I promise He has a plan.

14. Every person you meet is battling their own struggles.

15. Life isn’t always great moments.

16. But you have to walk through the forest to get to the mountain top.

17. Your heart isn’t damaged. It is temporarily broken but it will be fixed.

18. However, the only one who can fix a broken heart is the one who created it.

19. So a cute boy or hot girl can’t put the pieces back together.

20. Neither can ice cream.

21. But ice cream can totally help.

22. Stop texting your ex. He/She is your ex for a reason.

23. Loving Jesus means loving people.

24. Loving Jesus also means loving the image of Him in the mirror you see.

25. Stop hiding your emotions. Stop crying in the bathroom or behind a locked door. You have people in your life who care about you.

26. Suicide is never the answer.

27. Breathe in, breathe out.

28. Do you feel your heart pump? Do you feel the air exiting your body? That is a sign you are here for a purpose. Your life is no mistake.

29. Just because you doubt, doesn’t mean you don’t believe in Jesus.

30. However, when walking on the water scares you, look to Jesus and keep your eyes on Him.

31. If you have the opportunity to go to school go. There are young girls around the world who would do anything to sit at the desk you are complaining about.

32. Don’t pick a career based on money.

33. However, I promise you can use any passion or gift to serve a purpose bigger than yourself if you allow yourself to give it to the One who gave it to you.

34. You don’t need pretty prayers to please God.

35. Talk to Him like you are talking to a friend.

36. Look for the good in everyone.

37. That includes the mean girl who no one likes. Chances are she is mean for a reason. Someone was once mean to her. Kill her with kindness.

38. Pray to have the Lord’s eyes. See people with love.

39. Try to have the Lord’s hands, always be reaching out to others.

40. Each morning, pray to have the Lord’s feet and go where He calls you.

41. It is a bad day, not a bad life.

SEE ALSO: What It's Like To Be A College Student In April

42. You don’t need a six-pack to find a man who loves you.

43. You need a spouse who will be able to look at you when you are 80, and wrinkly and maybe a little chunky, and you need him to love you then. If he loves you for your body and your hair, I promise he doesn’t actually love you. Looks fade, but love is eternal. Find someone who loves you like Jesus.

44. Do some squats.

45. But squat so you feel good about yourself, not to attract the opposite sex.

46. You are never too old to find a new hobby.

47. You were beautiful before someone told you.

48. If you don’t know if you are in relationship or not, leave. You deserve clarity, not insecurity.

49. You deserve friendships that are mutual.

50. The best Friday nights are spent with a puppy and food. It is okay to not always be social.

51. Stop worrying about whether your crush will text you back.

52. Stop over analyzing everything in general.

53. Pray for your future spouse.

54. However, also pray for your future bridesmaids/groomsmen. Some of the most influential people you may have in your life you may not have even met yet.

55. Storms bring strength.

56. And storms bring rainbows if you are patient and observant.

57. Stop Pinteresting your dream life and start living it.

58. The Bible is actually extremely relatable. Open it up. Read it.

59. Romans 8:28 “and we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” God is on your team. He wants you to have moments of celebration. He has a purpose for you greater than your bad day.

60. Never forget what Jesus did for you on that cross. When he died for you, it was painful and brutal. It was ugly. It was love. Don’t let that truth ever become numb to you no matter how many times you have heard the story.

61. There is nothing wrong with carbs.

62. Study. And don’t wait for the night before.

63. Find someone who you can look up to.

64. Also, never forget that there is always someone looking up to you. Act like someone you would want your future children to be. Act in a way that reflects wisdom.

65. Smile more, you are loved by the one who hung the stars and painted the sea. He created puppies and carbs–yet still loves you more. That is something to celebrate.

College is tough and life is hard. You are going to have moments where all you want to do is celebrate life with your best friends, but you will also have moments where you just want to lock the door, ignore everyone, and have a good cry. Never forget that your worth comes from something greater than your Biology grade, and from Someone greater that the one who broke your heart.

You aren’t too cool for Christ in college. Christ is a necessity for you in your life. He can hold your hand during your heartbreaks and failures and celebrate with you when you get the text back or a passing grade in foreign language. He loves for you and cares for you more than your sorority or fraternity ever will.

So buy your books, do your homework, but never forget when you are walking to you 8:00 a.m. you regretfully signed up for, to look up. Look at the clouds and the sky and thank your creator that in a big big world with many beautiful things, He still loves our messy hearts even more. So this one is for the boys for the King. This life is for the One who laid down His life.

I promise college is more fun when you dance with your Savior. Follow His lead and let him take you on a journey where you can find your purpose. You may not know where you are going, but you do know who you are following.

So never forget that although classes may be hard, and your metabolism may be slowing down–God is still good. He turns our ashes into beauty and our trials into our testimony. Do life with your creator and I promise you that you will have more than you need.

Romans 8:28 “And we know God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.”

Check out my website for more articles on self-worth <3

Twitter: gracev96

Instagram: lemmebeyourvalentine

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Opinion| Racism and Mental Health

"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)
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"When you're woke, it becomes hard to go to sleep."
- Random Acts of Flyness (Episode 6)

"Are you staying here?"

A seemingly innocent question. Yes, I was wearing a conference lanyard. Yes, I was performing the role "scholar at a conference" fairly well (laptop clutched under arm, pen held in hand, body wrapped in socially acceptable business attire, etc.) however, a member of the hotel staff still felt the need to question my existence in this 5-star hotel.

Before being pushed into a new state of awakening of the sheer violence that is life as a Black person, I would have smiled and simply answered her question. But not now. Now that I am aware of the many faces that racism has taken (historically) and the way my Black body looks against a White background, I have entered a place of hyper-racilization. Microagressions and odd questions from aversive racists sear through my skin leave scars. The scar burns when I'm alone with my thoughts in the shower wondering "what did she mean by that?" The branding infiltrates my cognitive spaces as I replay the moment 10-15 times trying to better understand the situation. I am not okay.

More literature is being dedicated to examining the role that racism and discrimination plays in emotional and psychological distress. Studies have shown that racism has the potential to increase the risk of stress, cold symptoms, cardiovascular disease, mortality, and depression.

An article by the American Psychological Association based on a meta-analytic study that examined perceived racism and mental health asserted that: "For Black American adults, perceived racism may cause mental health symptoms similar to trauma and could lead to some physical health disparities between blacks and other populations in the United States."

Researchers examined 66 studies for a total sample of 18,140 Black adults in the United States. According to the study, Black Americans' psychological responses to racism are very similar to common responses to trauma, such as somatization, interpersonal sensitivity and anxiety.

In a separate study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology, a sociocultural model of stress and coping was tested in a sample of 215 African Americans. The study found that race-related stress was a significantly more powerful risk factor than stressful life events for psychological distress.

Even when Black Americans are not personally on the receiving end of racism, social media feeds are full of images and videos of brutalized, bleeding, battered, Black bodies. There is video footage of White officers punching a Black child and pulling up her shorts to expose her as she is pinned down. There is video footage of a white officers straddling a Black teenager outside of her community pool. For activist (or aware individuals in general), third-party sources and first-person experiences of race-based trauma create a violent accumulation of negative mental outcomes.

They will not be linked here because the purpose of this discourse is to go beyond consuming Black pain and death. If you feel inclined, a simple google search can give you access to hundreds of pornographic images and videos of our violation.

Black Americans are constantly faced with the reality that their lives are not protected.


Licensed clinical psychologist Monnica Williams studies the epidemiology of PTSD in minorities and explains that it can be incredibly traumatic for people of color, particularly African American children to see Black death in the form of these violent police encounters. In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Williams studies the link between racism and post-traumatic stress disorder, which is known as race-based traumatic stress injury, or the emotional distress a person may feel after encountering racial harassment or hostility. Williams acknowledges that race-based stress reactions can be triggered by events that are experienced vicariously, or externally, through a third party — like social media or national news events.


This opinion piece is to make people aware of the psychological toll that racism and racialization has on racialized subjects. From a personal standpoint, I am looking for ways to silence the pain and panic attacks. I urge others to prioritize self care and healing as well.

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