Behind The Smiles

Behind The Smiles

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

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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People Everywhere Need To Be More Aware Of Mental Health

Why is knowing about mental health important?

Mental health is a serious topic that has become a more talked about, many people are starting to realize that they have symptoms of certain illnesses. This week a good friend of mine took his own life after struggling with depression.

At first, it was a shock, nobody thought he was the "type." The thing is with depression there is no "type" someone can look extremely happy but be filled with sadness and resentment. It's hard to tell if someone is depressed or suicidal.

They might not show any symptoms then, one day, they're are gone. It's important to treat everyone with kindness and with equality. The national suicide hotline which is free and available 24/7 can be reached at 1-800-273-8255, if there is ever a time that you are thinking that you are not worth it, or that you deserve to die, I urge you to call this number.

You are loved by so many people, you don't deserve to take your own life. Many people might not realize their lives are important, but you are.

Getting active in different activities can help with depression. Finding people who have similar interests as you help as well. There are different support groups for those who struggle with depression, anxiety, bipolar, and many more. If you are a college student there are other options that are within the university.

For example, I go to Florida Gulf Coast University and we have a program called CAPS which is a group of people who are there when you need someone to talk to. CAPS also can prescribe medicine that is needed for some mental disorders. If you are feeling like you are struggling with how you feel please seek help, there are so many different ways to do it. Many organizations are available for anyone to use.

Cover Image Credit: itstom / Flickr

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4 Ways To Not Only Treat Yo Self, But LOVE Yo Self Too

Do a little more self care for a lot more self love.

I know how easy it is for all of us to get down on ourselves. Many times we are our hardest critic. Since moving in to my house in Columbia, my roommate has taught me a few tips about self care and how going the extra mile for yourself can change your whole attitude! Please keep in mind that she is this healthy tiny girl that can do some paranormal moves in hot yoga. When I first moved in and we were talking I was like "Oh my goodness, she's a health freak and she probably spends hours on her body." Some of y'all are probably thinking, "yeah, who doesn't?" ME. I did not moisturize or exfoliate or none of that. This article goes out to the girlies who were like me . I am about to change your life with a few tips I've picked up in the past month!

1. Put color on the pasty skin!

Please just let me tell y'all that I am a pro at looking at the mirror and complaining about how dark the circles around my eyes are. They stand out against my zombie-like pale skin. I know some of y'all can relate to people stopping you and asking "Are you feeling okay? You look a little sick." Well let me give you the solution to this... self tanner. I use the Jergen's brand. It's like $7. Who knew that a bottle of health and magic would be so cheap?!

Before you go out and start slapping on your bronze coat, let me pass on some wisdom...

- use latex gloves (or if you're allergic then an alternative) because when rubbing in the lotion your hands will hold onto a lot it. your body will be glowing and your hands will look DIRTY!

- before applying it, lotion your ankles, knees, elbows, and wrists. These are the parts of your body that have weird wrinkles that will hold the lotion. You will get the new nickname 'Streaks' if you do not follow this step!

After those precautions are taken, enjoy your (hopefully) natural-looking glow! Golden-brown rolls are always prettier than uncooked, pasty ones. (;

2. Achieve a silky mane.

Girl, go out and treat yo self to a nice hair conditioner. Bad hair days set the tone of our days way too often. Skip going out for a few meals and drop some money on a nice hair conditioner! Or do like I did and beg your mom to save your split ends and make then purchase for you.

Normally doing research is not very fun, but it is so important that you get the right conditioner for your type of hair. Look for conditioners that have AH-MAZING reviews and is meant to treat what the mop that you got!

I know there are also vitamins that you could take if you really don't want to risk dropping a lot on a conditioner that may not work. TheSugar Bear Hair vitamins seem to be advertised by a lot of well-known names like Sadie Robertson and Khloe Kardashian. I've never tried them, but if your head is really a mess then you might wanna grab both!

3. Color your claws, mamas!

Do not neglect your nails! You do so much with your hands. You and others have to constantly see what they look like. It is in everyone's best interest that you are showing your nails some love. It is not okay to touch other people or their things if your nails are chipped, dirty, and/or scary looking.

It is $15 to go to a drugstore and get a base coat and a top coat. A nail file is next to nothing. There is really no excuse for scary hands unless it is halloween. This simple self care takes all of 30 minutes! It is so nice to look down and see little pops of color on your hands.

PLUS it is so amazing all the possibilities you can do with your nails. The colors, patterns, designs are limitless. They may be small, but they are so easily another form of self expression. You can tell characteristics about someone by the colors they choose to put on their nails. I tend to lean towards darker colors. They go with everything and I'm just not a neon, in-your-face kind of person.

All of that to say, how you take care of yourself says a lot about who you are and who you want others to perceive you as. Painting your anise is such a small thing, but to me it is such a sign of self love.

4. Work yo body!!!

It should be common knowledge that exercising is good for you! It helps keep you in shape, but it is also pretty important to your mental health as well. Iw as recently in a pretty bad spot and I found myself going to the gym to find self acceptance and self love. When I moved, though, I wasn't comfortable with going to a new gym and I didn't know anyone to ask to go with me.

My housemates and I started walking our dogs together a lot. We try to go everyday, key word is TRY lol. It's such an easy way to get in physical activity in a fun way. More than that my housemate roped me into going to hot yoga with her. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE! I thought I was actually suffocating. They turn the heat to around 100 degrees and then expect you to twist in to all kind of noodle-pretzel shapes. Holy moly. We try to do it once a week now and I enjoy it so much. At least I enjoy after we leave.

I strongly encourage you to find a friend or a group of friends and make a day each week where you go out and do an activity that pushes you. After finishing you'll feel a sense of accomplishment and when you look in the mirror you will swear your waist getting smaller even though you just ate five donuts!!!

I listed out FOUR things that you can do daily or every other day. They are so simple, but changing these small things about my life has made me so much happier with who I am and how I live. It's encouraged me to do even more for myself. We focus so much on others and things outside our control and we get frustrated. Instead of getting down on yourself, focus on what you can control and what matters... YOU!

Cover Image Credit: 123rf

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