It’s 6pm in Newport Beach, CA. I’m sitting at my laptop looking at older photos of me with friends on facebook, sobbing.
In the last few days, I went to see a facial nerve specialist; cases like mine are ALL she looks at. In that visit, my deepest, most painful fear was spoken to me out loud. She told me that, based on my progress over time, it is incredibly unlikely that my facial nerve will continue to improve beyond the progress that it’s made. There are surgical options to help me look somewhat more symmetrical, but there will be no miracles here (like my face healing on its own), nearly two years after the initial injury.
I am sure that some of you are balking at the idea of me getting cosmetic surgery to fix this, but I would kindly ask you to keep that opinion to yourself. I don’t have it in me to have this conversation multiple times, so let me explain myself this once. I cannot expect you to understand what it feels like to have a souvenir of the most devastating experience of my life staring back at me in the mirror every morning. For me, this surgery (or any of the surgical options presented to me) is not just a cosmetic one. Me getting even just a non-droopy smile back would help me move one step closer from this horrible thing.
This accident stripped me of so many things, but my smile? My most outstanding quality? Sometimes, I will be smiling huge in a picture because I was laughing or talking, but it’s only one side. The result is not this warm, happy smile that it used to be, but a grotesque display of the extremity of my facial paralysis.
There are several surgical options (as I mentioned earlier), all of which entail some form of nerve or muscle transfer from somewhere within my own body. Some options are more invasive than others, and some would take effect more quickly than others. The core purpose of any of the surgeries is to give me a symmetrical, closed-mouth smile A-La Mona Lisa. I will never be able to smile my excited, toothy smile that came to be my trademark to all who knew me.
I would love for my body to take care of this on its own, but that would take a true miracle, and I’m just not willing to wait around for my life to begin any longer. So, at this point I have wrapped my head around the prospect of surgery, it’s just a matter of choosing the best one for me. Just like everything else related to this accident (and life in general), the thing that I want is on the other side of the shitty stuff. I want an even smile. Surgery can get me to an even smile. Therefore, I want surgery. I’m going to do the research, ask the important questions, and interview the most skilled surgeons.
The alternative is to quit. That’s never been an option. I could also just decide to be okay with how I look now, but it’s truly not about that. What this is about, is being truly on the other side of the biggest struggle of my life. It’s difficult to muddle through this thought process without any influence from my family and friends, but they are giving me this space because they truly don’t have a desire for me to be any different. I know that I have their support with whatever I end up doing, but this decision is truly my own. I’m the one driving here.