I believe in those words … I do. Smiles are contagious!
But I have not been able to smile for around 12 years now. A gift from my experience with Bell’s Palsy. Bell’s Palsy is pretty common and chances are you have either had it or know someone who has. The only uncommon thing in my case was that I did not recover and was left with partial facial paralysis on the right side of my face. I can manage a grin or a smirk, but my smile is gone.
The picture on the top right of the Wikipedia page shows pretty well how I look if I try to smile.
Bell’s Palsy was the first in a series of health scares that triggered my anxiety related depression. It took away all of my smiles, the ones inside and the ones outside.
When I look in the mirror, when I see a goofy photo of me, when I see someone else sporting a beautifully symmetrical smile, I am reminded I am different and broken. Broken in ways most people cannot see and broken also in ways most people can see.
Health issues (either mine or others) trigger my anxiety, which can then lead to depression. But if you want to know one of the most common direct triggers for my depression – it is smiling. How messed up is that?!?
I hate having photos taken by an unknowing (or maybe insensitive) friend … everyone else smiles and I stand there looking serious or stoic at best. So the photographer calls out, “Come on! Smile Jared!” … or they look strangely at the image they just captured and conclude, “Alright, let’s try that again.” I deal with social anxiety also, so you can imagine how I also hate the attention my face brings to me in situations like that.
I know it is not serious and millions of people have far more disabling and life threatening ailments … yet the inability to smile is (for me) a constant outward reminder of what often is going on inside. It reminds me of my inability to feel joy at times I should, my inability to happily face the world as many others seem to do, and the burden of living with a broken mind.
It is cruel that I can’t even fake happiness at times I want to with a physical expression of it.
In my world it is not a case of smile and the whole world smiles with you. The whole world often smiles around me … I just can’t join in … I can’t even pretend to take part in the contagious process Louis Armstrong sings about.
To be honest, I am not sure why I have even written this post. I guess I told Ruby when I joined Canvas, I need a place to write about this side of me, a place where I feel understood. So many people try to make me feel better about my missing inner smile with, “Just snap out of it, you have a good life and lots to be happy about.” Others try to make me feel better about my missing outer smile with, “I can’t even notice. No one would know.”
I don’t want to hear those words.
I KNOW I have a lot to be happy about – but there are times I just can’t!
I KNOW a lot of people don’t notice my missing smile – but I miss it … every … single … day!
I guess the most positive way to end this post is to say thank you for reading (listening) and understanding this side of me. I am not complaining so much as I am expressing.
🙂 … added that one just for the irony.
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