“Oh My God!” Those were the words I heard everyone say when they saw pictures of my horrifically swollen face, this time last week. (How did it get so swollen? Hang tight, I'll get there.)
It was terrifying to watch my face blowing up by the hour and having no control over where it would end up. As I was experiencing this horror show, a line from my new book came to me.
“Loss comes in many flavors. Sometimes we don’t even recognize that we are experiencing a loss unless it’s something really obvious like a death.”
Okay, so here's the story.
About a month ago, I noticed a small rash on my forehead. I went to my Dr. and she treated it with cortisone cream, but it returned last week. Determined not to let it get worse, I slathered on the cortisone cream before bed, thinking the worst was over.
I woke up the next morning expecting my rash to be gone, only to discover that my face was violently swollen.
So I went back to the Dr. and they gave me a corticosteroid injection to help bring the swelling down. Woke up the next morning, looked in the mirror, and saw a monster staring back at me. It had gotten worse.
So there I was, looking so frightening that only Halloween night would have allowed me to be seen in public, and I had no idea what was happening, or if my face would ever return to its former self. I was experiencing loss, big time.
While this may sound like vein, self-indulgence, I ask you to pause for a moment and think about all of the loss issues going on for me looking at a face so puffed up that my right eye was almost gone.
1. Loss of a familiar physical appearance and the accompanying fear that I would never look the same.
2. Loss of control of my body.
3. Loss of the freedom to go out into the world.
4. Loss of the feeling that I was safe and that I would be alive tomorrow.
5. Loss of my ability to focus on anything but my pain and fear of the unknown.
6. Loss of being able to navigate through my world in my usual independent way.
7. Loss of being capable of functioning normally.
8. Loss of the sense that everything is right in my world.
Clearly, I could go on ad nauseam, but I think that by now you are catching my drift. Even though my children assured me that I was going to be fine and that this would not be a permanent condition, I could see the fear in their eyes, and none of us really knew for sure. Three different doctors told me three different things and all the while I just kept swelling... Like the girl who turns into a blueberry in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.
The point I am trying to make is that no matter what the source of the pain; we all feel it at 100%. Some might look at this and say, "Oh, Paula you just had a medical scare. It's not like someone died." But when you're going through distress, you're not measuring it up against other moments of distress you've experienced, or seen others go through. You're in it. And it sucks.
In a recent episode of one of my favorite TV shows, a character who had lost her son was trying to prove to another character, who had lost the love of his life, that her loss trumped his, that hers was unspeakable and his was part of life. His very wise and very beautiful answer was:
“A broken heart, is a broken heart…to take a measure is cruelty.”
Avoid judging others, or yourself, when it comes to the emotional pain felt after the loss or a person, place or thing that is precious to your every day happiness. When we are hurting, we need love, support and comfort, that’s all.
Knowledge, reasons and wisdom can come a little later when our heads are back online. In the meantime if and when you or someone you love is hurting, just hug them, let them cry and tell them that it’s going to be okay. Okay?
Now, I'm sure you're on the edge of your seat waiting to hear what the diagnosis was? Too much salt.
My body had had it with the corticosteroids and was trying to purge itself of the chemicals. I wasn't dying, I didn't have a mystery disease. But boy did it feel scary in the moment. Thanks to Dr. Gilchrist, my brilliant dermatologist, four days later my face was pretty much back to normal.
And as I write this, my son has given me the official word, “You’re back mom. You don’t look like a moth anymore.” LOL…thank God.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
Former Blog Archive
Thank you for reading Paula's Blog. Because our site moved in June, we were unable to transfer all of our blog posts over. You can however, read the rest of them by visiting our old blog site. HERE