Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.
― Brene Brown

I thought it was a cold! The allergies had turned into some upsetting nose-blowing, watery eyes , itchy ears, kind of common cold. Within 24 hours it turned into a slight swelling on my upper face.

It’s no big deal to catch a slight flu or so I thought, after all it wasn’t the dreaded malaria. In Sierra Leone it’s not common for an adult to go see a doctor when they have a  slight cold.

A day later, the pain was excruciating and a strange numbness and tingling sensation had taken over nearly all of my right face. I knew what it meant to be ill and was not ready to face yet another bout of hospital admission, medication and self-pity.

Each waiting second reminded me that I did need to see a Doctor and so I cut out the excuses and saw a GP, He confirmed my fears- It was just a cold! Do you sleep with your windows open? I replied with a knowing grin- ‘Yes Doctor’. Well, hmm, with an expert stare as he examined my inflamed lymph-nodes, swollen face and watery eyes it must be a draft from the cracks in your windows. I nodded in agreement and thankfully took the prescription, no injections – really? it wasn’t that serious. I came home and drank the medicines religiously, feeling increasingly anxious as the uneasiness increased, the pain was becoming unbearable and I was having intermittent fevers. It got so bad, stopped attending lectures, maybe I was just exhausted been a fresh-woman and all . A week later, by chance I happened to visit my – Grandpa Doctor (the late Dr. D.J.O Robbin-Coker) who immediately asked that I see Him in His clinic . I was diagnosed with a form of facial paralysis. Two days later,my  seventh cranial nerve collapsed- My face was lopsided and I lost my smile!

How did it happen?By the time I had the chance encounter with Uncle Olubunmi, I could barely feel anything on the right side of my face. I was still intent on finishing the 7 days dose of prescribed medicines. Why? Because: people die when they do not complete doses! you should know that. I had to obey instructions- Doctor’s orders- that’s what they are called. I was the ideal patient- well for once- give a girl a break.

By the time I started treatment, my 7th cranial nerve had totally collapsed. I could not close my right eye, it was so bad that I had to sleep with an eye patch to force the other eye into a lazy – somewhat peaceful slumber. Of course I couldn’t chew solids, Imagine your right jaw moving to kiss your left jaw. Food had to be liquidized and drunk through a straw. I had always loved smiling at myself through the bathroom mirror while brushing my teeth and humming the reigning tune of the month. I hated what I saw through the mirror.

Interestingly on the day of total collapse, I woke up hail and hearty and perhaps forgot about the flu that I had been battling. I was busy brushing my teeth when my brother barged in ( we both shared a bathroom and we never had privacy rules in our house- till I became a married woman I felt comfy walking in my undies in front of my father and brother- weird I know but so so liberating and vice versa- lol ) He looked at me jokingly and chuckled- your face is bent ! I snorted back something that translated back into, you kid too much. He said : No Madam Know- All , I am dead serious. That was when I raised my head and screamed slowly. It was a play-back only from the horror movies that I loved to watch- then it was SCREAM.

All of a sudden I had gone from being whole with a few aches and pains to paralysed, unable to eat, brush my teeth or sleep. I looked like the wicked witch from the West in the wizard of Oz, except the only person I was scaring was my self. 

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The days grew into weeks, people pointed at me, laughed and stared so hard that I could feel their eyes burn even when I was walking away. I lost friends, in fact I asked for a gap- year with a written medical note to my University authorities, when the registrar’s team saw my condition they were perplexed and took a few moments to pray with me. That was a re-assuring dose of it’s not over yet, their are a few people that still care and empathise. That day when I went for in for the steroids shot and physical therapy- they dropped the bombshell.  I had to prepared for the worst, I may never have a  full smile again. I was not responding well to treatment. 

“Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”
― Brené Brown

Something on the inside of me rejected that report, they weren’t talking about me. All I saw was me smiling.  I would look at photo’s of me smiling endlessly and visualize what it felt like. I would sing joyously around the house, forgetting my sorrows and embracing the little things. I was alive, I had my entire life before me. I was blessed to have a host of doctors working with my Grandpa from all around the world making suggestions at to what to do. 

At that time the only eye that functioned very well had been magnified to watch the rose bloom, I could hear the birds chirping at the break of dawn. I found myself saying thank you when people waited on me, just so I could finish a tiny portion of food. My Mama had a team of  pastors who visited me often and prayed diligently , I could hear the verses of scripture- it became true for me. I embraced my faith- whole hardheartedly and prayed not like I had never prayed before (as I had encountered a few more tragic situations than this). I quit religion and absorbed spirituality.

My heart set connected with my soul set I could relate to miracles better. This brings to mind Brene Brown’s quote :  ‘What makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful ‘ this experience humbled me and brought me to my knees.The simple wonders of our body, having to chew our food, wink our eyes at our favourite people, control the tears  from over-flowing and going to sleep left me in total awe of the power house called our bodies. Every tiny cell, nerve and organ bringing together such a beautiful masterpiece. I discovered the joys of essential oils through this experience, as they will bring such relaxing calm to my aching nerves. 

At only nineteen, my mind was exposed to a major truth- Life was too short to waste thinking about what people will say. Life was beautiful. I was intent on living my life to the fullest everyday, I was attuned to live a life of purpose.

I started developing new habits, watching the sunset became a pastime. I would dash of to the beach which was a 15- mins drive from my house to go watch the sun play tricks on the water. I counted the sand and admired the fishermen while they fished, I would join in when their songs lured me in. Reading my lost hobby was resurrected to meet me half-way,it would have been so funny to see me unpack those gems amidst- dust and cobweb. I developed a new ritual, living every day as if it was my last. I wasn’t a big eater but as my nerves got stronger , my taste buds awakened- My love for tea grew stronger. Tea makes everything better- trust me it does.

Each time I massaged myself with peppermint/ spearmint oil it felt better, I learnt how to give myself quick calming strokes as often as needed. A decade and few years after my full and complete recovery, I can still faintly see that face in the mirror- the drooping jaws- that wild stare and I can hear the voices laughing but I had only to listen intently, they are rejoicing, no longer mocking. How did She make it through such a rough patch?

“Soul, if you want to learn secrets, your heart must forget about shame and dignity.You are God’s lover, yet you worry what people are saying.”
― Rumi, 

Trauma comes in all forms, who are we to judge the extent to which it haunts the other. Truth is many people have and will continue to have traumatic experiences in clusters like I have or one big shattering blow. I have deliberately incorporated daily activities to guard my spiritual, mental and physical health:

  • I take short breaks as often as I can.

  • I enjoy meditation using my favourite apps CALM and  Headspace .

  • I listen to mindful podcasts ever so frequently.

  • I drink tea, lots and lots of teas.

  • I have turned my passions for writing and children into jobs.

  • I  keep a gratitude journal and say 100 thank- you’s through out my day.

  • I have opened my arms to making mistakes.

  • I am learning how to love my mistakes and practice patience.

  • I create affirmations, power words that I chant as often as I remember.

Today you can also start on a path of self-care and mindfulness, release yourself into the full awareness that the time is now. Now is all you have!


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Written by: arianadiaries

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