Imagine you suddenly can’t feel one side of your face. You run to the mirror to see what’s happening and you realize that it’s paralyzed on that one side. Panic starts to set in as you try to figure out what’s going on…
That’s what happened to Elizabeth Stewart one perfectly ordinary night after dinner as she watched TV with her husband. “It was like having a nightmare and I kept hoping I would wake up!” Elizabeth told us.
Her story is the next in our Faces of Leadership series. We’ve asked her a few questions about her experience and here is what she said:
MMBC: How were you diagnosed?
ES: It all happened so quickly. 15 minutes after I finished my dinner I was drinking water and it just ran down my chin. As I looked in the mirror, I realized that the left side of my face wasn’t moving and felt numb.
We quickly ruled out a stroke, but then I was terrified because I had no idea what was happening. The MD at the local walk-in clinic instantly diagnosed it as Bell’s Palsy, so while waiting in the exam room I did research using my phone and learned that only 40,000 Americans are impacted per year.
The information I read online seemed vague and I had so many questions…
MMBC: What thoughts were you having as you made your experience public?
The outpouring of support was humbling and awakened a new inner confidence I’d never experienced. I felt truly blessed.”
ES: This happened the evening before I was scheduled to fly cross country for a very special large family celebration that had been planned for a year. I was crushed. But I didn’t know what was going on medically and was concerned about being on a long flight the next day.
I wanted my family to know that I was OK, I was still me, and not to worry but, I couldn’t make the trip. Then I started to wonder how many others in my social network might have had Bell’s Palsy and wanted to learn from the experience of others.
So I took a selfie and posted to Facebook as “My new smile”, describing my experience in hopes that I could make others aware of what this is, what it’s like, and what to expect. Knowledge is power.
The outpouring of support was humbling and awakened a new inner confidence I’d never experienced. I felt truly blessed.
MMBC: How did you find the courage to go to work (especially since you were at a new job!)?
I’ve learned that you can’t always control what life brings your way… but you CAN control how you face life each day.”
ES: I didn’t think I was being courageous, I honestly didn’t know what else to do. Within a 3 week period one of my beloved pets almost died, I lost my job, I found a new job, the left side of my face was partially paralyzed, and I had to miss a once in a lifetime family gathering.
I made a choice. I needed to keep moving, focusing on the positive, and feeling life. My new job gave me the opportunity to have something positive to focus on instead of sitting home and feeling sorry for myself.
The biggest challenge I faced was meeting new colleagues and clients for the first time at a 3 day event … knowing this was their first impression of me was hard.
Humor is my mask. It was obvious to me that others were uncomfortable, so I would make light of it with the hope that they could relax. Besides, joking around helped me feel normal, it helped me feel like me.
More importantly I reflected on all the strong women role models I’ve had and have in my life and how they faced life’s challenges. Through them I’ve learned that you can’t always control what life brings your way… but you CAN control how you face life each day.
MMBC: How do you think going public with your Bell’s Palsy altered your experience with it?
How is what I’m about to say or do going to impact my goals and who I want to be?”
ES: My favorite part of me is my smile… not just on the outside but on the inside. I think this experience helped me reconnect to what really matters. It’s not my appearance or how I look that defines who I am… but instead it’s my actions and how I approach every situation. How is what I’m about to say or do going to impact my goals and who I want to be?
This week spend some time thinking about when you’ve stepped up to lead. It can be big or small… we bet that you’ve been a leader far more often than you even realize.
We’d love to hear your story of leadership. If you have one that you’d like to have highlighted in our Monday Morning Business Coach post, please submit it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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