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Go for the Smile!

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When I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis two years ago, I received some aggressive treatments in the hospital and subsequently as an outpatient. I was hopeful that the treatments would be beneficial.

Instead, the treatments appeared to backfire, and over the next several months, I experienced almost every symptom of MS written in the textbooks. It was as if MS was a wildfire that raged through every bit of my central nervous system, leaving its charred remains behind.

I experienced severe itching over my head and body. I had problems with my eyes. The pain in my face, particularly on the left side, was so strong that even a wisp of hair brushing across it was miserably uncomfortable.

When I would slightly bend my head forward, an electrical shock would course through my body from head to toe. And, I experienced what is called the “MS Hug,” a tight band of constrictive pain around my chest.

My legs, arms, feet and hands were numb, tingly, and painful. I wasn’t even sure where my hands and feet were in time or space. My feet were “floppy,” which made it difficult for me to walk with normal balance. My hands would attempt to perform everyday tasks, but frequently miss the mark.

My husband and I laughed that I had become the “Princess” in the story of “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen. If the temperature was under 70 degrees, I was too cold and my symptoms worsened. Above 75 degrees, I became too hot and my symptoms also worsened.

I had intermittent incontinence, tongue biting, and muscle spasms. Sleep disturbances became my norm, and extreme fatigue often overpowered me.

I felt like a human petri dish, just waiting for the next assault. (For more details about my MS story, you might want to listen to this podcast on the Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis site where I was interviewed by Paul Harvey: https://overcomingms.org/community/podcast-library/love-yourself-to-wellness)

But in the midst of all of my physical suffering, I learned a lesson from “Mike” Wazowski, the Monsters, Inc, Disney character. You see, “Mike” is always smiling.

My 8 year old grandson has a “Mike” pillow, and carries him everywhere he goes, except to school. No matter whether “Mikey” (the nickname given to him by my grandson) has been stepped on, sat on, temporarily misplaced, or lost, he still smiles. It is a smile that fills his face with the corners of his lips turned up.

I realized, just like “Mikey,” that I could choose to smile or growl, be thankful or miserable, be gracious or grumbly.

And though I couldn’t always make the higher choice, I could turn the corners of my mouth up for a start.

An easy choice. It takes no extra time. That one little step changes our brain chemistry for the better, gives us more coping skills with our challenge at hand, and resets our perspective.

We may not be able to change our outward circumstance, but we can change our inward response to that circumstance. The ultimate power that no one can take away. Our choice. Let’s make it a worthy one.

The Experiment: Turn the corners of your mouth up to smile and see what happens. For the better. In your life and in the lives of others.

Silence Your Inner Critic: You may say, “I don’t feel happy enough to smile.” I hear you, but try it anyway. You won’t be sorry. Cultivating that tiny little habit may change your life.

Rock Our World with Your Comments: How did your world change when you turned up the corners of your mouth? Write your thoughts in a personal journal, discuss with a friend or family member, or post a comment below or on our Facebook page. We thrive and grow with your input!

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Comments (8)

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    Shana

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    the wonderful older barber that used to cut LenPaul’s hair in Waxhaw, NC had a great attitude. After completing the haircut, he would wheel LenPaul around in the chair and always said, Now smile and you will make a new friend!

    Reply

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    Shirley Boening

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    I am so sorry for all you go through with this terrible disease. However, please know that you are an inspiration to so many. You have been an inspiration to me ever since that day about 28 years ago when I came to observe one of your Kindermusik classes. You continue to be an inspiration through your blogs and how you live your life. Love, Shirley

    Reply

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      Patty Bilhartz

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      Bless you, Shirley. I thank God often for your inspiration and influence in my grandson’s lives. What a legacy you are leaving in College Station to hundreds (thousands?) of children as they love their music! Have a beautiful day.

      Reply

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    Dotty

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    Dear Patty,
    Wonderful message and great picture of your grandson!
    I’ve missed your messages and hope that you are not having periods of relapse. It’s good to hear from you again.
    Peace and smiles,
    Dotty

    Reply

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      Patty Bilhartz

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      Thanks so much, Dotty. I am doing well. I am posting a blog now about once monthly and am thankful that it is meaningful to you. Blessings to you and Jim.

      Reply

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    Keri Hicks

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    I have learned to practice that same smile through my own fatigue and pain. Sometimes, I think that others will see it as being fake since I have been told that my ‘eyes aren’t agreeing with my smile’…but I smile anyway. That was a great read. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

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