You Won’t Believe the Story Behind These Two Faces
Why There’s More Than Meets the Eye
When you look at these two pictures, what immediately runs through your mind? I’m guessing words like beautiful, young, healthy, and vibrant were adjectives that popped into your head when you viewed the woman on the left.
Does seeing the woman on the right conjure up words like sick, contagious, repulsive, ugly, and scary? Our brains make snap judgements based on appearance thousands of times each day. How often do we stop and take a moment to reflect on those initial impressions and learn more before we judge? Chanel is the woman on the left and I (Lisa) am the woman on the right. Chanel and I have never met, but began reading about one another on our respective blogs, which depict our lives with chronic autoimmune disease. I hesitated reaching out to Chanel, but finally built up the courage and sent her this message:
I’ve known about you for a while, read your posts, loved your writing, admired you greatly, cried for what you go through…. but was terrified to contact you. Why? Because I felt tremendous guilt that I have lived with my chronic disease for 30 years, have two children, a husband, a career, and my disease is currently stable. How could I possibly have the nerve to contact you? I couldn’t think of anything to say that didn’t seem like I was throwing in your face that I’m fortunate to have a “better” diagnosis.” We are only in touch at all because you commented on something I posted. Please respond if you’re interested in talking.
Here’s what Chanel wrote back:
Wow, first let me say how brave you are to write this, and express your honest feelings! I was completely speechless when I read your email, for a reason you may not believe!
Lisa, you are so amazing! And I want you to know that your journey has inspired me many times! I started reading your blog from your very first post and was amazed by the trials you have overcome. I kept my distance because I felt you had endured so much more than me, and couldn’t possibly relate or want to talk to someone so young and inexperienced with disease! It’s so funny the perspective we build in our heads about others and their view on us!
Let’s Talk Soon,
Never in a million years would I have ever imagined you could feel that I have endured more than you! Besides, as I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s not a contest, and if it were, nobody would want to be the winner 🙂
During a brief phone conversation, Chanel explained that at the age of 20, just a few weeks after her honeymoon, she became very sick. Three and a half years later, Chanel’s disease has taken a catastrophic toll on her major organs. She suffers from serious vascular, digestive, respiratory, and nervous system involvement. She has a feeding tube surgically placed in her abdomen, a central line in her chest, uses supplemental oxygen, and is admitted to the hospital every few weeks. When I asked Chanel about her future she said, “I’m going to take the punches as they come. Who knows? Maybe they’ll come up with a drug that will be my drug- the one that’ll work for me.” I am in awe of Chanel’s strength, courage and positivity. She has so much to teach the world.
I almost missed out on the privilege of getting to know Chanel because I was afraid to reach out. The universe puts up enough hurdles for us. Why do we create additional barriers based on fear? How many times did you miss out on an opportunity to cultivate a relationship because you were afraid, or thought you couldn’t possibly have anything in common?
Chanel and I have a lot in common, we both suffer from the same autoimmune disease; scleroderma. We’ve been impacted differently, but we’re both warriors. We each thought the other was “worse off” and felt uncomfortable reaching out. How many cancer patients who haven’t lost their hair feel uncomfortable approaching a bald cancer patient? How many wealthy people feel the same way about approaching a poor person? Whether it be a difference in social status, religion, ethnicity, or appearance, this scenario plays out constantly in our society.
It’s human nature to make snap judgements about people and gravitate toward people who look like we do, both literally and figuratively. Even so, the next time you meet someone who you deem too fat, skinny, old, young, loud, quiet, pretty, ugly, or spotted, remember the story of the two faces you just read about. Think about the beautiful young woman and the weird-looking spotted lady, and then, take another look:
- This is the first time I have ever publicly shared a photo of my bare face. You would think I might want to take baby steps, rather than just throwing it out there on the internet. Nope, I say go big or go home. Some have warned me against doing so, saying the internet trolls are going to have a field day. I am putting my faith in humanity and hoping this will get more positive reactions than negative. Please consider sharing this with a nice comment to prove me right.
- Yes, concealer is my best friend. For more on that, read this.
- To be clear, I know my battle with makeup is not anything in comparison to organ failure. But like I said, it’s not a contest.