My text alerts were beeping. Exhausted, I turned over and hid my head under the covers. A few minutes later, my phone beeped again. Then it beeped a few minutes after that. I could no longer ignore the beeps. I took in a deep breath, willed my arm out and picked up my phone. I began reading my texts. It wasn’t until I was halfway through responding to the second text when I sensed that something was wrong, but was still not awake enough to connect the dots that even my texting was off and overly sensitive. I set my phone down, plopped my feet on the ground and headed toward the bathroom. As my feet moved across the floor, I felt wisps of hair stinging my face, signaling the pain and my crazy night’s sleep. As I looked in the mirror I noticed the big birds’ nest my hair had contoured itself into. My eyes were still a little stuck together, which is normal enough. Yet, they hurt as I opened them. I moved my head closer to the mirror.
“Oh shit!” I screeched.
That is when I realized I was squinting and not by choice. My eyes were nearly swollen shut. My face was red and disfigured. The underneath part of my eyes looked like bruised balloons. I asked Dave to take a look. To quote Dave quoting the musician Tom Waits, he said (in a Tom-Waits voice — of course),
“I mean, she’s been married so many times
She’s got rice-marks all over her face…”
I have only been married to Dave, but sure, one could argue that my face resembled a person who had been pummeled with fifty pounds of rice. Then again…
Even though we are living during a global pandemic, which means that I am not even supposed to publicly socialize, and thus should be staying home, I felt utterly self conscious. And even though I am surrounded by the best dudes ever (Dave, Eli and Kyle), they are not the same as my girlfriends. As hard as they try, they do not offer the same tone, inflection, and the validation a good best friend can offer. So naturally I did what anyone who is uncomfortable with their looks would do: I took several pictures. Then I sent some to my best friend, Marianne. She was like,
“Wow! Really swollen. Wow! Did you ice it?”
As I continued texting with Marianne, I walked out to the kitchen where Eli was sitting eating some cereal.
“Wow. You are swollen!”
Yes. He gave me exactly what I needed, at least for that moment.
As the day progressed, my face became more swollen. I knew it was bad when Kyle would laugh. Then quickly offer sympathy.
I felt weird. I was not myself.
See, the day before I went to the dermatologist. I was having some pre cancerous skin and a bunch of broken blood vessels lasered off. I have done this before. I have done this before with a much stronger Fraxel laser. As a result, I never registered his words when the doctor said,
“You might be uncomfortable for a couple of days.”
The first day seemed right on target. I was red and a little uncomfortable. I was also the slightest bit swollen. Not knowing how bad it would get, I actually tried to garner sympathy from Eli. Insincerely he would say,
“Yes. Mom. You are so swollen. Wow!”
Today was an entirely different story. When he saw my face a few minutes ago, his honest shock revealed how bad my face was. (In truth, I appreciated the validation). Today he also offered,
“Mom, this is probably what you will look like when you are 95.”
After my encounter with Eli, I called the doctor’s office. They assured me that sometimes this happens and if the swelling is not gone in 2 -3 days, I should call back. They offered me medicine. Because the doctor sent me home with some the day before, I declined.
I want to say the rest of the day was easy. It sucked. Somehow my facial disfigurement caused a cascade of emotion and strange behavior. I was overly sensitive. I was apathetic. I fought. I slept repeatedly. I managed to help Eli with his new college application. I tried setting ice packs on my face for hours at a time. The ice packs only seemed to move the swelling. During my ice pack sessions, I tried to listen to the book “Empty” on Audible. It’s a book about binge eating disorders. That did not work. I had a snack.
Kyle suggested I listen to last Sunday’s episode of “This American Life” called “The Empty Chair.” It was about loss during the pandemic. I did. I cried when one of the podcasters spoke about having to put her dog down this past year.
I was going to make dinner. Instead, I went back to my room and climbed back into bed. Thankfully Dave convinced Kyle to make it instead. Kyle is a great cook. He made comfort food: pan seared potatoes and sausage, which I covered in catsup. It was delicious.
Late at night Dave and I went for a walk. I wanted to wait until dark so no one would see my deformity. I was hoping the night air would cool my face. It did. I told him about the “This American Life” podcast. I mentioned that part about gossip and how the pandemic has atrophied our talking muscles. I concurred. Then I told him how I miss meeting up with people, yet was not sure what I would say.
“My conversation words are clunky.” I said.
We talked about our boys. We are worried about them. We are proud of how they have handled this year. Once we reached our door, we stopped talking. Dave went to the garage to work on his camping heater. I honestly don’t know what I did next. I am not sure it matters.
I woke up this morning still quite swollen, yet not as bad as yesterday. My face itches like crazy. Dave and I don’t think one could be allergic to lasers, but after this, who knows? In normal times I think having a swollen face as a medical procedure would suck. Somehow having a swollen face during an exhausting pandemic almost broke me. My guess is that many of us are at the end of our ropes, or better, feel like we have exhausted all of our emotional stores. Please know you are not alone. Please know I am here for you, albeit terribly swollen.
On the upside, I am sure we all have enough toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Oh and I am sure that more people have generators than they had one year ago. Hang in there.
PS: Dave was curious if I was actually going to post pictures of my disfigured face. I am trying not to have second thoughts. 😂