So a weird thing happened, in a series of weird things happening, that led to the weirdest thing of all.
At the beginning of December, I got sick with a stomach bug that had me so nauseous and dehydrated, I ended up face planting into my bathroom garbage can and wedging my front tooth into my bottom lip. I came to on the tile floor, side of my face rising into a black eye and blood all over my chin and neck, like UFC Dracula. I was shocked and shaken, as was my husband, who was terrified I was going to die in my sleep and thus spend the rest of his life in jail because he’s seen The Staircase and “just look at the evidence!!!”
I woke up looking mangled with a full week of events to tackle or cancel, depending on how honest I felt like being. Because the truth was I felt embarrassed, like I’d done something wrong. Like I should’ve taken better care of myself or something. And frankly, I was a little scared, because fainting does that to a person. It makes you lose trust in your own body, like you could go down at any minute with no warning. I felt like an old grandma, feeble and tentative, gripping the railing walking down the stairs and stepping off icy curbs extra carefully. I knew it could’ve been worse, which is also scary, because what if worse happens next time? My face is my livelihood, ridiculous as it is to say, and I literally can’t afford to bust it up. And I was busted.
There were a handful of people I came clean with, mostly my closest friends who are accustomed to talking me off the ledge and comforting me in my times of high drama (which is often. I can’t help it, it’s what I do for a living, okay??). I had to tell a couple of parents at my son’s school because I was scheduled to serve hot lunch on the Friday and I couldn’t leave them in the lurch. By that time my mouth wound had closed up and swollen into a purple scab, like the cold sore from hell, prompting my son to plead with me to “please wear a mask, because: gross”. I wore makeup on my bruised eye as it turned lizard green and dished up chicken fingers to the kids, smiling so damn hard my lip split again.
Most of it healed eventually of course, except for a lump of scar tissue that remains on my lower lip, a hard little pebble of humiliation that reminds me just how dependant on my stupid face I really am, and how fragile 12 hours of a stomach flu can make you. It’s rendered me a little self-conscious when I talk, utterly convinced that everyone is staring at it, wondering what the hell I’ve done to myself. “She looks different. Is it bad filler? Did she get hit? Did she faceplant into a garbage can and isn’t telling anyone about it? And if so, why not?”
After the last month and a half spent like this, I decided the only way to get over it was to move through it, and that required honesty and less shame. After all, I’m a pretty open book normally, in my personal life and on social media, which is kind of a part of my personal life at this point. Maybe if everybody was just in on it, all at once, I wouldn’t have to keep having the same conversation and reliving that crazy night over and over again. This of course was a risky move on my part, mostly. because– I don’t know if you know this– people on the internet can be assholes. But I was willing to take the risk if it meant moving on.
So I made a video and posted it. And the weirdest thing? People were kind. Compassionate. Even supportive. I couldn’t believe it. Strangers in solidarity shared their own stories of slamming their faces into things, home remedies they’d used, advice they were given that did and didn’t work. Some people said they just lived with the scar, because “scars make us interesting”. Friends in the industry reached out to me privately, stunt performers who get smacked in the face all the time, with amazing tips and tricks and stories that made me laugh and realize how silly I was being. Because honestly who gives a shit? Things happen. Much worse things, sometimes. Life, if you’re lucky, goes on.
Sure, transparency can bite you in the butt sometimes, and it’s not always the wisest thing to share every little secret (Harry, honey, I’m talking to you). But this time, it made me feel grateful that technology has given us a way to reach out and ask for help when we need it. That mostly people are good and kind. It felt like a hug from thousands of strangers, all at once. And this is coming from someone who’s not a hugger! unless I’ve gotten into the tequila.
So thank you for that. Shame sucks. I’m glad I told it to shut up.
And hopefully I can return the favour sometime.