Six years ago today, I was at the start of the toughest 6-month battle I’ve fought.
We’d just flown home to Southern California from New York City after a 9-hour surgery that left my face paralyzed. We did not expect this complication…it wasn’t one of the risks my doctors warned me of. The nerve branches had been weakened so much. My doctors couldn’t tell me with absolute confidence that full movement and function would ever return.
It was devastating to look in the mirror and see no sign of a facial expression. I stayed in my house for majority of my healing process. I don’t think I will ever share the photos of what I looked like during this time with anyone but my parents. It took a daily conscious effort to keep a positive outlook and stay hopeful that the nerves would “come back to life.”
My usual stress-reliever and confidence-booster – running and going to the gym – was out of the question for 3 months. How would I stay sane?
Well, I made a distraction for myself! Within days of arriving home, I came up with a project. I found some things that made me happy that I could do alone – writing, (not-so-impressive) photography, cooking, baking, learning about nutrition and the body – and I created a blog.
You have to understand that in 2012, blogging wasn’t nearly as trendy or mainstream as it is now. I was afraid I’d sound nerdy when I told people that I launched a website and designed the banner and built the navigation menus.
And now looking back on the very first posts and recipes I wrote, I sometimes cringe. I was definitely a beginner! Figuring it out as I went along, it was far from perfect. But at the time, I was so proud of myself. I didn’t have these Instagram models and “Social Media Influencers” to compare myself to. Looking at the flawless online profiles of other bloggers will make the rest of us feel pretty insignificant in comparison, so I’m thankful I didn’t have that type of influence when I was starting out. I was just imperfect me 🙂
I kept blogging for Strong Like My Coffee for the next 4 years. My recipes and workouts started getting some attention on Pinterest, and my “College Girl’s Grocery Guide” was reposted over 500,000 times! This led to collaborations with Chobani, Quest Nutrition, Emerald Nuts, Blue Apron and other healthy brands. It certainly was the happy distraction I needed during the hardest summer of my life.
At the time my blog started, I did not know if I would ever have a true smile again. At 19 years old, THAT WAS SCARY.
The paralysis lasted about 6 months. I would look in the mirror each day, trying to force a smile and analyzing my face for any sign of movement. Then, one day, there was a faint twitch next to my lip. The nerves were strengthening. 🙂
I still have a much weaker smile on my left side, I probably always will. But I got through that summer and that is the “strongest” thing I’ve ever done. I have no doubt that my blog had a huge help in getting me through that time.
The “Strong Like My Coffee” chapter of my life has closed – it was all about being a Healthy College Girl, and I don’t want to turn it into anything else now that I’m graduated.
Which brings us here. Part 2 of the blogging saga. The sequel.
Sweet Like My Tea.
Thanks for reading, I’ll see ya here again tomorrow. 🙂 -xo, Kenz.