How one comic illustrator bounced back from Bell's Palsy

Never take your smile for granted. Sharean had to overcome the fear that she wouldn't ever smile again after she developed Bell's Palsy, a condition that results in the paralysis or weakness of a person's facial muscles.  "I was afraid that I would lose my eye because I couldn't close it," she recalled. "[Because] I draw comics and art illustrations, I grew even more afraid." Sharean hustled through hours of rehabilitation, poised with a relentless determination to recover.  "My husband encouraged me to keep trying," she remembered. "I had to keep moving forward past my fear. I went to church, prayed, and saw that other women in my church dealt with the same condition. This encouraged me because I knew I wasn't alone."

Thankfully, Sharean's nerves healed. After 7 years, she bounced back from Bell's Palsy. "Some [nerves] have switched places, so when I drink or press my lips together, my eye closes," she elaborated. "When I blink, I can feel my lip twitch. Going through this obstacle made me appreciate what I do have and what I am capable of doing." Sharean was devastated after she lost her smile and will never take her body for granted or underestimate what it is capable of doing. "My body may not be like others, but it's been through it's own share of ups and downs," she said proudly. "I was able to survive through it all."

Before Sharean began her journey with PumpUp, she neither had an interest in healthy eating, nor did she have an understanding about how to nourish her body. Though she took the occasional dip in the pool, Sharean often stayed at home to homeschool her children and did other sedentary activities to occupy her time. After she joined PumpUp 14 weeks ago, her habits changed for the better. "I got my first food scale and I'm careful to weigh my food," she shared. "I bought a better scale to track my body weight and I actually understand why people talk so much about nutrition." Whenever Sharean used to deny her cravings, she became angry with herself and ended up overindulging. "[With PumpUp], I learned how to fuel my body," she affirmed. "If I'm craving something, I try to eat small portions of it."

Not long after Sharean joined the PumpUp community, she registered for her very first gym membership. "When I see other people talking about leg day or their 'gains', I can understand why," she revealed. "It's freaking fun! I would never have said something like this before PumpUp. Seeing so many others having fun with their journey and giving each other positive feedback makes me want to jump into a healthy lifestyle with my goofy self." Sharean likes to have fun with her food and tries to sneak healthy ingredients into her family's meals. "The little buggers are smart and usually protest for something else," she explained. "But I'm learning how to make their meals more fun, tasty, and nutritious. My proudest accomplishment is that I learned how to fill myself up and keep myself healthy. I've been able to have better control of my cravings and actually stick to a healthy lifestyle!"

Aside from her family, the PumpUp community is Sharean's main support system. "I live in the corn fields of Iowa and [...] I'm usually by myself, with the exception of my husband and kids," she shared. "I don't really have a big support system or even a gym buddy." Though Sharean chats with a few friends about her health and fitness journey, those interactions don't give her a consistent form of support. "With PumpUp, when I share a post or picture about my healthy food or 'hangry' hash brown addiction, and I receive so much support and kind words," she said gleefully. "I realized just how encouraging it is to have a group of people who inspire one another." 

For Sharean, having a healthy mind means to be positive and to have a good grasp of one's emotions. It all comes full circle: as Sharean learns to control her emotions, she learns to control her cravings. "I do see where I need to improve and each day, I'm working towards that," she reflected. "I think that's a great first step to having a healthy mind. You see what needs to be fixed and you take the steps to fix it."

Sharean feels most body confident when she embraces her imperfections. "I learned to stop hating my naturally kinky and curly hair," she announced. "I realized that my body is it's own miniature army. My breasts may be saggy and my stomach and sides may be flabby, but they work. My body is capable of amazing things." 

Biggest Role Model

My mother would have to be my biggest tole model because she showed me the importance of being a hard worker and being true to yourself while also laying low and learning your surroundings. I'm not the brightest tool in the shed, but she taught me how important it was to be kind and to think on the more positive side. At times, I still have a hard time with that. If someone does something hurtful or rude, it's hard to not get upset. I still hear my mother saying, "They must have had a bad day, don't be mean." I learned how to suck it up, slap on a smile and vent to my husband instead of possibly causing more damage and trying to get an eye for an eye.

Sharean's Best Advice

I'd say that before or even during your journey, learn how to love your body for where it's at now. It's hard to want to improve something you hate. It's heartbreaking when all of society is already tearing your body down and hating it so much that you do the same thing to yourself. It's like your body has no one in its corner to love it as it is and for all its done.

There's enough hate and negativity out there in the world, try your best to show yourself love and positivity. We can all use a little more. Taking things one day at a time and at your own pace is a great way to go.

Sharean's plans for the rest of her fitness journey

I hope to be able to show my mom and Great-Grandma a fitter, stronger, healthier me. Our family has a long line of cancer. I want to see what happens if work hard enough towards my own personal goals. Before my Great-Grandma and mother pass away, I want to show them what I did and so that they don't have to worry any more. I'm worried about what my children might have to go through because of my genetics. I'm sure my mom and Great-Grandma are worried about me too.

Sharean's superpower

When I was a child I could have answered this right away. I used to wish that I could fly. If something was trying to attack me or if I just wanted to get away from a sad situation, I'd fly into the sky. Now that I'm an adult with a family, I'd want to be able to heal not just physical wounds and pain, but mental health issues. Mental scars that hurt the worst and stay with us the longest. Since I don't have that super power, I'll settle with using my comics and my art work to help make another person smile instead.

Keep Sharean pumped by joining her on the PumpUp community @s_morishita! Inspired by how Sharean bounced back from Bell's Palsy? Share positive words of encouragement in the comments below!