It started on a Saturday, with an annoying pain behind my right ear. I made a mental note to make an appointment at the doctor if it hadn’t gone away in the next couple of days, just in case it was an ear infection. I popped a couple of Nurofen and went about my day, ignoring the fact that my tongue also felt a little numb and I couldn’t squint my eyes properly.
The next morning I woke up feeling odd, like I had no strength in the right side of my face. My reflection in the mirror was almost unrecognisable – my right side was completely flat and droopy, making me look lopsided.
I immediately assumed that I’d had a Stroke. I was a blubbering mess as I showered and phoned my sister to meet me at the doctor, who immediately diagnosed me as having Bell’s Palsy. He explained that it was most often transient, but sometimes permanent. The cause is still unknown – some say it’s a stress-induced condition, other say it’s a viral attack.
I was sent on my way with medication and given a referral for an MRI to rule out a possible brain tumour.
Over the course of the next few days, my face got worse. Way worse. My nose pushed all the way over the left side. My mouth drooped and any movement was on the left side only. I couldn’t raise my eyebrows. My right eye refused to close at all and drooped at the corner. My speech was affected, particularly when saying words that contained f, p and b, which are many.
The cause is still unknown – some say it’s a stress-induced condition, other say it’s a viral attack.
I couldn’t drink without dribbling and had to use a straw, just like my toddler. My right eye didn’t blink, so I had to apply eyedrops every half an hour.
Normal daily activities like face-cleansing and hair washing were horrendous as shampoo and cleanser were constantly seeping into the unclosed eye.
I completely lost my self-confidence. I refused to see anyone, even close friends. My Mum, an incredible earth angel, came and stayed with me to do the kinder drop offs and pick ups because I was too embarrassed to let anyone see me.
The inability to show any emotion in your face is debilitating. Any major sign of emotion, whether it be laughing or crying, just made the symptoms appear worse. It was like someone had jammed one side of my face full of Botox.
Mel talked about her experience with Bell’s Palsy during the first ep of our new podcast, Show + Telling, below. Have a listen, then head here to subscribe.
I immediately started acupuncture. I also saw a naturopath and a ‘healer’ who aimed to find the root cause of the problem, which he believed was entirely emotional.
Apart from my vanity and unease with my new face, Bell’s Palsy was also extremely painful. My face constantly ached and hurt to touch. As a result of everything, I fell into a depression. I closed myself off to everything and everyone, including my beautiful husband, who was unbelievably supportive and encouraging.
After two months, thankfully my Bell’s Palsy went away. There are still some signs of it, which I notice more than anyone else. My facial symmetry doesn’t seem the same, when I yawn only one side on my face scrunches up and when I am tired, my right side appears a little droopy.
I absolutely believe that all things happen for a reason and think maybe this was my body’s way of telling me to slow down and quit stressing so much over the little things. I feel thankful for the experience – it was like a big wake up call that forced me to put things into perspective. I guess we all need that from time to time, just minus the droop.
Have you or anyone you know suffered from Bell’s Palsy?