Archive for July, 2011

I’m doing okay

Just in case you read my middle-of-the-night panic-laden post earlier this week, I wanted to let you know that I’m doing okay. I did not wake up to a frozen face on Tuesday morning.

That doesn’t mean that the fear that I’ll experience paralysis againĀ has completely evaporated. It’s still there, buried underneath all the other stuff that has risen to the top of the “To Worry About” list. It will be back at some point.

I wish I never had to worry about it ever again, but I know better.


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When I was 33 weeks pregnant with my first son in 2006, I developed a condition called Bell’s Palsy. It’s facial paralysis. They don’t know what causes it, but one of the major facial nerves is affected, causing the muscles on that side of the face to droop. In my case, the left side of my face was affected. I couldn’t move the left side of my face or blink my left eye for several months.

Yeah, it was bad. It didn’t hurt, which was about the only good thing. I couldn’t taste salty food very well, because the taste buds on the left side of my tongue were affected. I couldn’t close my left eye, so I had to tape it shut at night. And the worst: I couldn’t smile. I had always thought I had a great smile, and then I no longer had a smile at all. And I didn’t know if I’d ever be the same again.

I have almost no pictures of me with my son in the early days of his life. I felt so horrible about my face that I just couldn’t allow myself to be photographed. Even as I shunned the camera, I mourned the absence of photos of me with him. I sobbed over not getting the chance to be photographed beaming over my newborn son. I couldn’t smile over him at all.

It was, to put it mildly, not a good time in my life. I did a fair amount of “why me”-ing. Of beseeching God to please just restore my face. Of praying and crying. For someone who’d had a relatively easy life, it was about the closest to “a dark night of the soul” that I’d ever had.

My face improved when my son was a couple of months old. The left side of my face stopped drooping so much. The left side of my mouth began to move a little bit again. And by the time he was four months old, I could blink again. But I never regained my regular face again. It has stayed a little asymmetrical. I cannot raise my left eyebrow, for example. So when I am surprised or shocked, I can widen my eyes, but only my right eyebrow goes up. It would be cool to be able to raise only one eyebrow sometimes, but I wish that I could raise both when I want to.

Even so, I was delighted to regain even a lopsided smile. I am careful now to put my “good” side toward the camera when I have my picture taken. I am used to making such small concessions. It’s not really a big deal anymore.

Last night, however, the area around my left ear near my jawline began to feel funny, sort of sore. Remembering that I’d experienced some mild ear pain before the Bell’s Palsy set in, I began to worry. Tonight, the ache began to feel a little worse, and I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s just fatigue, or maybe I’m getting sick, or something. Earlier tonight, I was in bed, but I started to feel nervous again, so I got out of bed and carefully inspected my face in the mirror. I couldn’t tell if anything looked different, but I felt that ache and imagined that my face was starting to sag a little. I worried that the left side of my face was feeling a little stiff. I worried that Bell’s Palsy was coming back.

So I paced around the hallway for a few minutes, freaking out. I panicked that if I went to sleep, I’d wake up with a paralyzed face again. I took a few pictures of my face with my camera and studied the images, trying to decide if I could detect any changes.

Finally, I just sat down to write. This is what I do. I write. I write to remember things. I write to process things. I write to ask questions. I write to work out answers. And right now, I’m just writing to stay calm. My sons and my husband are asleep, as they should be. I am just trying to stave off a full-blown panic attack, wondering if it’d be too selfish to ask God to please spare my face this time.

And honestly, there really is nothing I can do about this, except for pray. There is no cure for Bell’s Palsy. There’s not even much of a treatment for it. A round of corticosteroids, but that’s it, and it doesn’t always make any difference. And it’s late. Even in my late-night panic mode, I’m not going to call a doctor and ask for him to call in a prescription at this hour. So, until around 8 or 9 a.m., it’s just me and this computer. And God. I think God is here. I hope so.

I think we’ve all had these times, haven’t we? You’d think maybe we’d be better equipped to deal with them as we get older. Are we? Or do we just dread them more, because we know how dark it feels?

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