My Experience with Bell's Palsy: Part 2
Regaining what was Lost
So there I was taking vitamins and supplements left and right. I was pumping my body with every disease fighting immune boosting substance that gave me a little hope with each intake. After each Sunday, I would mentally tally up the amount of weeks that have passed and tremble at the possibility of staying like this would be a reality. I stopped looking at mirrors, I stopped trying to hide my smile and I eventually adapted to the new way of living. Things were happening all around me and I was missing out on life. Your body has an amazing way of stepping up when other functions are not up to par. This made me feel a little less self conscience as I began to forget that I still had no control on my right side of my face. It seemed that the minute I stopped over thinking and letting the disease monopolize my mind was the same minute my partner had informed me that she noticed a change. I always found her looking at my face intently whenever I would talk to her, never letting the negative over take her or bring her down. She would take mental photographs of my face and later tell me that she saw few difference here and there. I didn't really believe her, believing more that she just wanted me to stay positive and hopeful. However, one day she pointed it out and explained that my lips were looking more aligned. It was no longer drooping on one side and when I smiled a small creased formed at the corner of my mouth (on the right side). She insisted I look in the mirror but I had avoided mirrors for so long now I was very reluctantly. To satisfy her, I stomped to the bedroom, leaned over the dresser and attempted a smile. To my amazement and shock I saw my top lip quiver. The corner of my mouth indeed moved up just a fraction. I thought I was hallucinating, I thought my mind and eyes were playing tricks on me. Surely after 5 months of no change whatsoever, I forgot what movement looked like. I tried again. I was not imagining it! What was the slightest indentation on my face made me overjoyed and full of gratitude. A small step but a huge victory. Right then and there I knew everything was going to be okay. I was so happy to know that although I couldn't see it and even feel it my body was doing what it could to get better, to heal itself and regain control. I hugged my partner and was encouraged to stare at the mirror a little longer, experimenting with facial expressions. I tried to pout and nothing was different there. My lips still could not pucker and my eyes were no different. However, when I frowned my right eyebrow moved a teeny bit. Another victory I was glad to accept. Within the next few weeks moving into August, we noticed visible improvements. My eye was able to close almost fully, my mouth was more symmetrical, my eyebrows when raised and lowered were more apparent and my speech was not as slurred. I cannot begin to explain the warmth of happiness that embraced me. I was on top of the world knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. And all this was happening at an exciting time when we were planning for our daughter's 3rd birthday party. We were able to enjoy the day that much more. My partner had never seen me smile and laugh so much since I was diagnosed. She constantly pointed out how beautiful I was and for the first time since March I didn't feel uncomfortable about it.
Bell's Palsy Onset
After 1 year
As one can see this can be an emotional and strenuous time. As much as I had loved ones there for me to help me through those terror stricken nights, I still felt somewhat alone and like I was the only one suffering from this illness. So I spent countless of time online researching and trying to find new ways to help cope. I found a website that was extremely helpful in connecting other sufferers from Bell's Palsy. The Bell's Palsy Network has a forum where people start questions and trends for others to see and relate to. One night I came across this website when I felt I had reached the bottom of despair. It had topics, questions and answers from real people who were going through the same exact emotions and fears I was. They were not doctors. They knew about Bell's Palsy from first hand experiences and were sharing their tips and information on things that were of great concern, like eye care, real time of recovery, breakdowns, treatments that worked for them, monthly updates, and other sources to get help. It made me feel good to know I was not alone and others were getting better even after the "normal" recovery time of 3 months. On this site, I found a woman who was documenting her progress with Bell's on YouTube. She provided me with a great deal of strength and encouragement and I admired her for putting herself out there for all to see. Her bravery gave others inspiration to continue fighting. I watched her journey from the beginning when she was diagnosed up until her 1 year anniversary. Here are two videos that illustrate the difference a year can make.
Now here we are in November, 8 months after that dreadful day. I am still healing and not 100% recovered but I have faith I will get there eventually. Here's my status up to date.
My small smile is 100%.
My big smile is 95% back. Almost there. My right side is a little lower than my left but it's not really noticeable.
The movement in my eyebrow is 95%. When I frown it's symmetrical but when I raise them my right does not go as high as my left.
My pucker needs more healing. I would say I am about 75% there. When I pucker, it's apparent that my right side does not come out all the way so it looks lopsided. But it will get there soon. Also when I brush my teeth and rinse, a little water dribbles out the right side. I can hold water better but it's still a work in progress.
My eyes are 100%. They close completely and the blinking is not slow moving anymore. My eyes blink simultaneously and I do not need to apply ointment or drops to my right eye anymore. No more patches or tape! This was one of the biggest and emotional recoveries for me. Thankfully I was checked by my eye doctor and everything looked good. No damage was inflicted on the eye during the worst part and that was a big sigh of relief. I can wear contacts again and eye makeup which I greatly missed!
My face is pretty much even once again but there is still a slight difference in my mouth. I feel a bit of tightness and pull on the right side so my mouth "leans" a little that way.
My facial functions have come back with some synkinesis. Synkinesis happens when I try to raise my eyebrows, the corner of the right side of my mouth pulls up a little. Also when I give a big smile, my right eye squints a little. This also happens when I press my lips firmly together and when I try to pucker them. It's a little annoying because it's uncomfortable but something that happens frequently when nerves regenerate. It's like learning to walk again. Facial nerves get crossed and an involuntary action occurs with a voluntary action. One way to help with synkinesis is trying to retrain your face. When I lift my eyebrows, I slightly pull down on my mouth so that it doesn't go up. The idea is to teach your face not to do certain things and I am hoping with enough time it will start getting back to normal again.
With all the changes and improvements, I feel confident that although it has been 8 months I will continue to heal and be as good as I was before. And nonetheless, this is me now. Everything I've endured and everything my family has endured within the past months have made us who we are. Being struck with this condition will forever change my outlook on life. I will always remember to smile even when I'm down, I will remember to make silly faces to my children because I am the best at making them, I will remember that love runs deeper than the surface and most importantly I will remember that no matter how stressful life can get, there will eternally and forever be a light at the end of the tunnel....and that is something to smile about :)
I wanted to give and spread my story to all who know about this condition and to those who were going through it.