This final post in my series about bell’s palsy is more or less a time line of what I experienced, and how I felt with each milestone, as well as the acceptance, both rationally and emotionally, that I’d never be back to where I was before this happened.
Ninety-three days after being diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy, I had an MRI. My neurologist had anticipated recovery much sooner, and he felt we needed to rule out other possible diagnoses. The test itself went well, but it’d be another several days before I’d have any answers. Waiting is always hard, especially when there’s a chance it could be worse news. I couldn’t wait for the three days, and called two days after, but there were no answers, yet. The following day, as promised (I need more patience!), my doctor’s office called, and assured me I *just* had a very bad case of Bell’s Palsy. So, although relieved, I was still very frustrated. Three months in, with very little progress, was scary! The longer someone goes without change, the less they typically improve.
In order to remain as pro-active as possible, I had another eye appointment to ensure my cornea wasn’t scratched. My left eye still wasn’t closing as it should, but I was told both of my eyes were “excellent” and to continue gel drops at night, and artificial tears during the day for dryness and irritation. It was a pain in the ass, but you have no idea how grateful I was to know my sight wasn’t also affected.
On December 1, 2012, 112 days after my bell’s diagnosis, I realized my face looked really funny. Funnier than usual! When I smiled, I could see more and more teeth, but my face began looking crooked from the opposite side. My left side was now pulling up, in an irregular way, and it made my face look as if the right side was actually affected. Because it seemed the right side was moving in a non-normal way, each time I had any type of ear pain on the right side, I completely freaked out, worried I’d experience bell’s on the other side! (Although rare, it does happen!)
My bottom left lip still had no movement, and because the top was working a little bit, it became difficult to talk, again. When nothing was working, I learned to compensate for both. But, now that the top of my lip was working more than the bottom, and because the bottom lip dragged, it created movement that made sounds difficult to say. Eating also became more difficult. As my top lip began to move when I chewed food, the bottom didn’t, and I ended up biting it often because it just wouldn’t get out of the way.
On January 15, 2013, five months and four days after the onset of Bell’s, I saw my neurologist, again. He said things were going well, and he expected I’d continue to have some improvement. He also shared the MRI showed the damage to the nerve which indicated how bad of a case I truly had. It was during this time frame where I finally realized I was reaching a level of acceptance. I was still aggravated, and every once in a while, I did play the ‘why me?’ card, but overall, I felt sincere appreciation it wasn’t a life threatening situation.
I managed to find some humor throughout the ordeal, too. Although my nerves were obviously regenerating, my neurologist warned me they may not go to the right place. There is an official word for that, but I just knew it meant my nerves were criss-crossed. When I chew anything on my left side, my left eye now twitches, and sometimes even closes. And, you won’t believe how fast my left eye just shuts when I use a straw! Seriously. I always say I never half-ass anything, so if I’m going to live with Bell’s, I’m going to go all out, baby!
In August, 2013, almost a full year from the onset, I still hadn’t reached a full recovery. I still suffered from dry eye, and had a lot of pain, especially during allergy season. My eye also didn’t open as wide as the other, and anytime I smiled, it was very, very obvious. Although my smile was better, it definitely wasn’t a full smile, and I really became self aware of that fact. Also, after talking at length, especially during my community events, my face felt very fatigued. It would begin to feel like the left side of my mouth was sagging, and I felt like I was spitting and drooling. I wasn’t, but the muscles and the nerves really played havoc on the sensations I felt.
Although it’s now been almost 2.5 years from the diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy, it’s still a very obvious part of my life. My eye does close all the way now, but I still have to wear sunglasses to keep sun, wind and flying objects away because it doesn’t close as tightly as my right eye. My left eye also squints much more than the right, and in almost every picture you can tell my face is crooked, especially if I’m laughing. I can control it pretty well if I’m just smiling, but if you make me giggle, my face will go crooked! Really crooked.
When I wake up my face is in a funny state of semi-paralysis. It takes a while for the nerves to wake up, even after I’m awake. It just dawned on me (2.5 years later!!!) I must look really scary in the morning before I even see myself. And, yet, my husband still gives me kisses every morning before he leaves. (I love that man!)
Even this morning, I had difficulties. With allergy season in full swing. I woke up with itchy eyes, and a headache. It took longer than usual for the left side of my face to really start moving in sync with the right side. I took an allergy pill to help with sinus pressure and itchy eyes, ibuprofen to help the pain level, and anti-anxiety medicine to help lessen the stress on my face muscles and nerves. This is a typical day, and forever, it will be a typical day. But, it’s my day, and I’m here to talk about it, share my experiences, and hopefully uplift others to see past the difficulties and have faith everything will work out.
This is the final post in a series documenting my diagnosis, feelings, and progress with Bell’s Palsy. To read more about my experiences, view all of my posts here.