Frozen Faces and Rambling Thoughts – June 7, 2019 | Drayton Valley Documentary Family Photographer
This post is gonna be a bit different than my usual. I recently went through a medical complication that’s gotten me thinking all kinds of thoughts, and sharing them with you all just felt like something I should do. Plus I just watched the AMAZING Brene Brown Netflix special “The Call to Courage” and it’s all about vulnerability and how awesome it is…so here I am, showing up and bein’ all vulnerable and stuff.
Last Saturday, I woke up and noticed that my right eye was a bit blurry. I tried taking my contact lens out, cleaning it, and putting it back in, but it didn’t make a difference. So I took a closer look in the mirror and started noticing a couple other weird things about my face. The right side of my mouth was drooping a little bit, and my right eyebrow looked like it had fallen down my face about half an inch.
I’m not gonna lie, I started panicking a little. My thoughts went first to the idea that maybe I was having a stroke? But that seemed unlikely; I felt fine mentally, and the rest of my body seemed to feel normal. Then I threw around the idea of a brain tumour maybe causing something weird to happen with my face, and started to hyperventilate a little. A thousand thoughts were racing through my mind, but the one I kept coming back to was “Oh shit, what if this is permanent?!”
The hubs was out of town at that time, and my dad and step-mom had stayed at my house the night before to watch the kids while I had to work at a photo session. The forces of the universe were for sure looking out for me that day, as it would have been exponentially more difficult for me to even convince myself to get to the hospital if they hadn’t been there. I used to work in the lab at the hospital, and I’m of the school of thought that it needs to be a BIG emergency to go the the emergency department. And seriously, if I was alone, I wouldn’t have even wanted to deal with the logistics of doing that with three young kids in tow. Thankfully, the second I asked her to look at my face and see if it seemed weird to her, my step-mom insisted that my dad should drive me to the hospital.
We live in a small town, so I didn’t have to wait long to hear what exactly was happening to my face. Eventually I was told that I was experiencing a condition known as Bell’s Palsy. Basically the nerve that controls the muscles on the right side of my face had undergone some kind of trauma, and those muscles were now partly paralyzed. Thankfully I was also told that it is almost always not permanent, and catching it early tends to lead to a better prognosis.
Diagnosis in hand, I left the hospital, got the meds I needed from the pharmacy, and headed home feeling pretty good about this whole thing being over soon. I actually found it pretty amusing how my face wasn’t doing what it was supposed to. Posted it on my Insta stories and everything. All in all, my spirits were high, and I was optimistic.
Then a day or two went by, and my half-frozen face got so much worse. Like couldn’t move a thing, couldn’t blink, couldn’t drink without a straw, and chewing food was possible but made my jaw so sore that it just wasn’t worth it. My whole face felt twisted and pulled to my good side. Talking was starting to feel like torture. I also sounded ridiculous; talking made my face hurt, and I had so much trouble saying the sounds for “f”, “b”, and “p”. Think about that for a second. I’m trying to explain to people why my face is all screwy and why I can’t talk, and I have to say it’s frozen from Bell’s Palsy. If that’s not proof that the universe has a sense of humour, I don’t know what is.
Not gonna lie, on that third day, I had a bit of a pity party for myself. On the whole I’ve tried to keep a good attitude through this whole thing, but that day was a tough one. I think that’s when it hit me that it could be a while before this thing improves. Obviously I’m not the only one that has ever experienced this (I’ve realized it’s more common than people think, almost everyone I’ve talked to knows someone who’s had it before) but for me it’s a first. Through talking with friends and doing lots of reading, I’ve realized that I was maybe not taking the best care of myself. Sure, I work out regularly, and try to eat healthy, but I also tend to stay up super late aaaallllll the time, slack on my water intake, and I like wine, like, a LOT. I also run my own business, household, and do the whole mom thing. All you mamas out there know that ain’t no joke. This thing is forcing me to ask for help and to do less, and to try and realize the world will not stop spinning if I do that. Something maybe a lot of mamas could stand to realize as well! Who knows, maybe all that has nothing to do with why this happened, but it’s certainly not a bad thing to make changes that improve your overall health and well-being.
This whole experience has really gotten me thinking about the concept of not only beauty, but also more generally how we communicate non-verbally. Yes, I care about my appearance and how I look, but I don’t think I’m unique when it comes to that; we’re all a little vain, are we not? I really think it’s human nature to want to look like the best version of ourselves. Or animal nature when you think about it; “peacocking” is not just some dude showing off in a bar, it’s a real thing that peacocks do y’all. And I know women are set up for failure with unrealistic standards of beauty from the media, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make with this post. The point is that what’s going on with my face is forcing me to come to terms with how I view my own worth. Because right now, let’s be honest, I look weird. It’s not like a “oh, I need a nose job because I don’t have a tiny perfect nose” type of situation. It’s definitely a very noticeable, strange looking thing. But what I keep trying to tell myself is that for real, something SOOOO much worse could have happened. In the grand scheme of things, a frozen face is not that big of deal, especially when it’s almost for sure a temporary thing. It’s more annoying and frustrating than anything, because getting through everyday tasks like eating and talking is more difficult right now.
The thing that is actually bothering me more is this: I really care about what kind of signal or vibe people get from me when I’m around them. I aim to be a positive person, and smiling is a HUGE part of my personality. I do it to make others feel comfortable and to ensure them I’m generally a kind and caring person. When I try to smile right now, I look sad instead of happy. It looks more like a lop-sided, sarcastic (and slightly creepy) smirk. Not a great look.
At this point I’m a week into this experience, and I wanted to write this NOW; so often people will write about experiences once they’ve moved past them and dealt with the emotional fall-out and gotten mostly over it all. In my experience it’s less common to hear from someone still going through the thing. At this point, I definitely don’t have it all figured out how to deal with this thing. For example, right now I keep waffling between either explaining right away what’s going on to people I see in the store, street, etc, or going the other way and just trying to talk without smiling and hoping they don’t notice, which makes me so emotionally uncomfortable it’s crazy.
Overall I’m trying to still come at the situation with humour. I’ve had to wear an eye-patch off and on, so the pirate jokes, gifs, and memes have been out in full force. I have a family photo session tomorrow, and have some fun stuff planned for the kids at the end to do with pirates and treasure. Speaking of photos, I had to train myself this week to take photos with my left eye…any photographer can tell you that feels super weird! But until I start un-freezing, that’s the only way I can take photos. I feel like investing money in eye drops, because I don’t go ANYWHERE without them right now…plus pot just became legal in Canada, so more people are bound to be using eye drops, right? Kidding. All kidding aside though, I can totally destroy anyone in a one-eyed staring contest right now. Just try me.
One last thing I want to throw out there: I have amazing parents, in-laws, and friends. They have been and continue to be so great with helping me take a little time to rest and get better. My parents and in-laws have all taken a turn with kids overnight for a day or two since my initial diagnosis, and I was able to just chill and do nothing for a while. Which, if you know me well, isn’t that easy for me to do. But I forced myself to do it, then got the all clear from my family doc to resume normal activity (I almost jumped up and down in the doctors office when I heard that, I was so excited). So thank you, thank you, thank you to all the people who’ve stepped up and helped me out. The hubs is back in town now and picking up some of the slack (thank you to you too, hun). I’m trying to wake up each day with the attitude that my face might not be better yet, but hopefully it will be soon. Fingers crossed. I’m mostly back into my normal routine, with a lot more water, sleep, gratitude for the good things in my life, and nutrition…at least, all the nutrition I can find through a straw right now.
Until next time,