“What’s up with my face?” Bell’s Palsy is what. What’s up with your face!
Three nights ago, the left side of my face went on strike. I had headed off to bed with an uncomfortable feeling in my jaw and by the time I got up the next morning it was clear something weird was happening. I’d squeeze my eyes shut but my left eye wouldn’t close properly, I’d smile and half of my mouth would just stay where it was. My mug had gone haywire!
First things first, excessive sympathy is not required. I’ll almost definitely be fine, or 90% fine at least. It’s really a giant nuisance. It’s not a stroke, it’s not very painful, it’ll last for a few weeks or maybe a few months and then hopefully I’ll be right again. What it is, is pretty unusual to have thrust suddenly upon you. I thought I’d describe what’s going on and perhaps do a few updates as I recover. Maybe you’ve come across this post because you’re dealing with Bell’s Palsy yourself. Hopefully you’ll get an idea of what to expect.
How did this happen?
It isn’t clear what causes Bell’s Palsy, the best thinking is that it is a viral condition. It causes inflammation of the nerve controlling the muscles on one side of the face such that they stop receiving instructions from the brain. For me, it started one evening with a dull ache in my jaw. The discomfort kept me awake most of the night and I convinced myself if was a toothache.
In the morning I was working my jaw over trying to loosen it up and noticed things didn’t move quite right. I couldn’t shut my left eye and I had a weird, slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Dr. Google advised me that occasionally a toothache leads to swelling that can disrupt nerves so off I went to the dentist. By now blinking was problematic and driving there and back was a bit dicey. My dentist couldn’t see much wrong and she referred me to my GP. He patiently waited for me to finish my description of why I was there before telling me he knew I had Bell’s Palsy about 20 seconds after I walked into his office.
What’s Bell’s Palsy like?
It’s a pain in the butt mostly. Not literally, my butt is actually unaffected. I can’t blink so I wear an eyepatch and getting around with one eye takes some getting used to. My peripheral vision is not really there and my spatial awareness is all off. Reaching for things takes a little extra focus to grasp them properly. Also, I think because my brain is doing all this extra work to keep on top of things I get really tired so need to nap or take things easy a fair bit.
Also, my mouth doesn’t move right so I look ridiculous when I smile. Eating and drinking is a little tricky (and a little messy) plus I have a bitter taste in my mouth and things taste funny – a bit like drinking orange juice just after brushing your teeth.
Besides all that I know I just look weird. Fortunately, I have the loving comfort and support of my wife. We were discussing have a bunch of people over for a church thing this week and she sent me a very encouraging text message.