I am so glad you are taking the time to read my story. You might be suffering with facial palsy yourself, perhaps you’re researching on behalf of a friend or family member. Either way, I hope my story helps you with your research but ultimately, makes you feel better.
Let’s start with my name and the basics. My name is Karla and I am currently 23 years old. I am from Reading, Berkshire. ‘Born and Bred’.
I have a wonderful job which I absolutely adore doing. I am a support worker with The Disabilities Trust based in Maidenhead. It is my job to support adults with learning difficulties based in their community home. I love my job because nothing gives me deeper pleasure than knowing I have made a positive difference to the lives of the most caring, funny and talented individuals that I get to see on a daily basis. So, when I’m not at work, I suppose you could say my list of hobbies aren’t super extraordinary. They range from reading to going to the cinema, walking, swimming, photography, travelling, dancing, writing, being with friends and family and attending many social events.
So, let’s get to the main point. My Bell’s palsy.
In January 2018 I came down with a severe throat infection. This is normal for me. I’ve suffered with throat infections all my life. So the procedure is bed and penicillin. Unfortunately, the antibiotics did not work, for the first time, on this occasion. So I just had to rest and take pain killers until I felt better. During this period I wasn’t able to eat or drink anything because my throat was too sore.
After about a week I managed to start eating again. But then I noticed one half of my tongue felt numb. When I was eating it was almost like the food was gliding off one half of my tongue. I decided to ignore it thinking “Oh well, I am ill, losing my taste buds is normal! The following week I drove myself to the GP as I still felt really sick. This is when I noticed that when I was driving my left eye was really sensitive to the sun light and I struggled to close it. Again, I felt so sick, I thought this was normal.
The following week I left a hospital appointment still feeling really unwell but I hadn’t eaten all day so I went to a McDonald’s drive-thru (definitely a good choice of food when you are sick… NOT). I parked up and discovered I was not able to sip through my straw. I panicked. I looked in the mirror and noticed how my lips were positioned as I was trying to suck. It was as if my face was only moving on the right side. I noticed I couldn’t smile and there was no movement on the left side of my face whatsoever.
Luckily, I wasn’t too scared. My Mum knew straight away it was Bell’s palsy and advised me on it. The next few days my face got progressively worst. My eye especially was really uncomfortable. It got very dry, very often. I couldn’t eat or drink properly. I couldn’t smile like I used to. I even found it difficult to pronounce a lot of words.
So I went to see my GP. She confirmed I had Bell’s palsy and this was probably triggered because I suffered from a really bad viral infection in January. However she then told me that I did not need medication nor an eye patch and that my face would just heal over time. This could take up to a year. I cried myself to sleep for a couple nights after that. To lose control of your body, your face, it was devastating.
I just wanted to be normal again. I didn’t want to cover my face when I spoke to anyone, I didn’t want to feel ashamed. All those times where I felt self-conscious before the palsy. I felt really silly and didn’t realise how losing control on one half of my face would have a massive effect on my life.
If Bell’s palsy has taught me anything it’s to never take your health for granted. One day – I am complaining about how ugly I am, what terrible skin I have, why can’t I ever apply makeup to look as good as everybody else? and then before you know it, I couldn’t even smile. Could barely talk. Couldn’t drink from a cup without the fluids spilling out my mouth. It was a shock to my system. But an important lesson was learnt.
So I was miserable at first. Once I got all my negative emotions out my system I simply carried on. That is all you can do. I had to prepare myself knowing I could be living with palsy for years! I was really lucky to have supportive friends, family and colleagues around me that kept my spirits up. Particularly my best friend and my brother who made fun of the way I smiled and laughed but honestly – I needed banter like that in my life. I then proceeded to take some photos of my face and post it on social media and I shared with ‘the world’ my Bell’s palsy face. You can imagine, a lot of people were shocked but all very understanding. I am glad I did it because it has given a lot of people awareness of what Bell’s palsy is. I had never heard of it until I had it.
By this point I was just trying to live a normal life and carried on with my usual daily tasks. However, as weeks went by my facial movements were improving. My eye was able to close, my taste buds were coming back, I was able to smile without my lips looking like they were escaping my face and I was able to eat and drink without having to wear a bib. Before you know it, seven weeks later, by the 14th February, my face was back to normal.
I am blessed and feel so overwhelmingly lucky that my palsy was over sooner rather than later.
I think about Bell’s palsy a lot now which is why I am sharing my story. If my story, can make a difference to even one person I would be extremely honoured to make that difference.
When I look back to when I was crying myself to sleep because I just wanted to be ‘normal’ again, I wouldn’t wish anyone to feel like that.
I can’t lie – Bell’s palsy really is a pain in the neck especially when you’re trying to apply mascara to an eye which won’t blink and lipstick to lips that were just simply uncontrollable. But only you can make that positive difference to your life and rather than suffering with it – embrace it. Make it your new normal for a while.
You must remember – you are strong. You are beautiful. And you will get through this.
Disclaimer: Please note that views expressed are person’s own and should not be considered a recommendation of particular medical treatments, therapies or surgeries. We would always advise you seek advice from a health professional with experience in facial palsy who can assess your individual needs.
Last reviewed: 02-03-2018 || Next review due: 02-03-2021