For those of you who think I have been "two-faced" at times.......
......well, you're right.
Bell's Palsy is caused by paralysis to the facial nerve. This paralysis causes an inability to have control over facial muscles on one side. Either side of a persons face can be affected by Bell's Palsy. The comforting (sense the sarcasm) thing about Bell's Palsy is that it is idiopathic, meaning that the "idiots" who have studied the disease have yet to come up with a conclusion as to what causes it.
There was some minor discomfort that came with the disease. The muscles on the paralyzed side of my face became sore, especially my cheek muscles. My right eye watered constantly due to the fact that I couldn't completely shut it. Drool would escape the right side of my mouth and oft times in public. Aside from the paralysis and these trivial symptoms, I was not significantly physically affected by the disease. On the contrary, Bell's Palsy was one of the most challenging things I have faced mentally and emotionally. I never realized how something as small as not being able to express myself with my face could limit me. My self-esteem took a major "Hiroshima," if you will (I apologize to any of the Japanese readership who find that analogy offensive). I remember feeling so frustrated that even though I was smiling, there was no way on God's green earth that whom ever I was smiling at was interpreting my smile as such. I found myself smiling (or attempting to) less often. When carrying on a conversation with some one I was always wondering if they were able to understand what I was trying to express. I am not the kind of person that takes things too seriously but I must admit that this is the closest I have come to being "depressed" in my life.
It took about 2-3 months for most of the symptoms of Bell's Palsy to leave me. I can still feel a slight amount of weakness in the right side of my face and when I press on my cheek muscle I can still feel the soreness. Being able to smile again made me feel so fresh (like how you feel right after you get the best hair cut you have ever had or after an enema). I regained my confidence and was able to communicate with people without hesitation. That was my "Bell's Palsy Challenge."
So here is my "Bell's Palsy Challenge" to you (participation is voluntary but I highly recommend it): Go a full 24 hours without using facial expressions (whether you work, chase kids around, go to school, pull dying people from car accidents, or watch Telemundo all day). If you would like to attempt to only use one side of your face to express yourself that is acceptable as well. After doing so blog about it, comment about it, email me about it, call me about it, send me a postcard about it, or tell me about it at the next family gathering.
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” -some Vietnamese monk
(This blog is dedicated to my fellow members of the Bell's Palsy Club, Ryan and Britt. May our faces never resemble that of Popeye's again.)