Saturday, February 23, 2008

"The Bell's Palsy Challenge"

In November of 2005 I was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy. Prior to being diagnosed, I had very little knowledge of the disease. Although the annual occurrences of Bell's Palsy are about 20 in every 100,000 people, I have found that there are not many who are aware of this ailment. Basically, this is what Bell's Palsy did to me physically (please do not laugh too hard):

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.)


The Miles Family said...

Oh I love it! I think Ashley should DEFINATELY accept this challenge, since she is the one who saw all of us experience the "disease" yet she has no idea what it's like. There's something fishy going on! Do you think she's the cause of it?! JK- Ash I love ya! Oh, by the way, I love the Bell's Palsy pic. Mine are hidden away in a box, which I hope to burn someday.

Talia said...

So this challenge here might not be too hard for me. I, for awhile now have had a sore face, I know I had an ear infection, and my eye runs like a river. It comes and goes, but I'm convinced that Bells Palsy is going to grace my life eventually. Hopefully I'm as lucky as you!

P.S. I'll be able to display my Bells pic right next to yours on my piano. How cute would that be?

P.S.S. I'm sorry that was the most depressed you've ever been. It probably didn't help that everytime I saw you I laughed my tooshy off. So I apologize.

P.S.S.S. You were still one sexy beast even when half your face hung lower then your man pecks.

P.P.S.S. Maybe when your in medical school you can find a cure. That's your calling here on this earth.

Shani said...

I probably would never had notcied the slight droop had you not pointed it out to me!

annie123 said...

Hi i am 11 years old and i think you should think yourself lucky because you have had bells palsy for what 3 years now well i have had it for 11.You had it when you were an adult so nobody bullied you on the other hand i have had it all my life and i have been bullied all my life.I am going to the doctors soon to see what they can do about it because i am going to high school in september and i no for a fact im going to get bullied there so if you no of any way poossible to get rid of it pppppppllllllllllleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaasssssssssssssseeeeeeeeeeeee can u email me.
P.S i didnt want to give you this so you would feel sorry for me i just wanted you to no how i feel and have felt.

annie123 said...

Also my mouth droops aswell and my eye dosnt shut properly and i slava an mi paralised side of my faces ear is more sensitive

Manuel said...

Thanks for the info. I've been doing a little research about this.

This is exactly what has been happening to me since last night; on the left side. It doesn't seem to be to limiting, but I can quite close my left eye completely without focusing on doing so and I can't smile straight. It's very frustrating.

I still have not gone to the doctor, but plan on doing so ASAP. The funny thing, in my case, is that I play sax for a band and I start my weekly gigs tomorrow. I've already tried playing sax, but it's really challenging because a lot of air escapes through the left side of my mouth because it seems I don't have enough muscle power to force it shut.

That's going to be MY CHALLENGE... I have to play 3 full sets nightly thru Saturday. I hope I can go thru with this and, most of all, I hope I don't lose my job to Bell's Palsy.


Miss Mallika said...

Hi, i just wanted to leave a little comment here, after reading annie123's comment. I had Bells two years ago (age 24) and went to see an Osteopath and had acupuncture treatments. My symptoms went away within 3 weeks. If you'd like more information, you can comment on my blog at

Anonymous said...

Your humor makes me adore you.

Annie123: Don't let anyone make you feel bad, you rock!

Dayanna said...

I have bell's palsy, 2 months now. As a 14 year old in high school, it's pretty hard. Even though no one notices I have it, when I smile or blink they point it out and say that I twitch. I hope it ends soon.

Mario A said...

I have had bell's pasley for 2 months now.. this has been the worst part of my life yet.. i wish i was as lucky as you are. can you let me know what you did to get rid of it faster.. my e-mail is i would really appreciate it.. so many weird things go through my head, but i know i should not give up.... cause sometimes i just feel like giving up..

Amanda said...

I was just diagnosed with BP last week. In just those 5 days, it has taken a toll on my mood and the way I interact with people. Not being able to give a full smile is really hard, especially since I am always smiling. I never realized what an effect it could have before. I think everyone should take your challenge to understand how hard it is to deal with the inability to express yourself and the inability to feel what you are trying to express.

K said...

Hmm, I stumbled across your site when I googled images of Bell's Palsy out of curiousity after hearing about this condition. Reading your blog (very witty and entertaining btw) and your challenge had me consider what the experience must be like similarily for my daughter with special needs (4) who cannot talk.. no, not a single word faces daily in her efforts to convey her requests, thoughts and feelings with us. Thank you for the insight, I am confidant it will help me be a better mom... for today anyway. Smiling at you.

Anonymous said...

i really like that idea;
im going through this right now and i hate that i cant smile or laugh without looking rediculous cause im usually always laughing and now i have to cover that side of my face whenever i really have to laugh =/

Anonymous said...

I have to say.... your post hit it all to a T. My name is Sarah and i had bells palsy twice. I got it the first time in third grade. At first i didnt even know that anything was different about me. I went into my parents room when I woke up and was talking with my mom. She kept saying Sarah why are you holding your mouth like that, stop doing that with your face. I didnt understand what she was talking about until I looked in the mirror. That was in Thrid grade man was that a hard year for a growing girl that had alot of friends. After about a year you couldnt even tell that i even had it. Life went on as normal as it could be for a child. Fifth grade I woke up and I had it again. OH NOOOOOOO now here i was close to being a teenager caring about what everyone thought about me and my looks and this had to happen to me again. This time a year went by, two years , 5 years here I am almost 25 and you can still tell that i had something happen to that side of my face. Both times it was my left side. It is still noticable. I hated school (jr high and high school) we know how kids can get and they are really horrible if there is something they can say to put down someone else. I have learned to pretty much hide it. I tilt my head when i smile. i never smile fully and if i cant help it i cover my mouth or look away. i now have a BEAUTIFUL little boy and i am hoping and praying that he never has to go through what i went through. My grandpa got bells palsy too about a year after i got it last. his is alot worse then mine but i think it is because of his age and also he has diabetes. I always think people are looking at me thinking that i have something wrong with me still. all of my friends and family say that they dont know why i still let it get to me and that you cant even tell anymore. i just tell them i know its there and i can see it in any picture and just with one slight glance in the mirror. i just wanted to share my story with you on here after i ready what you went through. and i want to let you know that i am still going through those feelings.
thanks for your time and your wonderful blog.

Sarah Miller
Omaha, Nebraska

Anonymous said...

Wow! I too had a bout with BP about 5 years ago. I never regained all muscle control in the affected side of my face. It has returned about 80 percent. I know just how all of you feel! I can really relate to Sarah from Omaha. I also hide my real smile because it isn't there anymore. I was affected on my left side and I also avoid cameras as much as possible. I have been able to get on with life and everything but it has been a very painful experience emotionally, physically and spiritually. I also feel as though people are examining my face when I have a conversaion even though they are not. I feel self-conscience all the time. What I have tried to learn through all this is that God is in control and he will always love me. My friends and family love me too and I take comfort that one day when I am with Jesus, my face will be perfect. Until then, it is encouraging to know that there are a few others in my "club" who really know how I feel. Thanks to everyone who has shared. I really appreciate your comments.
Smiley from Indiana

Anonymous said...

i know exaclty how you feel. i have bells palsy also and it is horrible!! im 15 and i get greif everyday from people at school. its not much fun.

Anonymous said...

I got it twice in grade school and had to go through jr high and high school. I know how hard it is honey i have been there. Teenagers are mean and say mean things. I thought that i was getting the word out what happened to me and why i held my face like that. it does not matter how many friends you have there will always be those people who will still talk and start rumors about what happened even though its not even close. i dropped out of high school because of what a few girls were saying about me. i did graduate from a alternative school. i do have to say...... i was just on face book and one of those girls.....the main one that caused most of my hurt and pain.. she got BP and no movement came back. on her facebook she says how she picked on a girl that had BP in high school and now she is living with it and how sorry she was.
Dear, just keep your head up and talk to people about it when they ask you. it actually makes you feel better i think. i know it made me feel better when i explained it. i just say that i didnt wish this to happen to me but i feel like it made me a stronger person. let yourself know that you will make a difference to people that get it later on in life. i know its hard now but i know you can do it. i know right now it just seems so unfair that this happened but it WILL make you stronger.

Sarah Miller
Omaha Nebraska

Kaydia said...

Your story is so touching. I am happy that you regained your health. Reading this has caused me to remind myself not to take good health for granted. May God continue to bless you and your family.

queenmegan said...

I would like to thank you for your initial post. I have been researching Bell's Palsy for the past week that I have had it, and am now diagnosed. Everything was to a tee as described on each website listed, except the pain or soreness on the side of the face effected. I am having so much discomfort, as well as the full paralysis on the right side of my face. My eye has been irritating me a well. The emotional toll is the worst. I know that it has not been that long, but it feels like an eternity. Again, thank you for this blog.

Anonymous said...

I have just had bells palsy and I am only 19 it affected me in just the same I have sore cheeks and jaw my face hasn't fully recovered it still weak on one side I never felt soooo depressed and mine was causes by the flu virus that was can set it off but I just laughed it off when people looked or staired at it in work as I work at the worst place Tescos but if you do get it my biggest hug to you as the most stressful and emotional time you will injure and if you do get it go straight to your gp as it could be really serious best wishes xx