How My Bell’s Palsy Showed Me What I Needed to See. Literally.
I am an occupational therapist and mom of two boys ages ten and seven. I won’t go into too much more detail about who I am but delve right into what I learnt from my the inner wisdom of my own body and my experience with Bells Palsy.
In March 2009 I returned to full time work (between two different jobs) after my second born son turned a year old. I recalled thinking I must continue to do all that I did while on maternity leave also when I’m back at work.
Life involved dropping off my two boys to their daycare, zooming to work to make it in time. Punctuality has been big in my family, my dad I particular. I would stress about being even a minute late. I would work all day and then rush home to get the boys, put together dinner while trying to get a snack ready for them as they’d be starving. Then keep them kind of occupied. Ok really there was usually TV time for them while I sorted out dinner. You know the routine of night! Dinner, race to an after school program, race back and start wind down for the night. Homework, baths, bedtime, pack lunches for next day, clean up kitchen. Think about dinner for next day. Go to sleep. Wake up in the morning… And repeat.
I felt like a machine, like a zombie. I was mindlessly getting through my day, week, and month. In hindsight I realize I felt numb.
And of course I thought (very strongly believed) I had to do it all myself. Work full time, be a mom, housewife. And anything else I could think of. Because I was raised to believe I had to be “perfect”. Because in my mind asking for help was a sign of weakness. Speaking up about feeling overwhelmed, letting out tears was just “not allowed”. Getting angry, sad, impatient or frustrated isn’t allowed. Keep it in, put a smile on and plug along. That’s what an Indian woman is meant to do. Take care of her family and home. And in this day and age have a paid job too.
A day before Father’s Day I woke up, took a shower and my right eye kept getting soap in it. Weird. I brushed my teeth, spat out the paste and saliva and toothpaste drooled out of the right side my mouth. I looked in the mirror and smiled and it didn’t look right. My right eye wouldn’t fully close.
Freaking out a bit now… Am I having stroke?? My right arm and leg are fine. So I quickly head to the doctors office. The doctor made me make a squishy face. And says with confidence its Bell’s palsy. What??? I don’t even know what that it really except I once knew someone with a face that was asymmetrical. No smile on one side, no eye closing. Do I have this permanently??! Doctor said no. Don’t know what causes it, it’s viral. I was offered a medication, which by the way the doctors don’t know if it helps. But I figured it’s better than nothing. Placebo effect can work too!!
By the next day it was worse. The right side of my face was fully frozen. Not a single muscle even twitched. I spend this day – father’s day in the emergency department because I couldn’t believe it was Bells Palsy. To be told again the same thing – it’s Bells Palsy.
I called in sick to work Monday. And in fact ended up taking 3 weeks off work as I was so emotionally and psychologically affected by this. Who’d have thought??? It is “minor” on the large scale of things. It took about 10 days to even get a slight twitch of movement back. I had to tape my eye shut to sleep, would drool if I drank incorrectly, words with letter p,b , f sounded weird. In hindsight, I can actually laugh at this. But not back then. What hurt me the most was my inability to smile symmetrically. Actually it still bothers me. I really missed my smile. I’d see people and not even make eyes contact let alone offer a smile. My self esteem was at one of its lowest lows. I felt miserable, I couldn’t sleep without worrying if it’d ever get back to “normal”.
I was blessed to work with a speech language pathologist who helped me get the muscle movements back correctly (otherwise incorrect muscles can rewire together. So my eye might close when I smile). I saw an acupuncturist too who was great. It took about six months to get back about 80-90% of my muscle movements back.
I truly believe our bodies are full of wisdom.
We just need to stop and listen.
Back then the biggest message Bells Palsy had for me was “ask for help”. Stop trying to be a supermom, wife, and employee. There is no such thing as perfect and yet at the same time there is. The Bells Palsy was a blessing in disguise.
Just recently I realized the even deeper messages Bells Palsy had for me. Stop trying to be perfect. Because that’s exactly what my face is not… Perfect. Yet at the same time I am perfect, just as all of us. Divinely created in exactly the way we are meant to be! And in the life we are meant to have. It is reminding that beauty shines from the inside out.
One really important message I know now is that Bells Palsy was saying to me – Stop pretending to be happy when there is so much sadness inside. The two sides of my face were literally showing that to me. Happy smiling left side and frozen, unable to smile right side and wide-open right eye. The wide open eye represents a message – open your eyes and see what’s happening, but also shock of trying to manage it all. The lack of smile was deep (old) sadness that was never allowed to be expressed. The frozen face was like a little girl frozen in fear (that’s a blog for another time). One of my healers/coaches said Bells Palsy could also be from repressed anger. That’s true for me too (yes another blog some day!)
I realized lately too how much I lacked in terms of self-love and self esteem back then. If I had these, my temporary lop sided face wouldn’t have had as much of a psychological impact as it did.
So why do I share this with you? To show how repressed feelings can create physical issues. And the importance of self-love, listening to our bodies and our inner wisdom.
The irony is that even though my face lacks the symmetry I once had – my life has changed to reflect balance and symmetry between work, family, and self-care.
It is a constant reminder to be true to myself. To allow myself to feel happiness and sadness, and all other emotions whether “good” or “bad” because they are all a part of me. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you enjoyed this blog, please share it with your friends!
Please feel free to comment or ask questions too.
To learn more about awareness, mindfulness and transformation please join my Facebook group Inner Healing and Transformation http://tinyurl.com/qh3asj7, follow me on twitter (@avdeep_bahra) or on Linked In.