Bell’s Palsy – What I Got up to on My Holidays

So, what did you all do on your holidays?

Me, I’ve gone and gotten Bell’s Palsy, which is a very difficult word to say when you have Bell’s Palsy (those hard B and P sounds are too hard for my half paralyzed face to produce).  It’s one of those weird conditions where no-one is quite sure of the cause and it’s very benign (unless it’s not, but we won’t think about that, yet!). You tend to wake up in the morning (sometimes after an ear ache, sometimes not) with half your face not doing what it’s supposed to be doing (moving).

Me, not being a doctor, and having never heard of Bell’s Palsy assumed I’d had a stroke. Except, of course, it was only my face that was affected – in fact Diana had to talk me out of doing push-ups to “prove” that it wasn’t, though how that was going to prove anything, I don’t know.

The moment the doctor saw me he said: you’ve got Bell’s Palsy, Kid. (He may not have said kid, kid is there simply for dramatic effect, or something).

The nerve (the 7th cranial nerve, don’t you know) that controls the right side of my face is no longer talking to my brain (maybe they had a bit of fight, it tends to happen, my brain and body rarely agree on anything). Which means I can’t smile, well, I can but it’s very lopsided, I can’t raise my eyebrow (and we all know how MUCH I like to do that), and I can’t say the words Bell’s Palsy.

I’m on a short course of steroids – apparently hitting it early with steroids is quite effective – and the paralysis should clear up in the next few weeks (or months, but fingers crossed it’s only weeks). But when you work in retail it’s rather inescapable. For a man who’s just turned forty and who is used to a certain level of eloquence, and possessed of a certain level of vanity (who isn’t) it’s been quite an eye opener (literally in the case of my right eye which can’t quite close). People aren’t sure what to say about the lopsided face, and actually explaining about Bell’s Palsy means I have to say  “Bell’s Palsy” so we all end up looking confused.

Hopefully this will be all gone in a few weeks, but I can’t help but wonder how this must be for people who have to put up with similar conditions for their whole life (actually, I don’t need to wonder, I’ve had a pretty good glimpse). So, to anyone that I’ve ever looked at oddly, or seemed awkward around (hopefully never deliberately) please accept my apologies. I can do better, and I will.

And thanks to everyone (particularly Diana, my family, and workmates at Avid – my second family) that has helped make me feel a lot less sorry for myself over the past few days. Friends, laughter, and people willing to listen to me moan have been invaluable.

So that’s been my interesting little holiday. I guess, if you’re going to get a relatively benign condition, and you’re a Fantasy writer, something as odd as Bell’s Palsy isn’t too bad. I’m putting it down as research (though I don’t think I can get away with claiming it on my tax return) and appreciating that it’s paralysis of the face, not fingers, because my holiday’s over, I have lots of writing to do.


2 thoughts on “Bell’s Palsy – What I Got up to on My Holidays”

  1. Thanks, Sean. There’s certainly much worse things you can get, today’s the first day I’ve actually had to sit down and process it a bit (rather than seeing doctors or working) so I’m feeling much more upbeat. I’m really surprised how many people I know have come out told me they’ve had this (or a friend who has had it). It’s heartening – no real horror stories yet. 🙂

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