Weekend regurgitation: Battle scars

I was looking at this photo of me the other day and something was bothering me about it. Then I looked at a bunch of photos of me and I just couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong with all of them, other than the fact that I simply despise photos of me with as much hatred as I usually reserve for ultra low-rise jeans. But still, something else was off on every single one of these pictures. And then I saw this one and it finally dawned on me:

My right eye is a bit … droopy. Just a touch saggy. Two adjectives that I normally reserve for anatomy due south of my face. But there it is staring at me in every photo, in all of its squinty, slightly lopsided glory.

I think it’s only fitting that I leave you with the post I wrote last year about my episode of Bell’s Palsy because apparently, even though I contracted it years ago, I am destined to have a visible reminder of it every day for the rest of my life. You could almost say Bell’s is like pregnancy except my eye doesn’t grow three inches taller in a year nor does it constantly fight with her sibling over whose turn it is to take Oliver out to poop.

Happy Sunday, everyone!



I think my face should get a purple heart


Nearly four years ago, I awoke on a Monday morning to discover that the entire right side of my face was frozen. Nothing moved, from my hairline to my right eyebrow to the right half of my nose to the right side of my mouth to half my chin.

It was a little disconcerting, although it did bring back fond memories of hangovers in my college days.

At first, I thought that maybe I had had a stroke but I quickly discarded that theory because (1) I was in total denial; and (2) I was in total denial. However, I did indulge in a little paranoia by running around the house in search of some aspirin to shove down my throat just in case because I vaguely recalled a TV commercial where some woman with really bad hair sat on a yellow couch and talked about how one day she was just sitting there and the next thing she knew, she was having a heart attack or a stroke or cancer or whatever and she quickly jammed aspirin into her mouth and saved her own life.

I remember thinking wow, good to know and by the way, what the hell happened to your hair?

So I went in search of aspirin but all I could find was Children’s Tylenol and an old bottle of Vicodin from my c-section five years prior. I downed a couple of Tylenol just to feel like I was accomplishing something but I stayed far away from the Vicodin because I clearly remembered how I took one pill all those years ago and within ten minutes, felt as though my uterus would explode through my incision and go flying into the toilet along with the two gallons of vomit that spewed out of my mouth. No way was I going to take the chance of hurling up my innards again because how was I supposed to heave up a lung with half my mouth frozen nearly shut? What if it got stuck? What then? As if I didn’t have enough to worry about without having to explain to an ER nurse why I had a bloody organ stuck to my teeth.

Then I thought that maybe my muscles were just tense and that massive amounts of heat would relax them so I took a scalding hot shower but all that got me was first degree burns on my fanny, leaving me with three numb cheeks instead of just one.

Then I called my doctor since, coincidentally, I was scheduled to have an MRI that very morning to rule out a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis because for several weeks prior, I had been experiencing weird symptoms such as slurring my words or forgetting them entirely and trouble focusing both my eyes and my thoughts and to those of you muttering under your breath And this is strange behavior for you … how? I respond with a resounding SHUT UP, NATE. AND MOM.

Because fine … truth be told, it wasn’t that strange for me to completely forget myself in mid-sentence or address my kids as YOU, THERE, WITH THE GLASSES – NO, THE SHORTER ONE or put an entire pork tenderloin in the dishwasher. Were it not for the occasional balance issues that hampered me, I might not have been worried at all. But they did hamper me, especially when they caused me to stumble into Wegmans as if I had just celebrated my last semester in college with ten shots of Alabama slammers during Ladies Night at The Inn Between.

Not that I have any idea what that actually feels like.

My doctor told me to hightail it into his office before the MRI to see what was up. And so I grabbed five year old Helena and threw her in the car and raced to his office. The entire drive, she kept staring at me and then finally asked why I kept winking at her and I was all I’m not winking, sweetie, my eye won’t blink and she was all But why? Why won’t your eye blink? And I was all Because my face is frozen and she was quiet for a moment and then worriedly asked Were you making faces at Daddy? and I was all SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MAKE ANGRY FACES AT MOMMY OR DADDY? IT FREEZES THAT WAY.

Because what kind of parent would I be if I didn’t take every opportunity to turn a bad situation into a learning experience?

My doctor ushered us right in and have I mentioned lately how much I love that man? If his wife would just ease up a little, I’d adopt him in a heartbeat. So what if he’s older than me? I think it’s legal in 47 states. Maybe 48, if you count West Virginia, but then again, I’m pretty sure everything is legal in West Virginia as long as you don’t get caught.

To make a long story short … well then, I’d have to rewrite this entire post. Who’s got time for that?

So, I’ll just hurry up and tell you that my doctor diagnosed me with Bell’s Palsy. And while I did wind up going through a battery of tests for MS, they all turned out negative and my doctor theorized that my symptoms may have simply been a precursor to the Bell’s.

My doctor couldn’t say for certain what caused the Bell’s but he theorized that cold sores were a contributing factor, those morbidly obese, soul sucking leeches that periodically use my lips as port-a-potties, unleashing a literal shitstorm of bloody canker sores, weeping blisters and monstrous scabs for weeks at a time.

Four days into the Bell’s, I sat in my doctor’s office and cried and he let me, without even glancing at his watch.

See why I want to adopt him?

The right side of my face drooped and felt like a heavy, lopsided bowling ball. My left side overcompensated so, when I smiled, I looked as if I were constipated and won the lottery simultaneously. I spent every waking hour physically holding my eyelid shut with my finger because a patch was not an option and the alternative of having my eyelid stitched shut by my opthamologist to ward off dryness and infection made me throw up a little in my mouth. Every night was spent smooshing my face into my pillow to keep my eyelid closed. The entire right side of my mouth was unusable so eating was a tedious chore and drinking was even worse – I could not use a straw and a glass of water was simply a bath waiting to happen. I drooled incessantly 24/7. And the pain in my ear was as if someone had taken a butcher knife, doused it in gasoline, lit it on fire and proceeded to stab me in the head for weeks at a time.

But the worst part of it all was the not knowing. Would it ever go away? When? There were no guarantees with Bell’s. Most people fully recover. But at one point in my life, I drove a 1975 rust colored Datsun with actual racing stripes running up the side. The entire floor fell out onto I490. While I was driving it.

I wasn’t most people.

I occasionally tried to shirk my responsibilities and obligations and more than once I yelled NO, I DID NOT WASH YOUR JEANS. I WAS BUSY HOLDING MY FACE ONTO MY SKULL SO IT WOULDN’T SLIDE OFF. But, life goes on. Between playdates and concerts and curriculum nights and open houses and grocery shopping and volunteering and Halloween (could I have asked for a better costume? I think not) there was little time to feel sorry for myself.

The worst of the Bell’s lasted about four weeks at which point, to my relief, I felt a twitch in the corner of my right eye one night. A week later, I was approximately 80% recovered. It took another six months before I would pronounce myself back to normal, although my right ear remained incredibly sensitive for more than a year, which may explain the compulsion to administer multiple whistle enemas to one particularly obnoxious official at Zoe’s swim meets.

Today, unless I told you, you’d never know that I had Bell’s Palsy, unless you happen to catch me in mid-yawn, at which point the right side of my face tends to sag a little. This is totally due to the Bell’s and not to some unfortunate combination of middle age and gravity.

I learned quite a few things from the Bell’s, such as:

  • To be grateful for a temporary bump in the road instead of a more permanent one
  • That objectively, you know perfectly well that there are far worse things in the world than having your face temporarily frozen into some grotesque grimace. However, that should not preclude you from wailing WHY ME upon occasion. Being introduced to your ex-husband’s drop dead gorgeous girlfriend while holding your eyelid shut and spitting saliva on her by simply saying hello, qualifies as such an occasion. Wail away, sister. Amen.
  • That every cloud has a silver lining and my patent for a bra to help support lopsided bowling ball faces everywhere is currently pending! I’m waiting for QVC to return my call.
  • That what at first seems horrific soon becomes ordinary, especially in the eyes of children. Those would be all the children who did not piss me off by losing all muscle control and collapsing like wet noodles onto the floor of Target while screaming at the top of their lungs because their mothers wouldn’t buy them something shiny like a new vacuum cleaner, thereby compelling me to lean over them, point to my face and whisper I PITCHED A HISSY WHEN MY HUSBAND BOUGHT ME A HOOVER FOR OUR ANNIVERSARY AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO ME. THINK ABOUT IT.
  • That when a doctor lets you rest your deformed face on his shoulder and cry and then gives you a hug and tells you that “we” are going to get through this together? He’s totally worth a $40 co-pay and quite possibly an illegitimate child.
  • That my husband will always love and desire me, even if I look like death on a cracker, proving once again that when it comes to sex, women need a reason, men need a place.
  • That I am resilient and when all is said and done,  life is what you make of it. Sometimes it’s rainbows and unicorns, sometimes it’s a bloated, flatulent walrus. You might as well deal with it and put on happy face, even if it is a bit crooked.



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13 thoughts on “Weekend regurgitation: Battle scars”

  1. Avatar

    Soooo glad my sister happened upon your blog. You ROCK that battlescar sista! I said that with my best rock n’ roll voice BTW. I have lots of battlescars and may have more once this whole BP thing clears up (pause to knock on wood.) I have noticed that all of my my battlescars make for good conversation starters (not that I need an excuse to start a conversation, lol). I wonder what I ever talked about when I was young and unscarred…..hmmmmm.

  2. Avatar

    Wow, I have nothing of value to write here, I just wanted to write something to show solidarity and that you’re a real person who (whom?) I admire so much and wish we were neighbors and we could get together and watch LOST reruns and maybe Community and do BBQs with and trade WW recipes and such. Seriously, you’re up there in my mind with all the importanty people: my Hubs, my Mom, and Conan O’Brien.

  3. Avatar

    So glad you’re one of the ones for whom it wasn’t a permanent condition! DH got it on a trip to the beach where he had the window open–he thinks his was due to the constant wind on that side of his face. And I’m still giggling over the bloated, flatulent walrus!!! I seem to have a few of those in my life… =)

  4. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this. A good friend of ours had a bout of Bell’s Palsy two years ago. I remember feeling sorry for him. It sucks! But he recovered as well.

    Love the pics of you and the hubby. You make a great couple!

  5. Avatar

    Wow – I had no idea this had happened to you! I can’t begin to imagine how it all made you feel but I think it is amazing that you have dealt with it as well as you have!!!

  6. Avatar

    How is that you’re the only human in the blogosphere who can write a 2,052 word piece and (1) not lose my attention 1,026 words in, (2) keep it funny all the way through to the end, and (3) remind me of when a friend went through a similar experience with much the same result? I think she even had the same doctor.

  7. Avatar

    Andy, you’ve gone through a lot, and with so much grace and humor… I admire you!

    But honestly, the only thing that popped into my head when I saw the first two photos was that you are really very pretty. That second shot of you with your brother is gorgeous.

    I’ll stop now, because I probably sound like a creepy stalker. Have a nice rest-of-your-weekend. 🙂

  8. Avatar

    I admire you and your strength and tenacity. You deal with all of life’s struggles with such grace and good humor, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. I am so glad you recovered and you are able to look back on it now as a growth experience.

  9. Avatar

    Apparently being in central Florida, in August, for almost 48 hours has melted my brain because I got to the second picture and was all “Nate changed his hairstyle! And shaved!” Yeah, I’m gonna choose to blame that on the pixie dust. Erm, I mean Benadryl. (Apparently Florida isn’t far enough away from Heather’s Allergies to Nature and All That it Contains.)

    I had a roommate in college who had BP and had it at the same time that her mother did. It was totally coincidental that they both got it for the first time at the same time – or within a week of each other – but let me tell you, it was freaky. Also it made their phone conversations a bit problematic.

    Oh, but you know who else had BP? GEORGE CLOONEY!! Seriously, I read someplace that he had it back in jr high or high school and it is what caused him to develop his great sense of humor – being class clown to deflect teasing from having BP. For real! So wear that imperceptibly droopy eyelid with pride since it is something you have in common with George!

  10. Avatar

    ANDY!! I swear I’d need a magnifying glass to notice anything “droopy” on your face!! You are gorgeous girlfriend!! umm…so are Nate and Tino 🙂 Luv ya!

  11. Avatar

    Hi im from dallas I got bells palsy in the week of thanksgiving last year my face hasnt 100% recovered even though i didnt get it that bad. i was taking steriods made me gain about 20lbs and taking other pills as well. I had it bad i couldnt sleep at night i had constant pain at 4am everyday on the right side of my ear going down to my throat i had to like stretch it out to calm the pain. but i did several times say why me but you know i never stayed in my home i was constantly out i went shopping i went to a family party movies but even though the noise would bother me like crazy its like everything echoed inside of my head. but now im better but like i said not 100% right now im getting a pain on the right side of my neck i worry too much i stress out too much i need to control that.. i massage my face upward about twice a day do face exercises like hold a smile for 15seconds raise my eyebrows for 15sec frown for 15sec. i try to speak more and sing pronounce my abc.. having bells palsy is painful but it shouldnt shut down people beucase its not that bad compared to other things like cancer or stuff like that you know.. and it made me see things very differently..

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