About a week ago, the left side of my face went totally numb. Actually, that’s a lie. I could feel everything–my son poked my cheek, eye, and forehead to test this–but I couldn’t move it a bit. Unless you count manually blinking your eyelid using your fingers. What’s a grown woman with a career, a child, and her own house to do? That’s right. I called my mom. I said, “It’s happening again.” She laughed, and made me take a selfie.
The last time it was the right side of my face, and it was when I was eight months pregnant with my son. I had gained so much water weight that the nerves in my face were compressed, causing Bells Palsy. Here it was, once more, only this time I wasn’t pregnant and I hadn’t gained weight.
It’s probably the one thing Angelina Jolie and I have in common: Bell’s Palsy. Well, that and a love for trying to save the world. And although I haven’t been able to track down a photo of Jolie with a drooping face, I’m sure she wore it better than me. When she shares her photo, I’ll share mine (trust me. it’s not flattering).
So after scaring everyone at work (they thought I was having a stroke), I went to the doctor’s office. Boy, was that a treat. Since it’s relatively rare, many of the staff had never seen the condition. I was a novelty, and (after asking me for permission, of course) the staff members came to see my face. My primary care doctor, who remembered me from when I was pregnant, joked, “Most of the time, it goes away. Like last time. But if it doesn’t you can always join the circus!”
Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.
“What causes this?” I asked, and, to save the crumbs of my dignity, I reminded her that I was quite a bit lighter than when I was pregnant.
The answer: they don’t really know, but there are a few common factors. After ruling them out, she suggested Lyme disease.
“But I haven’t been bitten by any ticks!” I said, not convinced it was Lyme.
“Maybe, maybe not. But we’re going to treat you with an antibiotic, just in case. Then again… hmmm…it could be stressed induced. Your blood pressure is up to pre-hypertension levels, and looking at your records, that’s far from normal.”
Stress. I could hear the arch-angels singing in my head.
“Stress! How?” I said, desperate to prevent this from happening again. (If you don’t understand why I was desperate, please google images of people with Bell’s Palsy. It’s not fun grocery shopping when you look like Igor).
“It lowers your immune system, makes you susceptible to viral infections and crazy side effects that wouldn’t happen if your system was on-par. So, voila. Bell’s palsy.”
And there it was, my eye-opener.
These past few months I’ve been dealing with a corporate position that’s taken its toll for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Limited time to take on new freelance and writing work
- Mass corporate layoffs of 10% of staff (1,500 employees)
- Negative impacts on my personal life (I’ll post about this later!)
- Increasingly limited agency over my own work
I’ve always thought I dealt well with stress. And perhaps, on the outside (ha! ha!), I did. But internally, I am suffocating myself for the likes of a position with a company that may potentially be going under. Bottom line? It took the physical manifestation of my stress to (literally) hit me in the face before I realized that I am not okay with my current situation, and changes must be made.
Thank you, peripheral nervous system, for the very rude wake-up call.