Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are you under any stress?

"Are you under a lot of stress?"  Those were the first words the doctor asked me after I told her the symptoms that brought me to her office yesterday morning.  The symptoms were quite frightening and more than a little annoying.  Basically the left side of my face
was paralyzed, half my tongue was numb, my ear hurt and my left eye was sore and tearing profusely.  Stress she asked?  Did she mean besides the fact that half my face won't move?  Besides the fact that I have a 16, 14, 13 and 11 year old at home?  Besides the fact that we just threw our daughter a Sweet 16 party last week; the same week I had a horrendous head cold?  Besides the fact that I field calls and emails daily from one teacher or other concerning grades?  Besides the fact that my children can't be in the same room together for more than 5 minutes without arguing?  Oh, and did I mention the fact that we have had FIVE snow days in the past 8 days?  Well, besides all of that, doctor, I have no stress at all.

She diagnosed my malady is Bell's Palsy.  Sounded like an old person's disease to me.  Turns out it's not an old person's disease at all.  In fact the median age for sufferers is around 40.  The cause is unclear, but research has shown stress and/or a recent viral infection to be linked as triggers if not causes of Bell's Palsy.  Since I have had both a virus (the aforementioned head cold) and not just a little stress in my life lately, it is likely that my body and my nervous system have gotten together to create the perfect storm of crappiness that is Bell's Palsy.

Let me tell you something, Bell's Palsy sucks.  It sucks hard.  The left side of my face is frozen, as in paralyzed.  It doesn't move at all.  If I am just looking in the mirror without trying to smile or talk, I look like half of a Hollywood-over-40-trying-desperately-to-look-younger-so-I-got-Botox actress.  Not that bad, I guess, if I were a mannequin.  Since I am not, indeed, a mannequin, when I actually try to smile, talk, eat, whistle, blow a bubble with my bubble gum or otherwise use my mouth, my face transforms from Botoxed actress into horror film star in the blink of an eye. Notice I said eye and not eyes?  That is because I can only blink one eye.  The left one only stares straight ahead and waters profusely because, like the rest of that side of my face - IT IS PARALYZED and it doesn't blink like it should.  This really is the most annoying part.

I can deal with not being able to smile properly, with speaking with a lisp, and even occasionally dribbling liquid down my chin because I forget that one side of my mouth has not closed down on my drink properly.  All of that is annoying, but livable.  Not being able to blink is intolerable. I can't look at a book or the computer screen for more than 10 seconds without my eye drying out, stinging and then tearing up, not to mention that my vision is extremely blurry in that eye.  How am I supposed to follow doctors orders and 'Take it Easy' if I can't even do what relaxes me most - read, watch TV and visit with my on-line friends?  Intolerable, I tell you, it is intolerable.  I have had to resort to taping my left eye shut in order to look at this screen long enough to write this post.  It is bearable now, at home, but I don't think it will be safe to drive with one eye taped shut.

Okay, now that I have gotten all of the complaints about the suckage of Bell's Palsy out of my system, I can move on to my thankfulness that A) I didn't have a stroke or heart attack as I had at first feared and B) that 95% of the time this condition is only temporary.  I will not allow myself to even think about being in the minority 5% on this.  I will recover from this in a few months (yes, it can take a few months to resolve) and will hopefully have learned a lot of lessons about humility along the way.  Also in the I Hope category is the fact that my family will understand that their chaos causes stress for me.  They don't get that yet.  This morning my 11 year old told me - Mom, you need to learn how to handle your stress better.  Um yea, we are going to have to work on the We Don't Live in a Vacuum theory a little more.  Kids are so egocentric that they really cannot see that what they do impacts greatly on those around them.  Especially on their mom, who loves them and feels responsible not just for their survival but also for their success.

Oh yes, no doubt about it, Bell's Palsy sucks and I wish to heaven I had not contracted it, but now that I have accepted it, I have a choice.  Succumb to despair, or find a way to be thankful.  I have a feeling it will be a daily struggle between despair and thankfulness over the next several days, but God willing, I will be able to overcome the struggle and to live the next few months with the grace that comes from Him.  That is my prayer, at least.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 

 16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.