The day that I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy I was scheduled to appear in court in the afternoon. I couldn’t do it. I was still struggling to speak properly. I could make myself understood, but I found the effort exhausting and frustrating. When I saw my broken face in the mirror I felt pretty sorry for myself. The ability to occasionally find humour in my situation was definitely not immediate. I was dressed up for court, but I was a long way from being in fighting form. One of my colleagues at the clinic kindly stepped in and appeared for me in court that first day, and I was really grateful that he did.
Because I was scheduled to leave for a circuit a couple of days after my diagnosis, I asked the doctor if there were any issues with travelling to Sanikiluaq for court. He said that there weren’t. Travel was no problem because I wasn’t sick. So I went. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have gone. Not just because of the Amaulik Hotel's best efforts to kill us all. Having Bell's Palsy actually is being sick. I should have stayed home and slept curled up with a heating pad and a big bottle of painkillers.
Bell’s Palsy is often thought of as merely cosmetic. But the droopy appearance on one side is just the most obvious symptom. There are numerous other symptoms that aren’t talked about very much. I had no idea – and certainly the doctor never mentioned – that I’d feel as though I’d been punched repeatedly and hard on the forehead, jaw and on the side of my face. There are stabbing pains on and off in and behind my ear, and neck cramps and headaches on the afflicted side. I’ve also been experiencing annoyances such as facial twitches, exhaustion, clumsiness and intermittent sensitivity to loud sounds.
I’ve done quite a bit of reading since my diagnosis, and I’ve joined a support group. What I’ve learned is that all of the above symptoms are very commonly experienced. I’m pretty sure that the support group saved me from turning into a total hypochondriac. Unfortunately the doctor I saw did very little to prepare me for what was coming. I really wish that I’d known ahead of time about the pain and also some of the stranger symptoms. Feeling as though someone cranked up the volume in your ear from 10 to 30 in a bit unnerving. Even more so if it comes as a total surprise.
I’m happy to report that I’m getting better. On Sunday, exactly two weeks after the onset, I was able to slightly move the muscle under my left eye. Today (Day #18) I am able to move the left side of my mouth a little bit, and it appears more symmetrical. My speech is also much improved. I did a trial yesterday that involved an awful lot of talking (cross-examination and submissions) and it went very well. By the end of it I was exhausted, and my words were getting a bit slurred, but no one seemed to have any difficulty understanding me. There is still some pain but much less than there was. Things are definitely looking up!