Living with Facial Palsy

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This is me…

…throughout various stages of my life, at 6 months, 3 years, 14 and today.
Take me as you find me!
I’ve finally reached the age where I’m less bothered about the way I look, or what people think of me, my life is so busy as a mum I hardly think about my Facial Palsy.
Gone are the days when I obsessed about plastering myself with make-up to hide the fact that I had a facial disfigurement,
My facial palsy came about through birth trauma, I was a hefty 9lb 4oz! It bothered me very much as a child, other children would understandably notice and ask questions: “What’s wrong with your mouth?” Or “Why does your mouth drop down?”
I either looked down and carried on walking or replied: “Because it’s poorly, I was born like it.” I hide myself away a lot as a teenager avoiding the other kids that would find it amusing to call me names, as I also had the added delights of a large nose and acne to top it off! I was like “give me a break!” I hid myself behind people that would protect me from the bullies, not necessary the right choice looking back. I wanted to be my own person but found myself acting differently in different friendship groups, so very eager to fit in. I felt like I had 2 completely different personalities. I didn’t know that what disfigurement I had even had a name until I saw a TV programme on ‘Bell’s Palsy’, which can effect any one with no specific cause, and will usually get better by itself. Facial Palsy, however, can occur in congenital conditions, via a Stroke, trauma injury – fracture to the brain, skull or face and via birth trauma – forceps delivery or facial presentation which is what happened in my case. Luckily I have 2 wonderful parents and a wonderful sister who have always accepted me for who I am and have embraced my quirkiness!

I go through stages in life where I don’t think about having a facial palsy, which weakens the facial muscles, and can cause permanent damage. I cant feel a nerve in the left side of my cheek, yet I can in my right cheek. The first thing I asked when my first child was born was: “Is her face ok?” I knew that it isn’t hereditary, but there’s always that fear in your mind. I had recently forgotten about it completely until my dentist asked me about my facial palsy, he asked if I had ever tried to get treatment for it. And I did wonder with the technology advances today if something could be done to improve my facial muscles? I don’t think it would change much honestly, but there is the fear in my mind that as I get older and my skin loses its elasticity could it become more noticeable and my mouth droop down as it did when I was a baby and child of 4 dreading the school photographer, I still am not a great fan of my photo being taken now and rarely will I smile with my teeth showing! My biggest bug bare is when strangers on the street will openly say to me: “Smile!” if I’m looking moody, and I think hang on this is my usual look!
I do have some small issues that I didn’t realise are connected to the palsy, my eyes, especially the left, are constantly watery, especially outside. And I often have a dry mouth and dribble in my sleep (nice!)

I find eye contact difficult, I recently described this to a family member, as it feels like my eyes are on fire and I get a headache if in a full on conversation! As I child I was extremely shy and never spoke out in class, I would say the answers in my head but never out loud, I didn’t want people to look at me, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I just wanted to blend into the background. If I did talk I’d often hold up my hand to my face to cover it. When talking to new people or doing presentations, such as those at University I sometimes lost concentration on the topic I was talking about as my brain would kick in and I’d think “can anyone notice my facial palsy?” “Is it obvious?” It has therefore definitely affected me psychologically throughout my life.
I was encouraged to get myself a part time job to help fund my university place, I pushed myself to talk to people in the local garage where I worked at weekends, I also was able to gain employment in larger retail shops in the city centre which was a big step. I found that I could talk to children much easier than adults! They didn’t judge me! In the past 12 years I’ve been in childcare I’ve only been asked twice by a child about my face. I feel at ease when I work with children. I am also sure that one day my own children will ask me about it too, I am strong enough now to accept that ‘this is me’ and via research I’ve been able to understand it more, just like I am currently doing for my daughter’s Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD.)

Who knows if there’s any treatments out there now, I’m actually embarrassed to ask as I worry more about my children than myself, maybe one day I’ll pluck up the courage to ask!

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