I couldn't feel my face when I'm with me
This is one yelp review I just can't relate to
Today's post is a quick-ish story with a super important point to it.
Let's rewind the clock back to December 22, 2018. My wife and I are hanging out after putting the kids to bed.
Mrs. JMac says to me "are you okay? your left eye is blinking really fast." I feel fine and for some reason cinderblock meathead me decides the barometer to my personal health and wellness is if I can work out. I put a sesh in out in my garage gym, affectionally known as the thunder dome. No collapse, no aneurysm, no problemo. Shower. Bed.
The next morning we get up, rush through getting a one, three, and five year old ready to get fed and dressed and over to wife's best friends house for our annual Christmas celebraish. We get there, my wife must've fully looked at me for the first time that day, because she says to me "dude. go to the hospital. right now."
It turns out the whole side of my face has gone limp. Physically, cognitively, I feel fine. But I check the bathroom mirror and yeah one side of my face isn't working. I felt it but thought it was just because I was tired, since dads of 1, 3, and 5 year olds don't really sleep to begin with. But happy wife happy life, off to the hospital I go.
I head to Emerg. I wait in my chair in triage. The nurse asks who is next. An old man with an oxygen tank who arrived after I did pops up and beelines to the chair. I get up and wander over and say "hey guys, normally I wouldn't say anything, given that he looks like that and I'm pretty healthy, but my wife sent me here because she thinks I'm having a stroke and this gentleman has just cut the line ahead of me." Yup, I was that guy calling out line cutting in the ER by someone who looks like they're two breaths away from a stairway to heaven.
Thanks for not dropping dead due to my gumption, sir
I'm irritated to be missing a pretty fun Christmas party, but also a little scared because my face clearly isn't working despite how fine I feel. I pull out my phone and start googling "slow stroke" and "mini stroke" and whatever other combos I can wing up to try to justify why I feel like a greek god whose clay sculptor stopped for a nap around the face area.
My name finally gets called, I get triaged and sent to the back to see the doctor. Cuz just in case. I passed the stroke test with flying colours. Always been good at exams. He tried to press down as hard as he could on my arm/shoulder to test for weakness and his feet may have left the floor.
The doctor tells me "I think this is Bell's palsy". I'm not feeling real palsy over this news, because I have no idea what it means. He tells me "half of your face has checked out, it's likely because you have a head cold and the virus attacked a nerve in your face. Most people resume full function within 12 to 18 months, but 4% of people never resume full function at all. Picture Jean Chretien."
At this point I'm wondering if my wife thinks he's cute....
I go home with an "oh fuck" moment. I was the 1% of people that got a staph infection after ACL surgery. I was the 3% of adults that show symptoms of Hand Foot and Mouth that they receive from their kids. Thanks daycare. My luck medically has been shit when it comes to long shots leading up to this.
I'm a self conscious person. People stare at me all the time. This doctor has essentially just told me that I'm sewing Polkaroo's tail dipped in a dirty diaper to my face for anywhere between 12 months and with my luck, forever. Great. People are going to be pointing staring and whispering like it's grade seven and I'm wearing the same pair of pants for the fifth day in a row all over again. Screw off, those were my wearin' pants.
So what if they stood up on their own?
Weirdly enough, the day after Christmas is my wife's family's Christmas. My in laws talk to me for the second time in as many days and don't notice or mention a thing. My sister in law within 10 seconds says "dude what the fuck happened to your face?" Ah, the bliss of old age.
Old people are so sweet...
I can't eat properly. I'm drooling all the time. I can't close my eye and it's streaming like I'm watching The Notebook on repeat. This fucking sucks.
Trying to smile on a walk with the family on Christmas Eve 2018
Trying to show my pearly whites
The holidays are always hard for me to begin with as mentioned in a previous blog. Despite being surrounded by love by my current family, it always takes me back to where I come from and what I am missing. My dad's dead and I don't have a relationship with my mom's side of the family. Thanks Love Actually, The Family Man, and other Christmas Classics for reminding me what I and my kids are only getting 50% of from my wife's side.
Talking sucks because I drool and slur my words. Eating sucks because I can only chew with one side of my face. Sleeping sucks because I can't close my eye. Shit shit shit shit shit.
I eventually around March finally see a nerve specialist at the hospital. She runs some tests and tells me the good news, it will resolve on its own because it's the good kind of nerve damage and not the bad kind. This is promising.
Fast forward to November 2019 and 11 months later I am feeling good. Eye works fine. Mouth is 90% recovered and only sags a bit when I am tired and being lazy. This is good.
Then shit hits the fan with my wife's dad's health. Shit hits the fan again in massive conflict with my mom's side of the family. My face starts tingling and sagging again. I read this article and HOLY SHIT it wasn't the cold that caused it. IT WAS STRESS.
This revelation was a big huge kick in the pants that I needed.
Dads, listen up.
You can't burden yourself with everyone else's stress until you break. You can't grit your teeth and grin and bear it despite feeling like you're riding the world's worst roller coaster on the inside. You can't ignore that pounding heart, sick stomach feeling, cold sweat, and twitchy fidgeting.
You need to listen to your mind and body and make your stress and mental health a priority. You need you time. You need healthy coping strategies. You need an outlet where you feel safe being vulnerable and expressing your feelings and thoughts and fears and wishes. You need balance and stability in your mind to get balance and stability in your life and be the best you for those who matter.
I didn't, and my face decided to go on vacation as a result. I did better and it got better. I stopped being well and I got some warning signs that it was coming back for "Breaking Face 2: Electric Boogerloo". I had to confront my fears, anger, and anxiety head on and do something about it to get to a better place ASAP so it didn't re break itself.
I'm so, I'm so reborn, I'm movin' forward Keep movin' forward, keep movin' forward Ain't no stress on me Lord, I'm movin' forward Keep movin' - Kanye West, "Reborn"
It was uncomfortable but I did it. Let my journey be a lesson to you, that we aren't invincible anymore. We are human beings. We are vulnerable. We have fears and worries and stress and that doesn't make us weak. It makes us real. What you do about it will dictate the best you. Stay hard, stay in the fight.