Letting go of Perfect: My year with Bell’s Palsy

The day before BP.

The day before BP.

A year after BP.

A year after BP.

Imagine waking up with half your face immobile. That was my experience, seemingly overnight, and it was the scariest experience I’d ever had. On June 11, 2014, I woke up with the entire right side of my face droopy, and devoid of movement. My eye was droopy, watery, and I had severely slurred speech. My first thought was a stroke. My Mom drove me to prompt care. They asked me what my name was, the year, who the President was, to thankfully, rule out a stroke. They immediately wheeled me to the ER. When they told me it was Bell’s Palsy, I was thinking, “What? I’ve never heard of that.” It was, and still is, a scary disease. At least for me it was, because it’s a huge unknown. It’s not like a broken leg, where they put a cast on it, and it heals. With this illness, there are no guarantees.

I remember lying in that hospital bed, crying out of my left eye only. The other side was completely devoid of moisture. My self-esteem took a heavy hit, as my face was distorted when I smiled. When I spoke, I was slurry, especially “p” and “b,” words. In those early days, I guess looking back now; I didn’t realize how sick I was. In the beginning all I did was eat, and sleep. I had constant headaches, daily, skull crushing ones that left me in tears. With a perpetual supply of Ibuprofen at my side, I survived, but barely. It was my own personal nightmare. The combination of pain, fatigue, and having to cover my eye with a patch constantly, kept me at home from work for a month. I couldn’t drive, so I had to rely on my spouse, and my parents for rides to doctor appointments. And the pain in my ear from loud noises, was piercing, and felt like someone was stabbing me in my ear.

As if all this wasn’t frustrating enough, the doctors were of no help. They couldn’t tell me why this happened, or how long it would last. Even more frustrating, was the complete lack of empathy or compassion. I never did go back to either of those doctors. I was appalled by their lack of showing another human being that they cared. I would think, fine, you don’t know what caused this; you don’t have an answer for me. But a little compassion would have gone a long way. All they could tell me was recovery could take four to six weeks, to six months or more. There was also a scary answer: some never recover. I was scared. And even that doesn’t seem to cover the myriad of emotions that swirled inside me. To go along with pain, the frustration I felt everyday, my already frail self-esteem took a nosedive. My entire well-being affected, because nobody could give me any answers.

My spouse, bless his heart, was very supportive. He told me I was beautiful, even if I wasn’t feeling it. He, along with my parents, took good care of me. But when I looked in the mirror, all I could see was my ugly, misshapen face. I would cry constantly, and mourn my old face. Not only appearance wise, but also functions I used to take for granted. Something as simple as swishing and spitting water out! I wasn’t able to drink out of a straw, and could only chew on my good side. Struggling, too, to even keep the food in my mouth. To drink water, I had to hold the cup with both hands around the rim to keep the liquid in my mouth. My vision was also affected, because the cornea was severely dry. Hence, I had to put drops in the eye constantly, and keep it covered 24/7 for a while, because it was literally wide open. When I went out in public, people would stare. After a point I began to ignore it. My primary focus was on healing, and praying that this would go away.

Because none of the doctors I visited had an answer for me, I relied on my family, and a very supportive Bell’s group on Facebook. Even though they were on-line, and not physically present, their presence was such a blessing. I could talk, and vent about my situation to people who knew how I felt. Who knew how scared I was. Who knew the pain, and frustration of this mysterious illness. Who understood every single emotion I was feeling. Who understand it’s not just about vanity; it’s about how it affects you from the inside out. How when you look at other people who can smile, you get jealous. I’ll admit, even though I have half a smile, I get a little jealous of others, and still mourn my old face everyday.

Slowly, I began to heal. I began to regain movement, and can still remember the first time I could drink out of a straw again, properly! Before that point, I could drink out of either side only. I can remember the first time I was able to feel moisture out of my right eye. My speech began to recover as well, and I could go out without wearing a patch; would only have to cover it at night. I did return to work eventually, and was so happy to be in my usual routine again.

A year later, I have a healed cornea, an eye that blinks at 60% on its own (so far anyway), clear speech, the ability to swish and spit, a crooked smile, but a smile! I can smack my lips together, and my eyelashes, with the help of a curler, are curling again! (Before that they were flattened because of taping it constantly at night. So I very seldom wore makeup). I celebrate the little milestones. I do suffer from synkinesis, which are involuntary movements on my right side, when I blink, frown, etc.  Despite all this, I have a new lease on life. I’ve learned, and accepted that my face will probably remain this way for the rest of my life. It may start to improve more and more, because even at this point, little things continue to improve. At a slow pace, mind you, but slow progress is better than none. I can look in the mirror, and feel beautiful again. Some days are better than others, but I try to remain hopeful, thankful, because this could’ve been much worse. In the early days I was weak, and tired. But I slowly came out of the rubble, and fought back.

Bell’s Palsy may have taken half my face, but it did not take my spirit. Despite my self-esteem taking a pretty hard hit in the beginning, now, I don’t worry about my less than perfect smile, my less than perfect face or features. Forget perfect. Looks fade, we age, we have scars, we have “wobbly bits.” True beauty shines from the inside out, and that is what makes a person beautiful.

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Spring for Love Blog Hop, Day Three: Featured Author, Claire Gem

Welcome back for the third, and final day of our Spring Blog. Thank you so much for taking the time this weekend to participate, and I hope, get to know some terrific authors. Today I’m hosting author Claire Gem, who writes Contemporary/Paranormal romance.

Phantom Traces, By: Claire Gem

Claire Gem - Phantom TracesPhantom Traces is romance with a ghostly twist. Set in the fictional town of Caldwell, N.C., it is the contemporary story of Abigail Stryker, a young librarian struggling to revive the antiquated and reportedly haunted Harvey Library. A pipe-smoking ghost has suddenly begun hurling books at anyone he doesn’t like, and if the haunting isn’t stopped, the library will be shut down. Abby enlists the help of history professor Jack Wood to figure out what has stirred the spirit of the library’s founder, and why he’s still trapped within its walls after over 100 years. In so doing, they uncover a tragic, 19th century tale of love, and find one of their own.

Amazon buy link (only Amazon): http://amzn.to/1JrjWoH

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Spring For Love blog hop buttonhttp://cynthiagail.com/spring-for-love-blog-hop/

Meet Claire Gem:  Claire Gem writes women’s fiction and contemporary romance, sometimes with a paranormal twist. A voracious reader, she’s an avid fan of strong but sensitive heroes, spunky, sexy heroines, and a ghost story worth at least a few goose bumps. Her vision is to transport her readers into another place and time, and she loves creating characters so real, readers miss them when the book is closed.

What is Claire’s favorite thing about Spring? What do I love about Spring? The end of winter! Although I was born and raised in New York State, I spent most of my adult life in Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. Certainly spoiled the girl who’s now back living in New England!  

Website: http://clairegem.com

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Spring Blog Hop, Day Two: Featured Author, Cynthia Gail

Hello again, and welcome to Day Two of our Spring Blog Hop! Today I’m featuring Contemporary romance author, Cynthia Gail.

Spring’s Surprise, By Cynthia Gail

Cynthia Gail - SpringSurpriseSara Michaels is single again. And she’s celebrating her thirtieth birthday with a complete spa makeover and a day of boutique shopping with her two best friends. After a ten-month battle for freedom, a long weekend in Nashville, Tennessee is just what she needs to erase the memories of a broken heart.

Jack Tanner is the soon-to-be new partner at Chester & Dorsey Development Firm. Jack’s love life has been on the back burner for years as he’s built a successful career. But the moment he meets Sara, he takes a hard look at his life and his priorities.

Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/1BArY4t

Check out all of our Soulmate Author’s participating!

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http://cynthiagail.com/spring-for-love-blog-hop/

Meet Cynthia Gail:

My husband and I live in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee with our three dogs. When I’m not working or writing, I can be found with family and friends. I love to bake in the winter, grill in the summer, and on occasion, I sneak away from everyone and curl up with a good book.

What is Cynthia’s favorite thing about Spring? I love all of the beautiful flowers that start blooming. The vibrant colors that begin to emerge, turning the brown grass and dreary winter into a virtual rainbow.

Website: http://cynthiagail.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaGailBook

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6564818.Cynthia_Gail

Amazon Author Central: http://www.amazon.com/Cynthia-Gail/e/B009WQTTQE/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426743860&sr=8-1

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Spring Blog Hop, Day One: Featured Author, Yolanda Ashton

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Spring is a great time of year. It makes me happy when the sun stays in the sky longer, the temperatures get warmer, and the promise of summertime draws near. This “Spring Blog Hop” is the first one I’ve ever done, and I’m excited to be apart of it.

I’ll be hosting three great authors this weekend, and here is my first featured author, Yolanda Ashton, who writes Contemporary and New Adult. Thank you for stopping by!

A Will for Love, by Yolanda Ashton

 Yolanda Ashton -awillforloveLanya gave her love and trust to a man, only to find out their relationship was a lie. Shattered she decides she’s never giving her heart to anyone again. But when her ex, Mikael LockRidge, offers her a proposition she can’t refuse Layna finds being with him, makes it hard to resist the sensual pull between them.

Blackmailed to commit an act that still haunts him, Mikael accepts his current loveless relationship as karma. But when he receives unexpected help from the grave, Mikael realizes he wants back what he loss– he just has to convince the ex he gutted- to let him back in her life and her heart.

How much does it take to heal a broken heart? Layna is about to find out. “A Will for Love” more info @ www.yolandaashton.wordpress.com

Connect with Yolanda:

Website: http://www.yolandaashton.wordpress.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/YolandaAshton

Bio: Yolanda Ashton is the alter ego of a thirty-something mother of three. Throughout daylight hours she’s an educational professional and during the nights (when she’s not daydreaming, reading and/or watching vampire drama) she’s writing, hanging with family and trying to recover from a day spent with middle school students.

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My First Post

A woman typing on a computer keyboard

Hi Everyone & Welcome to my blog!

This is my very first post, so bear with me because I’m still fairly new to social media. I figured it was about time to try my hand at this outlet, and I thank you for taking the time to visit today.

I’ve been on the fence about blogging since I had my first book published last August, and I’ll admit, the reason I put it off for so long, was because I have no clue what to write about on a weekly or monthly basis.

So, to kick-off my blogging journey, I’ve decided to tell you about my start as a writer.

I remember first being bitten by the “writing bug,” when I was fourteen. I walked into a second hand bookstore, and picked up a Julia Quinn romance. I devoured the book within a matter of days, and decided I’d like to try my hand at writing. I picked up a notebook, a pen, and began. I’m pretty sure I still have that first attempt tucked away in my basement somewhere. It was a cringe worthy one, but an attempt no less! My parents were supportive from the very beginning, and bought me my first Brother typewriter/computer. I’d spend weekends at the library researching locals, or books on the craft of writing. Even at such a young age, I was determined to be published one day.

I wrote a second manuscript on a computer, a contemporary romance, and showed it my high school English teacher. She encouraged me to continue, seeing merit in my writing. The rest, as they say is history.

After graduating, I took an eight year hiatus while I attended college, and got married. But, that little voice in my head never stopped talking, telling me I should be writing. Asking me why I wasn’t writing. I now realize it was a sign, from where I don’t know…but I knew I had to write. It was something I was meant to do. Before my son was born, I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America), and my local chapter, WisRWA (Wisconsin Romance Writer’s of America). I met wonderful people whom I could relate to, about anything and everything to do with writing. It was such a thrill! For the first time since I started writing, I wasn’t alone. It was great bouncing ideas off others, venting about plotting issues. Pretty much anything.

With this new shot of self-confidence, I brainstormed my book in the months before my delivery.  After he was born, I experienced a re-birth in myself. I began burning up the keyboard and writing at night, every night without fail. And it felt good, because I was in my natural element. I was happy.  After two months, I had a completed manuscript. It was very rough of course, but it was a start.

That was in the Fall of 2010, and after countless revisions, rejections, and pitches later my dream came finally had come true. And I’ve never looked back.