True Life: I Have Bell’s Palsy

This is a new segment on the blog in which people share their true life stories. This is the story of Natalie and her diagnoses with Bell’s Palsy.

True Life I have Bell's Palsy

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I hate this question. LOL. I’m never sure what to say. My name’s Natalie, I’m 27 and … I’m awesome?

For those of us who don’t know, what is Bell’s Palsy?

It’s a temporary condition in which one or both sides of your face become paralyzed with usually full recovery. But, very rarely, some symptoms are permanent. There’s still very little information on it; doctors say it can be caused by an eye, ear or sinus infection that goes untreated, the herpes (cold sore) virus, and/or stress. They cause the facial nerve to become inflamed and compressed so you have no movement on the affected side.

When were you diagnosed?

I was diagnosed October 20, about 3½ weeks ago.

What treatment have you received?

I was given prednisone (steroids). I was started on a very high dose, then took half of the original dose for a second week and I am now taking a Vitamin B complex, twice a day and physical therapy. I had physical therapy everyday for 10 days and now go every other day. The physical therapy involves a heat pad, therapeutic ultrasound, shockwave treatment, facial massages and facial exercises.

What has been the most challenging aspect of dealing with Bell’s Palsy?

Mentally and emotionally: Feeling like Harvey Dent after his unfortunate encounter with The Boss. LOL. I joke, but it really does feel that way. My case was pretty mild so you couldn’t really notice it right away, but once I tried to speak or smile, there was no hiding it. The first three nights, I stayed in bed all day and just cried. I thought there was no way I could handle it. After that I stayed home because if I said anything or tried to ask for something, people couldn’t understand me and my attempts would always be met by stares. And I don’t handle people’s stares very well.

Physically: I want to say not being able to eat and not having taste on half of my tongue. I want to say that because I love food, but the pain is probably the most challenging, physically. Starting my second week, I was hit with this awful pain, usually at the end of the day. It was so bad I couldn’t fall asleep most nights. Pain wasn’t something I expected. The doctor didn’t tell me and none of the websites I visited mentioned the pain. But what I’ve come to realize is that I’m not the only one who has experienced pain; people have reached out and traded stories via Twitter and Instagram.

How have the people in your life reacted to it?

Amazingly! My friends and family have given me nothing but love, support and encouragement. The day after I was diagnosed, my sister went out and bought me a relaxation candle and relaxation massage oil and massaged my face every night. My dad, mom and brother have dropped everything to take me to my physical therapy sessions. My friends make me laugh and smile when I’m feeling my absolute worst. And whenever I feel like there’s no way I can handle another minute of it, they all remind me that I’m strong enough to handle every minute of it.

What tips or advice would you give others who are diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy?

  • Stay positive! It’s easier said, I know, but staying positive really helps.

  • Take your vitamins! Doctors won’t tell you but vitamin B12 really seems to help.

  • Do the facial exercises. There’s several sites online, most of them have the same exercises. They’re frustrating at first because no matter how hard you try, nothing moves but it gets easier and they make sure atrophy doesn’t set in.

  • REMEMBER IT IS TEMPORARY! On my hard days, my sister and my friends would reassure me by reminding me that it was temporary. I’d repeat it until I’d calm back down. I still remind myself everyday because, even though I have some control of my face back, I get frustrated because of the control I haven’t gotten back.

This is a video from Natalie’s Instagram showing her progress after 10 days of physical therapy:

Thanks so much for sharing this with us, Natalie! Have any of you been diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy? Any tips to share?

  • oh my friend dealt with this, it really is so hard!

  • Lauren Gardner

    What a great idea for a blog segment. We wish you well Natalie!

  • Natalie

    I look at the right side of that first picture and remember how awful I felt but then I smile and remind myself that I’m so much closer the the left side now 🙂

    • Yay! And we’re all so happy for your progress. Now you can flash that amazing smile and all those pearly whites!

  • I know a woman at my church who had Bell’s Palsy, but I never knew just how rough it could be! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Natalie

      Glad I could share some insight, Lulu. There really is no way to fully understand it unless it happens to you because it feels a lot worse than it looks. My sister got some dental work done recently and they numbed half of her mouth … she said she had some newfound respect for me 😛