Disclaimer: Please consult your doctor before treating your Bell’s Palsy. I’m simply sharing my story and what worked for me personally, after making an educated decision for myself.
if you have been following me on Instagram since at least late March/early April of this year, you’re well aware that I had Bell’s Palsy – and recovered from it, without drugs, in less than a month. It was an absolute shock when I was diagnosed, and I still can’t believe that happened to me. I’m going to write this post in the hopes that for those that have Bell’s Palsy can refer back here and find some peace, some helpful healing advice, and know that you’re not alone.
also, I learned a lot about myself during my time with having Bell’s Palsy, which was the silver lining to an otherwise uncomfortable experience.
what is Bell’s Palsy?
Bell’s Palsy is a condition in which the muscles on one side of your face are paralyzed. For me, it was my left side. You can’t even blink your eye (imagine how uncomfortable that is!) What causes it? Trauma to the seventh carnival nerve also known as the “facial nerve.” What causes that trauma? They’re unsure, but they mostly think it’s a reaction to a virus.
in most cases, your paralysis dissipates with time (anywhere from 3 to 6 months is the average), but in some cases, there are forever lasting effects (partial paralysis, full paralysis, etc.) your body naturally heals itself, but the sooner you start treating it (homeopathically or with modern medicine), the better your odds are for short term paralysis, quicker recovery, and no long term effects.
pregnant and postpartum women are at a higher risk because their immune systems are facing extra stress during those times, so perhaps that’s why I got it. Lyme’s disease is also a common cause – but frankly, they don’t know exactly what causes the trauma to the nerve, so instead of saying, “Why me?!”, I immediately went into “I’m going to recover from this” mode. Of course, I got tested for Lyme’s diseases and viruses of all sorts, but nothing showed up on my charts – the doctor I saw even joked, “You’re one of the healthiest people to ever walk into my office.” Ha, right?
the worst part about having BP (aside for the incredible discomfort) was that I couldn’t laugh or smile much when I played with Luca. It was disheartening for me – I love giggling and smiling and making him laugh, so I struggled with that, it was pretty demoralizing.
(it gets worse before it gets better!)
when did it start and how did you know it was Bell’s Palsy?
It was March 28th (the Wednesday before my 31st birthday!) at about 10am and I was on the Peloton bike. About 10 minutes into it, I started to have a tingly, numbing sensation in my upper left lip – I couldn’t bite my lip fully or lick my lips without a weird feeling. I really thought nothing of it – I thought, “maybe I’m just pushing myself really hard in this spin class!” I showered, got ready, and had a meeting to go to. When putting on lipstick before heading out the door, I could barely get it on my lips – my lip just kind of stayed there lifeless and I couldn’t tighten my lips – they were almost frozen on the left side.
I went to that meeting, but the symptoms were worsening: I was getting more and more numb. By about 3pm, half of my face was almost completely numb and my eye was bothering me (I didn’t know at the time that the inability to blink was part of it.) I saw a primary care doctor near me and he said, sure enough, I had Bell’s Palsy.
the second and third day were the absolute worse – my face was drooping by the third day completely and it was painful to talk for too long. it was by far the most demoralizing day of the experience.
(At brunch on my 31st birthday. A birthday I’ll never forget!)
how did you treat Bell’s Palsy after your diagnosis?
after the doctor diagnosed me with BP, he prescribed me Prednisone (a steroid) and an anti-viral medication. I immediately asked, “but I’m breastfeeding, won’t that affect my milk supply?” The doctor said something along the lines of, “There have been some studies and they say it’s OK to use while nursing, but I recommend you stop while on the medication.”
now, I’m not a very “crunchy” person (yes, I have a general “non-toxic”/clean home and skincare routine, but I’m not afraid to take medications, I vaccinate Luca, etc), but the idea of taking a drug that potentially could affect my milk supply probably means that it can’t be very good for my body either. Plus, my mother (who was ironically with me at the appointment – she was in town visiting) said she took Prednisone for some back issues and had a horrible reaction. Plus, I tested negative for all viruses, so why take an anti-viral? It seemed like the doctor was just slapping a lazy Bandaid on my Bell’s Palsy, instead of getting down to the root of the issue.
SO, I read through my direct messages (you guys are AMAZING!) and saw a lot of messages about acupuncture. I had never tried acupuncture before, but after hearing all of your stories of natural healing of Bell’s through acupuncture, I HAD to try it. I made an appointment at Nurturing Life Acupuncture & Wellness in Hoboken and went for about 15 sessions, almost all consecutively. at my first appointment, the acupuncturist took about 30 minutes just to talk to me – it felt like a therapy session, in a great way! she asked me about my lifestyle – everything from the way I eat to how my periods are.
(Day 5 of Bell’s Palsy, I felt like my lip was starting to curl slightly, and I felt a little bit of feeling there, which felt HUGE at the time!)
at the end of the session, the diagnosis was clear: I put my body through way too much and my “blood” was diminished, my immune system suffered and let “wind” get through (they believe that wind events cause Bell’s Palsy.) she could clearly see that I was putting myself through a lot of stress: I had a baby, I got pack into postpartum shape with high intensity workouts, went back to work full-time, and was (and continue) nursing.
she recommended I stop exercising (at least nothing that causes me to sweat), eat warm foods (no raw veggies), do gua sha massages daily, drink anti-inflammatory drinks (like turmeric lattes/golden milk), do facial exercises, and just relax. oh, and do 10-15 acupuncture sessions. so that’s what I did. I followed her advice and sure enough, about 2.5-3 weeks later, I went to my final acupuncture session, because my face was 99% completely healed and the rest, my body could do.
I can’t even explain how special it felt to finally get my smile back, especially after listening to myself, my body, and deciding to go the natural route. trust that mama gut, mamas! I was able to nurse Luca while healing myself through acupuncture, diet, and rest.
for those of you who are int he beginning days of Bell’s and wondering, “when will I see the first signs of improvement?!” (I feel ya!), I felt a small twitch in my left lip on my 31st birthday, about 4 days after I “woke up” with Bell’s Palsy. hang in there – it WILL get better, especially if you treat it right away- don’t wait, no matter what method you choose (with medicine or naturally!)
(at my cousin’s funeral service, 4 days after my Bell’s Palsy diagnosis – put a lot into perspective)
what did you learn from having Bell’s Palsy?
after healing from Bell’s Palsy, I realized that I grew from the experience. I learned a lot about myself. here are some of those learnings:
people have different “stress thresholds.”
some women can truly do it all – bounce right back after giving birth, go back to work, run a home, have a life, and essentially “go back to normal.” but some women, cannot. and that’s me. I learned that I shouldn’t be comparing myself to other women who snap right back to it after birth – my body needed more time to heal, and that’s okay. I need to be kinder and easier on myself. and there are other ways to feel great after going through childbirth that don’t include sweating until you’re out of breath – like, long (or short!) walks, fresh air, stretching, and focusing on a healthy, nourishing diet.
if fitting in a workout stresses you out or you’re too exhausted to even think about it, don’t do it.
(before Bell’s Palsy) I would work out even when I was exhausted. I’d get a few hours of sleep as a new mom with an infant, and then I’d do a 55 minute Orange Theory Fitness class (an extremely high intensity workout.) I’d dread workouts but “knew I’d feel better after,” when in reality, yes, I’d feel the immediate endorphin release, but then, hours later, I was exhausted and felt rundown.
I learned from this experience that IT’S OKAY NOT TO WORK OUT. if you have the energy, that’s great – but if you don’t, don’t beat yourself up about it – it can only do you damage. I feel like society/social media makes us think that we have to workout at least 5-6 days a week for it to be “worth anything” when in reality, one good workout a week is great – as long as you “move” in other ways throughout the week (like walks.)
since I started my health journey, this is the most inconsistent I’ve been with exercise. and it feels great! and I look the same – maybe even better (I’m happier, less stressed, sleep better!)
what’s on the inside is what counts
I already knew this, but it was nice affirmation. if you don’t love yourself and who you are, having Bell’s Palsy could really cause you to become unhappy, depressed, anxious, and very sad. I’ve always known that what matters isn’t what’s on the outside, but in the inside. I consider myself a generally attractive person (by my own personal definition of beauty, of course), but it doesn’t define me. having Bell’s Palsy, you’re not exactly your cutest – ha! SO, if you don’t have your looks, what’s left? EVERYTHING. your soul! your personality, your wit, your humor, your smarts, your kindness, your love, your unique perspective.
just an unfortunate way to get reminded that you should work on your inner self, not your outside. your looks and appearances shouldn’t be your primarily focus – nourish, build, and heal yourself from the inside, always.
the reason I mention this is because many of you asked, “did you not want to leave the house?!” and no, I still left the house. if someone noticed or gave me a funny look, it didn’t bother me, because my paralyzed mouth doesn’t define me – what comes out of my mouth is what’s important. you can be the most gorgeous person in the world but if you’re a piece of crud, then what’s the point? perhaps it’s because my mother read Rainbow Fish to me so many times, I really soaked it in!
(At about 1.5-2 weeks, a slightly crooked smile still, but much better.)
it’s okay to rest
you know how the say “diet and exercise” are the keys to being healthy? well, diet, exercise AND rest should be the pillars. we don’t rest enough as a society (or maybe that’s just a product of living in the NYC hustle) and I’m not just talking about getting in your Zs at night. I’m talking about not booking yourself for a whole weekend and just relaxing (no matter how boring it may be). I’m talking about taking one of your vacation days at work as an extra personal day and just doing whatever relaxes you the most.
rest rejuvenates and heals our bodies, minds, and souls. it really does. after Bell’s, I realize that so much more now – it’s hard to find “rest” as a new mother, but I’m finding it in small ways (like ending work a couple hours early or asking Lu to take the baby in the morning so I can sleep in.) whether it’s a rest day from exercise or a full day of nothingness, rest is important. and without it, our systems can’t fully charge and work properly. cars don’t run well on fumes, and neither do we!
so that’s it! that’s my recap of Bell’s Palsy! I hope this helps some of you who are currently struggling with Bell’s Palsy – you’re not alone, it can happen to anyone, and I wish you a speedy recovery!