Facial Palsy and what it is like to live with facial paralysis
 

Childhood Facial Palsy - the 1970's and early 1980's

Feeling isolated due to facial paralysis

One of the worst things about my problem was that it was unique, I was unique. Kids get bullied at school for all sorts of reasons, their size, the colour of their skin, their clothes, the list is endless; but there is normally more than one overweight person in a school, or more than one child with less fashionable clothes. I felt very isolated with my problem, no one really understood, to this day I have never met another person "face-to-face" with the same problems as me.

Coping with bullying when you have facial palsy

I suffered at school for being different, I was pointed at, ridiculed, all the horrible things kids do. I developed quite a tough outer shell in order to cope with my problems, and I decided I wasn't going to let them get me down. Rather than hiding away, I started being very open and honest about what had happened to me. I remember telling one of the school bullies why my face was the way it was, and he actually listened and was quite fascinated by my facial paralysis story, and after that I had no more problems with him. The hurtful things that happen at school stick with you, you carry that hurt with you forever, but I wasn't going to let these people get to me. 

While I did get bullied at school and it was inevitable people would choose to pick on the fact that I had facial paralysis, I don't actually think I had too bad a time of it. I tend to think that if they hadn't had that to pick on then they would have found something else, kids are cruel, it's a fact of life. As a grown-up, people are more respectful of your differences and they don't point out the obvious. A couple of weeks ago one of my son's schoolfriends asked him what was wrong with my face and was I paralysed? Sometimes I think I am a really strong person and I have put all the insecurities behind me, but this one small comment about my facial palsy brought it all flooding back. I was very upset by it and couldn't talk to my son about it. In that moment, I realised I still live with that shell around me, and if something gets inside that shell then I am still capable of hurting quite badly, the childhood insecurities are tucked away, but never forgotten.

Talking about bullying must sound awful to parents who have just given birth to babies with facial palsy, but what I will say is this, I think that it is far better to know exactly why you are being bullied, how terrible it must be to be bullied and not understand why. No one should ever have to put up with bullying in this day and age but unfortunately it is a fact of life. Fortunately for me, I had parents who never made me feel different, who told me I was beautiful, and a stable and loving upbringing really does make all the difference in the world. If my parents had fussed over me too much, made a big deal of my facial palsy, then I don't think I would have coped nearly as well as I did.

Teenage Facial Paralysis

When my friends and I started to discover make-up I wanted to wear it like the rest of the girls, but I found that it would stay on one eye longer than the other because my good eye waters more.  Eye liner pencil is really handy for trying to make eyes look more similar in shape, but the drier/harder pencils are much better than soft kohl pencils, if the make-up is too soft then it will just smudge and make the difference between the eyes more pronounced.  So if you have a teenage daughter with facial palsy who wants to wear make-up, be sure to help her understand how not to make the problem worse!

I've got some very strange school photos where I was trying so hard not to blink (because only one eye would properly close), and I would end up pulling some really awful faces! I do wish I had understood back then that I actually looked worse for trying to smile symmetrically, my pictures would have been so much better if I had just relaxed! Thank goodness for digital photography, there's no reason for school children to have one-eyed pictures these days!

I had to be very careful to protect my paralysed eye because I didn't have the same reflex as a normal person. When I was 14 my cat scratched me in the eye, luckily I just had enough reflex to look away, but his claw caught the white of my eye and it was bloodshot for months.