The Emotional Impact of Bell’s Palsy and Divorce

On Tuesday, September 8th, I woke to discover that the right half of my face was losing its muscle tone. I did not know in the early morning hours that I was beginning to manifest physical signs of having Bell’s Palsy. I knew it did not look right. I quickly sent a photo to my husband and sought his opinion that in fact something was amiss. I trusted his advice because he is a former paramedic and still works in the medical field. He quickly texted me back as he was out of town to go to the emergency room right away.

Because I had a few strange symptoms over the weekend, I opted to call my primary doctor’s office first. “Perhaps this was not so bad,” I rationalized because I was thinking through steps clearly as I dialed the doctor’s office. After a few minutes on the telephone with the nurse, she gave her opinion of what the strange symptoms sounded like to her– it was possibly Bell’s Palsy. However, she wanted me to be assessed in an emergency room in case it was much worse than I was first experiencing or describing to her. Her final words to me on the telephone were, “Do not drive there yourself. Do you need an ambulance?” I assured the nurse that I could find a ride and would not need to waste valuable resources, such as an ambulance for something as benign sounding as Bell’s Palsy. Four hours after I first woke up and noticed something different in my face, I arrived in the emergency room department. Seven hours later and after five doctors and numerous neurological tests, it was confirmed – I have Bell’s Palsy. I was sent home with instructions on what to do while I waited for my body to heal itself. There was no medical intervention to do other than take some steroids, anti-viral medications, and care for my right eye and vision while I hope for a speedy recovery.

But what does Bell’s Palsy have to do with divorce?

It is the emotions of when I first discovered something was wrong with my face through the next few days that reminded me of what it felt like when my ex-husband stated he wanted a divorce. The emotions that I experienced with both were very similar in what I had felt and how they progressed. I have learned over the past nineteen years that while situations that lead to divorce may vary, the feelings progress almost the same for the person who learns that the marriage is not so happily ever after.

First, there was the denial of what I was seeing. This cannot be happening was the first thought. I feel fine and do not think I am having a stroke. Similarly, when the signs that a marriage is falling apart or in trouble appear, one tries to rationalize away or deny what is being noticed. Justifications are made for why a spouse is now working longer hours or away from home more often. We justify the lack of daily communications to our spouse having a bad day or just needing a bit more space. We fail to really notice that something is happening – there is a wedge or emotional distance developing between the spouses.

Next, there are feelings of inconvenience. “I do not have time for this” or “Why today? I am super busy today.” These are sayings we mutter to ourselves as if there is a perfect time to learn that our marriage or life has gone so far off course from what we imagined. Often times, anger will quickly follow on the heels of inconvenience. Anger over destroying our plans or ruining holidays start to develop as we mentally grasp the words we have heard, “I want a divorce.” We often get angry at the other person for not being honest with us or waiting too long to tell us how they truly feel. We resent the lack of communication and fail to recognize our own hand in the results that we are now noticing. When these feelings are not properly expressed or dealt with, they can grow into something more.

It is how we initially react to the news of a health crisis or a life changing event that determine how we will handle the long-term effects of it. If we cannot consult with a trusted friend, family member or professional to confirm “Is this not right? Does this seem odd to you too,” then we can talk ourselves out of taking the next step that we need to take. When something blindsides us, we may initially feel shock that it is happening. That shock can prevent us from taking the critical next step. But by having a trusted person around to help us, we stay on course when the timing of reactions is critical.

Then in the days that follow the initial news, we still need to have our trusted person. Our trusted person helps move us through and past the emotions that follow the initial news. We can experience fear, uncertainty, and doubt about what to expect next. Depression may start to take hold. It is important to voice what the fear, uncertainty or doubt is before it turns into a depression. When we say what we fear, are uncertain of or doubt, the answers to ease those mental troubles begin to appear. Often a trusted professional holds the answer that we need, while for some it may be a friend who has gone through it before.

For me going through the initial two days of Bell’s Palsy, that trusted professional was a staff member from the ophthalmologist’s office. They called late in the day on Wednesday, September 9th to schedule the appointment to check my eye in a few weeks. But I was already noticing some problems. The “any old eye drops” were not helping and my eyesight was getting fuzzy. It was hard to read even with my prescription glasses on. During a quick five-minute telephone call. I learned that I needed something more than just “any old eye drops.” Because my right eye cannot blink, I would likely need to add eye drops more than three times a day. I would probably need to use eye drops every few hours to keep my eye from drying out given that I spend eight hours a day on a computer. I needed lubricating eye drops without a preservative, because the preservative in the big bottles of eye drops can damage your eye if used too often in a day. But it took courage to speak up and say everything is not fine and what the doctors said to do in the emergency room was not working. I had to voice my fear about what was happening with my eyesight.

This is why it is so important to communicate during your divorce with your attorney because nothing I have seen in my practice has been cookie cutter. No two divorces have been exactly the same. Each divorce I have handled since I started working in the legal field in 2001 has had something that is not like the others. While the steps in how to proceed through a divorce are the similar, the solutions are often uniquely tailored to the family and their needs and circumstances. It has required listening, understanding, and applying the client’s unique facts to the law to provide the answer each client needed to know.

If you have been recently served with a Complaint for Divorce and feeling similar emotions to what I described, schedule a 30-minute consultation today with me via video conference at Let’s find the answer you need together.

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