We consider stress to be an emotional response, but it can wreak physical havoc on our bodies, too. When left unchecked and combined with other health factors, stress can have serious consequences.
One mother woke up to find that stress reportedly transformed her face into something she didn’t recognize.
According to Media Drum Features, Shayna Aldrich, 34, came down with a virus last November shortly after getting married to her husband, Patrick. The cold persisted for two weeks. After her symptoms seemed to disappear, Aldrich immediately returned to work as a waitress during the hectic Christmas season.
While preparing dinner with her husband and daughter around New Year’s Day, Aldrich noticed the olives on her pizza didn’t taste quite right. When she said it tasted metallic, her family was confused.
The next morning, Aldrich said her chin felt numb, and her lips followed soon after. One day later, her reflection shocked her.
“I had felt like a stranger was looking back at me in the mirror,” Aldrich told MDWFeatures.
Aldrich said her face was completely paralyzed and she could no longer eat, drink, blink or speak properly.
Urgent care doctors reportedly tested her to rule out a stroke, then diagnosed her unusual affliction as a rare form of Bell’s Palsy. The condition “causes sudden, temporary weakness in your facial muscles,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “It’s believed to be the result of swelling and inflammation of the nerve that controls the muscles on one side of your face. Or it might be a reaction that occurs after a viral infection.”
Typically, Bell’s Palsy affects only one side of the face, but Aldrich said she was told she was suffering on both sides.
Coupled with intense stress, a weak immune system reportedly froze Aldrich’s facial features. The paralysis wasn’t permanent, but doctors warned her she wouldn’t recover immediately.
“They prescribed me steroids to reduce the swelling around my nerves and basically told me it was a waiting game,” Aldrich explained. “They estimated anywhere from two weeks up to two months or, in extreme cases, two years.”
For over a month, Aldrich was restricted to a diet small foods, as larger and more messy foods were too much to handle. Even activities like brushing her teeth were made difficult. She couldn’t smile, apply makeup or close her eyes.
“I felt like a monster. Most of the time I tried to laugh it off, comparing myself to Quasimodo from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but as the weeks went on it got harder to laugh,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich’s paralyzed features received a lot of attention when she was out in public.
“Because of my age, I think seeing my face like that made people wonder what it could be. I’m awfully young to have a stroke and since that’s what it looked like I got some quizzical looks,” she said.
However, she said she still found a way to make light of the situation on occasion. Aldrich found herself laughing with her family about the sometimes humorous effects of her condition.
“When I say my face was paralyzed, it really didn’t move. So, when I laughed or smiled, only half of my face cooperated. That gave us quite a few laughs and laughing it off took away the fear that I wasn’t going to be OK,” Aldrich said.
While at work about five weeks after her diagnosis, Aldrich said she was laughing when her coworkers noticed something had changed. Her entire face moved, meaning that the paralysis was finally gone.
Since those life-changing weeks, Aldrich has learned a lot about the importance of self-care. She said she wants to share her story to let others with Bell’s Palsy know they aren’t alone.
“People don’t really understand Bell’s Palsy until it happens to them or someone they know. If you have been diagnosed, then you aren’t alone so hang in there. Do your research, educate yourself, and above all, take care of yourself,” Aldrich said.
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