Thursday, September 5, 2013


This summer has been a blur.  It's interesting that we often use this word, "blur", to describe our perception of the passage of time.  Blurry.  Unclear.  Unfocused.  That's how I had started to feel in July.  I have, for the past few years dealt with some anxiety issues off and on - nothing that was too difficult or too disruptive to my life.  In July, something changed.  I'm not sure what, but I started to have very severe panic attacks and some odd & indescribable fear settled in over my life.  I can honestly say, I have never been so afraid in my whole life as I was those few weeks.  I literally shook with fear at times and I felt a white hot burning sensation from panic attacks that ran down my spine and made me feel so so hot for several days on end.  It put my stomach in knots - I lost 5 pounds in only a few days and couldn't keep hardly any food in my system for several weeks.  It was a time of pure misery.  And pure refinement. 

God is so good.  He has healed my spirit. During this hard time when I was struggling to get passed the panic attacks that made me feel like I was burning and that made me question what could possibly be wrong with me that I feel so weird, I completely randomly stumbled upon this verse, and I felt like it was a gift to me: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13).  I believe that God loves me and wants me to live my life to the fullest and is showing me how to be joyful (because how can you understand what it really is to have joy if you never experience the misery of a lack of joy??) It reminds me of a quote from J.K. Rowling:

I learned so much about myself and about God and how He loves me. This verse (2 Timothy 1:7) has been one of my favorites for a while now and it definitely was on my lips a lot during this time:

About three weeks into my ordeal, my husband woke me up early in the morning to tell me that his lips felt "fat" and funny.  In the morning, after he started to do his morning routine, he came out of the bathroom quicker than normal and said, "Honey, I think the whole left side of my face is swollen!"  Sure enough when I looked at it, it did seem like the left side of his face was puffier than the right side which seemed just slightly flatter.  The time came for him to be at work so he left, and I was determined to follow him there as soon as I could be ready so I could keep an eye on him (I also work for his company, and remember on top of all this, I was already a nervous wreck at the time, so I couldn't bear to just wait it out at home…)  By the time I got to the office it already seemed worse, so I called our family doctor and made an appointment for later that morning.  I had no idea what could possibly be wrong with him.  The left side of his face looked swollen and I could see as time passed, that his RIGHT eye was becoming very bloodshot and he just didn't seem to look normal in his face.  I worried that maybe he was having a stroke or who knows what!  I hate going to the doctor, but I couldn't wait to take him in!

It turns out, we discovered at the doctor's office, that his left side wasn't swollen at all but only appeared that way because the right side was "flatter" than normal and growing more so all the time.  They diagnosed him with Bell's Palsy, a facial paralysis on one side of the face caused by a malfunction of the cranial nerve in the brain.  I was so relieved to discover that this wasn't anything as serious as a stroke and nothing was really wrong with his brain and it wasn't, most likely, going to cause him any permanent damage.  They told us it would probably get worse before it got better, and it did.  It progressed until he was unable to control any part of the left side of his face.

Smiling in the picture above and unable to move his right (our left) side of his lips or open them to show his teeth.  Below he's wrinkling his forehead.  You can see the line at the midpoint of his face where he loses control of the muscle.

Other than feeling incredibly strange, Chad said that the worst part about it was the irritation that it caused his right eye.  Since he couldn't control any of his muscles on the right side of his face, he couldn't close that eye much at all.  That’s why it was so bloodshot that first day.  Once we started taping that eye shut, it did much better.

My pirate :)

We had weekly follow-ups at the doctor and (finally!!!) starting in the 3rd week (that feels like a long time when you can't move half your face!!), Chad finally started to get just a twinge of mobility back.  Just miniscule improvements at a time.  And now, exactly a month later, he's probably close to 95% back to normal.  Just to look at him now, you’d never know what happened.  I'm so so proud of him for getting through his ordeal.  He had such a good attitude about it all and was such a good sport for me - I was always wanting to document and take pictures of it all (He really isn't in love with getting his picture taken! ha! But he was so sweet and let me do it anyway.) Here he is one month later (YAY!!!):

Above, you can barely see it at all in his lips anymore unless he is smiling really hard and then it is more obvious. Below, you can see there are still a few less wrinkles on his right (our left) but that there are much more than before! :)

After two months of strange and trying times, and both of us feeling a bit paralyzed in different ways, Chad and I are so thankful for a new time now of healing and joy. Having to take care of Chad when he was diagnosed was such a help to me in defeating my own personal struggles at the time - it gave me a purpose that allowed me to stop focusing on myself.  And Chad needing to take care of me as I fought my anxieties helped him keep his focus off feeling too down about his situation.  I feel so thankful (truly) for the blessing it was for us to have suffered in these ways together.  I feel so much closer to my husband and our relationship has grown deeper and stronger.  And I was truly made to understand what it is to have family who would drop everything to take care of you.  I spent countless hours with my mom who did more for me than I can even attempt to convey, with my mom-in-law, both my dads, my sister, and brother & sister-in-law, and I'm so grateful for all the amazing friends (and friends of friends) who prayed for us, who reached out and sent a message or called to tell us that they loved us and cared for us.  God is so so good!  

Through this whole ordeal I can hear Him whispering to me, "I love you.  I care for you so deeply."  I could never hear it at the time.  I was so overwhelmed by all the horrible things.  But now looking back, it’s like replaying a video you took a long time ago and seeing someone in the background that you didn’t notice before.  It's like God photobombed the pictures I have in my memory of me during that time of turmoil, and I can see now that he was behind me the whole time, joyfully laughing, watching over me, wrapping his arms around me, and maybe sometimes, giving me bunny ears.


  1. The ending almost made me cry. Love you both! You're incredibly special to us and to Jesus. <3

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, Elana. This truly is a testimony of the mercy, grace and healing of Our Loving Father. Oh how He loves you and Chad!!! Blessings, Debby Shadle


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