I’m sitting here with my eyebrows literally sliding down my face, and it’s making it hard to get other things done. But y’all are my outlet, so here is where I’m going to tell the story of what’s going on with me. It’s not the usual sort of thing here, I know, but I’ve decided to share it anyway.
As I’ve either mentioned or alluded to somewhere around here, I get terrible migraines. All different kinds. For years I did nothing about it – other than to hide in a dark, quiet place when the pain became absolutely crippling – because I’d gotten some bad information when I was younger, and believed that nothing could be done about them.* More recently, I’m seeing a good neurologist who takes a very proactive approach to making sure I’m not hiding in my basement three days a week or basically blind for a day or two at a time.** So along with pills and physical therapy and more pills and a nasal spray and more pills, I’ve been getting injections directly into my skull, to numb the occipital nerves back there which were apparently “over-sensitive” (they started screaming “what’s that supposed to mean???” then huffed out of the room) and caused the majority of my migraines. These have worked great, but they don’t last very long and the last time I went to get them my neurologist mentioned that they can cause permanent hair loss at the injection site.
Y’all, I am so protective of my hair. I’m taking special vitamins to try to grow it out (mixed results there) and it takes me forever to carefully comb through each precious tress to avoid breakage. So hearing that, it did things to me.
I asked about alternatives, and he told me about all sorts of cool things that the insurance company would never in a million years approve, even though they’re perfectly safe, long-lasting, and cheap. They would, however, cover Botox. For some reason.
We talked a bit about my concerns (won’t I look permanently surprised? Confused? Plastic?) and he reassured me that this is very different from cosmetic Botox, and handed me a pamphlet.
Incidentally, those pamphlets are useless. They’re chock full of assurances that whatever you’re doing is totally safe and completely effective for basically everyone and “almost nobody experiences these side-effects, though we legally have to list them, but seriously, they don’t actually happen and won’t happen to you.”
So I scheduled the appointment.
First of all, that shit stings. They don’t warn you enough about that. I was told it would feel a little like a bee sting, but having never been stung by a series of bees intent on fucking up the top half of my face I really had no frame of reference. They should warn you that it feels a bit like they’re injecting napalm, but you won’t be allowed to move or flinch because that only makes it worse so you might as well show up numb-drunk. (I did not. Because I didn’t know.) Also, you’re not allowed to pat or rub or really touch your face after the injections are done, because that might distribute the toxin differently and then your face will be all messed up. But I took deep breaths and reminded myself that I asked for this, that it would be worth it, and it was over quickly. Fine.
That first day, I was terribly nervous about the mobility of my eyebrows; I have a small forehead and very mobile, expressive eyebrows. (You know how some people talk with their hands? I do that too, but mostly I wave my eyebrows around to help me make a point.) They seemed a bit sluggish, but at worst they were toned down to “normal” so I figured that wasn’t too bad.
By day three, my eyebrows were completely paralyzed and my forehead was smooth and plastic. I had lost all ability to emote, effectively.
Okay, fine, I figured it was temporary and probably something I could learn to live with if I had even slightly fewer migraines.
Then my eyebrows started dropping.
I know this sounds crazy. I know this because I’ve said it out loud and heard how crazy it sounds; I know because when I first noticed it I thought I had to be imagining things. But there was no mistaking the difference: when I put on makeup in the morning, I have to physically lift my eyebrow in order to apply product to my eyelid because merely closing my eye now reveals a sharpei-like landscape; when I apply mascara, I get just as much in my eyebrows as on my lashes because the two are sort of mixed together.
It looks like the top half of my face is melting.
I’d mentally prepared myself to someday face droopy eyes in my old age but, ironically, had always intended to fix them with Botox.
You know how people will tell you to smile when you’re feeling down, that it’s supposed to give your mood a little boost, even if you’re not actually feeling happy? Well, the reverse is also true: when half of your face is reporting catastrophic depression, when that’s what you feel going on north of your nose and what you see every time you pass a reflective surface, it affects your mood. I spent a few weeks shuffling around, maybe getting out of bed but maybe not, all without realizing what was causing me to feel so… disconnected. So pitiful. And every time I saw myself in a mirror, I saw a sad person (who maybe had a basset hound somewhere in her family tree) and it made me feel sadder, but still I didn’t quite make the connection. I just listened to the voice in my head telling me that I was being inexcusably lazy, that it was just as well that my face was messed up because nobody wants to hang out with a sad sack anyway, etc.
Eventually, I called my neurologist and left a message; it was getting harder to open my eyes fully, and Husband had finally convinced me to call and report this to someone. Why did I need to convincing? Well, remember, I was barely getting out of bed to feed myself. And “my eyebrows are messed up and I don’t like it” seemed like a exactly the sort of petty complaint that would come from someone who will never be happy and probably doesn’t deserve to be happy… if this thinking sounds familiar, congratulations, you’re no stranger to depression. I am, as it happens, so I was totally unprepared, if Depression Preparedness is even a thing.
Anyway, the neuro nurse wanted me to see my primary care doc or go to Urgent Care. A little scary, but she assured me that she was just being cautious, and she would call my neurologist in the meantime. I felt suddenly very frail, but also a little vindicated for calling in, like I had inconvenienced them somehow with my whining, but actually it turned out to be a real and valid concern so that made it okay?
I know, I have issues.
Called my primary and left a message for him or my nurse which went a little something like this:
- My eyebrows are sliding off my face!
- It’s not vanity Botox. It’s for migraines.
- Make sure he knows that I can’t fully open my eyes.
- IT WASN’T VANITY BOTOX!!!
I don’t know why it was so important to me that everyone understand that I got Botox for “legitimate medical reasons” rather than cosmetic; I’ve always planned on getting it done someday, and then being really cool and open about it. Like how celebrities get work done and then they tell everyone about their boob job/tummy tuck until people get over the initial shock and eventually they’re all like, “Yeah, we know. Everyone does it.”
Because that’s basically the closest I’ll ever get to famous, I guess.
Anyway, nurse picked up the message and consulted with the doctor, then called me back, wanting to know what neuro had told me before the Botox. Had they explained how it would work, talked to me about side-effects? Um, yeah. We talked about how safe it was, and about how it would work for months, and how I might look a little plastic but probably not. Now, why are you asking me weird questions and what is going on with my face???
“I’m asking,” she said, “because what you’re describing – eyelid droop – is one of the most common side effects, and it absolutely should have been discussed with you before you got the injections.”
I don’t cry. I’m not a crier. This is not because I’m a badass, I’m just not built that way or something. Maybe I’m broken inside? But tears just aren’t a thing. Right then, when she told me that this was something that basically everyone but me could have predicted, I fell right the fuck apart and felt tears just pouring down my face.
She explained that, from the date of the injections, the effects would ramp up for 21 days – I was then on day 20 – and after that I could look forward to six weeks of a maximum effect plateau before the toxin started to wear off over the course of several months (up to six) and I would slowly regain control over the muscles that elevate my eyebrows, keeping them out of my eyeball space.
Did you catch that? Another 43 days of exactly this before it even begins to get any better.
That’s when I had to get off the phone; the bawling started in earnest. And I couldn’t stop.
Even when the nurse called me back to tell me that she’d had a talk with some of the other folks ‘round her office, and they all agreed that I should call Customer Relations and put in a report to see if I could get some sort of compensation. Why? Do they have a box of eyebrows for emergencies like this?
They do not, but they did make a report. And that means an investigation, and my neurologist was interviewed… we’re still dealing with all that. I don’t know if anything will come of it. But nobody can fix my face, which is all I fucking care about at this point.
In talking with my therapist about this experience, we have established the following:
- I’m allowed to be sad because my eyebrows are fucked up. They’re on my body, and I didn’t do this to myself, and it’s all very upsetting even though it sounds ridiculous to me to say “my eyebrows are fucked up and it’s making me sad.”
- It’s probably a good thing that I cried. I’ve got plenty to cry about and don’t, so really letting go this time had to be good for my soul or something.
- I need to avoid mirrors as much as possible for a while, since they are reporting that I’m sad and that’s not helping.
- The fact that the top half of my face is doing Sad is not helping my mood, clearly. We don’t really have a solution for that.
Now, I know this post wasn’t actually funny, and I’m sorry about that. Really. I wish I had a funny Botox story to tell you. Preferably one that wasn’t mine, but that’s because I’m a selfish bitch and I’d rather my face was recognizable. So for those who are now thoroughly bummed out and a little bit disgusted with my blog: I’m sorry, and I promise I’ll get back to bitching about my happy marriage tomorrow.
I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m telling this story because I want to talk anyone out of getting Botox. If you and your doctor have discussed it thoroughly, and it really is the right choice for you, go for it! But this is what’s going on with me right now. I’ve not told most of my friends about this, I’m just sort of staying in a lot. As I said, I need to tell the story somehow, and here seemed to be the place to do it. And hey, maybe someone out there is thinking about getting the Botox for their migraines, and their neurologist also hasn’t mentioned this side-effect.
If I’d known it was even a possibility, I wouldn’t have done it.
* That’s a whole ‘nother saga, and if anyone actually cares, go ahead and say something and I’ll tell that story too. Otherwise, I’ll assume that it falls under the heading of Personal Medical Stuff Nobody Wants To Hear.
** Different type of migraine, absolutely terrifying.