Bell’s Palsy & Botox: This is My Journey

Hi, my name is Sarah Shelden.

I’m 27 and have had a “mysterious” rash on my face that has been diagnosed as shingles and diagnosed as acne for the past year. I saw several doctors and they did not know what exactly it was. I also had Bell’s Palsy about a decade ago when I was in high school and was severely bullied for it.

I am sharing my story because I hope that if you’re suffering with self-consciousness, my journey from the past few years will inspire you to embrace everything you are and show up fully, authentically, confidently and radiantly in your life.

When I was in high school, I was diagnosed with Bell’s Palsy. Or at least, that’s what the doctors thought.

I was bullied for it in school and called half face. I remember people making faces at me to mimic how my face looked.

It made me so self-conscious to take photos. However, during this time, I remained positive by immersing myself in volunteering.

My case was particularly complicated because I had several reoccurrences within the same year, so I was referred to see specialists at Harvard Medical and Massachusetts Eye and Ear.  I also developed a weird but common side-effect called synkinesis. It’s the involuntary pulling of muscles. My eye will sometimes, if not mostly- close when I smile, or laugh or show expression. I am a very enthusiastic person. So, when I am my authentic myself the synkinesis shows. My chin also dimples, and my eye brow pulls. Synkinesis is treated with Botox. Since I was in my teens, I have been receiving medical Botox. 

Last October (2018), about a decade after the Bell’s palsy I started to get a rash on the right side of my face. I am the founder of a startup and we have experienced several roadblocks from launching to app store, so I was experiencing great stress at this time. I thought it was acne, so I received laser treatments. The most interesting part of this rash was that as it developed, it developed along my facial nerve on the same side that the Bells palsy occurred on.

Yet, despite the laser treatments it continued to get worse. Also, during this time I started “talking romantically” to my boyfriend. He lives in the bay area of California. I had plans to travel to meet him in person for the first time in November. The rash only continued to worsen. I was going to be meeting him with this gross and crusty rash for the first time. However, we face-timed, and he knew I was incredibly self-conscious about it, but he looked beyond the nasty rash and truly saw my inner light. He also knew I was so self-conscious of my smile because of the synkinesis and he reminded me that I am beautiful. We have been together for a year now and he has been incredibly supportive and understanding of my rash, as well as synkinesis.  As my face begins to clear and my eye opens with treatments, I know it doesn’t matter if I have a rash, acne, open eye or closed, but it is what is inside of me that matters the most.

Of course, after I met my boyfriend in person, and we became “official”, the rash continued to worsen. My relatives came for Thanksgiving and it was humiliating to have to be social.  Makeup made it look worse, but I did get some amazing makeup tips from Mac at Northpoint Mall.  I was also starting a new program at Georgia Tech in Data Science at this time.

I am beyond grateful it avoided my local eye area because I did not experience any vision loss. A few months later, the rash started to get a little better. However, there was still extreme redness. Because the rash was unknown, I was unable to get Botox for my synkinesis. So, now I had to truly embrace who I am, inside and outside. My eye closed and I had this painful rash on my face.

After seeing several doctors and estheticians, I found Robinson Plastic Surgery and Visage Skin Care & Laser Center on Google. I made an appointment, and then I cancelled the first time. Then, I found out I was going to go to Turkey with my boyfriend because he was the best man in his friend’s wedding. I knew I wanted to feel as confident as possible, so I made another appointment. I went to this appointment and it was the best decision I made. From the moment I walked in the door, I was treated with kindness, respect and love. It was the most genuine plastic surgeon’s office I had ever been too.

I have been receiving Botox for a decade and I have had so many outcomes that include making my synkinesis worse. The doctor would over treat and then it’s like my eye looked abnormally open like an owl on one side and the other would look like a “normal” eye. Also, it is not fun getting 40-60 units of Botox in your eye and feeling like a pin cushion.

However, when I met with Madison at Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery, I explained to her that I have been receiving Botox for years and what has worked and what hasn’t. When I was a teenager, one doctor injected into one of the muscles that controlled my smile and re-paralyzed my face.  The good thing is Botox last 3 months, so it went away. Madison was extremely compassionate and super understanding. It felt like the first time that when I communicated with the injector of my Botox that they put ego aside and truly listened to what I was saying.

Madison explained Botox for treating synkinesis is challenging and she wanted to treat conservatively. I was completely on board with his plan of treatment. I also explained I had this rash and if there was anything they could do for the redness, and she referred me to talk with Heather Davis, LE. I spoke with her right after I received my Botox treatment. Heather is an Assistant Laser Practitioner & Licensed Esthetician and immediately looked at my face and gave me hope. She gave me hope this rash could actually be treated and it was not permanent.  She instantly recommended BBL laser treatments to address redness and scarring, followed by RejuvapenNXT micro-needling. Dr. Robinson also took the time to look at my face as I checked out and also added his thoughts to my treatment plan.

I scheduled the BBL laser appointment with Heather before I left and a follow up appointment for the Botox.

I came back for my appointments and was once again treated with respect and compassion from start to finish. For the laser appointment, Heather took photos of me before she started treatment and then she explained to me what each sound was doing as she completed the first BBL laser treatment. I would need at least three treatments before she could start the micro-needling treatments to address any scarring. I began seeing the redness reduce from the BBL treatment within the week after she did it.

Whatever you feel is holding you back or whatever you feel self-conscious about…you are beautiful regardless of you feeling that way. Remember, “Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.”

Pictures without Botox

Photos with Botox by Madison Holmes, NP-C / After 1 BBL Laser Treatment by Heather Davis, LE, Visage Skin Care & Laser Center, a division of Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery

Photo after 2 BBL Laser Treatments with Heather Davis, LE,
and from approximately one year later from when rash started.

I’m grateful for Madison & Heather at Robinson Facial Plastic Surgery
for helping me regain my confidence!