Living With a Facial Twitch

This post has ben hard for me to write, hence why my written blogs have stalled for a while, but I think I can articulate its now. So lets try this again!

This story starts back at the beginning of 2019.

I was standing on the step outside work, needing a breather from the hot kitchen, and feeling a deep despairing sadness that sunk the whole way through me. It was in this moment that I thought, ” Oh shit I think I’m depressed.”

So I went to my psychologist, he agreed and referred me to my psychiatrist (I swear, those two together, dream team I’m so lucky). She listened to my story through my tears, diagnosed me and gave me a prescription for a ‘starter’ anti depressant, like the kind that is safe to give to children and pregnant women. I was so relieved. I filled the prescription and started taking them. What could go wrong?

Oh little did I know.

Now I’m not going to mention the medication in question by name because I don’t want to give you the impression that its bad, its not. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who went on the same one and they had no issues whatsoever, everyone’s body is different. Just turns out my body in particular likes top adopt side effects left right and centre (and no I didn’t read them before hand), but I didn’t know that then.

I was at work one day, it was nearly the end of service and it had been a pretty good day overall. I remember feeling relatively chilled and rolling out biscuit dough. Then my eye started twitching all by itself. I shrugged it off, its nots that weird.

But then it got worse. I showed my coworkers and we laughed because it was weird and it wasn’t a big deal at the time. It subsided and after work I drove to my friends house for a braai (thats a BBQ for anyone not from South Africa) and I got my phone out and showed my friends a video of what my face had been doing.

Then it started happening again.

I remember my friend Matty looking at me concerned asking, ‘Dude is that it?’ as my face twitched all on its own. I shrugged it off and reassured him, thinking it would go away on its own. Little did I know.

Over the next few days it worsened astronomically. My face would get stuck to one side so I looked like half my face was paralyzed. My face would freeze in a grotesque smile. One eye would seal itself shut, causing me to pour water all over the floor next to the mixer I’d be aiming for. Behind me I heard my coworkers whispering. Shout “look, look’ to their friend when I had a particularly bad spasm, thinking I couldn’t understand that they were pointing at me and watching me like I was a freak show exhibit.

I didn’t know how to process it.

So I journaled it, as usual.

And got hold of my doctor who told me to stop taking them immediately and scheduled me a new appointment so we could change my meds.

It made my partner uncomfortable and started making me feel like a crazy person when people caught me twitching in public (this is pre Covid). I would be forced to leave work when the twitch got so bad I couldn’t function and then try reign it in for long enough for me to drive home safely, which would leave my face aching and tired. It twitched when I was in private, making me feel like the stereotype of a psych ward patient (this was pre psych ward and I can assure you there were no twitches to be seen) and in public, which would cause me to try reign in my own face while deflecting sideways glances. The worst was the pity in my loved ones eyes when it happened. I hated making them feel that way and that they could see I was in pain..

This is the part where I demonstrate what I mean by ‘facial twitch’, so I made a gif of it when I was triggered (and since it appears to come on command like an over eager jack russell). Sometimes its less that this, sometimes its much worse, but in general it looks like this:

So now its its going on 3 years later and its still there.

Unfortunately my body associated the twitch with my anxiety (against my will) and now its a visible indicator of my anxiety or being triggered. I spent Pride in a night club (not my favorite environment) entirely sober sitting on a tiny stool twitching like I was on something while being sat on by a drag queen in a sequin dress. It was an interesting experience.

So now if I talk about the twitch it appears (like right now, my left eye is twitching because it knows I’m talking about it). when I’m triggered by one of my many PTSD triggers or if I’m just generally anxious. Letting everyone around me know how I feel whether I wanted to tell them or not.

Luckily I’m pretty honest and upfront anyways and I can mostly get a hold of it in public without too much resultant face gymnastics. If I’m going to be having a conversation with someone and I feel twitchy that day I’ll just let them know up front so it doesn’t catch them off guard. If they’re not cool with it they aren’t cool with me anyway.

Maybe one day I’ll finally be rid of of. But, for now, the twitch stays and I just have to live with it. Twitching my way from one day to another.

Thanks for listening

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