The Month I Couldn’t Speak
By Angela Eddy
It is common for women to be made fun of for the amount we talk. We are constantly told we “talk too much” and “run our mouths”; and the ability to speak is something we take for granted. As a child my mother always told me I used to talk to hear myself talk. I didn’t care if anyone was listening, I was going to keep talking, and I even talked in my sleep! As I got older I learned how to use my mouth as a tool to cut people down and encourage people. I learned I could do more damage with words than I ever could by physical harm. I was proud of my ability to make speeches and manipulate people. I was proud I always had a “come back” ready and waiting for just the right moment. This was my attitude going into my first year of College.
I knew I had the power to convince anyone to do what I wanted them to do when I wanted them to do it. I thought I could argue with a brick wall and win! This didn’t last long at Bible College. I quickly learned there were people around me who knew more about God and theology than I did. I learned that if I wanted to make life-long friends I would need to control my tongue. I was learning this lesson slowly and painfully (I don’t like it when people tell me I can’t do something). Then, one week, the process was sped up in a way I will never forget.
I was nearing the end of my first semester and getting ready to go home for Christmas break. I was excited about the upcoming Christmas banquet and looking forward to a relaxing break with my family. It was the first week in December and I was getting ready for class, just like every other morning when I noticed that the right side of my tongue felt numb. I didn’t really worry about it. I just thought I was dehydrated and over the course of the day it would get better. So I went on to class and through the rest of my day. The next morning I realized that not only was one side of my tongue numb, but also my right ear and cheek was numb. I was beginning to get scared. I still went to class and just avoided talking, because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. Lunch came around and I had trouble eating. I couldn’t bite the food off the fork with the right side of my mouth. Then one of my friends told me it looked like one side of my mouth was drooping.
Finally, I called my mom and she knew something was wrong. My words were slurred and I wasn’t easily understood. She told me to go to the ER, but I didn’t want to because I hate the ER. Around 11pm that night my friend Katie told me she was taking me to the ER whether I liked it or not, so we went. I got checked in and the doctor saw me quickly, mostly because they were worried I had suffered a small stroke. When they had run all the tests and found out it wasn’t a stroke they concluded it was a case of Bell’s palsy. They told me they weren’t sure of the cause of the disease, or if they would be able to cure it. By this time, the entire right side of my face was numb. I couldn’t feel anything or have muscle control from my forehead down to my throat. I remained calm on the outside, but on the inside I was panicking. I had never felt so helpless. The doctors thought it might be caused by a virus, so they gave me a prescription and a gel to put on my eye every night so it wouldn’t dry out. I was devastated. My world crashed inward. I didn’t know what to do.
The next few days were a blur. I went to class and tried to explain what happened but mostly Katie had to talk for me because no one could understand me. I went to chapel that week and started crying because of the severe pain. With Bell’s palsy, whichever ear is affected becomes extremely sensitive to sound, so much so that the music and preaching made me cry because it felt like someone was driving nails into my skull. The school prayed for me and nothing happened. The doctors said if it cleared up, it would take anywhere from six weeks to six months. Even then I might still have some permanent paralysis in my face. I kept praying and nothing happened. I was depressed, mad, upset, and bitter.
Then the night of the Christmas banquet came along. I begged for my friend Jennifer to not make me go. I had a new outfit and she was going to do my hair, but I didn’t want to go. I was still having trouble eating and talking was still almost impossible. I didn’t want any pictures taken of me. I knew if I ever recovered from this I didn’t want to have any memory of it. About an hour before the banquet I texted Jennifer and asked if she would come do my hair. When she was done we went to the banquet together and she told me something I’ll never forget. She said “Angela, you can have a good time or you can have a horrible time, the choice is yours.” Those words rang in my ears the whole night. I did have my picture taken. I did slowly eat my food. None of my friends made fun of me. It was that night that I realized I wasn’t going to let this illness control my life, no matter how long it lasted.
Gradually, over the next three weeks the symptoms went away. By the time New Year’s rolled around, I was back to my normal self. The doctors were shocked. They couldn’t believe that I had recovered completely and in only one month’s time! I knew God had healed me. I also helped in the process, because I realized that I would not let a handicap, permanent or not, hinder what I was doing for God.
The story doesn’t stop there, however. After the banquet and Christmas break I deleted every picture that had been taken of me during that month. I wanted no memory of it. I was determined that this was one story no one needed to hear. For almost six years, no one knew except those few who were around me and occasionally the rare person I told. Then at Christmas 2013, my sister-in-law’s mother had a surgery to remove a small tumor on the left side of her face. This surgery left that side of her face droopy and somewhat paralyzed. Although this wasn’t a permanent condition, the muscles needed time to heal. She was devastated. She didn’t believe anything her daughter said about her looking better. Then I decided it was time she knew what I had gone through six years before.
I texted my friend Katie and asked if she had any pictures I hadn’t deleted and thankfully she did. I showed them to my sister-in-law’s mom and she was encouraged. She saw that this 18 year old girl had decided that no matter what her face looked like, she was still going to make a difference in the world. I reminded her that she knew for certain that her paralysis would eventually go away, I didn’t know. I reassured her that even now, when people look at me they can’t tell I ever had Bell’s palsy. She went home on that Christmas Day with hope and encouragement and nothing could have made a better Christmas present.I am telling this story not to sound boastful or to receive pity, but to show that the power of God is not always right in front of us. I learned that humility and asking for help is alright. I learned that God had me go through this trial for a reason. The reason was not clear while I was going through it, but years later God used my story to encourage someone. I learned that there is no shame or condemnation in this testimony. I hope this story is an encouragement to anyone who reads it. I hope it inspires you to remember the strength God has placed inside of you.
God Bless. –Angela
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