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Art Bell's Palsy climate crisis COVID19 depression Disability music

Post-Equinoctial Saudade

No much up to writing lately, and they say a picture is worth a thousand words.

5 Septembers ago, the equinox gave me the gift of a new face. I was afflicted with a virus called Bell’s Palsy. It changed my life. We are all judged on first appearances. I used to be excruciatingly self-conscious after my face became paralysed. Even today, eating in front of people is an embarrassment. Self-esteem is a’ thing’, as they say, and for myself and many others with facial disfigurement/paralysis it is very easy to be judged and pigeonholed, leaving our self-worth hugely destroyed.

Selfie, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020

I mention this because medical science doesn’t even know how to treat/help viruses that are already here. Let alone one that was supposedly released/found in humans a year ago. In the midst of this pandemic, my pre-existing conditions are acting up too. And corona counts are surging where we are., though nowhere close to the U.S. India, Brazil or Mexican rates.

I’m too exhausted by, and weary of, words. Pandemic fatigue, citizenship reduced to disposability, rumours of electoral– and beyond– violence, in the southern neighbour; hundreds if not thousands living around us in parks in the advent of winter, climate catastrophes, and plague profits/prophets abound. 38 million people will die from hunger in India alone due to government private sector mishandling of public health measures and food security. In Canada unemployment is hitting 30 percent with little relief in site. Lockdowns without food are useless.

Below, I share some of my newer creations, tinged by both personal grief, and grief for the suffering wrought by governmental /corporate responses to human suffering on a scale unmatched in peace time. Seems more like piece time–those who can will grab what they want and the rest of us will get the pieces. Don’t need horror stories for Halloween this year.! We’re living it. I’ll let Jay Gould’s Daughter have the last word. After all, who better to bemoan dignity for the working peoples of the world than another old-times tycoon’s daughter!

On a Monday morning it begin to rain
‘Round the curve come a passenger train
On the blinds was Hobo John
He’s a good old hobo, but he’s dead and gone
Dead and gone,
He’s dead and gone,
He’s a good old hobo, but he’s dead and gone
Jay Gould’s daughter said before she died
Papa, fix the blinds so the bums can’t ride
If ride they must, they got to ride the rod
Let ’em put their trust in the hands of God
In the hands of God
In the hands of God
Let them put their trust in the hands of God
Jay Gould’s daughter said, before she died
There’s two more trains I’d like to ride
Jay Gould said, “Daughter, what can they be?”
The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
The Santa Fe,
Oooh the Santa Fe
The Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe
Jay Gould’s daughter said, before she died
There’s two more drinks I’d like to try
Jay Gould said, “Daughter what can they be?
They’s a glass o’ water and a cup o’ tea
A cup o’ tea,
Eeer, the cup of tea
They’s a glass o’ water and a cup o’ tea
Charlie Snyder was a good engineer
Told his fireman not to fear
Pour on your water, boys, and shovel on your coal
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
See the drivers roll,
See the drivers roll
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
See the drivers roll,
See the drivers roll,
Stick your head out the window, see the drivers roll
Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: A. Lomax / J. Lomax
Give a Man a Fish, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Homeless in the Park, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Icarus, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Snail among Aspens, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Broken Dark, Kaushalya Bannerji, September 2020
Jump/Push? Lockdowns without Food , Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
It could not have been the blue bird of happiness, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art Bell's Palsy Disability

Ringing the Bell on Facial Palsy

It’s been four years since I lost my face. The one I was born with. The one in my school photos and in the pre-selfie days of social photos.

I have a new one, it’s true. The eye squinting and tight, the neck muscles straining beisde the affected ear. The grimacing smile, the half-kiss.

I loved to joke and smile and laugh— but now laughter is literally, painful— my smile looks like a grimace, and my attempts to dress up, take into account the state of my face. My voice has changed, speaking becomes tiring, and I sometimes slur my words when overtired or stressed. The headaches are frequent.

I rarely look in the mirror, and reading the accounts of many Bell’s sufferers, very few of us do. I have not only entered my mid-life, but the the invisible life afforded to women of a certain age and appearance.

Learning to live with intrusive stares and comments over the past few years has been a life-changer. i have learned a lot about cultural responses to facial disfigurement and disability. In Canada, people stare but rarely comment, except to ask if i have had a stroke.

British reserve and colonial coldness generally merge, even in the medical profession. When I went to the Emergency Room, I do remember the doctor telling me that our former Prime Minister Jean Chretien and late Quebecois politician, Rene Levesque, had suffered Bell’s Palsy. Not particularly sympathetic or encouraging words for a relatively young woman, even one who is not white. But I see that my non-whiteness has afforded me a level of medical care far below white women of my education and social status.

In contrast, Mexico showed me a different approach to disability— many strangers came to speak to me about Bell’s Palsy, many people reassured me that things would get better, and in a land of stress and poverty, many people had familiarity with bell’s palsy. In a way, it was a relief to be there during the height of my disfigurement. A much kinder environment.

I heard many compliments as my face began to lose the excessive tightness and paralysis, all of which encouraged a mind /body harrmony in the spirit of “getting better”. And indeed, my time in Mexico showed me the resilience of the human body and mind.

A second untreated relapse during a bizarre surgical experience, has resulted in permanent sykenisis. This is a condition of overactive muscles and nerves, where the healing of the previously damaged area has led to “crossed wires”. The solution to pain and tightness is then relaxation of overactive nerves and muscles, not the regeneration of nerves which is the first stage of healing from Bell’s Palsy. About 10-15 percent of people with Bell’s Palsy sustain permanent damage and synkinesis.

Bell’s Palsy has been linked to chronic Lyme disease in the 21st century, but before that, it’s aetiology was rather vague. Often affecting pregnant women, women in labour, small infants, and people experiencing extremely high stress, it’s becoming discussed more and more on Lyme websites and boards. Some famous celebrities have had the more common form of Bell’s— that experienced by 85-90 percent of the afflicted who experience spontaneous healing and regeneration of the seventh facial nerve.

This is the first time I have written about any aspect of my disabilities. And it is an important one, because in our superficial world, we are rarely given a second chance on our appearances. And when such an ethos is fueled by the discriminations of race, sexuality, etc. it is important to face the situation “head on”.

By calling out discrimination based on disability, we begin to envision a world where our faces are as beautiful as our hearts— not our looks.