When I was about 10, my sister told me that if I kept squinting, which created two lines in between my eyes, my face would stay that way. (This is what it’s like having an older sister.) Anytime I was concentrating or listening hard, my eyes automatically tensed up. No matter how I tried, I seemed to be on automatic squint.
My sister was right because, by the time I was in my 40’s, the lines between my eyes were becoming deep and were starting to make me look tired. By the time I was 50, I had a crevice that was as deep as the Grand Canyon (well, you know, not really, but sort of). So, I decided to investigate Botox. I went to an extremely reputable plastic surgery office and had my first shot. It was kind of miraculous. For the first time in my life, my face felt calm. I hadn’t realized that all that squinting was actually exhausting for my face! It was like I had been holding a 100-pound free weight between my eyes for 50 years and someone finally grabbed it. The lines disappeared. I not only looked less tired, I felt less tired.
For the last 7-10 years (I honestly can’t really remember when I started) I have used the same doctor every 4-6 months to get Botox in between my eyes. I noticed that once I could no longer squint, the lines lessened, even when the Botox wore off. Twice I tried it on my crow’s feet but didn’t like the effect. Other than that, it has not been a gateway drug or caused any bad side effects. It’s just given me that feeling of not having stress between my eyes and allowed me to look less tired. I’ve never been embarrassed to tell anybody (then again, I’m never embarrassed to tell anybody anything). Botox seemed like a harmless cosmetic treatment, more expensive than mascara, more painful than a facial.
That is, until last week. When I got the result all Botox users dread: the eye droop. Of course, anybody who gets Botox knows that this is a possibility, but it’s pretty rare and I never worried about it too much. I am not sure what went wrong here, but on my way to the funeral of a cousin, four days post-shot, I noticed my left eye begin to droop. I wore my bangs over my eye as much as possible and hoped nobody else noticed. I knew it must be from the Botox. My google search described my symptoms as Ptosis, and in all the searches I could round up, it’s caused by injecting the Botox too low on the forehead. By morning, I could barely open my lid. I frantically called the plastic surgeon’s office and the nurse practitioner, who was feeling my pain, gave me an appointment for the next day and told me there might be some drops that might help some, but that I was likely looking at my eye being droopy for the next 3-6 weeks. You can imagine how that news went down.
This all started December 11, the two weeks before Christmas. The time of year when you go to parties and work events and you’re constantly doing errands to get ready for the holiday. Yup, and I have a wonky eye. And not only that, it’s getting worse every day. And, it’s making me unbelievably exhausted. It takes everything in me to keep my lid up, and I’m finding utter exhaustion takes over a few times a day. For the last three nights, I’ve fallen asleep on the couch by 8:00. That’s entirely my husband’s job. I never do that.
I saw my doctor last week, and although the nurse offered some compassion, because how can you not feel bad for someone who comes through the door with her eye closed, the doctor, a doctor who has known me and chatted me up on every visit, about my family and traveling and general life, barely gave me the time of day. No empathy, just a shocked look on his face when he saw me like he had thought I must be exaggerating when I called the office reporting my symptoms. He told me older people sometimes developed a small tear in between the eyebrow and eyelid which allowed some of the Botox to drip down paralyzing the lid, making it droop, like mine. He never once discussed the possibility that he may have administered the Botox in the wrong place, which by the way, is all the internet says. In my research, I could find nothing about a tear or anything other than the explanation that the injection was too low. I am not saying it was wrongly administered, but it seems to me that he should have at least considered this as an option. Another doctor who was with him wondered if I might have Bell’s Palsy, which I quickly responded to by saying that I could move the rest of my face just fine (she did not know that I am the queen of the internet and already knew every cause of Ptosis that there is). She then asked me if I’d been sick, to which I answered, yes, because I had had a cold for the previous three weeks that just wouldn’t go away. I’d like to say here that nobody has ever mentioned not to have Botox if you have a cold, and it is nowhere on the internet either.
I don’t know what the hell happened. I have been having this same thing done for the last 7-10 years, and this is the first time that I came out looking, well, crazy. The doctor was completely unsympathetic and said he was sorry this had happened to me, once without much feeling. I felt stung by his lack of emotion and compassion. I was sobbing and he was trying to get out of the room as soon as possible.
My daughter is horrified. My son thinks it’s hysterical. My husband says he doesn’t notice (which is so him). I want to get in bed under the covers until it’s gone. I had plans to meet friends in New York this past weekend to see a Broadway show and do New York holiday things and I forced myself to go. It was hard because it is utterly exhausting to try and keep my lid up and because I also look like a circus show act. This week I have a work event and a party, and cousins coming in for a big fat cousin dinner and a Celtics game. I can’t just stop because I look like Frankenstein.
Obviously, Botox is an elective procedure and one of vanity. I have always known there was the possibility of this happening, but the odds seemed low and the rewards of not having the constant stress between my eyes removed, as well as the benefit of not having the lines between my eyes, seemed worth the tiny risk. Until now, until feeling what it’s like to have your vision impaired, your face look lopsided and scary.
Now I have to reconsider.
I won’t use Botox again. I certainly won’t go back to the doctor I trusted for the past almost decade. I do wish that he’d shown me more compassion and talked to me like a person, rather than a potential malpractice suit (which I’m sure isn’t even a thing, since I am quite certain I signed some waiver that said anything that happened after a Botox shot was not the responsibility of the doctor).
I keep thinking I’ll wake up and find the funny in this, but so far, no go.
So, just a little cautionary tale if you’re thinking of having Botox. I fell into the camp of “It’ll never happen to me,” but it did. And I’m here to tell you that it’s really not fun. Gratitude that, as my mom was so fond of saying in a shitty situation, this too shall pass. And if my droopy eye has given you a good laugh, well then gratitude for that, too.