Toxify Me

In one week I’ll get my first botox treatment. Yipee!

This is what my neck feels like most of the time.

                                                  

That’s caused by dystonia. I’ve had it for many years now, but it was only diagnosed less than a year ago.  It causes my neck to twist to the side, my shoulder to shrug up, and my head to bob disconcertingly when I turn. 

My brother Mark’s response when I talked with him about the likelihood of a genetic component: “Sure. Don’t you remember Nonni? She was just like a popcorn machine!”  The other obvious -and equally flattering – comparison, of course, is to a bobblehead. 

As you can imagine, this adds a whole new level of fun and adventure to dating in your fifties.  The slight head twisting down and to the side actually works in my favor, since it gives me the appearance an engaged listener  (just check your nonverbal language guides).  

We dystoniacs do have some sensory tricks to reduce the symptoms as well, and one of my favorites is putting my hand to my chin, again emphasizing the mood of thoughtful attention.  Depending upon where I am at any given time – say, on a lakeside picnic with a new date, this trick can look, well, odd.

At times over the years, I imagined that if only I could get medication injected right into my neck, I would get some relief from pain.  Neck rubs (and my former husband gave me literally hundreds) helped temporarily, but the muscle contractions always set back in within hours.  Professional  massage can occasionally last for a couple of days, but try to tell your benefits company you need it for therapeutic reasons, and you can hear the snorting through the phone.

So, when I found out that botox injections were in fact the treatment of choice for this condition, I saw a movement disorders specialist as soon as I could. And then had to wait to see the recommended botox specialist.  And wait some more. Apparently, since you’re sticking poison into your muscles, you really want someone with experience to do it, even if you have to wait for what seems like an insanely long time.  

The insanely long wait is finally – almost – over.  I’ll admit to a bit of nervousness…the doctors have to tell you about every potentional side effect, however remote the risk. New friends I’ve made through the Dystonia Foundation have given lots of support and reassurance, though, so I’ll be pretty calm going in. 

My friends have jokingly asked about whether I can request to have anything else done while I’m there, like my frown lines (or, as I’m told they’re referred to, the ‘elevens’).   My friend Amy asked my doctor whether some extra botox injections could outfit me with Angelina Jolie lips, and got a quick response. “Nah. That’s something else that you don’t want…filler!

I’m trying to keep my expectations realistic, since I understand it takes days to start to experience the benefits, and it can take a couple of treatments to determine the exact dosage and injection sites best suited for my individual needs.  If it works, I’ll go back about every 14 weeks for the ‘fix’.   I’d say fingers crossed, but I’ve got enough body parts going in the wrong direction already.

I hope to be able to post a photo of a different tree in a few weeks, maybe not perfectly straight, but at least knot-free.  Wish me luck!

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