Everyone hates needles. The thought of any sharp object penetrating your skin, a foreign fluid entering your system is awful.

After years of having facial botox treatment though, the short-term ‘bee-like’ stings are definitely easier to tolerate knowing that better function and symmetry will result. Whilst facial botox is definitely used for aesthetic enhancements across the globe, for me it’s more about enhanced function. It significantly reduces the effort of articulating sounds, forming facial expressions and swallowing.

The reduction of wrinkles is a bonus!

An unexpected benefit of these physical gains has been the improvement in my confidence.

I write about this in my book Reinventing Emma,

“…Even though I felt like a human pincushion, Botox injections into the left side of my face seesawed my facial muscles and forced the paralysed ones to work…” (p 223)

Due to covid19, this regular jab has been necessarily skipped. Subsequently, the left-sided facial muscles have become too strong. The effort to articulate words is immense and people’s confused looks when they understandably can’t see my invisible smile, assuming I’m angry or sad. Frustration for both myself and the recipient! I spend the remainder of my energy restating more clearly my words or reassuring them that I’m actually smiling. Then there’s the facial pain, the invisible tension that exists on one side of my face as the intricate facial muscles try to work themselves in an upwards direction into a grin.

So, for me, this jab is definitely worthwhile and hugely missed in the last few months of isolation! Along with all the other treatments that seem to be both a mood booster and help normalise my appearance, the functional gains are HUGE.

I actually have grown to look forward to these injections.

So today, when I could finally resume my Botox treatment, If I could’ve physically run into the clinic to get the jabs, I would’ve. Yep, although my facial palsy masks my excitement I am inwardly smiling.

As always, I enter the small room and greet my doctor. The room is still clinical but in a way that’s comforting as I know it’s clean from covid19 bugs!

You look great Em!” my doctor remarks (at a distance)

Thanks!” I say, inwardly rolling my eyes – wondering whether my bushy eyebrows are covering my left-sided wrinkles or make-up free blemished skin.

Although I’m used to the regime of lying on the blue plinth, following my surgeon’s instructions to “count to ten”, “whistle” and “frown” and “smile“, the procedure seems harder than every other visit. Within the covid19 restrictions, the room feels more sterile and cold.

The nurse positions herself out of my reach. In the past, she has always been at my side – squeezing her hand when the doctor injects me. That has actually been a huge comfort. Thankfully my mum is present during the procedure. Although I hate her witnessing the jabs, her presence, comforting words and gasps when I flinch actually help immensely.

Did it really hurt Em?” Mum asks with concern whilst we stand at the sanitiser station.

No, it was fine” I lie. What’s the point in saying anything different? I also don’t let on how much it helped – her being there!

The thought that while I’m writing this, the botox is working at paralysing my healthy facial muscles seems ludicrous. Why damage healthy cells! But equally, knowing that my weaker muscles will finally be able to relax, that others will be able to decipher my mumbled speech and easily interpret my expressions, is so uplifting (Literally!)

I guess many of us have needed to cease our treatments at this time and are dying to resume our normal regimes. But also consider the huge toll that forgoing these treatments is having on those many people who are also invisibly grappling with other side effects. For me, a wrinkle still is proof that I’m ageing but also equates to increased pain, misunderstanding, frustration and effort.

Perhaps it’s worth contemplating, when anyone is having an unpleasant procedure, how can you lessen the impact! We may not be able to squeeze hands or stand close, but what can we do to inject a sense of comfort?