I held up my stretchy hair elastic and demonstrated what I was explaining to my children. I do things like that often, taking hold of a common item to show them what I mean. This time I was talking about me. I had told them what the doctor had told me. I had Shingles. They had seen me in obvious pain and since the outbreak was on my face, that was obvious too. They were concerned and they had questions. I answered them as best as I could. I’d been searching for a few answers myself.
Why is it called Shingles? It comes from the Latin and French words for belt or girdle. The outbreak often occurs on the torso of the body.
How long will it last? Usually a couple of weeks but, with early intervention of anti-viral drugs which I am taking, it can be better in a week.
Does it hurt? It can hurt awfully bad according to the severity. In my case, so far, the pain has been mostly manageable with just a few days of misery.
Am I contagious? According to my doctor and what I’ve read, once the breakout has started to dry up, no. Early in the Shingles episode it is contagious to those who have never had chicken-pox, have not had the vaccine or have a compromised auto-immune system.
Why do people get Shingles? The chicken-pox virus has been dormant in the body since having it as a child. There are many opinions as to what triggers it back into activity. Illness, lack of rest and too much stress are the top contenders.
Why did I get it? Now we are back to the hair scrunchy. I stretched and let it spring back to a smaller size several times. Then I stretched it to its limit and held it in that position. I told them that was a good way to see what was happening in my body. I was stretched and I wasn’t being allowed to bounce back. I hadn’t been resting enough and was staying tired. I had been sick and addressed the symptoms but not the source. I had been in a constant state of stress for months. I ignored all of this and kept pressing on. Finally, my nerves just couldn’t stretch anymore without breaking so they did what they had to do to get my attention.
I asked my kids what I did sometimes when everyone was being very loud and no one was listening and I needed their attention. I yell. I don’t like doing so and I try not to do so but, there are those moments in this xlfamily that I can’t be heard otherwise. That is what my body is doing. Yelling at me so I will stop and help it to feel better.
Pain got my attention. The blisters on my face yelled at me in the mirror. I changed my plans. I went to the doctor. I started the medication prescribed. I slept and slept and slept. I cried a lot from the frustration of having to disrupt my very full life. I canceled dental appointments for them, eye appointments for me, small groups, activities, meetings, until there were absolutely no dots on my calendar. I admitted to myself and to them that I was ill.
Then, I began to address the stress. That’s going to be a journey that will take a while but, I’m taking the first steps towards where I need to be. I am praying more and attempting to allow God to handle many of the things I was attempting and failing to do so.
I had the kids attention. The Shingles had my attention. We were all listening intently. I released the band and it sprung back to the shape it was designed for. I reminded them and mostly myself that Mom has limits. I assured them and mostly myself that I’d bounce back too.
Shingles has been a wake-up call for me. I’m pretty stubborn and it took a yell for me to listen. What will it take for you? Don’t think you are the exception and keep stretching your body beyond limits. Don’t assume because you’ve gotten by with neglecting yourself that it won’t catch up with you one day. Don’t insist on attempting to control what is beyond your control.
As a Christian, I take much comfort from and find much wisdom in Scripture. This passage reads so true to my heart in the Message and I want to share portions of it with you to ponder as you consider what it is going to take to get your attention.
“My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline, but don’t be crushed by it either. It’s the child he loves that he disciplines; the child he embraces, he also corrects. God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God?
At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
Hebrews 12:4-11 MSG