“The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together…” ~William Shakespeare (All’s Well That Ends Well, IV, iii)

So seven weeks ago, I wrote these words in a post called Falling Up For A Change: “It looks like I won’t have a day off for the next six weeks. But it’s a good problem to have, I keep telling myself. And six weeks goes by in the blink of an eye, right? I’m still scared and unsure of what the next months will bring…and, I may even fall down again instead of up…

Silly little naive me. Oh it did go by pretty quickly, in retrospect. And I did take a fall alright – I fell waist-deep into the pool of false mindset, believing that I could work and function at the same no-consequences level of my younger self from twenty years ago.

I did actually have one (unforeseen) full day off during those six weeks of working both jobs. What I didn’t count on was the cumulative effect of all the other days I didn’t have off. Add to that recipe the fact that I worked harder physically in that span than I have in quite some time, throw in a significant mental and emotional stress factor, and out popped the last thing in the world I expected:

Shingles.

For those of you that have never experienced shingles, allow me to describe it: for me anyway, it started about ten days ago as a feeling on my left hip near my waist (hence being waist-deep in that pool I described above, get it?) of the skin having been rubbed raw or chafed but when I looked, it wasn’t. It almost felt like burning heat-rash but there was no rash (yet), and it was extremely sensitive to the touch. Then the next morning I woke up with a very itchy area on my stomach just to the left of my bellybutton. Two days after that, I woke up with the same burning skin feeling on my back, again near my waist.

I finally made an appointment to see the doctor the next morning, and I’m glad I did: that morning I went, the little red bumps characteristic of shingles started popping up on my stomach where it had been itchy before. The doctor confirmed it was shingles and started me on anti-viral meds immediately. The rash has continued to grow and spread but the meds have kept it from going crazy. The weirdest part is that the pain on my back has been by far the worst, but no rash has popped out there (and hopefully won’t). Nerve pain is a trip.

You know all those TV commercials you see with burly marines telling you that shingles pain is the worst they’ve ever had? Luckily it hasn’t been that way for me, but it’s definitely not comfortable either. (I’ve known people with much worse cases than me and I have a whole new admiration for you now.) You know those novelty pin-case gift things you see at stores like Spencer’s, where you can put your hand or face in the pins and it leaves an impression? When I sit back against something, it feels like I’m sitting against a panel of those pins and that they’re very sharp. And then every once in a while, it feels like someone’s stabbing me in the back with an ice pick, that’s pleasant. I’ve been trying to go pants-less as much as possible, but that can be a bit awkward.

Shingles

I feel lucky that I caught my case fairly early and got on meds to help with the pain and the rash. I get tired pretty easily and the medication causes some side effects like headaches, but I feel like I may have dodged a real bullet in terms of a more serious case. If you ever start having those sensations I describe above, please get to the doctor immediately! Starting on the meds will decrease the severity of your case and hopefully prevent the lingering long-term pain sometimes seen with shingles. And if you’re over 60, consider getting the shingles vaccine.

I suspected my issue was shingles almost as soon as it started happening, and yet I still waited five days to go to the doctor. I kept hoping it would just turn out to be nothing; I kept saying that I didn’t want to overreact. I knew that shingles in people my age are mostly caused by high stress levels, but I kept telling myself that I hadn’t felt that stressed over the past two months. Yes, I knew I’d been overworking myself at pretty tough levels recently in terms of both time and degree of manual labor without much (if any) rest, but I had definitely gone through times of worse stress in my life without ending up with shingles.

The day after I saw the doctor, I was resting at home and feeding my Twitter addiction when I had the following conversation with a friend of mine that lives in England:

tweet

Did you get that? Read it again. Patricia pretty much blew my mind when she said “That Body/Mind connection [is] so strong but not always obvious.” Yes! Our relationship with time can make all the positive OR NEGATIVE difference in the world…so why do we abuse and neglect it willingly? Why do we push ourselves until the body can’t take it anymore?

In retrospect, I believe I made myself susceptible to shingles because I neglected my relationship with time and allowed myself to get worn down, plain and simple. Getting worn down weakened my immune system, which gave the dormant virus a portal. There’s a reason why the work week is five days on, two days off; we need time to rest, recharge, rejuvenate – but I hadn’t been permitting myself to do that. Both my mind and my body were being stressed beyond healthy levels, but I was refusing to listen. I had ignored my mind/body connection, and so now I’m paying the price. I’m just glad it wasn’t something more serious.

Our bodies are amazing vessels that take years of punishment from us and try to protect us anyway. Our brains deliver signals when the system gets overloaded or when there’s a problem, but we don’t always listen. Why not? I remember when I was going through my last separation and divorce, I chose to isolate myself while going through the process, revealing my distress and pain only to my therapist once a week. My body started revealing signs of the severe stress: hives, fatigue, even these weird squiggly lines in my vision that the eye doctor said were signs of impending migraines and 100% stress-related.

So I’m going to try to do a better job of listening to the signals from now on. And scheduling – I’m not going to work seven days a week anymore if at all possible (my internship ended so I’m getting more much-needed rest while I re-group for future opportunities). I’m going to try to not ignore the things that make me feel more balanced and just better in general. And I’m going to try to not get so upset by things that have upset me in the past (like the insane Austin traffic). Easier said than done, I know. But I know I don’t want to get shingles again, that’s for sure, so I at least have to make an effort.

Shameless plug: my friend Patricia in England (from the aforementioned tweeting) is starting her own business called Well Ahead Coaching. She will be partnering with career-minded women to help them re-engage with their career goals, realign with changed priorities, or reinvent themselves after maternity leave. I know Patricia from college, and I have no doubt she’s going to be an extremely successful life and wellness coach. Follow her on Twitter at @wellaheadcoach and sign up on her website for early bird specials on coaching opportunities (especially you readers in the UK!).

I hope all of you have a wonderfully balanced body/mind week. I’m starting mine out with fresh-baked pumpkin bread, so what could be better than that? It’s not a cure for shingles, but it’s a start.

pumpkinbread

À la prochaine!

Ant Kristi

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