Attack of the Shingles Virus
Sunday: I woke up with this aching pain deep in my scapula and shoulder muscles. Like I had been cutting the grass and went to pull-start the lawn mower, yank it, and *WHAM*.
I’ve been working out a ton, so I thought, maybe I had overdone it. I told myself it was one too many pushups during the BBG workout I’ve been doing with my girlfriend. (Yes, that’s Bikini Body). But I’ve been in great physical shape, hitting yoga frequently and eating well from all the healthy options here in Southern California.
Monday: I had a dull headache that wouldn’t go away, but I thought was connected to the neck and back pain. I couldn’t focus. I booked a massage with a sports therapy specialist for Tuesday to work out the knot that was sitting back there. This was probably a mistake.
Monday evening: I started to see a rash. It was on the right side of my chest. It was maybe a few inches wide with some small bubbles on it. Bed Bugs?
And suddenly all the things that were wrong came together to make sense.
But let me back up a bit..
I booked a trip to Thailand with my two co-conspirators in Death to Stock. I met Shaun (who’s New Zealand based) in a Skillshare course 2 and a half years ago. The plan was to meet up in person for the first time ever and do so in a far away and location like Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were booked to leave the 10th of October.
2 weeks before, I went to the CVS minute clinic for my travel vaccinations. The recommended series was for Tetanus, Typhoid, and Hep A. Two in the arms and one in the thigh.
It was days after that I saw the rash.
Tuesday: That day I listened to an interview with Katie Couric. Both her husband and sister had died from Cancer. She talked about how 60% of men don’t go to a doctor, and most don’t even have one! Her husband had to go to her doctor when he started feeling bad because he hadn’t been in years.
We all think we’re invincible. Sure, we get all hypochondriac from time to time, but we just hop on WebMD it instead of actually going in to see a doctor.
It gave me the motivation to go in and see someone. I went back to the minute clinic. Because the CVS experience is so much better than going to a physician's office. You sign in on a touchpad, and if there’s a line they text you when to come back. They’ve got your info. They’ve got the pharmacy right there to fill the new prescription. They let you ask questions. They actually spend time with you here!
I’m curious and skeptical. I ask about things I read online. I asked if she liked working here more than a hospital? And the doctor didn’t condescend. She said it was so much less stressful working there, and she actually got to spend time with patients! She called my cell phone personally two days later to ask how I was feeling!
I remind her that I was just in the other day for vaccines. I take off my shirt. Immediately upon seeing it she told me it was Shingles.
It’s a good thing I went in when I did. The longer you wait the more the rash will grow. And the rash was spreading a bit, up my neck and on my back. Shingles shows up as a rash, but what’s really happening is there’s a virus that’s messing with your muscles and nerves, manifesting at the end on your skin. It’s a deep ache in your muscles, some occasional shooting pains, itchy..
And I’m off balance.
Trust me, I fully understand that a bit of shingles is a such a minor thing compared to to the reality of most battling serious diseases or in deep poverty. I’m going to be fine in a week or two. But I’ve never known anything about what it’s like be sick like this. To deal with a chronic pain.
It’s the psychological change you’re not ready for. You’r just totally thrown off. You’re worried if it’s going to get any better Your irrational. You can’t keep any of the good habits you’ve been doing to be your best self. Your workouts, your diet, your sleep, your meditation and writing all go out the window. Last week was the first post I’ve missed in probably 8 months!
And you feel like you’re weak. You need to be taken care of. You don’t have your arms around the world with a bit of control. You’re not longer leading, you’re being led. I cried walking to get food from a whole foods, not from the pain, but from the feeling of the total shift of place. I thought I was being looked down on instead of people looking up.
I canceled my trip. There was no way I could go through two 24 hour flights and switch to the opposite time zone twice in 10 days. And the risk of bacterial infection for my rash making me end up in a foreign hospital didn’t sound appealing. But I had insurance. And Thailand will still be there when I’m better.
I’m incredibly lucky (owning my own business) to take as much time as I need, but will the business be ok? Will nothing happen in my absence? OR what if my absence isn’t missed at all? Will people believe that I’m actually sick? How can I be a man and not be strong? Quit complaining!
It’s only been about 6 or 7 days of pain, but it definitely makes you grateful. For being able to work out, for the times where you don’t feel this way. I’m trying to just be grateful. I’m back in Ohio and I’m grateful for family and friends. For my girlfriend keeping me sane and in good spirits. The people I’ve caught up with who shared positivity.
There are two tricks I think others can apply if you’re feeling down or are sick.
The first is an ancient practice I read in a book. The idea is that if you’re already in pain, or suffering if you can give it a purpose. When you’re in pain, you say to yourself “Let me be in pain, so that others can be in good health.”
And then you breathe in all of the pain you’re feeling and give a big exhale imagining pleasure and wellbeing for others.
Inhale all the pain for yourself, exhale space and well-being to others.
They do this with hospice patients, cancer patients, and others who are feeling down. It gives a purpose for the pain.
The other I realized because I had been stuck in a room for a few days, that just being in that place was part of what was making me feel bad.
If you change your place, you can change your state.
Getting outside, walking in the woods, being around other people. It’s THE fastest cure for feeling down, sorry for yourself, or sick. I went to a cabin this past weekend. I went home Monday to Ohio. I’m going to be in different places to shake up my state.
And now I’m in a brief life pause. The whole thing will probably only be about 2 weeks, so in the scheme of things, it’s not bad. So I’m taking the time to step back a bit. A forced pause. A time to read a bit, to wonder if I’m spending my time the right way. A reset before I jump back into my full on life.
There's always tomorrow until there's not. And there's so much I want TO DO.