Life continues to provide me with learning opportunities. The latest is how to deal with Shingles. In short – “don’t deal with it”.
Too cryptic? Let me explain. First a bit of scene setting…
The Shingles is up the back of the right side of my head – lucky it’s not the front, as I suspect the face is a much more distracting problem.
In case you don’t know, Shingles is caused by the Chickenpox virus (Varicella Zoster), which lies dormant in a nerve and then (usually at times of cumulative tiredness/stress), the virus proliferates, irritating the nerve, causing blistering on the skin and what’s termed “neuropathic” pain. I tend to avoid melodramatics, but just to humour you, the closest I can come to describing it is having someone put a cigarette out on the back of your head – or multiple cigarettes. At its worst, if I run my hand through my hair, up the back of my head – which I’m strangely drawn to doing – it feels like someone is jabbing a thousand pins into me.
In the 7 days that I’ve had it, I’ve been looking for a pattern to the pain.
- It can come in waves.
- It can flare from mildly irritating to very painful for no obvious reason.
- I can go for minutes at a time without noticing it (I’m aiming to increase these periods).
- It’s worse when I’m not busy.
- It’s worse when life feels less fulfilling, especially in moments of difficulty.
- If I focus on the effort my legs are making when on my bike, I don’t feel it at all.
What have I concluded from this?
Even though there is obvious irritation to the nerve, the pain is highly variable in intensity, and at its best if I’m busy doing things I enjoy, or things that keep me engrossed, or physically very active. I think the best situation is a combination of all three of these.
It’s best not to think about it. The more I look for the pain, the more I feel it. Therefore, don’t look for the pain. Keep busy doing things I like doing.
As I stated at the top, I am taking this as a learning opportunity, and here are my takeaways:
- Don’t work on things you don’t love.
- Have something very positive to focus on in the long term, and in the short term.
- Don’t pay attention to negative sensations for any longer than it takes to identify their cause and to deal with those causes.
I included the last bit because my wife made me realise that ignoring a severe pain up the back of my head for 5 days was a bit silly.
So my brief advice at the beginning of this article – “Don’t deal with Shingles” is a reflection of the importance of living your life positively, and not focusing on the negative. Because, as I’ve learnt again, focusing on the negative just makes it more painful than it might otherwise be. 😉
If you’re dealing with pain, I hope this has helped.
PS I just looked up images of shingles to include with this post, and I’m not doing that again! Looking at all those images of people with far worse outbreaks than me made my head start to jangle straight away!! So, I included a picture of cuddly animals instead.