Two years ago I was moving at a breakneck speed and surviving shingles wasn’t on my mind, in fact, I had no idea what shingles were! I had accepted a new job, closed on new a house, decided to LIVE in that house while it was renovated, and was generally an emotionally stressed-out mess.
Then, shingles happened.
I had no idea what shingles were before I got it. Shingles is a form of chicken pox, and is called herpes zoster (no, not that type of herpes.) The zoster virus lays dormant on your nerves until something triggers them. My particular kind of horror was called Zoster Opthalmicus as it eventually affected my eye. Read on to find out how I survived shingles.
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Disclaimer: As always please check with your doctor for guidance if you think you have shingles.
So. At the time I really thought that shingles snuck up on me. One day I went from feeling fine to the next day having a slight rash on my face. On the third day, I was in pain, and lethargic, and knew that something bad was happening to my body. Looking back, I now know that stress coupled with a weak immune system triggered a shingles attack on my body.
At the time I had JUST started a new job and we had just closed on a new house. I was stressed out to the max. I wasn’t taking care of myself, I was eating badly, not exercising, and arguing with the people I loved.
I was miserable.
When a minor cold struck, I knew that I needed to slow down but then when the face rash came reality set in. A trip to the doctors confirmed that had shingles and that it was on the nerve that travels past my eye right up to my head.
The pain was unbearable. It felt like needles sticking in my face and eye. I cried every. single. day. Antivirals helped immensely, and I supplemented them with a high dosage of vitamins.
Within two weeks I was feeling better but I was left with a horrible scar right between my eyebrows. Apparently, my two weeks of hell were a vacation compared to people who have attacks lasting months.
WHAT CAUSES SHINGLES?
- The major cause of shingles is old age. As you age, your immunity may decrease, and shingles most commonly occur in people over 70 years old.
- I’m not 70 but I know exactly why my shingles were caused. Physical and emotional stress is what I was dealing with when shingles popped up. The chemicals released by your body when you’re stressed can prevent your immune system from working properly.
- Other factors like chemotherapy, organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, and HIV/AIDS can also cause shingles.
How I Succeeded at Surviving Shingles
After doing research I immediately started taking Lysine supplements (an amino acid that combats the zoster virus) and a high dosage of Vitamin C. I also took a doctor-prescribed antiviral to speed up my healing.
2. Rest and Hydration
I mostly just slept most of the day after telling work I was a mess and I would be back when I wasn’t in so much pain. To pass the time I binge-watched Netflix. I listened to my body which was screaming for me to slow down. I drank almost a gallon of water per day and took Epsom salt baths.
I also applied a cold compress to my affected area. It actually helped alleviate the pain associated with shingles. Cold therapy can help numb the area, reduce inflammation, and provide temporary relief from discomfort. It’s recommended to wrap the cold compress or ice pack in a thin cloth or towel before applying it to the skin to avoid direct contact and potential damage. It’s important to remember that cold compresses are primarily used to manage symptoms and provide temporary relief.
I dabbed apple cider vinegar on my rash which really helped to dry it out and help it heal faster. I smelled totally gross but it worked!
4. Cut out the Arginine!
The key to surviving shingles is to clean up your diet. I cut nuts and chocolate completely out of my diet. Looking back my diet was high in Arginine which is found in nuts. Arginine feeds the virus, while Lysine helps get your system balanced.
5. Work to curb future attacks
Every day I’m reminded of what happened due to the scar on my face. While laser treatments have helped I think I’ll always have this reminder of what can happen when I’m not taking care of myself.
6. Mental Health Care
I found that dealing with shingles can be emotionally challenging as well as physically painful. It’s ok to seek out emotional support if you’re struggling to cope. Some options for emotional support during this time include:
- Talking to a therapist or counselor
- Joining a support group for people with shingles
- Connecting with loved ones and letting them know how they can help
- Practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing
For the longest time, I didn’t want to talk about my scar or what I went through. You see, this blog/Instagram world seems to thrive on people putting their most perfect side forward. Who has time to talk about shingles when they have a perfect cup of coffee to photograph? For me, it’s important to show that we all have bad days and need to be reminded to take care of ourselves.