Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

My boss is kind enough to be one of my regular blog readers, so he took pity on me two weeks ago when I posted 10 Luxuries I Can Now Afford Since Once Upon a Time Got Picked Up for a Full Season and threw me another bone: four days of extra work on the TNT series Perception, starring Eric McCormick from Will & Grace, premiering summer 2012, but dubbing this week.

I could really use the cash and immediately started canceling some commitments, rearranging others and basically increasing my mega dose of caffeine. I had already written and was ready to post my next blog My Ex Husband is Getting Married Today for Friday 11-11-11. I threw on my cape, readied myself for a good night’s sleep sometime the next week, and started forging ahead. I’ve pulled this kind of task off many times before. But I was suddenly lambasted by a foe I had never before encountered.


I’ve had my share of pain in my life. I’ve broken my leg, cracked my coccyx, champed out stitches and suffered three experiences of childbirth ranging from all natural, to give me the epidural now!, to what the hell do you mean it’s too late for the f#%*ing epidural?

But nothing so far has prepared me for the sheer agony of shingles.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this ailment (myself included), it’s a painful rash caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox and is usually initiated by stress or a weakened immune system – which I guess is proof that I was unable to retain my Super-working-volunteer-mom status solely on a diet of Zipfizz and zero carb Monster energy drinks.

The Shingles started in my eye, and after being diagnosed with a migraine, a lacerated cornea and an ulcerated eyeball, the unbearable pain swirled through my eye and entire left side of my head, screaming for doctors to just murder me, because even though they wanted me to rate my pain level between 0 and 10, it had already zoomed past 12 on the agony Richter scale.

This cacophony of torment kept me incapacitated and hospitalized for a week and a half. I floated in and out of pain, sleep, and delusional pain meds for nearly a week, with an oozing eye covered in blisters and too swollen to see through. I resembled Sylvester Stallone in the first Rocky film when he begs his trainer to “Cut me, Mick!”

Still in a lot of pain, but definitely on the mend, it looks like I’ll be released from the hospital sometime tomorrow. I’ve got some vein bruising from my IV, so I can’t use my left hand. But my husband brought my laptop and reading glasses to the hospital today, so as I groggily hunt and peck the keyboard with one hand, I have composed:

10 Things I Learned From Having Shingles:
1. I am capable of lying in my own urine all night without realizing it. That’s how out-of-it I can be.

2. I can go 10 days without a bowel movement. My record was broken today after just five minutes experiencing my first-ever enema.

3. Hospital food isn’t that bad, particularly when you have no appetite. However, I realize that I actually like Jell-O.

4. I am eternally grateful for having good medical insurance. I don’t know yet what my out-of-pocket bills will ultimately be, but without insurance, that fear of living in an IKEA box could be a reality.

5. Without paying for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig (both wonderful weight loss systems from what I hear) I managed to lose 8 lbs. in a week. This shingles weight loss method however is not recommended.

6. My lily-white mind-altering-chemical-free head makes me a very bad candidate for pain meds. I’ve never been into recreational drugs and haven’t had any alcohol in over 16 years (I seem to have more than made up for it with my insane caffeine intake), so Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin all gave me the dry heaves, and narcotics that helped the pain gave me weird and vividly real nightmares where cats and rats were chasing me, or that I was the star of my own Fellini film.

7. Commercials ultimately pay my salary, but I am oh so grateful to Dish TV for not forcing me to watch them. Because St. Joseph’s Hospital doesn’t have the luxury of Dish or TiVo, I was bombarded by not only the worst choices of daytime programming, but I was also forced to sit through the identical dozen or so lame commercials every 15 minutes. On the plus side, I was usually too incoherent to pay much attention.

8. I am officially burnt out on Law & Order SVU. I used to be a fan, but after finally getting some of my mind back, I was treated to an entire Sunday with SVU marathons on two different channels so I could switch back and forth whenever there was a commercial. I happened to catch a long stream of episodes where chest-beating outsiders came in for pissing contests with the regulars. And frankly, you can only see so many rapes in one day before you start feeling like Malcolm McDowell being sickened by ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange. I finally turned it off for good with a bad case of the heebie jeebies and the uneasy feeling that no woman is ever completely safe.

9. No, the clock hasn’t stopped. It just feels that way because pain time moves so much slower than real time.

10. No one is indispensable – even me. I enjoy being a very VERY busy mom, and have a certain amount of narcissist pride that I can pull off anything if I set my mind to it. After my shingles experience, I know I can’t always do that. I missed my kids’ nighttime prayers and school activities, yet another one of my son Jake’s basketball practices, my daughter Mary Belle’s 11th birthday, and whatever teen angst my daughter Emily was going through this week. I dropped volunteer commitments that I take very seriously and social engagements with friends who may never be reunited again. I bailed on my husband, just as he was turning in the comps for his Ph.D., which was incredibly bad timing. My ego might tell me that I’m the best dang dialogue editor in the whole freakin’ universe, but when it came time for me to abruptly bail on not one but two shows, my boss found a couple of equally talented freakin’ great dialogue editors to step in at a moment’s notice to make sure they didn’t miss their dub date.

Yes, I can disappear for a week and a half (and I may still be out of commission for a few weeks) but the world keeps spinning on its axis. Others pitch in and save the day.

It will take me a long time to thank them all.

But I’m going to try.


Filed under Anxiety, Career, Debt, Financial Insecurity, Friends, Humor, Husband, Multitasking, Parenting, Surgery, Teenagers, Volunteering

29 responses to “Shingles! – More Painful Than Childbirth

  1. Holy ulcerated eyeball, Batman! I wondered where you were the last few days, so you were missed out here in the high desert. Granted, my life went on without you, but I still missed you.

    Wow. Just wow. I am so sorry you got shingles. I’m glad you’re doing better.

  2. I wondered where the heck you went! I’m so sorry about the shingles and the hospital stay! Yuck!
    Jello’s pretty good as long as you don’t get any ideas about floating stuff in it like fruit cocktail or carrots. I come from Utah, land of Mormon’s who are infamous for trying to dress up jello by floating stuff in it. It’s not worth it. Trust me! Be a Jello purist.
    I’m glad you’re feeling well enough to write and hopefully you’ll bust out of that hospital very soon. I bet your family is going nuts without you there.


  3. Tammie Cruz

    Blog was great. You can find humor in anything! Don’t try to make up for everything by over doing it when you get home, remember to take it easy…

  4. Holy Shiz, really. I have heard about shingles but the way you described it makes me want to eat a salad, and catch some zzzz’s. How long will this last? You are good to find some humor in it, I love the post. Feel better…

  5. I reverberated between wanting to laugh and wanting to cry and ended up deciding it might have been too much information although as the one who changed your didies, mopped up after you when you had the stomach flu and other interesting tasks when you were little you’d think nothing would be too much information. I am grateful you are home, that your vision is not impaired and must echo Tammie’s sentiments, “TAKE IT EASY!
    I think you should give your husband a raise.

  6. Yeah – he actually had to take so much time off work they handed him a family leave act form.

  7. So so sorry to hear – have seen friends with shingles and it was unbearable for them. Since you aren’t a druggie you probably didn’t know that all those pain meds probably were the cause of your constipation. Small price to pay I guess to even take the edge off. Glad you are feeling better.

  8. You sound very bad . Really hope you get well soon. Take care. Things will get fine. Don’t worry

  9. Glad you are on the mend. 🙂

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  11. Oh my goodness! Get better soon!

  12. Johnny

    You should check out using “Compound B Vitamins” as a way of helping treat your shingles.The B vitamins help anything to do with the nerves.They are also good for anyone suffering from “Carpil Tunnel” in the wrists.

  13. OH Hon, bless your heart! I truly mean that, I do not mean that smartass “bless your heart I normally say when I just want someone to shut up” I really mean bless your heart and head and eye, your poor poor eye. I have had shingles but only in the trunk. They are devastating. I could not imagine how you are surviving day to day with it in YOUR EYE. You are officially on my pray list. And one of the strongest women bloggers I have ever read.

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  17. l twiford

    I so very much really for sure wish I had seen this sooner. I’m going into my 7th week with shingles on my eye, forehead, and scalp! The largest blisters were on my eyelid and eyebrow. The doctor thought I might lose my eyesight, hair, and so on……but just an eyebrow has halfway bit the dust. I’ve been on Hydrocodone, Tramadol, and Gabapentin (a pain interceptor in the brain). I have felt like my brain is on fire. The Gabapentin will wear off on Friday and the true pain will be revealed. I’m praying there will be none! A doctor of natural medicine that placing a drop of Frankincense on the roof of your mouth will repair nerves in the brain. I’ll try anything! Anyway, I can so identify with you and pray it never returns!

    • I’ve never heard of trying Frankincense. I hope that helps. I used Lidocaine patches which really helped, and I continued to used the Gabapentin if the pain was still bad. Believe it or not, it continued to hurt off and on for about 3 years – more often if I was tired. I would get really sharp pains at the edge of my eyebrow and on my head. I hope yours doesn’t last as long. I recently got the shingles vaccine which is supposed to last for 5 years. Crossing my fingers!

  18. AG

    I have a cluster of bumps on my ankles tnat each like crazy but in a painful way. It started with 1 bump.
    My entire scalp is burning on fire and itching .. my ears, my face is so red. The thing is I don’t have bumps? When I seen your photo it kind of looks like you didn’t have bumps on your face either? Am I right?
    I’m trying to figure out if this is what I have. Everyone else seems fine in the home so far but I’m burning and inflamed !!!! I’m miserable

  19. Shirley Tolson

    I have shingles. 7 weeks. After reading about othrler people with shingles i realize some are a lot worse than mrlee

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