On Having Shingles

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

2016 just won't quit. For the world and me personally.

Three weeks ago it was the flu, and then the shingles, and last week while I was trapped with a bat in my childhood room at my parents house I knew 2016 was really going out with a bang.

You don't know fear until you're locked in an enclosed space with a flying vampire bird, in the middle of the night no less.

Harlow and I trembled under my covers as we heard its leathery wings flapping above us, its squeaky little mouth smacking together, daring us to come out.

But more on this story later. I've had enough bat encounters in my life to fill an entire blog. The Daily Tay Bat Stories. I'll start a new site for that one. The first post will be called "That time I kept a bat in my laundry hamper for three days before telling anyone." As a kid I used to think bats looked like tiny puppies with wings. As an adult, I no longer think this.

But let's move on to a different subject; like shingles.

If you had to choose, would you prefer your skin constantly itch and sting so bad you couldn't keep your hands off it, or have your skin in such a firey state of hell it felt like it was covered in acid?

Welcome to shingles! The firey hell was a cause of the capsaicin cream the doctor suggested I put on. It fights the itch with even more pain. So that was a learning experience.

If you don't know anything about shingles, consider yourself lucky. Prior to getting the nasty virus I certainly didn't. I just knew it sounded gross and like something you'd get in the 1800s, not 2016. Then again, it makes sense 2016 was the year to do it to me.

After getting shingles the most common response I hear from people is, "are you 80?"

Yes, yes I am.

The shingles virus usually strikes the elderly. And it's painful. Very very painful.

It's slightly different for everyone, but this is how mine started. With itchies. All over my body. WTF is going on I wondered as it continued to happen night after night. It felt like I was being bit by something so I washed our sheets and our mattress cover three nights in a row. But it was clean as a whistle.

Dry skin? Sun burn? I'd just come back from Cabo, so both were possibilities. I continued to scratch my skin and didn't think it was worth seeing a doctor.

And then a little patch of bumps formed along my back on the lower right side. So I wasn't crazy! There was actually something there. I'm very lucky the bumps didn't spread, but unfortunately the pain did. Eventually it turned into shooting bursts of stinging pain that gave me goosebumps and made me curl over until it passed.

And still, I didn't see a doctor...

And then the flu came. Or so I thought? It's still up for the debate whether it was a stomach bug, the flu, or the shingles virus working its magic.

For five days after the long night of throwing up I continued to have a severe headache, random bursts of pain, and itching at night that was so bad I couldn't sleep - even with sleeping pills. (Lots of sleeping pills.) I decided to call a doctor after one day when I felt so faint in the middle of the afternoon I thought was going to... well faint.

As I sat in the waiting room I couldn't stop scratching. It was the height of the irritation. The bumps hadn't spread beyond the small spot on my back, yet the scratching and pain was all over my right side. It was unbearable.

The doctor confirmed it was shingles, and also that I was indeed an 88 year old woman, and sent me on my way with a lot of antibiotics.

The downfall was that I waited far too long to come in so it was up in the air whether the pills would work, at this point the virus would have to run its course. For some people that meant three weeks, for others three months... For some a year.

A YEAR. Shingles can cause permanent nerve damage if you don't treat it.

I was lucky and only had a few more days of pain to endure. I no longer feel the shooting bursts, the bumps are gone, and I rarely scratch. So all in all it lasted about three weeks.

And do you want to know who's to blame for all of this? Five year old me. The dirty little kid with the chicken pox.

If you've had chicken pox that means that the shingles virus is currently living inside of you already, just waiting to come out and ruin your life for a few weeks... How crazy is that?

It obviously doesn't strike everyone, stress and a low immune system can bring it out. And after you get it once, your chances of getting it again are more likely. HOW FUN!

Moral of the story, if you've ever got a case of the itchies and don't know why and it lasts for more than a night or two, RUN TO THE DOCTOR.

Or just get the shingles vaccine. Going forward, I'll plan to do both.

2017, please be kind to us. We could use a break.


  1. Thanks for the shingles warning. I had my chicken pox when I was 21 and it wasn't a pleasant experience!

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Taylor I am SO SORRY you had shingles!! They are the absolute worst!! I've had them 8 times and I'm only 21 so I get the old lady comments too. That and because my favorite show is Jeopardy;) Now whenever I get super stressed I feel the ghost of shingles past and have to take pills before they develop into full blown shingles. Luckily once you've had them it's really easy to identify the symptoms and take medicine before the shooting pain starts. Good luck!!

  3. I've known a couple people who have had the shingles (all under 40) so they must be 80 year olds at heart too. So sorry you got it and hopefully you never get it again. I had the chickenpox as a kid but I didn't know there was a shingles vaccine.

  4. My best friend had shingles last year and she's under 40. Scary stuff - glad you are feeling better!

  5. Tim has had shingles and he says it sucked, I have not so I have no idea how painful it is or anything

  6. Major bummer!! :( So, I too have had the rotten shingles virus as a young adult. Got them on my face and in my left eye at the ripe age of 28. Brutal. I caught the virus pretty early on so only dealt with severe pain for about a week. To this day, my forehead will itch/tingle (nerve damage) when I'm overly tired, stressed or sick. My doctor recommended Botox (Yay no wrinkles) to help combat the sensations in my head. Fingers crossed I never get them again!
    Hope you're feeling better.

  7. Poor you!!! How horrible- I got shingles when I was 19 (the doctor couldn't believe his eyes!) and it was so terrible. I had a bad headache, the chills, a fever, throwing up, and of course the painful itching. It's fun (kind of) to find other young people who have had shingles because I have bonded with many of the over-70 crowd because of shingles

  8. that sucks. Glad you are feeling better.

    Another version of chicken pox virus is bells palsy... your faces drops as it attacks the 7th Cranial Nerve. It is not pretty with the drooling and the eye having to be taped shut every night, because it wont shut. so, beware.

  9. Ugh, I had the shingles during midterm week in nursing school. I went to the doctor because after googling "itchy red rash" I was terrified that it was scabies (which as bad as shingles are, scabies would be infinitely worse). I too though that shingles died out with the Beothuk but since then I've known a lot of people, even young people, who have gotten them. They suck and so I'm glad to hear you're feeling better.

  10. I am 34 and got shingles 3 months after my daughter was born. It wasn't as bad as you had it, but still sucky. When I went to the doctor they said they have seen loads of 20-30 somethings in there with shingles. What are we doing to ourselves?!?!

  11. Ugh, I've heard shingles is a nightmare! My mom had (has?) it and so did my neighbor. Hoping it stays away for you and you continue to feel better!

  12. Ugh, that sounds horrible! I am glad that you are doing better now.

  13. Ugh Shingles is seriously the worst. This literally just happened to my mother in law and she was miserable, we couldn't figure out where her pain and itching was coming from and she even saw the doctor, but they prescribed something for the itching and sent her on her merry way. Then she formed a bump and immediately we knew it was Shingles. She went to the doctor and started on the antibiotics, but it didn't heal right away. Good thing you are feeling better now!

  14. Girl, I feel ya. I had shingles in October, a week after my 30th birthday...with a newborn! I guess the stress of having a new baby flared them up. So on top of being sleep deprived and navigating life with a 6 week old, I get a contagious virus than could cause chickenpox in my baby! SUPER. I was so paranoid that she was accidentally somehow touch the blisters even though there was no way she could reach them on my back. Thankfully I caught them early too and took meds and they cleared up in 2 weeks with minimal pain. And my newborn didn't get the chickenpox, so all is well again! But seriously, it sucked and I wouldn't wish them on even my worst enemy. Glad you're feeling better!

  15. I hope you start feeling better ASAP! I have been following you on social media and your blog for awhile and you're very inspiring to me! I hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  16. Oh man! I had shingles a couple of years ago and the pain was so bad I couldn't sit comfortably for days! I am glad you're on the mend!

  17. Wait, you got shingles just so you could do a sponsored post for the shingles vaccine??? That's dedication!

    (obviously I kid. Sorry you had that :/ )

  18. Oh my gosh that sounds absolutely awful! I am definitely going to look into getting the vaccine... yikes.

  19. They are horrible! I had them in 8th grade for about 12 weeks and then about two years ago at 33. The first time we waited a bit to figure it out hence them taking so long. The 2nd time I immediately knew I had them because there was a striking pain and itchiness in the same place. I went to the doctor right away and told her "I have shingles and she was like no way." Haha. I did. Glad yours went away within a few days! Next time run to the doc. Cheers!

  20. I have a compromised immune system, so I see doctors fairly often. Back in May I had acne break out on my forehead. I don't get acne. At all. Ever. A few days later, a rash showed up under my boobs.

    I saw a doctor, thinking it was shingles.

    Nope. I had two simultaneous rashes, a staph infection (bacterial) and yeast (fungal). Guess what makes fungal infections worse... antibiotics.

    I spent about 10 weeks in agony since the 20 days of antibiotics caused the yeast infection to spread, to the point that my hair was falling out.

    I still have slight discoloration under my boobs.

    BUT I was still glad it wasn't shingles. I'll take 10 weeks of itchiness, ugliness, and hair loss over 10 weeks of pain and itchiness.