Chicken Pox for the Soul

My encounter with the shingles virus

THIRTY-NINE days ago, “Mr. Bo Shingles” danced across my chin, up my Mandibular region, and finished with a flap-ball-change on the top of my head. I had the shingles virus. What began as an innocent tickle on my chin turned into an electric beehive complete with volcanic blisters on my face and sores on my tongue and gums.

A frantic call to Dr. Polly Anna resulted in a 7-day dose of anti-viral horse pills and a reassurance that “all will be well” in a week or so. Concerns of “nerve damage” were met with “your too young for that.” Does she realize I am 50?

After a week of oozing and woozing and considering boozing, I become unsettled by the crooked smile that appeared in the mirror, my inability to drink coffee without dribbling, and the fact that my eyes blinked out of sequence like an old baby doll.

I returned to the dermatologist, this time to see her partner, Dr. Sirius Black. 

“You have Bell’s Palsey,” he announced, jotting it on a small pad of paper. I cocked my pock-marked face to the side in confusion and said, “I have shingles.” 

“Well,” he said, “you have shingles on your face, which is called Ramsy-Hunt Syndrome.” He adds this phrase to the small pad and hands it to me thinking I am eager to do research. He doesn’t know me very well. 

“In rare instances,” he continues, “it can lead to Bell’s Palsey.”

Dr. Black put me on a regimen of prednisone and gamapentin without the Dr. PollyAnna reassurance that  “all will be fine” in a week or so, which led my psychiatrist to up my meds so I could handle the fact. More Zoloft, more Adivan.

Suddenly I required a plastic pill case with the days of the week on top. The kind my grandmother used to have for her ulcer meds. The pills rattled in the transparent yellow container and the 7 little lids never closed quite right leaving me wondering if there would be an impromptu meet and greet of Zoloft and Gamapentin at the bottom of my bag.

“Take the Gamapentin with food,” advised my pharmacist. 

Ice cream counts as food, right? I decided a depressed person with anxiety and chin full of blisters had the jurisdiction to declare ice cream a meal. 

The next morning,  “THE ITCH” arrived. The eternal internal ITCH. I was transported back in time as I spread Calamine lotion across my face and my inner Mother screamed, DON’T SCRATCH! YOU”LL GET A SCAR! 

Enter the “Well-Meaners.” 

“Thank God you didn’t get a shingle in your eye!” my mother says. 

“Thank God you didn't get a shingle in your eye!” my psychiatrist says. 

“Gamapentin upset my stomach”, my Mother-in-law says. 

“Some older people are driven to suicide by shingles,” my friend says. 

I wanted to remind them that shingles is triggered by stress, but knew not to bother.