surviving shingles – part 1

surviving shingles pt1

The most unexpected thing happened to me recently.

Totally unforeseen, unanticipated, and totally not on my radar.

As a matter of fact, I thought the soreness I felt a day before the onset was due to overdoing it while lifting weights or spending too much time at the gun range with my husband.

My diagnosis begged an answer to  the question: aren’t I too young for shingles?

Apparently not.

If you’ve ever had shingles, you know that it can be some of the worst pain you will ever experience. It’s a burning, searing, stabbing and unrelenting pain that gets a grip on you and doesn’t let go.

For those of you who have had shingles or are perhaps going through them right now, I hope this blog post offers you some comfort.

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I am not a health care provider or a medical professional; the following items are merely things that have worked for me as I continue down this trek of surviving the shingles virus. Please check with your doctor before trying any of the following suggestions to be sure they are right for you.

Cling to God.

My first night with shingles was a nightmare. I still wasn’t sure of my diagnosis, only that instead of sleep, a pain like I’d never known invaded the left and back sides of my neck and my collar bone. Tears streamed down my face in the middle of the night, as I sought peace while calling upon comforting Scripture verses. I prayed that God would help me with whatever was going on, as my sweet husband clutched my hand and prayed over me. I’m not sure how people make it without the Lord during times of trial.

Get diagnosed.

My oldest daughter and I Googled rashes (by Friday morning, I had four blisters) and came to the conclusion I had shingles. My chiropractor confirmed it when I headed to his office for an adjustment in hopes of helping the unrelenting pain. By Friday afternoon, my blisters had multiplied from my left upper chest up around my neck, my jawline, my upper arm, and around the back of my neck and into my hairline. The fatigue and flu-like symptoms, including a sore throat, ear pain, and fever, added to my discomfort.

A few hours later, I was in my primary care doctor’s office with a prescription for Valtrex. While I am one who tends more toward natural therapies, taking the Valtrex soon after being diagnosed was a very wise decision. I have also been taking Tylenol and Ibuprofen for the pain.

Realize shingles affect everyone differently.

Some I have spoken to have said their shingles weren’t too severe, but for the majority I have talked with, their shingles were a horrific nightmare they don’t soon want to remember. And no, it doesn’t just attack the elderly. Three people I know shared with me that they had succumbed to the shingles virus while in their 20s.

Get rest.

There is no way around this one. You have to rest when you have shingles. Even if you have a mild case, get lots of rest and take time to heal so there are no complications. It’s said that this virus can last 3-5 weeks, and for some people even longer.

Do an assessment.

As I mentioned previously, shingles were not on my radar. How on earth could a healthy girl like myself get it?

Well…apparently stress can contribute. So I decided to do an assessment. Besides the many hats I wear: wife, mom, homeschool mom, author, volunteer, group fitness instructor, blogger, etc., I had also had some pretty serious stress in the past six months. In mid-January, my oldest daughter and I came down with the worst flu we’d ever experienced that lasted a month with lingering fatigue continuing an additional two weeks. Job furloughs and unemployment, a dental procedure that included an allergic reaction, a huge door swinging shut on me for a book project I had poured my heart into, and my youngest being rushed to the ER for what appeared to be a stroke added to my list of stressors. (Turns out she was having a horrific complex migraine – her first ever – and hopefully her last).

So do an assessment of where you’re at with stress. Covid-19 and all the upheavals currently taking place in our world are enough to cause anyone a sleepless night.

Be healthy.

In an effort to fight this virus, I adopted and continued with a list of healthy things I would be doing in the coming weeks. Some that have helped me are the following:

Supplements. Multi, C, E, D, zinc, B complex, and a good probiotic can be super helpful. For Optimal Daily Amounts, my personal go-to book is The Real Vitamin and Mineral Book by Shari Lieberman and Nancy Bruning.

Foods. Vegetables and fruits, such as sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, red/black grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, berries, avocados etc. are all good choices. Avoid anything inflammatory, such as junk food, refined foods, and sugar.

Water. Stay well-hydrated.

Time with God. Spending time in His Word and a vibrant prayer life is a must for me. I am so dependent on His mercy and grace.

Prayers. I put myself on my church’s prayer chain and collected those prayers along with the faithful prayers of my immediate and extended family. Prayer works.

Sunshine. Plan on getting 10-15 minutes a day, preferably surrounded by nature.

Exercise. Gentle stretches and a short walk are a good start to building up to where you were before shingles.

Hugs. Studies have shown that hugs boost the immune system. My family is awesome about helping me fill my hug “quota” for the day.

Chiropractic care. It’s a good way to strengthen the immune system, and if you are fortunate to have a good chiropractor, he/she can be a wealth of information.

Just say no to stress. That includes taking a break from social media and the toxic news that currently surrounds us.

Sleep. A full night’s rest can be a challenge with the pain, so be sure to give yourself permission to take naps as necessary.

Don’t get discouraged.

I will humbly tell you that discouragement has knocked on my door a couple of times during this trial. As an active person not accustomed to not being busy, it has been difficult to not have the energy to do anything. And the pain? There is something called neuralgia that can stick with you long after the shingles are over. The thought scares me to death since my own sweet mom has severe chronic pain and is wheelchair-bound.

All this to say, discouragement will find you if you allow it. The second you take your eyes off Jesus, despair is there ready to accompany you through the day. Don’t let it.

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Return your focus on our Lord and His promises. Remember Peter when he took his eyes off Jesus that day during the storm? He sank. We sink when we take our focus from the One who loves us so much He gave His Son for us.

To be continued…

I am officially on Day 13 of my shingles journey. I wish I could say I am completely healed. That I have no more neck, shoulder, and ear pain. No more fatigue.

But that’s not the case. While it has relented somewhat and I continue to get stronger everyday, I still have a ways to go. The pain and fatigue are ever present. But I’m hanging in there and am relying on God’s faithfulness to see me through this ordeal.

So all this to say that if you are going through shingles right now, hang in there. We will get through this!

 

 

 

 

5 do’s and don’ts when interacting with someone going through a difficult time

5 do and donts

Sometimes it’s challenging to know what to say and how to interact with someone going through a difficult time. Our well-meaning words and gestures can sometimes have the opposite effect of what we intend.

Here are five helpful tips for the next time you reach out to someone experiencing a tough situation.

  • Don’t share horror stories.

When Kara began to have pregnancy complications, most of the women who reached out to her offered valuable advice. However, one woman, who honestly thought she was being helpful, shared about all the difficulties she had while being pregnant, some were downright frightening. Unfortunately, such commentary only caused Kara to become more anxious.

Do be encouraging.

If someone you know is going through a health struggle that you yourself have been through, seek to be an encourager. Rather than sharing about the fearful things you experienced, listen with a heart full of empathy. “I can understand how you feel, as I’ve been there. Is there anything I can do to help you through this painful illness/disease?”

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  • Don’t share “too  good  to be true” stories.

Conversely, be aware that not everyone’s situation mimics yours. When Simon became ill with the worst case of influenza he’d ever experienced, it was difficult for him to be laid up and unable to do his job as a personal trainer. His cousin, while likely trying to be optimistic, shared that a guy he knew healed in a far lesser time than Simon was taking to heal and had fewer complications.

Do be compassionate.

Remember that not everyone heals in the same manner or in the same time frame. Our bodies have all been designed differently, and some bodies heal more quickly or more slowly than others. Rather than offer comparisons, offer to run errands or ask in what way you can assist.

  • Don’t put on the guilt trip.

When Mike lost his job and struggled with depression, a well-intentioned neighbor offered the unsolicited advice that if only Mike had a stronger faith, he would already have another job and would certainly not be dealing with depression. Mike began to doubt his faith and struggled with the question of why God hadn’t helped him with the depression or in finding another job so he could support his family. The guilt trip caused  him to slink further into despair.

Do offer to pray with and for someone who is struggling.

Offer to listen, without judgment, when someone facing a trial needs to talk. Even those with strong faith can have struggles, suffer from depression and anxiety, and go through serious trials. In Mike’s case, offering to keep an ear out for job leads would have been much more helpful.

  • Don’t force your “remedies”.

Laura’s breast cancer came as an utter surprise. She’d always figured she was in good health and had no cancer in her family history. Working with a wide range of medical professionals, Laura began a treatment course that she felt, after much prayer, was best suited to her. “While most people were supportive, I did have a couple of people who thought that if I would just try their supplements or oils, I would be healed in an instant. While I have always been one to try a more holistic approach to illnesses, this situation was a bit different for me, and I tried a mixture of conventional, as well, as holistic therapies. When someone is struggling with a serious, possibly even terminal illness, it never helps to force your remedies on them with unrealistic claims that may not work.”

Do give an open-ended suggestion.

Many times, those of us who truly love the health field and are knowledgeable about certain issues are eager to offer a single solution as the only way. While there is definitely nothing wrong with sharing your wisdom and confidence in remedies you have found helpful, your method of delivery is key. Supporting the person in their choices is imperative. If you do have an alternative idea, phrase it in a thoughtful and less insistent way.

  • Don’t make it all about you.

When Melinda’s husband suffered a heart attack with a lengthy recovery, she never expected to be at odds with a friend over it. “My friend told me how hurt she was that I wasn’t there to help her move into her new house. There just wasn’t anything left of me to give. I was already caregiving for my husband and managing all of my regular household duties, along with a full-time job. I know she was hurt that I wasn’t able to give her the assistance she needed, but it came off like it was all about her.”

Do make it all about them. When tough times arrive, whether it be health issues, a divorce, loss of a loved one, or loss of employment, people need to know you care. They need to know that you are praying for them, looking out for their best interests, and will do whatever is necessary to partner with them in getting through the trial.

Theodore Roosevelt

Before you talk with someone, pray that God would guide your tongue so you can offer truly helpful advice that will encourage and not hinder. When tough times arrive, the best blessing you can give is to let someone know you are there and are praying for them.

 

Other posts you may enjoy:

13 ways to help someone going through a difficult time

10 ways to help your kids choose good role models

Movie Monday: Free Burma Rangers

Movie Monday: Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Road Less Traveled

5 things moms need

 

5 ways to be happier

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We live in a challenging world. Bad things happening all around us – kidnappings, shootings, assaults, Christian persecution, severe weather, car accidents…and the list goes on. It can be difficult, if not impossible, to not get discouraged by the negativity that can be found at the touch of our fingertips via social media, news outlets, or on TV.

So how can we push past the dangers lurking behind every corner, the fears that overwhelm us, and the toxicity of our fallen world?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”

The website further states, that Major Depressive Disorder, or MDD, is”The leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3…MDD affects more than 16.1 million American adults, or about 6.7%of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.”

Aside from the usual therapy options, including medication (because I am a firm believer that God allowed medicine to be created for those who truly need it), what can we do to take our focus off of the world around us and be happier? To find joy in the midst of all that is going on around us?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Spend more time with the Lord. Keep our eyes on Him. Rely on Him. Seek Him. Rejoice in Him. I can tell you from experience that the moment I take my eyes off Jesus, things take a turn. Set aside time, preferably each morning before you start the day, to dive into His Word, pray, and seek His guidance. The morning is the best time, as with all the busyness in daily life, this important action can quickly take a backseat to all of the other demands on our day.

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Two of my biggest prayer requests during my morning quiet time with the Lord are that I would walk in a manner worthy of the calling He has placed on my life (Ephesians 4:1), and that I would be a blessing to my family first and foremost – and not only to them,  but also to others I encounter throughout my day.

For those of us who have made Jesus our Lord and Savior, this is not our home. Not our permanent home, anyway. Remembering that can put our circumstances and the bad things that happen around us in a different perspective.

2. Spend more time with our family and our close friends. Sometimes in the midst of employment, soccer practices, cell phones, and extracurricular activities, family time can be all but forgotten. Seek to spend more time with your family: your spouse and your children, and your close friends. Doing so makes for a much happier life. This can be as simple as going on walks, playing games, or just sitting down to talk. Whatever the method, your relationships will be strengthened, and you will find yourself with a lighter heart.

3. Spend more time putting others first. We are definitely happier when we put ourselves aside and seek to serve others. Doing nice things for someone, volunteering, and showing random acts of kindness can all add joy to our lives. According the HelpGuide website, “Volunteering is good for your mind and body”, and “Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life”, among many other benefits.

And you don’t have to commit to a huge volunteering project to reap the benefits of happiness, but rather pray that God would show you who you can assist each day, whether in big ways or small ways.

4. Spend more time in nature. Studies have shown that nature is important to our well-being. Who can stay crabby after being outside with the chirping birds, gentle breeze of the trees, and the warm sunshine? And summer isn’t the only time nature can make us happier. Just being outside in all seasons can improve our outlook on life. When we are out in God’s creation, our thoughts will center more on Him.

5. Spend more time exercising. Regular exercise can make us happier. According to an article on Livestrong, besides the usual health benefits, exercise “can also improve your mood, lift your spirits and make you feel better about yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals that boost your sense of well-being and suppresses hormones that cause stress and anxiety.”

There are many more ways of gaining happiness. Rather than focusing on the world and it’s negativity, focus on God, family, and others.

 

5 ways to start your day off right

5 ways to start your day

You wake in the morning and fling open the curtains to find another beautiful sunshine-filled day. Perhaps you reach for a cup of coffee or head to the shower before tending to your job as a wife, mom, employee, or all of the above. Whatever your plans, be sure to do the following to start your day off right.

Drink a glass of water. According to the Livestrong website, there are several benefits of drinking water right after waking. And it’s a great way to start toward your daily hydration. I keep a bottled water on my nightstand for that very reason.

Spend time with God. Even before I open my eyes, I spend time in prayer thanking Him for giving me another day and praising Him that everyday His mercies are new. I ask Him to help me to be a blessing to others and then offer my prayer requests to Him. Immersing myself in His Word is my next plan of action.

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Spend time with your spouse and kids. My husband heads to work before 5:00 a.m.,  before I wake during the week. However, on the weekends, we spend some time together before embarking on our day.

As a mom, one of the things I do first thing during the week is to spend a few minutes one-on-one with each of my daughters. My youngest daughter loves to have everything planned out for the day, so that is one thing we discuss before praying and going our separate ways until breakfast. Speaking of breakfast…

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast. On Thursday mornings, I teach an early cycling class, so time is more crunched than the rest of the days of the week. However, being sure I get a good breakfast helps start the day off right and gives me energy for daily activities. WebMD has an excellent article detailing why breakfast is so important.

Do some gentle stretches. Stretching relieves tension and prepares you for the day. It also helps with circulation. As one with a former ankle injury, I always integrate ankle rotations into my morning stretches as well. (Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program).

And if you need some fun music to get you going while you are doing stretches, check out Good Morning by Mandisa.

So embrace every morning and remember that each day is a gift and a chance to start over!

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