Life stops when you’re in pain.
“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to go to work?” Jerry says, hoping to make me feel better, reminding me that suffering shingles has its good points. I admit, the knowledge I’m free of the guilt that comes with calling in sick and letting your boss down because of a drawn-out illness, does ease my pain slightly.
‘Yes, Jerry,” I say. “That’s one good thing.”
I’m pretty much over the sickness that comes with shingles; the fever, the headaches, the muscle aches. I still have the itchy, blotchy red rash, the slashing-knife, nerve pain, and the tiredness. Advil helps, but I don’t want to take it the rest of my life. I’m into the third week as the shingles drag on. I’ve lived in my pajamas the entire time, since clothing causes misery and pajamas are less constricting.
“Hmm, this is serious business now,” my doctor said yesterday, realizing the pain has not subsided. He prescribed the same medication given to patients who have neuropathy. One of the rare side effects of the medication is a seizure. I told Jerry to keep an eye on me. “What am I supposed to do?” he asked, panic-stricken and unsure how to handle my potential seizure. So far, the medication has slightly diminished the pain and no seizure.
I’ve canceled my life, put it on hold. When you have pain, you don’t feel like moving. Less movement, less pain. I’ve spent my days staring at endless TV programs. In my other life, the one where I don’t have pain, I don’t watch TV during the day. Well, maybe the news. But that’s all. Now I focus on TV shows, and even more, TV commercials. Did you know! My Pillow has a special patented interlocking fill that helps support your spine’s alignment. I never paid attention before. Now I’m concentrating with interest. Most pillows, says the commercial, are flat and cause you to fold your pillow and slug it with your fist in your angry attempt to make it more comfortable. What is the secret to the interlocking fill? Who knows for sure. But it changes your life. The testimonials by real people explain, “I was a shoplifter and drug addict and then I discovered My Pillow. The interlocking fill gave me such a good night’s sleep I never wanted to shoplift or do drugs again.”
When the TV becomes a blur and I can no longer focus, I read books. I’ve read all the memoirs that Alexandra Fuller has written. I read them in backward sequence. First her divorce, Leaving Before the Rains Come; next her mother’s life story, Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness; and finally, Fuller’s first memoir, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood.
All three memoirs took me out my pain and plopped me into central Africa where they sip cocktails under the Tree of Forgetfulness. The starry night boils with the haunting sounds of cicadas and frogs and baboons. Six-foot monitor lizards wander into their mock-Spanish house after the rains wash over the land.
With so much time on my hands, I analyze Fuller’s marriage. Uh-huh. I see clearly why it didn’t last. Her husband tried to put her in a box (metaphorically speaking). If you can’t be you, who can you be? I laughed at the amusing antics of Fuller’s mother, the star of the family as she slings her Uzi over her shoulders while escorting her daughters to school. Mostly the family deals with a lot of fun mixed with death and loss. I don’t like the fact the family had a lot of emotional pain, but it took my mind off the physical pain I’m dealing with. Even more, the beauty of Africa as described in Fuller’s books transported my mind from my body.
Jerry kindly takes the books I have finished reading back to the library and brings me the new ones I had placed on hold. I’m in too much agony to drive or go anywhere.
When I tire of ogling the TV or reading books, I send e-mails to friends in the hope they don’t forget me. “Hi” I say. “I’m writhing in pain.” I try not to be too dramatic, but want them to know I have good reason for not seeing them.
Everyone, it seems, knows of someone who has had shingles, but no one I know has shingles right now. I want to commiserate with fellow shingles-people, to start a shingles support group, share the pain.
“How bad is your pain?”
“Oh, sorry to hear. Mine’s much worse than yours.”
“No. I said MINE is very bad, and it’s much worse! Got it?”
Lots of people have advice for me. Try lavender oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, cider vinegar, gulp a bottle of wine. Each one temporarily helped, like for five minutes. And no one actually advised me to gulp wine. But I wanted to spice up the advice received.
Jerry helps me when he can, but I know I must water my potted plants on the front entry of our home. Only I know how to care for them. At night, I go outside in my pajamas to water my plants.
“Bronwyn!” Jerry says, horrified. “You went outside in your pajamas!”
“Well, who’s going to see me, Jerry? I listen for voices and if I hear someone coming, I plan to come inside before they see me.”
“I just never thought you would go outside in your pajamas,” he says, disillusioned I’ve exhibited behavior that might have changed his decision to marry me long ago~if he’d known this prior to our nuptials…
Jerry: “Bronwyn, will you marry me?
Me: “Jerry, I have to confess one thing. Sometime in the future, I might stand in our entry and water plants while wearing my pajamas.”
Jerry: “You’re kidding? Right? If not, forget it!”
Really happy I don’t have to call in sick tomorrow.
Thank you so much to the wonderful people who sent flowers, cards, and messages telling me I’m in their prayers. I appreciate you all.
Here are a few of my favorite memoirs (that I have read in the past when I felt well).
- Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
- The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
- Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada
- Boy: Tales of a Childhood by Roald Dahl
- And one I can’t remember the name of, but it was very good too. Now you want to know the name of that book, right?
- Okay, I looked it up for you. To See You Again: A True Story of Love in a Time of War by Betty Schimmel. I couldn’t put this book down.
- I also liked Skating to Antarctica by Jenny Diski.