YOU GUYS. It has been a crazy, weird, wildly surreal few days over here. Remember my last post? Where I was all ‘Ommigod my flu is gone and I’m out of bed and doing stuff again and it feels so GOOD and so RIGHT and OMMIGOD I AM SOOO HAPPPPYYYYY LA LA LA BRAIN EXPLOSION!!!”
Well. I may have been a HAIR premature in the celebration department. Seems there was a LOT more going on in my body than I was aware of… Let me take you back…
(fairy dust, fairy dust, fairy dust…)
So while I was sick with this weird stomach flu-y thing last week, in addition to normal flu symptoms—you know, the good ol’ upset stomach, diarrhea, nauseousness, achy joints, fully exhasticatedness—I had a few more… well, unusual symptoms. Like headaches. Bad ones. And shooting pain up the left side of my head. Pain in my left jawbone. And pain in my left ear. These were all intermittent, so I didn’t think a lot about any of them. Just weird flu stuff! I mean, who understands the flu anyway?!?! VIRUSES! Ammiright guys?!?!
The achy-ness went away, as did the exhaustion, as did the stomach upset, at which point I was all HURRAH, I’M CURED! Except that the weird jaw-ear-shooting head pain never left. In fact, it got worse. I consulted with Dr. Boss (NOT his name, but he is a doctor—albeit a dentist—and my boss) at work on Thursday, and he said it was probably just a virus remnant working its way out. Ok, I’ll buy that.
But then Thursday night I noticed two tiny lumps near my left ear that hurt when touched. The jaw pain was constant by this time, no longer just a once in a while thing. And the shooting head pains were a regular occurrence. Ok, now I was worried…
And of course, where do you turn with a medical question at 11pm on a Thursday night?!? OBVIOUSLY, you go to WebMD and begin spinning the symptom-dial in a SUPERFUN game we call Self-Diagnosis!!! By 11:30 I was convinced I had an infection of my salivary glands. By 11:45 I was convinced I had cycsts. By midnight I was CERTAIN I had the most malignant form of salivary gland cancer imaginable. And by 12:30 I was making out my will.
YOU GUYS. This is lesson number one on why you should NEVER self-diagnose!!! I mean, unless you need motivation to make out your will.
Cut to Friday morning. I wake up, pop in to a work meeting, mention my weird jaw lumps which Dr. Boss assures me are just little cysts and I should ignore them, then leave and head to Bikram. I’m in the locker room getting ready and I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and HOLY SHITBALLS, WHAT’S THAT?!?!?!?
That THING! Up at the left corner of my forehead! It’s a red welt about the size of a quarter!
Now I live in New York City. Greatest place on earth, and also bedbug capital of the universe. So obviously I’m like OH SHIT. It’s a bug bite. On top of EVERYTHING else, now I have FREAKIN’ BEDBUGS!!!
I try not to freak out during class. My jaw hurts. The stabby head pain hurts. Even this stupid bedbug bite HURTS. Actually, it BURNS! Seriously, WTF is going on with my body…
(Ok time out. Bonus points awarded to anyone who can make a diagnosis at this point! Any takers? Eh? Eh?!?!)
I go home. Smear anti-inflammatory cream ALL over the giant bug bite, though as I look at it, it doesn’t REALLY look like a bite, more like a collection of tiny tiny blisters… WEIRD. WHATEVER. Smear smear smear, I take a Benadryl, I go to bed (after inspecting for bedbugs, obv).
Saturday. I wake up to throbbing jaw. Burning forehead bug bite… that has now grown to include my eyebrow… and a spot on the TOP OF MY HEAD. Like, UNDER MY HAIR. What bedbug is crawling UNDER MY HAIR for god’s sake?!
Ok, shit has gotten too weird at this point. I forgo ALL yoga classes planned for the day, and head over to urgent care. It’s probably time to see a doctor that’s NOT a dentist, ya know? I’m seen right away by a little Indian doctor who’s probably all of about 19 years old. I explain the symptoms, at which point he tries to tell me I have TMJ from grinding my teeth at night.
DUDE. I don’t know much, but I KNOW this ain’t TMJ!
“When’s the last time you saw a dentist?” he asks. Ohhhh the irony.
“OH, I see a dentist EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE,” I reply, not exaggerating. Come ON, I work with dentists!
So just as he’s about to tell me that the jaw pain is just a remnant of virus working its way out, and I should just take a few advil every eight hours, and I’m JUST about to jump out of my SKIN because at this point I want a DIAGNOSIS, DAMMIT!, he glances up…
“What’s that on your forehead?” he asks. I hadn’t had a chance to explain it yet, since I’d been too busy defending the fact that I do NOT have a night grinding habit.
He goes on right away without waiting for an answer, and in the most matter-of-fact tone of voice says:
BINGO. Who had shingles in the pool? You win it all!!!
GREAT! A diagnosis! At least now we’re getting somewhere! Even if where we’re getting is a totally unsavory locale…
SO. If you don’t know (because I didn’t yesterday!). Shingles is a mutation of the chicken pox virus. Once you’ve had chicken pox, which most of us had in our younger days, the virus never really goes away. It hides out in your spinal fluid and lays dormant, but can be re-awakened by any combination of: another virus, stress, not enough rest, a weakened immune system, certain drugs. And when it’s re-awakened, it travels up THROUGH YOUR NERVE ENDINGS (eeeuuwwwww) causing ridiculous pain along the way, and turns into a weird creepy blistery rash that hurts a lot. FUN TIMES.
So it would seem that whatever stomach virus I had earlier in the week re-activated the chicken pox virus in me and my weakened immune system allowed the virus access to my tri-geminal nerve (the one on the side of the face/jaw) where it laid down roots and was now making blisters out my forehead. UGH SO GROSS YOU GUYS.
The prognosis is good in the long term. I caught it early. I’m on anti-viral drugs. I’m not contagious. I can go about my daily life. I just need to get enough rest and not let myself get stressed. Honestly I don’t know HOW IN HELLS BELLS to do either of those things, but I’m going to try.
And here’s the real dilemma: I don’t know how to take care of myself. Really. I am BAD at it! I mean, clearly, or I wouldn’t be here. I sleep MAYBE 4-5 hours a night. I eat anything I can shove in my mouth with one hand while standing up waiting for the subway. I work full time. I take a billion yoga and dance classes just because I freaking LOVE it. I’m always reading something or researching something or writing something. I’m always going, seeing, working, DOING. I’m a DOER! Or so I like to think… The problem is, my balance of DOING and BEING is way out of whack. I’ve known it. But… it’s hard to change… especially when you want a LOT out of life.
So perhaps I have this nasty-wasty virus that can take anywhere from 2-5 weeks to heal, so that I can learn to rest. To take better care. To BE and not just DO.
My brilliant teacher Elena says that we all choose our challenges, and our struggles. She says we choose them before we get here, and choose the ones we do because those are the lessons we need to learn, and we need to learn these lessons so we can teach others. I believe that’s true. Or I at least see a lot of beauty in it, which makes me want to believe it.
So somewhere deep down, I suppose I chose this disease, because I NEED to learn to care for myself. I mean, I’m a yoga teacher by trade. Not teaching much right now, but I want to be. In fact, I devoted 2013 as my Year Of Self-Realization (whoaaaa topic for another post!), during which I would learn about and get clear with myself, my issues, and my past in preparation to teach again. Well. This is going to be a hell of a way to do it… I HAVE to learn to care for myself—and I have to learn it REALLY WELL—if I ever hope to have ANY business teaching others how to care for themselves.
And so, here I am. Trying to figure out what to do to take care of me, and trying to be ok with that. With BEING and not always DOING. Honestly, I don’t know how this is going to go… but I have to get well.
I’ve heard that all writers write the book they need to read. Elena wrote a gorgeous yoga book called, “The Art Of Attention.”
Well, my book would be called “The Art Of Self Care.” And it begins now. It has to. And it will be born of my own experience, because it has to be that too. And hopefully, in the end, I learn the lessons I need to know, and integrate them into my life and my self, and can pass them on with the authority that only personal experience can bring. And maybe that’s what was meant to happen.
Or maybe I’m just waaaaay dramatizing this situation I mean it’s a VIRUS you guys, EEEEUUUWWW!
But maybe I’m not… Maybe it was, in a weird way, a gift, a teacher… Or maybe it can be, if I let it…
In either case, stay with me. Wherever we end up, it’s going to be an INTERESTING trip.