Thirteen days ago, while changing into yet another sweatsuit to go to bed, I noticed a red area under my breast on the right side of my body. I didn’t think much of it as my mom raised me in a family where the mantra was, if it’s not bleeding or broken, you’re fine. I figured the underwire from my bra had probably caused some irritation during the day, and I put a little Lucas Papaw Ointment on it and went to bed. The next morning, I woke up and saw that it was still just as red and irritated; it hadn’t gotten any better during the night. This seemed odd, but I was quickly distracted by the kids and all the things that needed to happen to get them out the front door and to school for the day.
That evening after showering, I noticed another red patch on the right side of my back. Now, that was strange. Then, I started googling. All night, I was up trying to self diagnose what it could be. By morning I was convinced I had figured it out. I turned to Andre and said, “I think I have shingles.” “What!?” he said, looking very confused. But, I knew in my gut that’s what it was. I reached out to my doctor at Forward, sent him images of all the rashes and a list of my symptoms, and within less than an hour, he confirmed that it was indeed shingles. “How could I have shingles?” I thought, “I’m only 38 years old…isn’t that too young?!” Well, apparently not! Anyone who has had chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine can get shingles. More people are getting it younger and younger because stress and anxiety are weakening our immune systems. And, since this has been the most intense, stressful year of my life, my body was letting me know it had had enough.
In true Barrett fashion (and probably why I currently have shingles), I jumped into action to solve the problem. My doctor prescribed me a seven day prescription for the antiviral drug, Valtrex, which I began taking that Friday. He also prescribed me Gabapentin for pain, but I never ended up taking it. I just used Ibuprofen as needed for pain.
Next, I reached out to my friend Sarah Pachelli who is a nutritional chef and wellness counselor. She put me on an anti-inflammatory diet for 30 days and told me to remove all stimulants and anything that would quickly turn into sugar from my diet. She encouraged me to eat more warming foods like veggie soups and less cold foods like salads: no more coffee, dark chocolate, wine, or pasta (my entire Covid diet!). Instead, lots of vegetables, fish, lean meat, nuts, seeds, and a little fruit. As Sarah says, “If we don’t slow the fuck down, our body yells at us.” And, my body was yelling, and, this time, I was finally listening.
If I’m truly honest with myself, I’m not surprised I have shingles. My body has become so depleted, and yet I keep running on overdrive. Moving so many times in the past year, being displaced from our house, dealing with a kitchen renovation, trying to keep Valleybrink Road afloat during a pandemic, launching Barrett and the Boys, being a parent to two energetic boys, never really getting a good nights sleep, not exercising enough, having no time to decompress or relax, drinking too much coffee and alcohol, overeating sugar, and the list goes on and on. It’s just too much for any single body to handle. So, I’m putting a new foot forward, nourishing and resting my body as much as possible, letting go of the people and things that are not serving me, and focusing on the things that do. I’m prioritizing my health and my self-care. I am working on decompressing, trying to relax, and establishing some sense of calm in my everyday life. I’ve found great comfort in the messages people have written me and have been blown away by how many people have experienced shingles in their teens, 20s, and 30s. We’re all feeling it, even before Covid. The constant pressure to go, go, go, all the time. To do more, create more, share more, provide more, earn more, give more, and be more. But, at what cost? We need to listen to our bodies when they are fighting and yelling back at us. As I always say to Costa, “You only get one body, so you better take good care of it.” Now, I need to start taking my own advice and work to heal the deeper issues in my body so I can get to a better, calmer, healthier place. Here is what I have been doing the past thirteen days. My rashes have scabbed over and two of the three have almost completely disappeared, which, from what I have read, is pretty fast for a shingles outbreak.
1) I immediately started an anti-inflammatory diet, removing all caffeine, alcohol, dairy, grains, sugar, processed foods, and soy. I’m eating tons of vegetables, fish, lean meat, chicken, nuts, seeds, and a little fruit. Here are a few recipes that I have been enjoying:
The following is what I have applied to the rashes topically. The first few days, until it started scabbing, I only did the Apple Cider Vinegar Remedy and the Oat Baths, nothing else so that it would dry out quickly and begin the healing process. Once the scabbing started, I began using the ointments and oils.
1) Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar – in a bowl combine 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar. With a clean hand towel or cotton ball, dab a little bit of the mixture directly onto the rash areas. Three times a day or whenever the itching or pain is increasing.
2) Activitst Manuka Oil – once it began scabbing, I started using this manuka oil on it after the apple cider vinegar remedy.
Outside of the above remedies, vitamins, and supplements, people shared so many suggestions of what had really worked for them. Here is a list of things that I haven’t personally tried yet but that were recommended by others who have suffered through shingles.
I am continuing my diet for the next 30 days and will be working with Sarah Pachelli to start introducing foods again after that, one at a time, to see how my body reacts. Until then, I will be doing my best to take it easy, to nap when my body needs it, to go for walks alone to get some fresh air and clear my mind, and to focus on the deeper healing that needs to take place in order to really move forward in a healthy way. Thank you to everyone for all the love and support, and feel free to share the above with anyone you know who might be dealing with shingles. Hopefully, it can help. Appreciate you and so grateful for all the help you guys have given me. x