Living on ‘pins and needles’ with shingles proves shocking for young writer

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Photo by Henley Sleight

Hannah Smith, Journalist

Imagine millions of pins and needles stabbing your nerves all at once, or your arm constantly being on fire. The nerve pain for me while dealing with shingles feels just like that and is excruciating at some points.

The shocks of pain and burning sensation up my arm and hand are the worst parts of dealing with the disease. Even the slightest touch can trigger pain. Clothing gliding past or water pouring down on it causes intense nerve pain sometimes.

Since I am an active person, having shingles is even worse because it limits me as to what I am able to do.

One day, I started feeling a burning pain in my left arm that lasted days, and the pain kept worsening. After a week of dealing with this, I was taken to the U of M hospital, and this was where I was diagnosed with shingles.

Being a teenager with shingles is extremely rare to begin with, but on top of that, I had never had chickenpox before, which is almost unheard of.

After many tests and examinations, the doctors concluded that I must have gotten the disease from the chickenpox vaccination as a child. Since my situation was so rare, not knowing what was going to come next was a frightening experience.

I was in school when diagnosed, which only added to the stress of it. I couldn’t miss much school no matter how bad I wanted or needed to, if I wished to maintain my GPA.

Dealing with the pain during school was definitely a challenge for me, and it was hard to focus on my schoolwork when my arm was in constant pain. Now that the worst part of it is over, I am glad I went all those days because it gave me something to be proud of.

To distract myself from the pain, I would do things around my house or hang out with my friends often. If I focused on how badly it hurt, then the pain would just be intensified. I also kept it covered with bandages so I wouldn’t consistently be looking at it, which helped minimize the pain too.

When my rashes went away, it was an immense relief because they were the main reason I was so limited as to what I could do.

Although the rash flare-ups go away after some time, there is no cure for shingles, and it could flare up again at any point. The nerve pain, however, can last forever or months after the rashes disappear, and this happened to be the case for me.

It’s been about two months since I was diagnosed, and I still experience severe shocks of pain every day. The pain is not constant like it used to be, but it is still very hard to cope with sometimes.