The state of Georgia got its orders like every other state did. Our official decree was something along the lines of, “Stay in your homes for the love of all that is pure and holy. Keep yourselves barricaded behind a toilet paper fort if you’re among those who hoarded it and kept good, sane, decent folk from being able to get any. If you’re among the good, sane, decent folk who did not find it necessary to be a greedy, inconsiderate imbecile (I used the word moron at first, but changed it because it sounded mean and now you know how I really feel about it) and so find yourself without toilet paper, just do the best you can and you will have your reward in heaven. Either way, do not leave your house until the end of eternity.”
Now, you might think that this episode will be about COVID-19 and the quarantine, but nay. I only mention it because at least you probably didn’t have to be quarantined, safely hidden away from The Rona, only to be rudely attacked by another virus - one that lies in wait. One that infiltrates early in life and sits waiting for the perfect time to strike, making you an irritating, whinebag of a ninnyboy. Unlike me, you probably didn’t develop a case of the shingles.
I’m Michael Blackston and this is an excruciating episode of Funny Messy Life.
It’s April 8th, 2020 and I didn’t feel like sitting down to write out this episode at all. The only reason I finally started was because I felt obligated to and to be honest, while you’ll not be able to tell, it’ll probably get done over time, in whatever little squirts of inspiration I can muster. It’s not because I don’t like you or don’t want to talk to you. It’s because I’m still dealing with an outbreak of shingles and not just any outbreak, oh no. Mine appeared on my face and head.
It’s now April 11th, 2020. The intro and that first little paragraph is all I was able to manage before I had to stop and do whatever it was I did. I think I laid in my hotel bed and watched a movie. That would have been the Angelina Jolie vehicle, SALT, which was okay at first, but turned into something I didn’t care for. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, Shingles Face.
I’m one of the lucky ones that aren’t considered essential and yet I’m still able to work as long as monument companies still have stones for me to draw pretty pictures on. At this point, I still travel, although I’m trying to remedy that, and I’m alone. I’m alone at work and I’m alone in my hotel room, especially now that nothing’s open and there’s nowhere to go. In fact, the hotel is a very safe place and seemed to have an endless supply of toilet paper. So there I was, feeling blessed not to have to lose work - at least for the moment - and while it was boring in the hotel room, I still had a comfortable place to sleep. My one issue was a nagging little stinging place on my eyelid that I thought might be a spot of poison oak. I’d had poison oak there before when I was a boy and it ended up pretty bad, but I knew not to scratch now and it wasn’t really bothering me. I had a topical cream to put on it and I was good to go. I figured I got a spore or two there from the area behind the dumpster at the monument company I’d worked for the week before. They have no bathroom and I have to pee out back when I’m there, but poison oak and snakes are the only things I really have to watch for.
I went to bed that night, blissfully unaware of what was happening in my body and feeling very proud that I’d been so diligent about applying my topical cream, but I was awoken around 3 am by the distinct sensation that my right eyelid had made a decision to inflate like a giant red balloon. When I got up to look at my face in the mirror, I was shocked. Aghast might be a good word. I was dismayed at what I saw and a tad frightened that maybe Pennywise the Dancing Clown might suddenly appear from behind my ballooned up eye socket, asking me if I wanted to float. There was another problem, though. There was now a rash on my face, spidering out from the area of my eye and crawling like raw tentacles up my forehead and to the side, heading toward my ear.
I remember thinking, “That’s unfortunate and somewhat alarming.”
I decided my poison oak was being a serious douche and I should probably go home immediately. I figured if it got any worse, I’d be glad I went ahead and drove the five hours back while I still could.
I stopped in at the monument company on my way out to leave a note on the desk in the office and didn’t even bother to load up my equipment. I knew that when I went back to work, it would be there anyway. The note read something like this:
This is Mike. I had to leave in the middle of the night because my face is being a serious douche. I’ll explain when I come back. Who knows when that will be. I’m leaving my equipment. Please don’t sell it because I don’t think I’m going to die. I don’t think. This was Mike.
I was sure it was poison oak. I couldn’t really think of any other option that didn’t include an alien laying an egg in my eye socket, even though I did look like that might have happened and now the alien was trying to crawl out. The weird thing was that it didn’t really itch or hurt. Yet.
The next day I walked up to the medical center where I live and a nurse was waiting outside the door to take my temperature. COVID-19 procedures stated that if I was running a fever, I would have had a whole lot of complicated things to do to get seen and I was afraid with the way I looked, I might just be a little hot. Luckily, I wasn’t.
She asked me what I needed to be seen for and I pointed to my head.
“Poison oak being a jerkwad to m’face.”
She nodded, wrote down my perfectly normal temperature on a slip of paper and told me to hand it to the nurse when they called me back. In this season of our world’s history, I expected the lobby to be full, but there was only me and a couple of other people, one of which was loudly telling everyone who came in how bad a bunch of doctors they had there and we ought to be worried for our lives. Discretion and wisdom kept me from asking, “Well why are you here, then, Einstein?!”
Once I was taken back, a nurse took my temperature and glanced at me, asking the normal questions. What have you eaten recently? Are you allergic to anything? Is that some kind of weird bug crawling up your face?
Then she asked something unexpected. “Have you ever had shingles?”
That one surprised me.
“Shingles? That thing old people get that make you tell yourself I hope I never get old enough that I have to tell people ‘I got the shingles.’ Those shingles? No.”
Soon I found myself sitting in a room and before long, the doctor came in. I know this doctor very well. He’s a general practitioner, but also delivers babies. He’s delivered probably 95 percent of the population of my county and he’s been doing it since 1843. He’s an old Chinese man who speaks with broken English, but whatever he says, you can believe it. He’s seen it all.
“You have shingle,” he said when he walked in and took one look at me.
I thought he was asking me if I had shingles and I said I didn’t know.
“I know. You have shingle,” he said again and I thought to myself, OH CRAP!
He said he’d be right back and left the room, so while he was gone, I googled what to expect when battling a bout of shingles. Everything I found pretty much said the same thing, which is:
You have shingles? Oh crap. You’re in for a fun ride. You can expect in the next few days to be in some of the most unbearable pain you’ve ever experienced. Depending on where the breakout is located on your body, you will feel like that area is manifesting the darkest, most torturous bowels of hell that were originally reserved at the beginning of time for the vilest of evil.
Mine was on my face. The interweb went on to explain the situation from there.
Congratulations! You’ve broken out with shingles on your face. Shingles on your face is a real douche. Shingles attacks the nerves under your skin, usually starting around and spidering out from your eye like some jerkwad alien creature that secretes acid. Your face and head and neck and even your shoulder will feel something akin to the devil constantly scraping every tendon with the harshest grade of sandpaper and then defecating on your raw flesh with his hellish demon feces of fire. This will go on for days until the skin over the rash area has been deadened. You might think, “Oh boy! What a relief!” Ha ha ha, but that’s no relief. The rash will occasionally itch deep under the skin and the only way to really satisfy it will be to dig deep beyond the deadened nerves until you reach the place where there’s still feeling. But be careful. That’s also the place where shingles dragon babies are suckling the teats of your tender nerve endings and you’ll go shooting upward into the ceiling with agonizing screams. But don’t worry. You’re not contagious to most people, so this is something you can experience all by your lonesome. Let’s raise a glass to shingles! Here’s hoping you have a caring loved one to wait on you hand and foot because if you don’t you’re going to be in a special kind of hell. SHINGLLLLEEES!
And that’s exactly what I experienced for two or three days immediately after getting home. It’s like once I knew what it was, it had been given the green light to do its worst.
Two things happened next. First, I woke up the next morning, having hardly slept at all because of the pain, with my face swollen twice as much as before. I looked like a prize fighter who’d just gone twenty rounds. Second, I was extremely nauseated. While I was at the doctor, he had decided to give me a supplement for my diabetes meds while he was prescribing pills for the shingles. The side effects of this new supplement, I found out later, include nausea and for the next couple of days, until I figured it out and on top of the pain from the shingles, I couldn’t stand up or eat without feeling like I was gonna be sick. I had to go back to the doctor because of the nausea and the fact that now my face looked and felt like I was prepping for the role of The Elephant Man.
“Ish thsh shponshna hernpnern?” I asked the doctor, which translated from my swollen face language means, “Is this supposed to happen?”
“Swelling, yes. Nausea, no. I change the medicine.”
Once I finally got a handle on everything and the swelling started to go down, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m told some of the effects of the shingles can stay with me for quite a while, but that normally it only happens once. Unfortunately, there are cases of multiple outbreaks in people, so just understand that if that happens, I’ll know what I’m looking at early and you can bet that I’ll be self-quarantined until it’s over so you don’t have to listen to the unearthly screams.
I hope you don’t get shingles. There’s apparently a vaccine you can take and I would highly advise talking to your doctor to see if it’s right for you. I survived it, but knowing what I know now, I definitely would have considered looking into it. I also hope you liked this episode and if you did, next time you’re on whatever platform you get your podcasts, how about giving me a quick rating and review. If nothing else, it’s a great way to let me know how I’m doing and that you’re out there. If you’d like to communicate with me, there are several ways to do that at the website, funnymessy.com or you can email me at email@example.com. So until next time, I’m Michael Blackston. Thanks for letting me vent a little and joining me on another journey into my Funny Messy Life.
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