So, I got shingles. On my face.
When I called my closest friend to tell her about it, she said, “Isn’t that the thing that old people get?”
I found myself wondering the same thing as I sat in my doctor’s office with a half-swollen face, waiting to receive a prescription for antiviral medication. I looked like a squirrel who only had enough time to stuff one cheek with nuts before getting scared off.
However, shingles—caused by the same virus as chickenpox—does not just afflict the elderly. If you had chickenpox as a child, the virus stays inside of you forever and can reactivate along a nerve later in life. The virus surfaced along my trigeminal nerve, stretching from my left cheekbone to my bottom teeth.
Don’t worry—this doesn’t just happen to anyone at random. Shingles are quite often induced by stress.
Our bodies all react to stress in different ways. Common symptoms of stress include headaches, muscle tension and colds. My body was less forgiving, it appears, and thought turning me into Freddy Krueger for a week was a sufficient punishment.
I took this as a sign that three jobs, a full-time student schedule and my disproportionate need to excel was too much for me to handle.
When opening up to my friends about this, I found that shingles is a lot more common than I thought. My friend and student at St. Thomas University, Beth Pitcher, had a similar experience in her first year at university. When the rash and incessant scabbing appeared on her upper torso, she was worried and went to see a doctor.
Her doctor told her that what she thought might have been eczema was actually shingles. “I started crying instantly,” she said.
Beth believes her shingles was induced by stress. This was her first time away from family, she was having trouble with her roommate and wasn’t used to the demanding course load of university.
“I remember crying every day because I was so homesick, it was just a pile of things,” said Beth.
She said this experience was an “eye opener.” Beth now takes certain measures to reduce her stress levels, such as meditation and yoga, and tries to not let things stress her out as much as they used to.
As students and humans, we often forget that our bodies have limits. To manage my own stress, I was able to choose one job out of my three and drop an extra class. While I’m not telling you this story to freak you out and prompt you to quit everything, I do hope this can serve as a reminder to reevaluate your own stress levels.
If you do find yourself turning into a Halloween character early, there are several resources on campus and in the downtown area to help with stress, mental health and physical health. Take care of yourself, because the consequences aren’t worth it. Trust me.
Student Health Centre
3rd Floor of the CC Jones Student Services Centre
Counselling Services at UNB
2nd Floor of the CC Jones Student Services Centre
(Must go in to make the initial appointment)
Victoria Health Centre
65 Brunswick St, Fredericton, NB E3B 1G5
Fredericton Downtown Community Health Centre
339 King St, Fredericton, NB E3B 1E4