Not Doing Great With the Stress Thing

Guess what? 

I have shingles. Again. Almost exactly a year after the last time I had them, for the first time. 

What causes shingles? The chicken pox virus living in your adult body, just waiting to, come back out and run amok and cause nerve pain and generalized awfulness. 

What triggers it to come sneaking out on your skin, on one side of your body, usually in the MOST PAINFUL PLACES EVER, which for women is anywhere your bra touches (and it can go on your face, which is super dangerous near your eyes, but thankfully I just get bra shingles)? 

STRESS. Lots and lots of stress. 

I am struggling to stay on top of things. Probably because I've piled up a mountain of things I need to stay on top of. I am bad at saying no. I actually have said no to a whole bunch of stuff, but I made a list and the things I am still yessing are...many. 

This school year is complicated and challenging, as every school year has been it seems, but the extra layer of COVID and students whose last normal school year was 3 years ago adds to it. My 8th graders haven't had a normal Sept-June school year since 5th grade. Which means there's a lot of teaching about how to do school and how to interact with other humans in acceptable ways. Which is not too far from the normal 8th grade experience, but this year it is particularly exhausting. Other teachers I have talked to have said, "It seems a bad sign that we are in October and feels like the bone tiredness of March." 

I have a caseload with a lot of social-emotional needs, a lot of kids who ask for help in the least appealing ways, who speak through behavior, who have many more needs than just academic. I will confess I wanted a number of these students because I enjoy working with "tough kids." And while I don't take the hard parts personally, it is exhausting to stay patient and firm but kind but holding kids accountable all day long. And then to manage the lead teacher pieces with my department, which I really enjoy but there have been a number of Union issues and things that are frustrating about communication from district level, and needing to do more things with fewer resources, and I am the  person to come to who then goes to the higher up people with proposals. I really like advocating, for students and teachers alike, but again... it's exhausting. 

And then there's the tiny piece that came out while crying to my therapist about my shingles and my exhaustion -- I feel like I HAVE to do more because I CAN do more, because. . .  I don't have kids. That somehow it's an unspoken responsibility that I have to take up time and do as much as possible since there's no small humans depending on me at home. I've been going home late every day, because Bryce works late and has his PhD work, and so if we eat dinner at 7 or 8 that's fine, but I have soooo little down time. Which I am not saying to be like, "oooooh, look at me, I'm just so BUSY!" like a badge of honor...I'm legitimately upset about it and need to make a change.

My therapist actually said that when she was raising her daughter, she was an excuse to not do more -- that of course she wanted to spend time with her and mother her but also she could be like, "NO, I'm not staying later because I have to pick my daughter up/take her to dance class/help with her homework/whatever parent-y thing." It helped her set boundaries. And granted, then she had this other responsibility at home to take care of, but she was like, "That was my home time. That was enjoyable for the most part." She was like, "just because you don't have kids doesn't mean you have to take on more because you have that time, you can do other things with that time. You can take care of yourself with that time. You need to let some shit go. You need to maybe adjust your expectations of what you should be doing, because it's literally showing up in your body." 

You would think I would learn this lesson. I'm smacked in the head with it way too many times. 

So today I left at 3:45, a rarity for me, but mostly because I had my image review/ordering session for my boudoir shoot. And that was awesome -- I had to pare down 100 images to 20 (I was between two packages, one with 30 and one with 20). I decided to go with the cheaper package at 20 images and a smaller book, but then add in a travel kit (7 wallet sized photos with envelopes) and a wall piece (I did a triptych). It was a good boost to see all the amazing photos and pick out what I wanted for each element. I cannot WAIT to have everything in hand to give Bryce. 

I'm also super grateful the shingles chose to erupt AFTER the shoot, because that would have been awful. For the actual rash, and also because I'm on a boatload of medications including my nemesis, Prednisone, therefore I feel insanely gross and not sexy at all. Which sucks because our legal anniversary is Saturday... so we rescheduled our fancy dinner out for Saturday the 30th. Bryce will cook this weekend and I will hopefully feel better, not worse. I caught the shingles faster than last time (it only took me two days to realize that I didn't have an invisible spider biting me in a linear fashion on only one side of my torso, that it was indeed shingles again), and so I got to the doctor WAY FASTER. Which means I'm on the heavy drug cocktail faster, which hopefully prevents the level of pain I had last year. So far it's not fun, but it's not excruciating. I hope it doesn't get to that level. 

So, my mission in the next few days is to figure out what I can do to lessen my load and do...less. Without feeling guilty, without feeling like I'm letting myself and everyone else down. I have to, or I'm going to get the shingles every damn year until I can get the vaccine at 50. 


  1. Oh Jess, nooooooo!!! PLEASE, slow down & take it easy!!

    I hope you & Bryce have a lovely anniversary, regardless. (((hugs!)))

    1. Thank you! I did okay this week, why home earlier and rested a lot. The meds zonk me out so I don't have much choice! Definitely better this time than last. Catching it early made all the difference! And thank you for the anniversary wishes!

  2. Aw, sending you good wishes and hugs. Every one is being asked to do more with less it seems, and something’s gotta give. My co teacher and I were talking about how it seems there is rarely an external acknowledgement of success in teaching. Of course there are the intrinsic rewards of seeing the students thrive. But if you are happy and doing things right and success is happening, everyone assumes you can clearly do more work in more difficult situations. There may be some truth to that it gets to be a bit much too. It’s like unless you are falling apart physically, losing your mind and putting out fires every 10 minutes, well gosh, CLEARLY you are not taking enough on. Maybe I’m being cynical.

    Hoping the shingles resolves as quickly as possible and you get some balance back.

    1. So agree, not cynical There's a lot of "make it work," and when in a helping profession it is way too easy to give too much of yourself. Catching shingles early with all the meds makes a big difference. It hasn't been as bad, the side effects from the meds have been worse (I'll take it!). Thank you for your thoughts!

  3. Oh no, Jess, that's horrible. I hope the early treatment stops the pain. Avoiding nerve pain is very important! I didn't know you could get it again. And now that you've had it twice, can't they give you the vaccine? You've a proven vulnerability to it.

    Yes, don't feel guilty! It's the assumption that without kids, we don't have a life that gets me. I'm going through a dilemma at the moment along those lines. My husband is not bothered. "Just say no!" he says. But it's easier for him. Your body is actually very good at telling you when you're stressed and need to slow down. Listen to it!

    And sending gentle, pain free hugs!

    1. So annoying! They won't cover it until 50, hands down. My doctor said it's frustrating. So, 50th birthday present, here I come! The early med blast is working like a champ.. . Nerve pain is way lower than last time. Side effects are not great, but it's forcing me to slow down, so I guess that's good. And oh yes, I suuuck at saying no. I'm sorry you're facing a dilemma in this vein. Thank you for the hugs,!

  4. Oh no Jess. This is definitely your body AND the universe telling you to slow down. Maybe you need to practice with Bryce the art of saying no?

    Can you talk to your doctor about getting the shingles vaccine before age 50???

    1. It's so annoying -- not until 50 per insurance, no exceptions. It's super expensive. Do, happy 50th birthday to me? I told her until I get it, I will probably have shingles every year until the vaccine as long as we're teaching in a pandemic. Sigh.

      I have actually dinner a little bit better job with no lately, but the plate is still so full. I have to get better at accepting that I can't do everything, and I should go home at a decent time so I'm able to be refreshed. Sigh.

  5. I am so sorry. I hope you are feeling better now. My parents and sisters have had shingles so I've heard from them how painful they are. Pain sucks!!

    What your therapist said reminded me of what I've heard people say about their pets. They like having them because it gives them an excuse to go home. Ha!

    You like your home. It's fine if you spend more time there. It's fine if you do less work at home too.

    Do what you want. Do nothing. Do whatever. Explain it to no one. Unless you want to. Because it's about doing what YOU want.

    You are providing quality instruction. I know it. Anyone who reads your blog knows it. You care and you're smart so you're good.

    More importantly, you are building relationships. And that takes A LOT. I'm being reminded again as I work with pediatrics. I need so much to recharge. We get to honor that. Because we are damn good at what we do and it takes a lot of energy to do it all. <3

  6. You give the best pep talks! Thank you. Helping professional are hard to balance. My grandma, who was a middle school English teacher, always said "teaching is a jealous mistress,." I think healthcare is the same. And add in a pandemic? It's all just so much. Yes to recharging. I wish I didn't need such a blatant nudge from my body to hear that message. Good news... Catching it early had made a big difference in pain. So that's good. Thanks so much!

  7. I am sorry to read you had to suffer with shingles (again). I am happy to read this bout is has been less severe.

    I am not the model as I am a work in progress in this regard, but do please take time for yourself.

  8. Man, that just sucks! And I agree with your inner wisdom that it's a signal (you are good at reading your body's signals) to make a change. Good for you for leaving at 3:45!

    I can see how having a child gives easy justification to draw work boundaries, and that it takes some extra thought to not resort to that. How to set the boundary without the shorthand explanation of a child's need (Billy needs a ride to _____)? It's easy because it needs so little disclosure around it, unlike, "I need to take care of myself," which so easily leads to more questions.

    I hope the early treatment helps it run its course quickly. You'd think that you could get the vaccine early, wouldn't you?