In every way other than mentally, I am an adult. I have lived independently for a few years, I can vaguely take care of myself, and sometimes I manage to actually respond to a scary looking letter from the council without crying. However, getting chickenpox at the ripe age of 20 tested every fibre of my grown-up being.
It was an experience. Many lessons were learned. Here are seven of them.
- Registering with a GP at university is essential.
In reality, unless you were a very optimistic fresher that got carried away filling in forms, no one actually registers with their local doctor when they go to university. You feel young, fit, and ready to conquer the world. There’s nothing some paracetamol and a strong coffee can’t fix.
That is until you get something like chickenpox and the NHS Choices website says you need to see a doctor as a matter of emergency (in big red letters and everything).
Turns out getting an emergency doctor’s appointment from a random GP surgery is impossible. Even having physical evidence of spots developing all over my face, I was very bluntly rejected from not one but two doctor’s surgeries, with a 72 hour wait for an appointment. It was a low point in my life and resulted in many tears when I got home. At the risk of sounding like a mum, register with your GP. LEARN FROM MY GRAVE ERROR.
- Pharmacies do not get half the credit they deserve.
Feeling pretty spurned, I was ready to throw in the towel and write a goodbye letter to my loved ones, blaming a petty childhood illness for my early demise. I dragged my sorry body to the local pharmacy to see if they could do anything to help me in my final moments.
They ended up confirming it was indeed chickenpox, and after telling me I needed to go to a GP immediately, they stocked me up with everything I needed to tide me over until my faraway appointment. They gave me advice, reassurance and enough painkillers to almost stop my headache. In short, they truly saved me that day. Pharmacies are a gift to humanity and I certainly have a newfound appreciation for them.
3. Those creams/gels/mousses do nothing.
I swear it’s all a conspiracy. Every single product I tried that claimed it would save me was garbage. I’m going to say something controversial here; calamine lotion? Worthless. I even resorted to ordering a weird mousse that’s supposed to stop the itches from Amazon. The only thing that filled that pump bottle was LIES. It only made my skin uncomfortably sticky and smelt weird. You just have to deal with those itches, people. Those hellish, hellish itches.
- The greatest joys in life can be cruelly stripped from you.
The spots can get in weird places. While your arms and legs may only have a few, your mouth can be blooming riddled with them. This snatches away one of the only nice things that would soothe your soul at a time like this; comfort eating your sorrows away.
Instead of eating my weight in delivery pizza, all I could must was the occasional yoghurt or maybe a tin of soup (if I could gather enough strength to get out of bed). Anything else was impossible. Yes, I lost a couple of pounds but was it worth it? Absolutely not.
- Aciclovir is both a blessing and a curse.
When you get chickenpox as a child, you have to ride that storm out without any kind of drug to help you. However, because of the amount of complications you can get as an adult (like toxic shock syndrome, pneumonia and ACTUAL SWELLING OF YOUR BRAIN), you’re supposed to be given a special medication within 24 hours of spots coming out to reduce your symptoms. Because of my stupidity (see lesson 1), I didn’t get that medicine within 24 hours. When I eventually saw a doctor, my symptoms had got so bad that I was put on the highest dose I could physically be given. The medicine? Aciclovir.
While Aciclovir is amazing because it stops you from potentially dying from those horrible side effects, it’s not all sunshine and roses. The tablets are a beast. Each one is easily the size of my eye. As someone that can barely get paracetamol down, the thought of taking one 5 times a day for 7 days solid filled me with dread. Having to wake up at 4am for a tablet the size of a rugby ball is a low moment indeed.
- Drink twice as much water than you think you need.
One of the most common complications of adult chickenpox is dehydration. Upon hearing this, I made sure to keep on top of my water drinking and go crazy on it. I made sure to constantly have some by my side. There was no way I was getting dehydrated.
Cut to me, crying over the phone to 111 at 5 in the morning because I felt like my head was going to collapse in on itself. Turns out I wasn’t just dehydrated, I was SUPER dehydrated, even after drinking all that water. I came up with a rule of thumb; drink what you think you need, and then double it. It is criminally easy to get dehydrated.
- Asking for help is not admitting defeat.
Before this experience, I was always afraid to ask for help. It leaves a feeling in my stomach like I’ve bothered people or put them out of the way. When I first saw my spots and was feeling like death, I was hesitant to contact a mate that had a car to drive me to the doctors. When I was battling my horrendous aches and sky-high temperature, I was hesitant to ask for help from anyone. Even when my mum offered to travel 10 hours to help me, I didn’t want to accept at first.
You’ve got to remember that you can’t always tackle everything yourself. It’s okay to reach out when you’re at your lowest. It’s okay to accept offers of help. You aren’t weak. You’re just a person with chickenpox that wants some mashed potato covered in melted cheese, and there’s nothing wrong with that.