when the body says no

i’m really not surprised at all that i got sick last week.

there’s been ongoing stressful issues, and my body reached it’s tipping point on wednesday.


it was so weird! literally, i was feeling fine, and at 9:30 a.m., i suddenly got the shakes and shivers, the chills, a queasy stomach, and a pounding headache. i lay down for a bit, hoping i’d feel better asap, because we had plans to return to ikea to purchase the new condo casa couch, then go on to toronto to visit cutie c and adorable e.

against my better judgment, and instinct, at 11 a.m., we decided to set out, as planned. i really was excited to go back to ikea and to see the girlies! well, we got as far as cambridge, and had to turn around. i could not wait to get home and crawl under the covers (and relieve my roiling tummy). in retrospect, i’m glad we did not get as far as ikea; if we had made the couch purchase, the karma would be all wrong, forever and ever! buying a piece of furniture when you’re sick?! the negative vibe would be forever in the home, no?!

getting the stomach flu has been my body’s default mechanism for dealing with stress my entire life:

~the day of my great-grandma’s funeral, when i was in high school: the flu hit in the car, on the way back from the cemetery, when we were caught in a traffic jam on the conestoga parkway (seriously – i could not make that up, and it was very unpleasant for all of us in the car!).

~my first weekend home from teacher’s college – slammed by the flu, practically the minute i walked in the door.

~my bout with mono was an upscaled form of the flu (first year university).

i find it fascinating how our bodies let us know when it’s time to slow down and rest. some people come down with a migraine. back spasms, cold sores, fainting…i know people for whom each of these reactions is the tell-tale sign of a high-stress life period.

it’s also crazy how timing works: i was off work on wednesday and not scheduled for another shift til thursday eve. my body knew that it *could* get sick since my agenda was relatively clear of hard-to-get-out obligations.

for a fascinating read on the interaction between stress and illness, i highly recommend this book:

my copy

(for more information, click here to see what the book’s about, and here for a couple of brief reviews).

i first read gabor maté’s non-fiction work about ten years ago.

make that eight years ago! just found my receipt tucked in between the pages!

and, i’ve returned to it a few times since then.

dr maté is preaching to the converted, as i am a firm believer in the mind-body connection anyway, but if you have even the slightest interest in the link between stress and disease, check out this book. it’s a quick read, filled with stories and anecdotes, and is not too highbrow or dry in tone. his examples of illness are more extreme than the flu, but his view regarding stress can be applied to anyone.

what’s your body’s “default mode” when it needs a break? i have another freaky story to share with you some time about what happened the morning of a race that i was supposed to compete in – my body told me in no uncertain terms that it was having none of it!

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  • Johanna  On August 21, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I’m just back and in reading back in your posts for the week, I’m so sorry to hear that you were so sick! 😦 I’m glad you’re beginning to get your feet back under you.

    Oh yes, I can absolutely relate to this. At particularly stressful/unhappy times in my life I’ve thought off some unpleasant things – I’ve had pneumonia twice and, like Zo, shingles as well. They were not fun times. There have been some years when I’ve not been sick with anything ‘big’ but so consistently sick with colds and flus and headaches that I can only think that my body never really recovered from time to time and it all amounts to the same thing. I try to pay much more attention but its often easier said than done. I hope, though, that as I get older I’m getting just a little bit wiser. The book you mentioned looks like a really good read.

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm

      you’re welcome to borrow the book, if you like (tuesday?!). you raise a good point, jo: it doesn’t have to be a BIG ILLNESS: the cold and flu cycles are “minor inconveniences,” most of the time but just to make us rest more, drink more water – um, take care of ourselves!

  • Zo  On August 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

    I’m the same as you Cathy. The times that I recall being the most full of stress and anxiety, I got ill. I don’t have a default illness, but get hit with “weird” things. I had pneumonia during a particularly bad time in my life, shingles when I was in a high stress time (funnily enough, two of the doctors I talked to about it said they’d gotten it in medical school…all the same, don’t get it!), I really try to pay attention to situations that I think might affect my health! Of course, I can’t control everything, but the least I can do is pay attention to my history!

    • 1970kikiproject  On August 21, 2011 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for sharing your examples, zo. Shingles – have heard they are very, very painful. Poor you.
      And yes: if we can be aware of “ok, life is stressful right now, back off on energy-expenditure/commitments” it sure helps. My hindsight is so much sharper, unfortunately!!

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