Why Are You Sick?

Have you ever been so sick you ask yourself, “Why am I sick?” or maybe it’s more like a desperate,”Why me?”

I spent the last few days with what was either the flu, norovirus or some other illness I wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Not “feel-good living”.

A few days prior, I began reading You Are What You Say: A Harvard Doctor’s Six-Step Proven Program for Transforming Stress Through the Power of Language by Matthew Budd, MD and Larry Rothstein, Ed.D.

Back Story

In the first chapter the author (Dr. Budd) describes his experience at a “transformational life” weekend workshop, of which he was initially skeptical.

As the seminar leader shouts out the ground rules, some as strict as “don’t speak until called upon”, the author notices a women start to cough and wheeze.  She’s having what appears to be an asthma attack.  As he approaches to help, she yells to the leader, “Don’t tell me what to do!” Long story short: Turns out the seminar leader reminded this woman of her father.  After this realization, she sat in her chair sobbing, releasing the old emotions.  Her coughing and wheezing ceased and her breath returned to normal. (for more details, read the book!)

He was reminded of a day from his youth when he came home from school not feeling well. When he arrived home his grandmother asked, “Why are you sick?” Several minutes passed before he broke down explaining that he was bullied during an after school baseball game.  After “sipping soup” and sleeping for 4 hours, he awoke feeling much better and ready to play ball again.

Could our emotions create our sickness?

My education and training in practices like Reiki, Yoga and other holistic healing methods lead me to say yes, our emotions can make us sick, on a large or small scale.  For example, have you ever had to present a talk to a group, felt fine all day, and suddenly, minutes before you’re up to speak you start coughing?  No sign of a cough all day?

As I pondered this question, “Why am I sick?” for myself, two answers immediately came to mind, both stress-related.  One theory had to do with my recent eating habits and another about my need to do too many things at once.

It’s no secret that stress is linked to various illnesses.  So why couldn’t my recent attack be stress induced?  It’s a hard thing to swallow, isn’t it?  To think we “do” this to ourselves.  And yet, if we do, does that mean we can “undo” it?  Powerful thought.

I look forward to reading more in Dr. Budd’s book about emotions, stress and illness and doing some research on my own.  But in the meantime, I throw the question out to you to get you thinking a little and to start the conversation.

Have you ever wondered, “Why am I sick?

What do you think about the link between stress and illness? Do you believe in it?

Read more from WebMd.com about the link between stress and illness.

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  • http://www.purposepowercoaching.com Chris Edgar

    Hi Stacey — I’ve sometimes wondered about this myself — I tend to be pushing toward some goal or another most of the time, with an “I don’t have time for sickness” attitude. I wonder what would happen if I relaxed a little. Probably nothing too serious. :)

  • http://evolvingbeings.com Evita

    Hi Stacey

    This is yet another fantastic topic that you have touched upon and I am so happy you did so!!!

    In my own experience over the years of understanding health and sickness from a traditional approach and than from a holistic approach, I cannot believe the differences. I used to never get any major sickness, but I would on average get 2 colds per year since I can remember I think.

    And as a kid, it sucked, I hated it. But I was always told that is just “part of life” – we all get sick.

    Well, no we don’t. It is amazing what we tell ourselves and what society has bought into. Our bodies are AMAZING machines, that have every defense system needed to always be healthy, but when we throw those off naturally our body reacts.

    So long story short, yes I wholeheartedly agree with you that being sick is greatly tied to the obvious like what we eat and how much we sleep, but there is a huge root of it in our emotional state and stress and such.

    What I know today is that we never have to be sick and that is the best news I love giving people. By changing my eating and thinking habits entirely over the past 3 years, I have not gotten sick once….yup all those colds gone!

    I say this all because I want people to know that it is possible. At the end of the day it is all about our priorities, will I give proper eating, sleeping, exercising and thinking the priority, or will I give other aspects that take away from my health the priority.

    It isn’t always easy – I am not saying that it is, but it is possible.

  • http://allaboutjoy.typepad.com Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord

    Stacey, I’m so sorry you weren’t feeling good and hope you’re back to 110% today. Can I bring you some ice cream?!! (smile)

    I really do believe that negative thoughts and emotions lead to illness. Whether it’s a cold, or something more severe, like disease, I believe we are masters of our lives. I think about how traditional western “cause and effect” thinking never applied to someone like George Burns, who smoked cigars and drank daily. The man lived to be 100. Then you have someone like my grandmother, who ate “right” (per her doctor and all the health magazines), exercised daily, got regular check-ups, but died of pancreatic cancer rather suddenly. My grandmother, who was a lovely, wonderful woman, was a worrier, and I think she let many things “eat her up” inside. (We’re of German descent, and Germans aren’t known for expressing their feelings openly!)

    I see it in myself, too. When I worked at my old corporate job, I had migraines three or four days a month, and every so often would get an upper respiratory infection that struck my vocal chords and rendered me voiceless. The timing was always suspect — it was usually around the same time I’d be so down at work that I’d start speaking negatively about people. I believe those throat colds were God’s way of saying, “Please keep your negativity to yourself!” And the migraines were my painful thoughts at my situation. Since quitting more than a year ago, I’ve been migraine & illness-free!

    In any case, it’s fascinating to me — all of this — and there are more and more “studies” being done that are proving thoughts are things, and what we think affects our health.

  • http://www.positiveletters.com Hilary

    Hi Stacey .. thanks for this .. I have hardly been ill since my mother had her strokes and my uncle was ill etc .. and I’m sure it’s because I did eat and sleep properly .. could have done better .. but obviously enough to get through. I had exhaustion after 8 months of travelling backwards and forwards to London, and caught the norovirus in London .. really since then had the odd day – but 7 days a week being available for two others and myself – I’ve survived unscathed.

    I went skiing years ago to the Vermaat ski resort .. and I’d only been once before in Austria with lots of soft snow .. Vermaat was so icy – I definitely made myself unwell there – and didn’t do much skiing – far too scared, that’s what did it.

    Work stress – certainly knotted my stomach – I don’t let that happen now .. and even mainly managed without it these last three years ..

    It is mind over matter, being sensible – eating, drinking lots of water, sleeping good hours and exercise .. we can get through most things in good health.

    Thanks – we’re lucky we can work out what we need and not abuse our bodies and thus our lives – we have that freedom ..

  • http://theboldlife.com Tess The Bold Life

    Hi Stacey,

    Because I was one of 10 children and we worked on the farm 12 hour days as kids we “were not allowed” to be sick. Which meant if we were sick we worked anyway. Two times I remember being very sick. Once I was around 5 years old and we had to pick a few acres of strawberries that day. I had what seemed like the flu to me and I wouldn’t go into any details about what happened but let’s just say I had to keep working.

    I didn’t get sick again in the spring, summer or fall (working months) ever again. Because I couldn’t!

    Then as a teenager I had terrible cramps (from my period) while picking a field of tomatoes. I was in so much pain I remember laying down on the ground until they passed. Well after that I never had those cramps or any monthly pain again. /ever,

    Oh and by the way if anyone did get terribly sick we knew we couldn’t go to a doctor. We simply couldn’t afford it.

    Some may read this and thing this is abuse. It may have been but the gift in the abuse was we never got sick. It wasn’t an option.

    Not until 2 and 1/2 years ago and after moving to AZ did I begin getting sick 4 times a year with fill something “viral.” After the first 16 months I had had with that viral thing and haven’t been sick since.

    I look back and believe it was stress related from the drastic move we chose to make in our lives.

    Other than my three pregnancies I’ve only been in a hospital once and I’m 56.

    This is kind of personal stuff but hey you asked!

    So what happened to all those emotions we had that never were expressed by being sick? I think we worked them out just being in nature so much. When my mom was mad or upset with anything we could always find her in the corn field with a hoe in her hand!

    It’s a darn good thing I’ve healed my past, eh?

  • http://staceyshipman.com Stacey Shipman

    Hi Chris – You’re right…nothing too serious if you choose to relax once in a while!

    Hi Evita – Thank you for sharing your story. And re: food affects our health, of course, and I think stress and our emotions often push us towards unhealthy foods…

    Hi Megan! My husband brought me ice cream for when “I’m better” (which I am.) Thank you, too for sharing your story! I remember the stomach aches on Sunday nights, headaches, and “Wishing” illness upon myself so I wouldn’t have to go to work. :-) It’s extremely fascinating to me, too!

    Hillary – I love your last line: We have that freedom. In a world where so many people often feel out of balance or “out of control” knowing we have the power to be in charge of our health is so important! Thanks for sharing your story.

    Tess – Ha! Great share (did I really ask for that much???) You hit the nail on the head in my opinion…healing the past to help stay healthy.

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