I’ve always known the dangers of stress. In fact, it’s the reason that I’ve calmed down my training a bit and added time for meditation and prayer and/or yoga. I’ve been working on breathing exercises and controlling my thoughts when they start to create barriers and obstacles to peace and contentment. I’m a work in progress but I feel pretty good about my focus and efforts.

Enter my summer trip to Peru and the wakening of my chicken pox virus and the constant reminder of my body’s overload. I truly believe that my virus came back to life after my body had to prioritize what it could fight off. The fact that my outbreak was all over my left arm and upper to middle chest area prevented me from forgetting that I had it, even when I covered up, which is hard to do in August in Southern California. My experience with Shingles was Gawd-awful. Horrible. I had a terrible case. My nurse client and nurse sister-in-law told me it was the worse they had ever seen.

But, I found my silver lining. Something I always look for in painful situations.

One night as I was soaking in my brown rice vinegar bath (to help with the pain and to supposedly help rid myself of them faster), it dawned on me. All those outbreaks represented ca-zillions of moments of stress, physical and mental; somewhat healthy to completely healthy to downright dangerous. For a few moments, I envisioned my body and my mind taking on the ca-zillion battles, one after another, as a true warrior; strong, fierce, courageous, tenacious. But, one can only take on so much and we are not super-human, even those of us who often feel that way in the gym or on the trail.

Effects of dehydration.

Effects of dehydration after being sick and a long hike.

My father and I were a hurtin’ unit at Pisac and this is a picture of us near the top of a climb that could have killed us, literally. I had nausea and vomiting and my Dad had a swollen tongue and dry mouth. We were in the middle of what turned out to be a three hour hike. We had less than one bottle of water between us. We were both weak. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. Umm, duh. How and why did you let that happen? There is a long story behind all of this and tell the story on this podcast with the full recap and details.

The importance of today’s entry is to pass along a huge reminder. Your immune system is your wall, your fortress, your PIC (partner in crime) against sickness and disease. Many factors can suppress its ability to protect you and stress is certainly at the top of the list. If you are a strong, fit, generally high functioning individual in both physically and mentally stressful situations, you still have to be careful about pushing boundaries. I learned a tough lesson in that regard.

After lack of sleep and chaos two weeks before vaca; non-stop stress coupled with incredibly magical moments throughout the two weeks; a huge change in my diet and exercise; lack of consistent sleep; a lack of discernment and awareness of my worsening dehydration due to bad food or water or who knows what; to altitude sickness in Cusco and taking prescription strength meds (I’ve never taken before) to alleviate migraines that dropped me to my knees; to sick family members, two of which had to stay overnight in the local hospital; to getting-back-home problems like changing planes and losing luggage, to lost gifts; I simply gave my body more than it could handle and awoke a nasty sleeping giant.

My sores were a constant-reminder of the constant-battles we impose upon ourselves, some of which are within our control and some not. I felt bad for my immune system. I felt bad for my internal organs. I felt bad for all my cells that were trying to shield and protect me and yet had to also endure the pain and suffering. I felt bad for the unnecessary and frivolous fights my body had faced up to this point. I also felt incredibly strong and powerful in the middle of all of this because of how beautifully I held on when many would have been bedridden and in much worse condition. However, the most significant element, as I now reflect, is the importance of respecting our body’s incredible immune system. Respect yourself, baby!

Got your own shingles or stress story? Please share. Sharing is caring, my friends.