I’ve been suffering from a disease for quite some time now. Denial has kept me from acknowledging in, but after much research and soul-searching I’ve finally come to terms with this infliction.
I suffer from hypochondria.
It’s an exhausting ailment that takes a great deal out of me. A large portion of my mental energy is exerted while imagining diseases I could be dying from. There has been the “side cancer” I thought I was battling for the past two months (kidney infection), the blood clot in my arm (pulled muscle), the brain tumor (sinus headaches) and a plethora of other aches and pains that I assume must be life-threatening. If I didn’t have shitty-ass insurance, I’d probably be at the doctor every time my appetite is low (must be scurvy!) or am sleepy (thyroid cancer!). All the little stories I’ve heard and accumulated through the years- the friend of a friend of a friend who didn’t know he had diabetes and almost went into a coma, the film business acquaintance who didn’t know she had a heart defect and died while running, the numerous people who’ve developed blood clots from birth control, my cousin who broke her rib walking a dog and later found out she was in the final stages of lung cancer though she never smoked- sit on the ledge of my mind dangling their feet, waiting to play on a daily basis.
It’s impossible for me not to go there, and as I get older it’s only gotten worse. Aren’t I supposed to mellow out more with age? I’m almost 30- aren’t I supposed to become a yoga teacher with a self-diagnosed gluten-intolerance and practice Buddhism-lite? Aren’t I supposed to only wear all-natural cotton fibers and have a weird shit-eating grin on my face at all times and tell people that I’m the reincarnation of Anne Frank, that we’re all the reincarnation of Anne Frank and death is not scary because in the next life we will all be flowers?
And the fear isn’t reserved just for me. If my boyfriend, who is also a hypochondriac, has a 101 fever, then I’m convinced he’s going to die. He’s also convinced he’s going to die and we lay there, defeated, thinking about all the things we still want to accomplish in life. If I can’t handle the melodrama that comes with his 101 fever, how the friggin’ hell am I ever going to have a child, huh? I’ll will be hovering over the kid’s bed watching it breathe like a goddamn creep. The kid will wake up and say, “Mommy? Why are you staring at me?” and wild-eyed I’ll responded with, “We’re all dying, my child.”
I am a byproduct of alarmists- people who don’t think that they’re dying but that everyone they love is dying- and I guess it’s a only a natural progression for me to believe that me, you and everyone we know is on the brink of developing leprosy and we’ll be forced onto an island of our own (that actually doesn’t sound half-bad). “Alarmist” is a word I just learned from the Woody Allen article on hypochondria in the New York Times. It’s worth a read! It made me laugh out loud several time…and curl up into a ball and cry.
I’m also a byproduct of extremely solid genes. I’m superstitious so I don’t want to rattle off what ailments we haven’t suffered from, but my chances of living a long life are pretty good. Of course, I think I’m the exception. Maybe some (some being my mother) would say, “Lauren, for the love of GOD! It’s not all about you!” but I can’t help but feel I’ll be the 1 of 3,000 people who develop bacterial meningitis this year or 1 of 100 people who have Progeria. Never mind that Progeria is developed in the womb- I’d be the only person on the planet EVER to develop it at 30. And damn you X-files for teaching me what Progeria is!
Lastly, I’m a byproduct of Jews. Something makes me think that Jews are more prone to hypochondria than others, but my boyfriend isn’t Jewish (though he can put the guilt trip on as well as my mother). A Google search of “Jewish hypochondria” brings a flood of results including “Hypochondriacs are We!” from the Jewish Journal and the Wikipedia page “Jewish Humour“. We Jews worry a lot and we suffer a lot, so this logic isn’t far off.
Eh, I hope one day I can stop worrying, but in the meantime, I’m going to get this hypochondria checked out.
Do you suffer from Hypochondria?
One of my bestest friends is OCD and a borderline hypochondriac. There were many days of googling ailments to see if she had some tropical disease from a mosquito bite incurred on a cruise. But once she became a parent, she actually seemed to loosen up a bit. Having a kid really forced her to see that there is so much that you can’t control, you just have to control the few things you can, and forget the rest. Because honestly, you don’t have time to think about it when you are running after a kid. And don’t worry – hypochondria never killed anyone…… that we know of…….
That’s refreshing to here, Cathy. Thanks for that.
Thought you’d appreciate this recent NYT piece by our nation’s favorite Jewish hypochondirac, Woody Allen:
Yes! Someone sent that to me yesterday and I think that is what inspired me to recognize I’m a hypochondriac. I should link the article in the post. He’s so good, isn’t he?
I’m right there with you… and lately I’ve become compulsive about it. Last week I went to see Jengo Unchained and had to leave half-way through due to a panic attack after spending the first half giving my self a breast exam. The week before I left work because I was nauseous… couldn’t get a hold of my boyfriend, and convinced myself on the panicked drive over to his house that he was dead from whatever disease I was dying from. I seriously thought he was dead. Later, I could look at the situation and realize that was the least likely reason for him not answering the phone, but in the moment – it made the most sense. My therapist said I need to try to nip it in the bud before i start the compulsive acts ie: driving to his house… obsessively touching the part of my body that “hurts” while looking for lumps…. making doctor appointments every week and insisting something is wrong even when the doctor says I’m fine. It’s difficult though. Right now I can see how irrational I am… But if I’m in a certain state of mind, it’s impossible. Also, in a way -it’s probably a good thing you can’t go to the doctor every month. In November, i went to 8 different doctors. At $25 bucks a pop, it ads up. It all sounds kind of ridiculously funny, but it can be a serious issue. Hope you (and i) both learn how to deal with it!
Oh man, we still have to meet! I adore you even more for this!
Side cancer! Not funny, but yeah, funny. I wrote the EXACT same thing in a post about how I went to the doctor for what I swore up and down was a massive kidney stone or infection, and she told me it was muscle pain. And I basically told her she was wrong and she sent me for an ultrasound that came back clean as a whistle. But those anti-inflammatories she prescribed for my muscle pain worked like a dream. She was right, go figure.
Also, I always think I’m dying of something, and about every 3 months I convince myself I’m pregnant, but I totally downplay all of my kids’ ailments.
Ha! You know, even if there was nothing wrong, at least with the sonogram you know there isn’t something floating around you abdomen. My doctor ordered a sonogram before we found out it was a UTI. I didn’t end up getting, but I still want to just for the heck of it.
This article is too funny! I’ve always called it my “jewish neuroticism”…
Also, you needn’t worry. Your jewish daughter will be just as neurotic. It’s in our blood.
That’s an excellent point, Brent! We can be one happy neurotic family! 😉
Being a Jew rocks otherwise though.
Fact: As soon as we are born we begin to die. Being afraid of the inevitable keeps us from truly living. Worrying induces stress. Being stressed can sometimes speed up the inevitable. Enjoy the present and be thankful.
P.S. I speak from experience as a former hypochondriac. One day I was so exhausted from the fear and worry that I had to let it go because the stress was literally killing me.
I took a gander at your blog today and realized I have never seen this post before and I am glad I found it.
I suffered from this for a few years in high school until my fits of panic turned into attacks and my parents forced me into cognital(?) behavioral therapy and well, it saved my life.
Its nice to know you’re not alone in this prognosis.