This blog chronicles my life as I try to balance healthy lifestyle habits with my husband's penchant for pizza rolls and my daughter's desire to watch iCarly 8 hours a day. It contains a mostly humorous, kind, and somewhat spiritual look at everyday life and the people who live it.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hypochondriacs 'R' Us

About 10 years ago I finally admitted to a sad diagnosis: I am a hypochondriac. This condition afflicts untold numbers of men and women, can strike at anytime, is rarely fatal, has no known cure, but may significantly affect quality of life.

I am not a severe hypochondriac. In fact, I rarely go to the doctor aside from annual routine checkups. I am the worry-in-the-middle-of-the-night and search-the-internet-for-answers-to-my-worries kind of hypochondriac. I have self-diagnosed-and-then-discarded diabetes, blindness, rabies (yes, rabies), cancer, a stroke, a heart attack, skin cancer, arthritis, strep throat, bladder infections, colitis, and food poisoning. I did not actually go to the doctor for any of these because they all occurred between 11p.m. and 6a.m., were cured by the light of day or my husband’s calming rationalization, and didn’t crop up again, at least not until I had another sleepless night.

Okay, maybe I am a severe hypochondriac, I just don’t seek treatment for my disease. If I sleep through the night I am miraculously healthy. One middle of the night waking can yield some terrible conditions, most life-threatening, all seriously uncomfortable. Why do I do this to myself? What makes me climb into that middle-of-the-night torture chamber again and again? I know if I sought medical help I would probably be given some prescription to keep me from having “obsessive thoughts” but doesn’t taking medication to prevent hypochondria seem a little ironic? Besides, I don’t have obsessive thoughts during the day, this is my own personal version of being afraid of the dark.

Admittedly I have had some weird medical conditions which certainly contribute to my sense of “if it’s weird and life threatening, it will happen to me.” When I was 5 I had scarlet fever, something I thought only happened to people in the 1800s. When I was 7 I had a life-threatening reaction to penicillin and lost consciousness. When I was 34 I had an extremely rare brain tumor. I have had various moles cut off that “looked funny” and some even turned out to be a little “funny” though none were cancerous. Except for the brain tumor, it’s probably a pretty typical medical file but for me it’s been enough to create a pattern of worry and expectancy. I mean, really, rabies??

I propose a new era of medical doctors be trained. These doctors would only tell you the good news about your health and would downplay any negative health issues as “normal, but we’ll go ahead and remove it, treat it, give you a prescription, whatever is appropriate.” Part of the problem for me is constantly hearing “wow, scarlet fever! I hope that didn’t damage your heart of your eyes!” or “Oh, you’ve had some moles removed before and your dad has a history of melanoma, well, you’re pretty likely to have some form of skin cancer so let’s cut this off…” even “hey, that brain tumor is extremely rare, does that mean you should play the lottery or avoid thunderstorms, ha ha ha…” These sentiments, expressed by trained medical professionals, do not engender faith in one’s long term health.

I want a doctor who says “Beth, you’re fine. You eat healthfully, you exercise, you meditate, you have a family history of longevity, you’ll be here long after me.” Perhaps that goes against the grain of most doctors who are trained to diagnose, treat, and then wait for the next disease, but that’s what I want to hear.

After sitting so long typing this my lower back is a little sore: gee, I hope nothing is wrong with my kidneys…

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