April 23, 2012

Some Hypochondriac I Am!

When I was little, they said to my mom:
"She's attention-seeking."
"She's trying to get out of class."
"Does she only seem sick after she's spent time with you?"

As I got older, they said to me:
"Just because your parents said you have arthritis doesn't make it true."
"There's a difference between out-of-shape and sick."
"If you tried to make yourself floss your teeth wouldn't have so many problems."

While becoming an adult and with diagnoses - names - for what I had, they said still:
"Must be nice to get these breaks."
"How convenient that you got sick before the due date."
"You don't look sick to me."

Even as an independent woman, diagnosed a decade and engrossed in health activism, I've been told:
"I just don't buy it."

You probably didn't know, dear readers, but I'm a hypochondriac.  I must be.  What 20-something predicts weather fronts from joint pains; what teen really gets sick around major assignments that caused a great deal of stress; what 3rd grader wears long-johns to guard their arthritic legs in the cold.  Who gets sick, after all, from eating first thing in the morning - and getting your head wet absolutely cannot lead to a cold.

I guess there's no scientific basis to some things I'd been told.  It seems bones aren't made of porous materials that swell & contract with changes in humidity & pressure much like wood does.  Stress doesn't affect your immune system or trigger flares.  Everyone knows that arthritis checks your birth date to see if you're 'old enough' before causing pain, and a the drop in body temperature from the evaporation process of a wet head coupled with an already defunct regulatory system doesn't leave your body susceptible to illness.

Even my behavior couldn't cover my lies.  Being a top student didn't fool the staff in my schools who knew I was just trying to get out of classes & assignments.  My doctors may have been deceived into giving the diagnoses they documented in letters, but these teachers, school nurses, & staff members could not be so easily duped.

But it turns out I missed so many symptoms.  Some hypochondriac I turned out to be.

I didn't know that the pop & crackle of my joints could be played off as tissue damage.  I had no idea the inside of my mouth where the inside of my cheeks are so dry that tongue depressors hang on for themselves & the flesh appears matte would be a great excuse for my frequent dental carries.  Imagine how much more I could have claimed if I knew my excessive reaction to mild exercise with a pulse that jumps & thorough fatigue afterward could be claimed as signs of a disorder, that problems swallowing are frequently attributed to several conditions, or that my laziness could be titled "brain fog".  I'm getting a little better, though...I know that the problem I noticed lately where I randomly have trouble with my hands in doing tasks such as jotting down a note for someone might be passable as complications from Sjogren's & Fibromyalgia.

It's such a strange feeling when I realize retrospectively that a personal habit or mannerism I've developed over time might actually be claimed as a medical malady.  Sometimes I go for years without coming up with the claim.

I'm really going to have to step it up if I'm going to be the hypochondriac I know I have inside.

Image found here.


  1. If I didn't know how true all of this is I would think it was funny. I could cry for you and for all sufferers whose pain is unvalidated simply because it is easier for the listener to just decide you are nuts rather than seek a solution. Or so called friends and aquaitances who somehow feel it reduces them in some way if they acknowledge that you have illness or pain. I still hope for a better day when all people are entitled their pain without suffering also the narrow-minded judgements of others.

  2. Does this mean I get to chalk up all my antisocial and just plain inappropriate-for-my-age behaviors to Psychiatric disorders? Because I could so have fun with this new thing going around called Asperger's Syndrome...

  3. Very well put! I think that people chose to minimize our issues and refuse to allow themselves to give it a name because they see their own fragility and mortal nature in us and by ignoring it or making it less than it is, they save their own fuzzy view of reality.

    I can't imagine having to go through that for years. I had about just under five months of symptoms and no diagnosis and the way I was made to feel by the medical profession and some family and friends drove me nuts. I can't imagine going through it for years and while you're growing when you need to have more self confidence than any other time in your life, not less.

    Kudos to you for surviving and then taking it on as you are.

    Marta (Wegener's Granulomatosis)

  4. Being a hypochondriac is the best, but it really is the worst as well. Sure, great material for songwriting, comedic relief, and journal entries, but such a terrible, nagging grip of fear that seems to become relentless in long, tumultuous bouts of anger, sadness, and confusion. For me, dealing with this my entire life (I'm now 20), I can honestly say that you just have to work hard and get to a point in your life where you are in acceptance of death. Its going to happen anyway. Just think of all the life you're missing out on right now. Does that itself give you anxiety? Then realize you've got yourself all worked up in this tight-knit ball of delirium and start paying attention to the things you love and the beauty of nature. That's what's all helped me anyway.


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