Confessions of a Hypochondriac
I have always been a very positive person. At least I choose to believe so. In the face of utmost crisis, I have always managed to keep calm and take proper decisions. But after crossing 40, very slowly, very silently, I found my Mind playing truant with me like a naughty child who, without my knowledge, often starts running hither and thither in abandon, with me having to run after it to try and catch it. With regards my health issues, in particular, my Mind seemed to have developed a Mind of its own.
Author: Shilpa Shashikant Dhondarikar.
To begin with, I found myself thinking increasingly about my ailments, something that never quite bothered mu much earlier. I have always been prone to cold and sinus, but now the littlest discomfort sent me worrying that I am having a sinusitis attack. Then I started keeping track of such ‘attacks’. At night I thrashed my memory in trying to remember how many bouts of cold and/or sinus I have had in the last six months and how long they lasted, and so on. I started obsessing over each sinus and cold attack episode.
Gradually, I moved up to counting how many times I had sneezed during the day, how many times I had coughed, which side of my head pained at what time of the day, and so on. Buried as I was under a tonne of office work, I couldn’t take time out to visit a doctor, so my Mind chose to be my health’s guardian. Together we browsed the internet for remedies on cold and…WHOA! I realised that what I had was far more serious. I could be having serious lung/ear/throat infection, pneumonia, meningitis, brain abscess, osteomyelitis, and even orbital cellulitis!
The very next day I visited my doctor, who advised decongestants and warm liquids. I had so many details to share with him about my cold and sinus, but he was a busy man and couldn’t give me the attention and time that I sought from him, much to my chagrin. My family didn’t seem too concerned about my health either, the kids being busy with their friends and birthday parties and the husband in his business meetings. No one had any time for me, it seemed. “How typically selfish,” I grumbled and went about taking care of myself, which effectively meant obsessing over the same things over and over again all by myself, just like I had been doing.
Now my Mind very lovingly took over the entire concern of my health and started ‘guiding’ me about taking proper care. I started observing my nasal discharge, its frequency, its colour, and its consistency. Obsessed as I was, I also started saving the tissue in which I blew my nose to show the doctor my nasal discharge so that he could make an accurate diagnosis and even started keeping notes of all this. And still, neither anybody at home nor the doctor was appreciative of the evidence that I kept in my quest for The Right Diagnosis!
For most of the day, my Mind was obsessing over my physical health. When I heard somebody had breast cancer, I immediately checked myself and found a small lump about four inches below my armpits. I rushed to the doctor who told me it was my rib!
I took to the Internet for understanding why I had pain in the arm or cramp in the stomach. Why I felt nauseated and why I had jaw pain. Why I felt dizzy after suddenly standing up and why a vein on my leg suddenly started showing. My Mind was keeping a very close watch on all my bodily changes and instructing me not to overlook even the slightest symptom.
And when I checked the symptoms on the internet, I was dumbstruck!
I had everything from a brain tumour, to deep vein thrombosis, from liver cirrhosis to multiple sclerosis, to name just a few diseases! I was like a living, breathing, walking, talking hospital in human form!
I was worried and scared to death! I cried copiously at night, worried that I was carrying such deadly diseases inside me. I hugged my husband as soon as he came home and told him to forgive me if I had ever hurt him. To say that he was surprised at my action would be the understatement of the century! I couldn’t tell the love of my life that I was suffering from so many fatal diseases. As much as I wanted to share with him, I could not push him into grief.
I thought of my eldest daughter who had been married for a couple of years and my adorable grandchild. All I wanted now was to hold my grandchild in my arms. I transferred the property in the name of my youngest daughter and the Fixed Deposit Scheme papers between my two young sons. I made a will to that effect and send it via email to my husband who couldn’t make anything out of this sudden action. The poor dear had his board meeting to worry about and was already losing his sleep—and his hair—over it.
I took an immediate appointment with my doctor, who told me I was absolutely fine. But the Internet was telling me a different story. Convinced that the doctor hadn’t been able to diagnose anything concrete and was in a hurry to meet the next patient and was just trying to get rid of me quickly with these empty words of solace, I set up an appointment with a neurologist, a cardiologist, a nephrologist, an ENT specialist, an endocrinologist, a gynaecologist, and an ophthalmologist. In the heat of the moment, I had also fixed an appointment with a paediatrician but cancelled it when I started feeling doubtful about whether she’d be of any help.
I requested all the specialists to prescribe me all the necessary tests. I underwent all of them, even the ones that the doctors felt were not particularly necessary, including a full-body MRI.
And to my utter surprise, all the tests came out normal!
“But what about all the symptoms that I was having and the Internet was diagnosing?” I asked my Mind.
“You must have been suffering from some new disease which is yet to be discovered, dear,” my Mind replied. I was wondering what to make of all this and whom to approach, when my GP suggested that I visit a psychiatrist.
My Mind had never suggested this one for me! My Mind was sure nothing was wrong with it and was insisting that we need not visit a psychiatrist. But working upon the strong insistence of my family members, I did visit one in spite of my Mind being totally reluctant and disinterested in it.
I told the psychiatrist all the symptoms I had been experiencing and all the diseases that I was carrying inside me. He sympathetically listened to everything that I had to say. He saw all the reports that I was carrying. And finally, he handed me his final diagnosis, which said—
MY BODY WAS COMPLETELY HEALTHY, BUT MY MIND WAS SUFFERING FROM HYPOCHONDRIA!
About the contributor:
Shilpa is a Consulting Psychologist who has been counselling for the last 22 years. She also works in a bank in the corporate communications department. However, she would like to be introduced as Psychologist, writer and a voracious reader (mostly non-fiction, but with exception to Robin Cook). She can be reached at email@example.com.