Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Year in Diseases

Not to be all mushy about the new year, but as 2006 comes to an end, I couldn't help but look back on the blog and draw some conclusions about how the hypochondria is progressing. I was shocked. The amount of diseases I've been inflicted with over the year is tiring. And while I've only been blogging for five months, the majority of my ailments have ran their course during that time.

So, being the lovely list maker that I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to lay them out here...
  • Breast Cancer
  • Bird Flu
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Tonsillitis
  • Encephalitis
  • Appendicitis
  • Throat Cancer
  • Skin Cancer
  • MS
  • Throat Collapse
  • Lung Collapse
  • Lymph Node Malfunction
  • Tissue Degeneration of the Neck and Face
  • Acid Reflux
  • Sadistic and Sophisticated Sinus Infection
  • Pinched Nerve in the Elbow
  • Blood Clots
  • Eye Twitch (caused by Nerve Pathway damage)
  • Organ Combustion
The inumerous heart attacks, strokes, brain tumors and aneurysms must not be forgotten, and undoubtedly deserve to stand alone from the list - as it is they who have given me some of my best deaths.

And while I've been weak in succumbing to the imaginary illnesses, I feel I've progressed in two important ways.

The first, toning down the judgmental behavior. Instead of becoming infuriated by the actions of others, I look within myself and try to understand why their behavior upsets me. What I've found, more often than not, is the qualities that bother me most about others, are the same qualities that I dislike about myself.

The second, is the realization that I have control of myself and my emotions. Nothing else. That external factors don't control me. I control me. This is a tough one that goes back to the whole negative thinking routine, but I'm proud to report that things are progressing in this area.

These things may not seem hypochondria-related, but in the end, I think it will be baby steps like these that will lead to a hypochondria-free me.

Happy New Year and cheers to a healthy 2007. Let the binge drinking begin!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Put Your Happy Face on

Let the celebrations begin. Despite my last attempt to thwart our trip this morning, we’re off to see the “fam.”

And not only do I have to worry about the endless hours of visiting, I also get to stress about crashing off the side of the icy mountain and dying on the way there. I’m not sure which scenario is worse.

We're already behind schedule. So, flask in hand, and off I go. Merry fucking Christmas.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I'm having severe chest pains. And head pains. I can't breathe. My heart is beating eratically and I'm twitching. My temperature is 97.1.


Now that I can open my eyes enough to see the computer screen, I suppose I should chronicle the horror of this December afternoon.

I had a 4:15 p.m. doctor’s appointment, for my annual “woman wellness checkup.” And I should’ve known how the visit would go, when I entered a waiting room full of people wearing face masks. But, I didn’t see it coming.

Seven shots, two cigarettes, and three hours of crying later, all I have to say is this is not what I needed four days before Christmas.

To make a long story short, my blood pressure is 138/88. The doctor took it twice just to be sure. Forget the countdown, my annual Christmas breakdown has officially begun.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Four outta Five ain't Bad

If I was playing baseball, that is. Unfortunately, I’m referring to the anxiety disorders I qualify for in this article.

Anxiety disorders are a category of illnesses marked by persistent, irrational and excessive worry that interferes with everyday functioning. They include generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorder (SAD) and specific phobias.

, check. OCD, check. Panic Disorder, check. SAD, check. It’s hard to wrap my head around how I’ve gotten to this point. But, I’m starting to realize that most of these disorders are rooted in my discomfort and dislike of myself.

I'm ashamed of my family, my background and the lifestyle choices I've made, and continue to make. I feel like I subconsciously use anxiety as a diversion from my underlying discomfort and distaste for myself. By obsessively focusing my attention on strokes and cancer, or upcoming events, I can blame my anxiety on external factors
rather than acknowledging that the true source comes from within.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It's Been Confirmed

I’m a horrible person. I’ve known it all along. But, Rey confirmed it for me, tonight. After our…crash.

It was about 5:02 p.m., when we—thanks to TiVo—paused the Cowboy/Falcon game and left the house for the black raspberry liqueur we needed for our French Martinis.
(Which, I would not recommend).

And it was snowing. Slightly. As we pulled out of the garage and I customarily bitched at Rey for how slow he, and everyone else, was driving.
But, we made it. Eventually. To Billy Bob’s Fine Wine and Liqueur, and hence, proceeded to spend, way more than we had, on liqueur, the week before Christmas.

And, not two minutes after our checker disingenuously told us to, “drive safely in that weather,” Rey was spiraling out of control directly at the blue, ‘80’s Ford in our left hand lane.

Time slowed as we fish-tailed toward the truck.
It was silent as I warily turned toward Rey. And found him, flashing the most accusatory look I’ve ever seen in my life.

(Mind you, we’re 180 degrees into our turn, and all he can think about is pointing fingers.)

Then, just as I’m bracing for the hit, we suddenly catapult away from the truck. Slam into the guardrail. Twice. Finish our 360 and spiral into a parking lot.

The short of it is, we were lucky enough not to hit another car.
And, we drive an SUV, so we got a way without a scratch.

But that wasn’t enough for good old Rey. He passionately told me how horrible of a person I was, for laughing about the crash. (Okay, I was hysterically laughing for about twenty minutes).

* * *

Californians and snowboarding—good.
Californians and driving in snow—not so much.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

If Only

As I’ve said before, I NEED A MAMMOGRAM! However, waiting for the results are a big source of anxiety for most women. Go figure. According to studies, women that need a second mammogram to check out abnormalities, suffer anxiety at an even higher rate. You don’t say. If a doctor ever, e-e-e-e-ever utters the words "abnormality" and "test" in the same breath to me, I’m going straight home to draft my last will and testament and suck down as many martinis as I possibly can.

Good-Bye Prozac, Hello Electricity

Anyone who has read this blog for awhile is aware of my apprehension towards anti-depressants such as Prozac, well, it appears there is now another option. Microcurrent electrical stimulation, aka shock therapy. That’s right, apparently a daily dose of electricity cures depression, anxiety and even pain. Here is the gist of the article:

“More than 100 studies show it helps depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and even pain. Electrical currents travel through electrodes and activate nerve cells in the brainstem, producing feel-good chemicals like serotonin and acetylcholine.

Wait, it gets better, you can purchase your very own “at-home” system for under $1000.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Duped Again

What can I say. The plane didn’t crash. The party was a great time. And the three weeks of anxiety I put myself through were all in vain.

It’s easy to look back now and see how ridiculous I acted leading up to the party. What’s not so easy is keeping that in mind when the next social situation arises.

Anxiety is a sick, sick game...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I am a Party Person...I am a Party Person...I am a Party Person...

Damn, it's not working!

There is a Difference

I’m very diligent about monitoring the common areas of my office and the whereabouts of my coworkers, so I’m not faced with any unforeseen encounters. Trips to the kitchen and bathroom are very calculated, and today, when I was sure the coast was clear, I headed for the kitchen to make my lunch.

Much to my dismay, (and thanks to my apparently poor calculations), I was followed in by a senior attorney. So, I did my best at being cordial and initiated a conversation about the only thing that’s been on my mind for the last two weeks. “So, you’re not going to the Christmas party?” I ask. I was shocked by her response.

“No. I’m not a party person. I don’t like parties. I’m no good at parties, so I don’t go.”

Okay, first of all I was shocked because I would never be able to say that—even though I feel that way—because to me, not being a “party person” is a bad thing. It would make people look down on me, which in turn makes me a horrible person.

But the other reason why it surprised me is because she’s this extraordinarily smart, witty and opinionated woman and I can’t fathom her passing up an opportunity to socialize. She’s overtly social in the office, she’s very chatty and funny and it seemed out of character.

The bottom line is I don’t want to go to the Christmas party because I’m uncomfortable with myself and terrified of looking stupid in front of others; she doesn’t want to go to the party because...she doesn’t want to go to the party. Big difference.

And there’s nothing wrong with being the type of person who doesn’t get thrilled at the idea of a Christmas party. What is wrong is when you feel like killing yourself to get out of it.

’s all about self-acceptance. If only I could accept myself.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Calm Before the Storm

The Christmas party has all but consumed me these last couple days. Last night I was in tears. Today I’m okay.

My social anxiety is so intense. It’s almost unbearable. It’s hard for me to believe I live in this state of constant panic. The fear is always there. It’s so real. So paralyzing.

I think about it, about how pathetic I am, and how stupid it sounds to be terrified of a Christmas party. Free drinks, music, good food, nice views. I should be thankful that this is the worst of my problems.

I just have such strong feelings of inadequacy. I don’t know if it’s because I was brought up in a negative household, or because I was abandoned by my Dad, or because of the warped portrayal of normal by the mass media, but I always feel like I’m not good enough. I feel like I have to be the most outgoing, the funniest, the most knowledgeable, the prettiest, the best dancer. And I’m not.

I feel like I always have to put on a fa├žade for people to accept me, and I do it so often it’s like second nature. I know it makes me feel even worse in the long run because it reinforces the idea that the real me really isn’t good enough.

It’s just like the title of this post, I was gonna log on and write about how calm I am about the party, but that’s bullshit. I’m screaming inside.

My flight leaves at 1:55 p.m. on Friday.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Hypochondriac’s Worst Nightmare

I’m not trying to send anybody into a fit of hypochondria, but I couldn’t keep this one to myself—Discovery Health actually has animated, step by step demonstrations of how the most horrifying diseases attack the body.

I thought I was being safe when I opted for Anthrax in lieu of the stroke or heart attack route, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. This is a taste of what I got…

“Within a few days after initial exposure, cold-like symptoms including fever, cough, aches, and general malaise develop. Although some people experience a brief recovery, this is followed by a rapid onset of more serious symptoms. During this time, sores develop in the lung tissue where the bacteria first entered the body and fluids build up within the chest cavity. This produces bleeding and swelling and restricts breathing.

The toxins also reach the brain and spinal cord causing bleeding within the thin layer of tissue that encases these structures. The results are severe respiratory problems, hemorrhaging, shock, and often death.”

There was also something in there about the lymph nodes swelling and hemorrhaging. Needless to say, I’m dreading the next time I develop “cold-like” symptoms.

I’m warning you now, this is not a safe place for hypochondriacs. ENTER…

Friday, December 01, 2006

Something New to Fear!

As if anxiety wasn't bad enough. (And, no this is not my truck.) According to this article, panic attacks can cause you to drive your vehicle into a wall.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Next Stop...

Rollercoaster. Teeter-totter. Peaks and valleys. Call it what you will. They all describe my emotional state equally well.

Today is a "valley."

I regretfully inform you that I have a highly developed form of throat cancer strangling me at this very moment. Not to mention, my skin cancer is rapidly growing and causing me to itch incessantly. I've arranged a doctor’s appointment for next Thursday, assuming that I make it that long.

If I suddenly disappear from the blogosphere, please leave your condolences in the comment section.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Toast to Unhealthy Living

Good news! Turns out cardiovascular disease isn't caused by the previous suspects such as lack of physical activity, high blood pressure, or those enjoyable lifestyle choices known as smoking and drinking.

Then what is it caused by, you ask? Put nicely by the Guardian, "lower than average mental agility," that's right, stupidity. So if you're not smarter than the average bear, cardiovascular disease is what you have to look forward to.


For Emergency Use

It has just come to my attention, through randomly imagining myself choking to death, that neither I, or more importantly Rey, know how to perform the Heimlich Maneuver. Sure, it seems simple enough, I've watched it done in a million movies; but in the event that it's my life on the line, I'd like to make sure I'm getting the actual Heimlich Maneuver and not the movie version.

Hence, the link to The Heimlich Institute for proper instructions and easy access during an unexpected choking fiasco.

*Please note that the Heimlich Maneuver is a registered trademark of The Heimlich Institute, which you must contact for permission of use, prior to performing said technique.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Wine & Cheese

Two of life's simple pleasures;
four glasses of wine and grating cheese, not so much.

"Leila..." "Yes, I am Here"

I imagine saying this out loud would make me feel crazier than typing it does, but allegedly it's the new cure for anxiety.

According to Zen Master Bokuju Osho, this technique of blurting out your name and then responding to yourself, is enough to snap you out of a fit of panic. Sounds bizarre to me, but who am I to question a Zen Master's mental health philosophy.

What Would I do Without Thee

My good friend, Death, has come to save me again; and what a coincidence, only twelve days before the dreaded Christmas party and twenty-eight days before the family functions begin.

This time, the manifestation is in the form of skin cancer. I’ve got it in two places; the tiny, brown spot on my left cheek and the mole on the right side of my neck, just above my collarbone.

I actually made a trip to the doctor a couple months ago,
convinced I needed emergency surgery for this same reason, after watching a skin cancer feature on CNN. But, as usual, the doctor insisted I was healthy and cancer free, despite my best efforts. (Now, this was the same doctor who made a game out of finding my breast cancer lump, so for all I know she was replaying the last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy in her head as she half-assedly checked my moles.)

At any rate, the mole at the base of my neck has been itching like crazy, (per WebMD this is a sure sign of cancer), and I can’t get out of the mirror after self-diagnosing this little brown spot.

I keep imagining that a huge chunk of my left cheek will have to be butchered to save my life and I’ll be walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame for the rest of my days.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

There's No Turning Back Now

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the most horrible time of the year has officially begun. It’s 10:00 a.m. on this lovely Thanksgiving day. I’m home, with a beer in hand and a turkey in the oven, (yes, that’s homemade stuffing you see there), and things are seemingly great—aside, of course, from the Turkey bacteria that I got in my ear, which is slowly manifesting into a killer infection, and the burn I received after grabbing the pan in the oven, but that’s besides the point.

I slept in. There’ll be no visiting with family. No parades. Just football, drinking and cooking the day away. But, there’s one minor detail that I’ve failed to mention. In order to keep The Beast from making a surprise visit, I led her to believe that I would be spending Thanksgiving with her. This was Rey’s master plan—thank you Rey—after her last surprise visit. The only problem is I have to break the news.

But I’ve decided that I’m not gonna break the news. My master plan is to unplug the phone and not talk to her until Christmas. So how’s that for a happy Thanksgiving?


Update: I caved. Well sort of, I sent her an e-mail with a lame excuse. To which she replied "Happy Thanksgiving," aka "You're a whore bitch and you ruined mine and your brother's Thanksgiving." (6:04 p.m.)

Monday, November 20, 2006

Prophesies of a Hypochondriac

I have a sick obsession of devising cynical outcomes to future events and incessantly replaying them over and over and over in my mind. Instead of “going with the flow,” or living in the “moment,” I spend the “moment” engrossed in my horrible outcomes. It’s a ritual that all but consumes me, and a big source of my anxiety.

For instance, my company Christmas party is in nineteen days. They fly me and a guest to Vegas, put us up in a four star hotel, and host the party at a luxurious country club. Believe it or not, I absolutely dread every moment that brings me closer to the party.

I focus on how the plane will crash, I can feel my flesh burning; how my outfit will look horrible, and the disgusted stares people will give me; the humiliation I’ll feel when no one talks to me. (Mind you, this will be my third Christmas party, my plane has yet to crash and I’ve had a great time every year). But still, I vividly play out the worse case scenarios up until the very last day.

The bottom line is, I feel like I’m setting myself up for failure and am making a conscious effort to visualize the positive instead of the negative.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Brain: Starring in "The Drink Dilemma"

There’s this wretched, little moment in every day called happy hour. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. If you’re lucky, perhaps not. Nevertheless, where I’m from, this so called “happy hour”—when coworkers get together for light hearted banter and drinks at a presumably discounted price—takes place three times a week. I can’t attest to what goes on at these gatherings because I’ve never been, but what I do know is the planning for these get-togethers begins at around 3:00 p.m. and sends me into a psychobabble which resembles something close to the following:

Shhhh. Did someone say happy hour?
Oh shit, they did.
Oh god, I hope they don’t invite me.
Please don’t let them invite me.
If they invite me, I’ll have to come up with an excuse.
If I come up with an excuse, they’ll know I’m lying.
If they know I’m lying, they’ll think I don’t like them.
If they think I don’t like them, they won’t like me.
If they don’t like me, no one will ever like me.
If no one likes me, I’ll never get a husband.
If I don’t get a husband, I won’t have kids.
If I don’t have kids, I’ll be a lonely old maid.
If I’m a lonely old maid, I’ll become a drug addict.
If I become a drug addict, I’ll die a lonely death and no one will care!!!

(It’s about here that I realize there is another option: going to drinks…)

But if I go out to drinks, I’ll have to carry on a conversation.
If I have to carry on a conversation, I’ll get nervous.
If I get nervous, I might say something stupid.
If I say something stupid, I’ll turn red.
If I turn red, they’ll think I’m an idiot.
If they think I’m an idiot, I won’t be able to face them.
If I can’t face them, I’ll have to quit my job.
If I quit my job, I won’t be able to pay my bills.
If I can’t pay my bills I’ll have to live on the street.
If I live on the street, I’ll become a drug addict.
If I become a drug addict, I’ll die a lonely death and no one will care!!!

(Then I realize there’s also option three: not getting invited at all…)

If I don’t get invited, that means they hate me.
If they hate me…

Well, you get the picture.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I'm Moving

That's right, I'm off to Germany, apparently it's a hypochondriac haven. According to this article, the average German visits his doctor 16.3 times a year. Wow.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I Lived...Again

It was about 11:00 a.m. I was in the kitchen, pouring my 5th cup of coffee, when a razor-sharp pain shot through my left lung near the bottom of my ribcage and caused time to come to a screeching halt. I dropped the coffee on the counter and did my best to nonchalantly limp out of the kitchen towards my desk.

Wincing with every step, I finally reached the phone. I used my last gasps to notify an amused Rey of the situation, telling him how to distribute my dismal belongings. I then fell into my chair and proceeded to drown in the blood that felt like concrete slowly and painfully solidifying my lung.

I don’t know how I come up with these things, but I believe them whole-heartedly. The slightest “twinge” instantaneously sends me from calm to hysterical.

Organ collapse is one of my favorite deaths. A couple months ago, I had a major—by “major” I mean two-hour—breakdown when my throat “collapsed.

And while I’ve never heard or read of anyone’s organs spontaneously collapsing, that doesn’t mean I won’t be the first.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Damn You Ben Roethlisberger

I knew I was doomed when those schmuck NFL announcers insisted on giving report after detailed report of Roethlisberger’s appendicitis. I muted the TV, left the room, didn’t watch the Steelers games, but it was all to no avail...

There I was today, almost exactly two months later, (at work), minding my own business, when it came to my attention, (through agonizing pain), that I’d developed a severe case of good old appendicitis and my intestines were on the verge of bursting.

I didn't even know what appendicitis was until Roethlisberger came along; so, it's him I thank for the hysteria, and excruciating pain I experienced above my belly button today.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Hate the Holidays

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of things I love about the season; rum and coke, turkey, pumpkin pie, presents that involve diamonds and sapphires etc. It’s just that all of those things don’t quite make up for the anxiety that the holidays bring.

with family is problem number one. Not so much my own family, since I barely have one…My grandparents, (who were the backbone of the family), died 5 years ago and the rest of the family dissipated in a fight over the money they left behind. But, even before that, the “fam” consisted of an uncle, aunt and three cousins.

But, R
ey has a big family, that we visit every year; his mom has five sisters and his dad four brothers, so it’s quite the ordeal. They’re nice people, not overly intrusive, or prodding, but they ask all the questions I work at avoiding all year.

"How's your mom?"

"How's your sick brother?"
Even worse

"How's school?"
What's that

I know they're just trying to be nice, but I can't cope. I freak out. I freeze. I can't speak. I just smile and nod when they ask questions.

I enjoy decorating, cooking, drinking and being merry, I do, but the holidays are just so stressful for me.

I'm seriously considering getting a prescription of Prozac to get me through this year, although that would require telling my doctor that I have some sort of anxiety problem, which brings up more fear than the holiday season.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hypo-what, Never Heard of it

You wouldn’t know it by reading my blog, but I’m actually a closet hypochondriac. I like to think my doctor doesn’t even know, but that could be wishful thinking. My co-workers definitely don’t know, and I almost felt I was betraying my own kind yesterday, when an attorney that I work with, was explaining how ridiculous her boyfriend was for thinking he was dying from a staph infection.

* * *

Here's the situation: Her boyfriend had been complaining of tooth pain for the last six months. The dentist ignored him. Turns out he had a sadistic infection that killed not only his two front teeth, but a portion of his jaw bone. He now has to have his front teeth pulled, a root canal, a bridge and a jaw bone implant.

* * *

Yeah, and she’s laughing, carrying on about how he’s overreacting for thinking that the infection is spreading to his brain. I can’t even speak at this point. My whole face is numb from the infection I’d developed over the last 40 seconds. But, instead of standing up for the guy, what do I do? I laugh and act as if he’s crazy too.

I know, I’m a horrible person.

I Lied

Okay. Well, here I am home sick. Just like I said never happens. And I’m actually handling it rather well. I’m not even worried about what’s going on at the office, or how this day off will affect my review next month. Because I’ve got better things to concern myself with. Like…the man in the crawl space who’s waiting for the perfect moment to jump out and brutally murder me.

It sounds insane, but it’s a perfect example of my disconnect with reality and the past. I seriously spend about 1/3 of the time that I’m home alone worrying about Dennis Rader in my closet. I try to tell myself that I’ve lived in this house for over two years and have stayed home alone countless times without anyone trying to murder me. But, I can’t convince myself that today won’t be the day it actually happens.

Deep down I know this a good neighborhood. That the woman next door is a stay at home mom and can probably hear my TV right now. Not to mention, the lady across the street is your average Mrs. Kravitz, waiting for some action so she can call the cops. But, the schizophrenic in me always wins.

Excuse me while I go check the house for intruders.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

My Life is like a Teeter-Totter

I either wake up running or fall out of bed. I eat at the same restaurant for three weeks in a row, then not all for the next five. I go from drinking ten cups of coffee a day for six months, to none.

Simply put, I'm an extremist, and it spills into aspects of my life that aren't so trivial. For instance, I can’t take a day off work because I’ll spend the entire time obsessing that I’m a horrible person and will be fired upon my return. (I don’t take into consideration that I’ve worked the last eight months straight without a day off, come in early, work late and pick up everyone else’s slack the other 364 days of the year). Oh, or that I’m grossly underpaid.

Everything is always: if (blank), then (blank). Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. With a mind like mine, that’s overactive, negative and with a tendency for the extremes, that uncomplicated equation turns my waking hours into a living hell.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Well, Here's Something I Don't Tell People...

I'm the product of an affair.
My charming and classy mother revealed this to me during a druken episode when I was twelve years old. It just about ruined my world. I was traumatized. The "Dad" that I knew and loved was suddenly not my Dad at all, and my "real Dad" couldn't even be bothered with my existence. Wow, now that's something appropriate to lay on a twelve year old. Oh, and to top it off, she swore me to secrecy, because "people would look down on us" if they knew.

So, I tucked it away. I learned to hide the pain in the back of my mind, where it's stayed for all these years. But, I'm not gonna carry my mother's burden anymore. It's her dirty little secret, not mine and it's hindered me long enough.

I know that not knowing my father is part of who I am, and has shaped me in ways that I don't even realize. So my plan is to dig deep down and figure out exactly how it's influenced me. But, that'll be for another post; just admitting I'm a bastard is about all I can handle in one day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Call Me Twitchy

Bad News: My left eye has been incessantly and wildly twitching!

I looked up “eye twitch” online, and I’m apparently suffering from Epilepsy and mild seizures – (good old WebMD). But, I’m trying to be rational, so, I’m dismissing that suggestion and attributing it to something more realistic. I’ve determined that the twitch is being caused by a reckless weekend, that involved too much alcohol, which resulted in severe damage to the nerve pathways in my brain that control this damn eye!

This is not good, I’ll keep you posted...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Low Self-Esteem 101

This is a perfect example of why women, namely myself, have low self-esteem. While this clip isn't about hypochondria, I think it's related because low self-esteem often accompanies hypochondria; at least in my case it does.

The media's portrayal of "beauty" definitely has something to do with my issues of self-worth and inadequacy. We all know models are airbrushed, but actually seeing it happen is powerful...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Readers Beware


Fifteen Things That Freak Me Out

  1. Aches
  2. Pains
  3. Aches & Pains
  4. My Mom
  5. Surprise Visits
  6. Flying
  7. Questions
  8. People Calling My House
  9. Elevators
  10. Knocking at the Door
  11. Vents in the Bathroom
  12. My Neighbors
  13. Drinks with Co-Workers
  14. Getting Water at Night
  15. Food from Other Peoples' Houses

Wow, this list doesn't really do much for my reputation. I swear I'm not a bad person to be around, I'm actually quite pleasant, (if you don't call me, ask me questions, knock at my door, or invite me to go somewhere).

Killing Me Softly

My Dearest Stroke, Blood Clot and Tumor:

How I await our next foray;

I long for the shakes, the sweats, the aches you bring me everyday.

Your numbing pain plagues my brain, making life seem so much fuller.

All I need to be happy are my stroke, blood
clot and tumor.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Bad Day

I had a major panic attack today. Brought on by a "dizzy spell," although I'd hardly call it that. Over the past week, I've been periodically feeling like and intensifying wave is sweeping through the back of my head and into my sinus cavity where it stops in a pressure packed, resonating hum. It's been freaking me out. But today, I went beyond freaking out.

I was positive this “sensation” was a tumor, crushing my brain. It wasn’t pretty. I was on the verge of hysteria; I had to be talked out of going to the hospital. I seriously thought the tumor was killing me right there and then.

I've since attributed it to a sinus/ear infection, although my heart's not truly in it. Oh, and the Beast (aka my manipulative, intrusive mom), announced that she's going to be "dropping by" this weekend. Seems like every time I think things are progressing, I get a smack in the face.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My Unprofessional Professional Opinion

It is not disputed that hypochondria can be successfully treated. Behavioral and drug therapies have both proven promising, and ultimately produce the same result: a reduction in the strength of dysfunctional beliefs.

While many define hypochondria as the preoccupation or obsession with health and imaginary disease, it is more accurately defined as the surrender to irrational beliefs. The hypochondriac embraces an idea as truth, without evidence or consideration for past experience.

Professionals are now proclaiming this way of thinking to be the hypochondriac’s physical illness, a “neuro-chemical imbalance in the brain,” which causes the person to succumb to illogical viewpoints. They’ve proved that this flawed judgment can be corrected by altering the mind’s thinking process through drug therapy. But, are we “illogical people” capable of correcting our way of thinking without the enablement of prescription drugs? Cognitive and behavioral therapists have proven that belief systems can also be altered through alternative means, such as psycho education and the monitoring, identifying and challenging of our unreasonable thoughts.

If both treatment methods are ultimately successful, is one superior to the other? Does the end justify the means?

While drug therapy is regarded as a successful treatment for hypochondria, its effects are temporary and only last while the patient is medicated. The thinking process is artificially altered, instead of consciously changed by the patient. This means it is more of a temporary fix or “Band-Aid,” not the solution. This approach is fitting for today’s American society, which is addicted to instant gratification. Medication is to the hypochondriac, what the diet pill is to the obese; while it initially sheds the pounds or irrational thoughts, it is addicting and temporary.

It’s my personal belief that the cure must come from within, not from a bottle. In my experience, the irrational thoughts that fuel the hypochondria don’t stop at health-related concerns, it seeps into other aspects of life and causes clouded thinking in general. In order for the hypochondriac to experience a higher quality of life, free of irrational thinking, we must address the problem, not mask it. But, if we truly do suffer from a tangible neuro-chemical imbalance, how can therapy alone address this? I don’t know.

What I do know, is that the mind is a powerful thing. If we can harness our imaginations and focus our energy in positive ways, life would be a much more enjoyable experience. Studies do show that a group receiving placebo will experience the same result as a group taking Prozac if they truly believe in the cure.

Therapy or drugs, to each his own, but I’d definitely advise against the lobotomy of the 1960’s.

* * *

Reading too many scholarly journals has kicked my brain tumor into high gear…must go medicate with some beer.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Saga Continues

Severe pains in the face and neck that feel like close range shots from a nail gun are what I’ve been dealing with the last few days. I’m hesitant to explore what this could mean; I’ve never experienced such painful blasts in the face and neck before.

A few things have crossed my mind, like, oh I don’t know, a sophisticated sinus infection that will eventually blind me and destroy my sinus cavity; major lymph node malfunction; collapsing throat and/or degeneration of the neck and facial tissues…

No diagnosis yet, still thinking...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Give Me a Mammogram or Give Me Death

I'm convinced I have breast cancer. I have been for about two years. There was a six month period where I changed my mind, but that ended about two weeks ago. I'm laying off the doctor kool-aid for awhile. Yeah sure, you have to be over thirty-five to get breast cancer. Then why is there an ad in every magazine I open with a twenty-seven year old chick telling me she has it? I want a mammogram, not some family doctor, to prove it!

I tried to ignore the symptoms for a long time. Telling myself it was growing pains, menstrual issues, bad diet, hypochondria etc. I exercised, cut out coffee, told myself I was crazy, but nothing has helped. I want a mammogram, and if I'm not mammogram material, I don't know who is! I have a palpable lump and I'm in pain - I pay my premiums!

I did not want to bring it to my doctor's attention; a breast is a private thing. But in fear of certain and quickly approaching death, I had to. I didn't of course, present it to her as stage four cancer, I was calm as I jokingly divulged the persistent pain and lump in my breast. But before I could point it out, she stopped me and said she would find it herself.

At this point I'm thinking she's concerned. She's not. After making a game out of it, she quickly finds the cancer lump without assistance, and goes on to laugh, telling me welcome to being a woman, it's completely normal. I'm not buying it.

I'm considering finding a new doctor. I know they say doctor shopping is a sure sign of hypchondria, but come on. I'm absolutely taken back that she wouldn't even offer me a mammogram, and okay, I understand that they "don't work as well" on younger women because the breast tissue is thicker, but with the size of my lump, I'm pretty sure it would be practical. Besides, there's an alternative to the mammogram if she insists: an ultrasound.

I don't know what to do, the thought of having breast cancer is consuming me lately. I imagine being twenty-six, bald and in a wheel chair with only months to live, because it was "too late" when they found the tumor. Living with the fact that I've been telling them about it since I was nineteen. Trying to grasp any joy of living and confronting a painful death. Oh, and I can't sue because they had no way of knowing.

There's also the part of me that realizes I won't be convinced even after a mammogram. I'll latch on to any minuscule statistic I can get my hands on, especially the ones endorsing the idea that breast cancer can't be detected in younger, white women until it's terminal. What to do?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Going Up?

Does plunging to your death once a day qualify as a hypochondria-related condition? I’m not sure it does, because to me, hypochondria is an obsession with health, or lack thereof, not death, but anyway...

It happens to me daily, more specifically, when I’m selected to ride the dreaded, shaky elevator. I work in a twelve-story building. Luckily, my office is on the fourth floor, but unfortunately, that’s still high enough to die if the elevator cable breaks, and it breaks every time I ride the dreaded, shaky elevator.

There are four elevators in the tower; the “one” is the first on the left. As soon as I arrive at work, I’m focused on the elevator, when I enter the building, it’s the elevator as I pass the security counter, the elevator. As I approach, my heart is racing, my palms are sweating and half of my face is numb. I feel the shaking, hear the creaking and sense that death is only footsteps away. I beg the elevator gods to give me one of the three good elevators, but alas, the bell rings and the dreaded, shaky elevator doors slide open inviting me to ride the doomsday express. I pray for unknowing souls to approach the elevator. When they don’t, and my finger is white from pressing the “open door” button, I ride alone.

My breathing quickens and I brace myself against the bars plastered to the wall as the elevator jolts into action. My heart races and my palms sweat as I think of my loved ones and all that I have yet to accomplish, while the elevator moans and shakes it’s way to the fourth floor. Finally, the elevator stops, greeting me with one last abrupt quake signaling my arrival. I’m so anxious, I can barely pry myself from the rail to throw myself onto solid ground as the doors open to grant me another day of tedious work.

It’s my one wish in the morning/afternoon/evening, that I don’t have to journey the death ride alone. I wait in the elevator desperately pressing the “open door” button, for what seems like hours, with a total disregard for my tardiness. I wait for footsteps to approach, silently cheering when they finally emerge, coming to save me from a lonely death.

And then, I rejoice as the person thanks me for holding the elevator, not knowing I’m secretly sealing there fate. With a smile on my face, I ask, “What floor?,” “eleven?” Ha, Poor soul.

Maybe in the far, far, far away future I’ll ride that elevator to the twelfth floor and back as a therapeutic exercise, but that’s way down the road…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

All I have to say is, this was me over the weekend (minus the testicular cancer and impotence, of course).

Instead of relaxing and enjoying my extra day off, I decided to skip from disease to disease. I’m not even gonna mention the particulars. Stroke, heart attack, blood clot, aneurism, collapsing throat, intestinal organs bursting etc.; all of which occurred sometime between 8:00 p.m. Sunday and Monday afternoon. Oh, and according to this self-assessment I'm also a narcissist and agoraphobe. Lovely..

All was going smoothly until the event that I had spent the last two weeks obsessing over ended. I’ve been wholly convinced that Rey’s parents’ overnight visit would be a complete disaster. I spent the entire week drilling myself: What if they’re not comfortable, what if I clam up, what if I talk too much, what if I’m not a good hostess, what will we eat, what if there’s one strand of cat hair in the spare bedroom, what if…? (As a side note - it’s not as if I haven’t spent countless hours with these people or they haven’t stayed at our house before).

My anxiety was to no avail, I handled the situation like a pro and commenced to dying the second they left. It made me think that maybe I’m not the introvert I make myself out to be. I actually enjoyed their company. Guess all those deaths were a way to make up for so many healthy hours.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Exit Tonsillitis, Enter Acid Reflux

Now that Acid Reflux has been brought to my attention as a potential cause for the never-ending sore throat, that I previously diagnosed as Tonsiliitis, I've got a full blown case. I can't even enjoy my nightly glass(es) of wine anymore, and have been forced to substitute for water and berry flavored Tums. Even though I haven't had a chance to explore the symptoms on medline yet, I have a list of my own.

I can actually feel the acid bubbling in my esophagus begging me to gag it up, and anytime I drink alcohol, I get intense heartburn. I have gas pains in my sides and chest, shortness of breath, and of course the constant swollen and sore throat.
I must admit I'm somewhat relieved, considering Acid Reflux isn't deadly, at least not that I know of yet.

Monday, August 28, 2006

In the Beginning

Even as a child, I was obsessive.

At age four, I was preoccupied with being kidnapped, convinced my eye doctor would be the perpetrator. I eventually became so consumed that my mom forced me to confront him

Next, was a four-year infatuation with alien abduction, where I would lay in bed at night hallucinating and check myself for puncture wounds in the morning.

Then, I became fixated with my foot getting stuck to the filter at the bottom of the pool and drowning. I also imagined a baby shark would find its way into the deep end and maul me when swimming at night. Sadly, the list goes on and on.

But, while I was always obsessive and somewhat neurotic, the hypochondria didn’t start until after my 8-year old brother was diagnosed with cancer in the beginning of my junior year in high school. Even though it wasn’t my first exposure to terminal illness, it was after his surgery that I remember the attacks starting.

In the beginning, they were all brain tumors like Tony’s. We had researched his condition relentlessly and spent endless hours at the hospital speaking with doctors. I became familiar with the symptoms and statistical outcomes. Shortly thereafter, I began experiencing severe head pains, loss of vision, confusion and blackouts.

Convinced that terminal sickness could strike anyone no matter the age, I embraced the idea that I was especially susceptible since it ran in my family, (even though the doctors alleged that that put me at a decreased risk).

I became a frequent user of the Kaiser Nurse Line, and made frantic trips to the hospital, eventually receiving an MRI and CAT scan. The brain tumor became played out quickly and instead of being relieved, I found myself moving on to blood clots, strokes and aneurisms.

Looking back, I wonder why I refused to accept my good health at that point. Was it a ploy for attention? A defense against death? A way to manipulate?

All of the above. I definitely used Tony’s sickness and my own attacks as a tool - at home and in school. I would approach my teachers teary eyed, and explain to them my little brother’s tragic diagnosis of cancer and how hard I was taking it; later to find myself magically excused from assignments and privileged to easier grades. I would also use my own attacks to leave class early or not go to school at all.

At home, I would use the “stress” of the whole situation to stay out late, do badly in school and get away with things I otherwise wouldn’t. My own attacks would bring sympathy from other family members and more lenient rules from my mom. So, manipulation is definitely a key here, as horrible as it sounds.

(For the record - I wasn’t a conniving, heartless girl who only used the sickness of her brother and weakness of others for her own benefit. It was on a sub-conscious level that I rationalized my behavior. It was a painful time for me and I didn’t receive emotional guidance, which is why I’m still working through these negative feelings.)

While I used Tony’s illness to my advantage, it also embarrassed me. I would become very uncomfortable when people would ask questions about my brother’s condition or tell me how “sorry they were.” Those encounters made me confront the reality that I wasn’t the “normal” teenager I used to be, or wanted to be. It fueled the insecurities that I still have today; even though I’m starting to realize there is no such thing as “normal.” Maybe, I thought that by constructing my own illness, I could escape my brother’s.

I’ve used my hypochondria to manipulate for so long, that my mind views it as a pathway to pleasure. I definitely realize that the attacks and insecurities only bring me pain; pain I experience on day-to-day basis, but it’s still hard to shake the behavior.

My hypochondria wasn’t developed over night and isn’t going to magically disappear. I still have issues with my brother’s illness and haven’t fully accepted who I am versus who I want to be. I also realize that my hypochondria doesn’t stand alone; my obsessive-compulsive personality, tendency for the extremes and judgmental behavior are all one knot that need to be untied.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

It's Back!

I’m not in the mood to blog. I only had one small occurrence today that lasted about half an hour and isn’t really worth mentioning. I was momentarily convinced that I had an infection in my right ear that was spreading to my jaw and was working it’s way to my brain where it would manifest itself into Encephalitis and kill me.

Okay, I just had to find the correct spelling of Encephalitis and was exposed to the symptom list. Now I’m really scared. My neck is stiff and hurting and the pain in my jaw and ear is back. I’m nauseous and experiencing blurred vision.

I think I’m on the verge of a panic attack. I knew I shouldn’t have mentioned it, I gotta get out of here, I can’t breathe. I’m freaking out…