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…

Monday, August 21, 2006

Friends Don't Let Friends Surf WebMD

Disaster Averted

I am proud to report that I sucessfully blocked a potential stroke today.

It was somewhat ironic. I was thinking about how focusing on the positive and accepting myself for who I am would decrease my fear of death because I would be satisfied with my life, when suddenly I got a sharp shooting pain through the top of my head. My first thought was, “Oh my god, I’m having a stroke.”

Instead of hyperventilating and running to the bathroom, I paused to think about how unlikely it was and tried to tell myself I was being unreasonable, (even though the statistics I looked up last night cite strokes as the second cause of death and number one cause of disability in this country).

The pain continued to shoot through the top of my head. It was more frightening than usual because I don’t normally get pains in that area, which fueled the part of me that wants to believe I’m constantly dying. I tried to figure out why I would be getting a headache when I was having what I thought was a relaxing day, and decided it was probably left over stress from my Mom’s surprise visit.

To sum it up, I was much calmer than usual and hardly freaked out at all.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

One More Confession

In the spirit of recovery, I have something to divulge; not only am I a hypochondriac, (hold your breath), I’m also insecure and somewhat obsessive compulsive.

One of my favorite past times is to replay an event over and over and over in my head. Not enjoyable events or times that brought me pleasure, but situations I think I looked dumb in; it could be something as simple as responding to a question like, “How was your weekend?” If I say “Good,” I don’t think I said enough. If I explain what I did, I think the person was only being nice and now thinks I’m clingy and self-centered. And it’s not just past events, it’s upcoming events too. I get myself so worked up visualizing fake scenarios, that my boyfriend has to drag me kicking and screaming to social events like weddings and Christmas parties. Needless to say, no event has ever turned out the way I imagined.

I overanalyze everything, the smallest things, the things nobody cares about. Only I guess I don’t really believe nobody cares about them or I wouldn’t obsess over them.

* * *

This is where I was at in my post on Friday after work, enjoying a drink, when there was a knock at the door. My psychotic mother (who lives three hours away and who I have had only hostile communications with over the past year) decided to show up on my doorstep unannounced. So, I’ve had a rather eventful weekend…

She drives me crazy! I didn’t think I would survive, but I did and now it’s over and I’m glad she came because it was surprisingly therapeutic. I realized why she drives me insane – I’m just like her, only a mild form.

We are both overly critical and focus on the negative. The difference is that she uses her negativity to attack others (especially me) and I use mine to attack myself. I learned by watching her this weekend that if I don’t focus on the positive in my life I’ll be her in 25 years - unhappy and horrible to be around - there’s nothing I want less than that.

It’s just natural for me to focus on the negative after thinking that way for so long, but now that I recognize that’s what I’m doing, and see the possible outcome, I’m making a commitment to change my ways.

It won't be overnight, the first step will have to be being happy she’s gone, instead of being pissed that my whole weekend was ruined dealing with her, even though it was.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Not a Pinched Nerve, Possible Tonsillitis

According to the almighty WebMD, everyone experiences the occasional elbow pain, (even though I never have). And I may have Tonsillitis even though I'm not bleeding from the throat or having trouble swallowing.

These cartoons (keyword: hypochondriac) should help me stay sane when I think I'm dying......

Nothing Exciting

It’s been mostly a mellow week, no serious deaths. I had a few pains in the head that I thought might be aneurisms but none panned out, and my lip keeps splitting at night. I’m trying to convince myself that my mouth won’t be deformed from scar tissue down the road but it’s not working, I'm obsessed.

I woke up Monday morning with a horrible sore throat. I didn’t go to work. My throat’s still sore but I’ve been pretty good about not blowing it out of proportion. I thought for a minute it might be bird flu but now I’m mostly concerned about having to get my tonsils removed. I won’t let them do it, I don’t trust the doctors in this town.

This afternoon I started to have a bad pain in my right elbow. Every time I extend or flex, I get this sharp shooting pain like a pinched nerve. Rey thinks I'm making it up but it hurts really bad. I feel like I need a splint. I haven't done anything to hurt it, but the pain is real. I'm nervous about going out to drinks on Monday but don't think that's the cause; usually I get a life threatening illness if I'm trying to get out of an event.

Off to WebMD...

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Know I’m a Hypochondriac Until I Start to Die…

It's pathetic to think about - dying of a heart attack, stroke and aneurism all in the same week, and having breast cancer on top of it all. Welcome to my life, I should have put dying as an interest on my profile.

This is where I’ll keep track of my "episodes," in hope of finding the common factors and eliminating this craziness altogether. I already have a few ideas of where it's all stemming from and what the triggers are.

I decided to start this journal after my stroke on Thursday.
I’m usually good at waiting to die until I get off work, but there I was, typing away when the left side of my face went numb. From there it was the usual stroke symptoms:
pain in the right arm, blurry vision, racing heart, confusion, panic and the list goes on…

After dashing out of the office, two walks around the block and a hysterical call to my super supportive boyfriend, I decided to save death for another day and check out what the web had to say about treatment, which is where I learned about the journal approach.

I later concluded that the stroke was my way of dealing with my newfound knowledge that I’m grossly under-paid, for a job I do better than my older counterpart, and the person I despise most makes the same money as me, for a much easier job, (and she’s the most incompetent person I’ve ever met in my life).
So, I died, that’s my escape.

Anyway, stress is a definite trigger. The sickness and deaths of my grandparents and my brother’s battle with brain cancer have to play a role too,
but, that’ll be for another post. Now I need to take a shower and make tortillas before my boyfriend gets home.

I hope this works…