Friday, March 09, 2007

The Amazing Hypochondria

As I sat at my desk yesterday, obsessing on my neck and the aching pain that I knew was throat cancer, I realized how amazing hypochondria really is. Struggling to swallow, I flashed back to earlier that morning when several sharp pains coursed through the left side of my chest, “lung cancer or clogged arteries,” I thought.

Then I skipped to even earlier in the day, on the drive to work, when I was positive it was a heart attack as my jaw tensed up and fatigue swept over me. “How could I possibly believe this shit?” I asked myself, feeling my lymph nodes for swelling. But I had no answers, I just knew that I did.

Even now, as I write, the aching pain under my ribcage is a sure sign of impending kidney failure; not soreness from my two-mile walk last night.

It’s amazing—I don’t know how else to describe it—that I, and hundreds of thousands of others, adamantly insist that we are sick. Not insist in the sense that we desire to be sick, but insist in the sense that we believe we are. The origins of the hypochondria are irrelevant to a hypochondriac’s convictions. Knowing that you’re a hypochondriac provides no haven from imaginary illness. Why?

How? How is it possible to be aware of your fixation with imaginary illness and still believe—with all your heart—that you are sick? It truly is amazing


Lacy said...

Leila...I dare not jinx myself and say I'm "cured" but I can honestly say in the last three months, I haven't had an extreme bout of hypochondria...which is a HUGE milestone, considering I used to be completely incapacitated by this disease. I totally believe it's a mental disease, just like OCD, or more, an offshoot of OCD.

I've had tons of unexplained pains lately, but for some reason, I just haven't invested emotions or anxiety into them...

I really believe the paxil has been a good crutch. Helping me hobble from one place to another and learning that, indeed, I lived through this...I'll make it to tomorrow.

Has anything offered you relief?

Leila V. said...

Well, congrats on your success!

I’m definitely not cured, but blogging and exercise have offered some relief. I’m not interested in medicating at this point; for me that’s a last resort. I’m trying to “cure” myself with the “power of the mind.”

Barbora said...

I swear you read my mind today!

Knowing that you’re a hypochondriac provides NO HAVEN from imaginary illness…and oh, yes! I’m suffering from the throat symptoms today too (I can’t even bring myself to type the “C” word).

I had to change my Dr.’s appt. to April, because that’s when I am officially insured and am just flipping out. The anxiety-meter has gone up a notch.

The funny thing is that my manta today has been:

“I’ve been on at least six separate Doctor’s appointments for these specific symptoms over the last several years - including 2 visits to specialists and one unnecessary biopsy (that I had to howl for) - and the worst I’ve been told is ‘You have some irritation, take Claritin.’”


“I have been to several psychiatrists over the years and HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.”

It doesn’t matter. I know this time it’s different.

By the way, it does helps knowing I’m not the only one.

Leila V. said...

Oddly, even being the sociophobe that I am, I must agree that there is comfort in numbers.

Barbora said...

Do you really consider yourself a sociophobe? In your writing, you come off as very confident and socially gifted.

I don’t describe myself as a sociophobe since (99% of the time) I’m able to “fake it till I make it” in social situations. I’ve done professional presentations and parties (usually balking and horrified until moment one.) BF would happily tell you about all the parties I managed to talk my way OUT OF attending.

One time right before a job interview, I sat down on the stairs crying about how fat I was and how bad my hair looked. BF simply pointed out “It never stopped Oprah,” Amazingly, I dried my eyes and went out that morning and nailed it.

Leila V. said...

Surely you jest! While I too have nailed an interview after a slew of tears, typically, I can't get two words out without turning a lovely shade of crimson.

I avoid 99.9% of social situations, which is why I feel entitled to, and proud of (not really), my label as a sociophobe.

Heather said...

I found paxil wonderful for me. I'm not on it now though and am "managing". You sound like you are able to maintain your job and relationship which is great. I guess you've tried cognative behaviour therapy.

Leila V. said...

Actually, I am able to manage my job and relationship, but that's about the extent of my engagements.

And it all depends on your definition of "tried." If by tried, you mean read about CBT, than yes, I have.