How are you?

hypochondriaToday my hypochondria is in remission but I never know quite when it will flair up. I was a little light headed yesterday and assumed I had internal bleeding, a cerebral aneurism, a tumor. Today, I feel fine but I’ve gone through this so often. Mild symptoms metastasize in my mind into full blown and incurable diseases. A tickle, an ache, a twinge and I am polishing my obituary.
In one of the surprisingly few books on the subject, I read that hypochondria is called “woeful imaginings” and I wonder to what extent it is a function of the strength of one’s imagination. I like to think I am a particularly sensitive person, more likely than most to zero in on the normal changes my body undergoes. That sensitivity, bolstered with sketchy medical knowledge, blooms into obsession as I check and recheck my self, comparing my observations with the old wives’ tales and half read articles in my cerebral database.
Maybe it’s hereditary. When I was a kid and the evening news would run a preview, threatening us with a story on the latest cure for pancreatic cancer or a mysterious new epidemic in Central Africa, my Mum would grab for the remote and zap whatever might infect our imaginations with fresh material to obsess over. It must have worked –she’s in perfect health and her father is still alive and well and 94.
Or maybe it’s just a subconscious excuse to fill idle time with self-indulgence, narcissism, and other attractive traits I already know I possess.
A lot of hypochondriacs run to the doctor with every symptom. But I have a different form of the disease which causes me to avoid doctors altogether, fearing that if they just catch a sight of me they’ll immediately identify a half dozen fatal end stage diseases. Ironic, considering how much time I’ve spent in hospitals with Patti.
A year ago, I summoned enough courage to have a physical. It was terrifying but I experienced near orgasmic release when I received a complete clean bill of health. Since, I actually managed to take a severe case of melanoma in for the doctor’s opinion. He diagnosed it as poison ivy and released me to my fate.
Hypochondria is pathetic, a joke. For doctors, it’s just a waste of their time and energy. People who don’t suffer from it have no clue how tenacious and debilitating it can be. Medically, it is essentially an unstudied malady and the only current treatment is a healthy dose of antidepressants. The only permanent cure, it is said, is far worse than the disease: to actually contract something real and deadly serious that will replace the writhing of one’s imaginations. It’s just a variation on the old joke about the hypochondriac’s epitaph: “See I told you there was something wrong with me.”
But, I’m fine.
Really, I am.
Why? Don’t I look fine?