It was a little over three years ago on a Tuesday morning. I took the kids to school, ran a few errands, and then went home to write. One of my errands was to Trader Joe’s where I picked up my favorite salad for lunch. I remember being in good spirits. I ran into a friend and we chatted for a bit.
When I returned home, I ate my salad slowly while writing on my laptop. I recall that the words were flowing that day. The characters were talking, the plot was moving forward. I was so immersed in work, I didn’t realize how quickly time had passed. At one point, I glanced up at the clock and was shocked to see that it was almost time to pick up the kids. After saving the document, I closed out of it and prepared to stand up. I had no idea that once I did, my life would be irrevocably changed.
Looking back, I realize that moment was the last truly carefree moment of my life. Weird, huh? If I had known that, I would have savored it more. In fact, I would’ve savored all the moments. But we don’t really do that. Our good moments. Our healthy moments. Our happy moments. These are things we usually take for granted.
Until we lose them, that is.
When I stood up the world tilted around me. I know I’ve used this figuratively in many books of mine, but I mean this literally. The room literally spun around me. And there was nothing I could do to make it stop spinning.
I spun like this for days. By the first evening, I got a slight fever. Oddly enough, this gave me some peace of mind. I assumed I had some type of virus. Some type of spinning, fever inducing virus. But after a few days, I worried it might be an infection so I made a doctor’s appointment.
Unfortunately, this began my year-long journey of multiple doctor’s appointments, and countless medical tests. Words were thrown around like “brain tumor”, “MS”, “cancer”, and things less dire like “inner ear infection”, or “vertigo”. But it turned out to be none of these things, and my final diagnosis was “I’m sorry. You have us baffled.”
Prior to this, all of my encounters with doctors had been positive. I got a virus or infection, so I went to the doctor. They told me what it was and how to get rid of it. End of story.
In my mind, this is how it goes. Being told you have a condition, but no one can tell you what it is, is very frightening. Especially to someone like me who lives ninety percent of her time in her imagination. When the doctors didn’t have answers, I made them up. I conjured up all sorts of reasons why I was dizzy for nine months without relief. And, let me tell you, they were all dire and all very scary.
A friend of mine once told me that a hypochondriac isn’t a person who makes up symptoms. It’s a person who has symptoms that can’t be explained; can’t be diagnosed.
I can vouch for this.
When I finally stopped being dizzy I had hoped my health crisis was over, but I was wrong. Within weeks of the resolution of my spinning, another unrelated symptom occured. At first this was also misdiagnosed. To the point where by the time it was diagnosed, I had to have emergency surgery. As grateful as I am that my life was spared, this did not help me to become less of a hypochondriac. If anything it made me more skeptical of medical professionals.
On the heels of my surgery, I contracted a serious infection. However, when I finally beat that I continued to feel ill. Fast forward several months and I was diagnosed with a chronic stomach condition. That was two years ago, and I still have that condition. There are days, sometimes months, where I feel well (with the aid of my medication). And then there are days, sometimes months where I feel terrible. But this isn’t the worst thing that’s happened to me. No, the worst thing that has happened has been my anxiety, my worry, my fear.
Quite frankly, it sucks to be a hypochondriac.
I’ve turned into a person who googles every symptom, who continues to think something is terribly wrong even when doctors tell me I’m fine. A person who calls the pharmacist on almost a daily basis because I’m afraid of mixing up the wrong medications. I’m someone who is afraid of germs. Simply touching a raw chicken breast and accidentally wiping my hands on my pants can send me into a panic of exponential proportions. While I don’t go so far as to burn my clothes afterward, I certainly want to. I walk around the house clutching Lysol spray. I wash my hands so much they are raw and red most of the time. I never open public doors with my hands, only my elbows and even then I worry. To me, using a public restroom is the equivalent of being a participant on FEAR FACTOR. Every time I run across an article on the internet about a disease I’m sure I have it. I inspect every new dot and freckle on my body religiously to the point where sometimes I panic over an indentation or scab, thinking it’s a new mole. Every time I eat something, I pray it’s not going to give me ecoli or salmonella.
About two years ago I saw a therapist for awhile. In one of the sessions he asked me what I get out of this. He said that I wouldn’t worry about my health so much if it wasn’t doing something for me. I vehemently told him it’s doing nothing for me. In fact, I want it gone. I don’t want to be like this. I hate it. And that’s true.
But now two years later, I know what he meant. By obsessing about my health, I feel that I’m controlling it. There was a time when I figured my doctors had it covered. That if I got sick, I’d go to the doctor and be good to go. Now I don’t believe that. So in my mind, I have to be my advocate. I have to essentially be my own doctor. Even more so than that, I also have this belief now that I can’t overlook anything. So every ache and pain causes me to run to google, to call the doctor, to obsess, to panic.
In my last post I declared 2016 to be my year of peace. After that little declaration, I have had health problem after health problem. I’ve been to the doctor 3 times already this year. I’m currently on multiple medications and am not feeling great. But you know what? It hasn’t thrown me as much as it has in prior years. I don’t think I’d go so far as to say I’ve been at peace. But I haven’t had a panic attack.
Progress is progress, right?
If you can relate to this post, I wish I could give you some magic formula to beat this crazy, psychological problem. But I don’t have that. However, I do have compassion for you. I can sympathize with you. I understand you. And I don’t judge you.
Neither does God.
So even though I don’t have a magic formula, I do have a God who sees. A God who knows. A God who is merciful and loving. So that’s who I’ve been running to this week. I know I’m not strong in this area. So I’m leaning on Him. I’m worshiping, I’m declaring truth, I’m thanking Him for the healing that I know is coming.
And I don’t just mean physical.
Let’s throw hypochondria to the curb this year. What do you say? Are you with me?