In Sickness and in Health: A Hypochondriac’s Guide to Love

You can usually hear me coming from down the hall because my bag announces my arrival with its various contents rattling inside.On the menu, I have Excedrin, Advil, and Ibuprofen in preparation for any strain of headache or migraine that decides to abruptly ruin my day. I also have an array of vitamins: from Vitamin C to Zinc to B-12 . These are taken in the days or weeks leading up to a big event for which I must be my best, healthiest self, or, when anyone around me sneezes.

Though I am not a professionally diagnosed hypochondriac, I have researched the symptoms enough times to know that I am one. In fact, I have researched the symptoms of pretty much any disease or condition known to man. I have also researched diseases and conditions that aren’t known to man, but they will be soon, and I will be diagnosed with all of them.  

I’ve discovered my type of hypochondria has two parts to it. There is the long-term hypochondria; or fear that I will develop a horrible, debilitating condition when I grow older. Then there is the short term hypochondria: the fear that I may contract a something as insignificant as a 3 or 4 day stomach bug and then carry on happily with the rest of my life. Until I contract SARS of course.  

The root of the short term hypochondria is not so much the fear of the sickness itself, but the fear of having to miss out on things because of the sickness. There is also the fear of not being in control of your own body. *Cue images of fainting at a crowded work event or vomiting profusely on some form of public transportation*

Let me give you an example of when short term and long term hypochondria collide. During my recent trip out of the country, we had come back to our hostel from an entire day of adventures with an intense case of jetlag, and were looking for a nice nap before dinner. As we open the door, there is a man in one of the 4 beds and he is coughing and fleming and breathing all over our room. “I’m sick” he says. And I automatically hate him. I hate him because: 1. He is going to get me sick and ruin my entire week in Ireland and 2. He probably has Ebola so I will die after not even being able to experience Ireland. I can’t believe I spent so much money on my own death. This intense hate evolves into a full blown meltdown in the reception area as I sob into my scarf and my best friend convinces me that I will be fine and the sick man does not have Ebola.*

My best friend is a nurse—that’s not to say that she wouldn’t be my best friend if she wasn’t a nurse—but it definitely helps. With her, I get the reassurance that I am not going to die, I don’t have Multiple Sclerosis, I’m not pregnant, I don’t have bedbugs etc. I’m sure she doesn’t know every single type of medical procedure,  but for some reason I am certain that if one of many things were to suddenly happen to me, she would be able to cure it.  We can safely conclude that I would do anything to prevent and avoid sickness at all costs. However, there seems to be one condition that can overpower the fear of other conditions.

What is the college version of the bubonic plague? Mononucleosis. You can basically get mono if you so much as look in the direction of someone with mono. With everyone living so close together, it spreads out of control through sharing drinks and sharing kisses. A hypochondriac’s nightmare. So when I found out my college love had mono, what did I do? Well, I went over multiple nights a week after class to check on him. To breathe in his sick air and exist around his sick body. I did not wear a face mask, gloves or a body suit; I did not overdose on vitamins, I did not pass go nor did I collect 200 dollars. I simply made a casual call to my doctor to inquire as to when I should expect to die. She informed me the time would come in a few months, just in time for Christmas.**

Fast forward to now, as I lay in my bed  with the first hint of sickness beginning to come over me. The kind you can feel just behind your eyes, where your body has a general all over ache, and you know it’s coming. Instead of being anxious of my impending doom, I feel myself smile. Because this sickness: I know where it came from, I know who it came from, and I don’t care.

That is a hypochondriac in love.

*I’d like to point out that while I was fine for the duration of the trip, I was really sick for a few days after I returned home. Coincidence? I’ll let you decide.

** I never actually got mono. I am still very proud of this.

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