Wednesday 16 September 2009

The Hypochondriac

I’ve had every disease and medical condition known to man.

Well, when I say “known to man” I really mean “known to me”. I’m much better now. Do you know why?

Because I used to be a hypochondriac.

When I was a young lad, my parents bought a book entitled “The Home Medical Encyclopedia” and foolishly left it lying around so that a stupid, young idiot like me could read it.

I opened the book and started to read and within minutes I had started to panic.

The title of the book should have been called “You Are Going To Die Painfully and Horribly Within The Next Two Days and Here’s How.” By the time my parents found me twenty minutes later, I was gibbering wreck.

“I’ve got scabies,” I cried.

“What?” yelled my dad. “Give me that. Why do you think you’ve got scabies?”

“I’m itching,” I wailed.

My dad then read the entry for scabies and started laughing.

“That so-called spot you have on your face is a zit, you idiot,” he laughed.

“But it could be a nest of insects and monsters burrowing under my skin,” I wailed.

He hid the book but, being a tenacious little sod, I found it and read it from cover to cover. By the time I’d finished I was convinced that I had malaria, sleeping sickness, chickenpox, smallpox and cancer. Not only that, I had a heart condition a brain tumor and a fractured skull. I was dying even though I could still run around like a deranged lunatic.

I swear that if somebody had told me that an alien virus was wreaking havoc in England, I would have been checking myself for symptoms. Imagine this:

“The symptoms include turning green and growing an extra arm. In the latter stages your hair will turn blue and you will start croaking like a frog. Death will follow when your brain explodes out of your ears.”

Most people would have laughed. I on the other hand would have believed that garbage and examined my skin convinced it was turning green.

Of course, I have never had any of the ailments that I read about in that evil book; it was all in my mind. My normally wonderful and reliable imagination had run amok and let me down magnificently.

The truth is that I wasn’t ill as a child and, in reality, I have hardly been ill at all. As a very young tot, I had measles and mumps but that’s about it. If you don’t count colds and flu and the odd stomach upset, I’ve had a relatively disease free existence.

Nevertheless it has been difficult to convince myself that I am healthy. When I was nineteen I humiliated myself at the doctor when I tried to convince him that a prickly heat rash was in fact a flesh eating virus devouring my skin. As I spoke to the doctor, I was desperately trying to stop myself from crying like a baby.

The doctor was professional and kind but I know that he was thinking “you bloody idiot, wasting my time”, even though I’m sure that’s what he was thinking.

I am so glad that I decided not to become a doctor; I would have spent the last twenty years in mental anguish every time I discovered a new microbe or virus. I would have been the world’s worst medic, with patients running screaming from my surgery as I chased them shouting:
“Bugger off! It’s ME that’s ill, not you. Look at me! I’ve got an alien virus that’s turning my skin green.”

Thankfully, I got over hypochondria after that to a certain extent, mainly because I forced myself to stop reading medical tomes. Ignorance was bliss.

I did have a little bit of a relapse when I bought my first home computer about fifteen years ago. And before you think I am a complete moron, I can confirm that I didn’t consider it possible to catch a computer virus that would erase my brain.

The cause of my relapse into hypochondria was the internet. As wonderful as the internet is, it introduced me to yet more diseases, conditions and syndromes and allowed my colossally vivid imagination to work overtime.

Whereas home medical books listed ailments in alphabetical order, the internet with all of its powerful search engines and splendid web sites allowed me my hypochondria to flourish.

For example, on one site I have found, you click on the symptom and it opens a door to a wondrous list of possible causes, most of which are harmless. The problem is that a lot of them are not. Through websites like this I have discovered many hundreds of new ways to depart this life in the most painful and unpleasant way possible.

If you click something as common as “headache”, you uncover 149 possible causes.
That’s enough to keep a hypochondriac gibbering for life. What can cause a headache? How about migraine, allergic rhinitis, flu, whiplash, stroke, depression, meningitis, brain aneurism, pneumonia, concussion and premenstrual tension and that’s just for starters.

Thankfully, years of self-induced panic and stress have taught me that my symptoms are probably due to my own stupidity and I am no longer concerned about illness. Perhaps I should be, but I know that the moment I start reading about diseases and medical conditions I will be back at the doctor’s screaming blue murder.

Mind you, as I get older, I have noticed that there are more odd aches and pains appearing. And my eyesight’s getting worse. And I’m slowing down. And swine flu is around. Maybe I should stop this post right here before I am tempted to look up the symptoms. Or perhaps not.

Be calm, Dave, be calm. There is no flu that turns you into a pig.


earthtoholly said... funny, PM! I especially like " opens a door to a wondrous list of possible causes..." I know what you mean--I often run to the internet with medical questions and just cross my fingers that nothing fatal is on my symptom's list of causes. Argh.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Holly,

I've stopped checking the internet to be honest simply because I want a worry free existence.




River said...

My dad had that same book and it found its way to my house with some of his other stuff when he died. My hubby started flipping through it and by day two was in such a panic at all the symptoms he had I took the book and tossed it in the recycle bin. He rescued it the next day and kept reading, so when he was out one day later that week I ripped the pages and tossed it into one of the council bins that line the shopping centre streets. L is hypochondriac enough without a book like that around.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Sounds exactly like me as a child. Thankfully I have overcome the madness involved with this torment by becoming ignorant.




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aynzan said...

This made very interesting reading!Sometimes I tend to act this way when my children fall sick..I go through all the health websites..Before the doctor could diagonise, I've imagined the worst.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi FishHawk,

Thank you very much.

Much appreciated.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Aynzan,

I've caught loads of bugs from my kids and, even though they have recovered before me, I've convinced myself that because I am an adult it will cause "complications".

As well as that I was a hypchondriac on their behalf, fearing the worst when in reality it was just something kids get.

I'm over it now though - life's too short to spend time worrying about stuff like this.




Robin Easton said...

Dear Plastic Man, LOL!!! This is SO funny. I just love how honest you are. It just makes me laugh out loud. And I think it is something that a lot of people probably relate to, but just might not talk about because it still alarms them or they feel too embarrassed.

Like you I am now very selective as to what I read or take in, and not just healthy stuff, but all of it. There is so much doom thrown at us via the internet, TV, radio, newspapers, etc, that if we took it all in as we are "supposed to" LOL!! we wouldn't want to ever crawl out of bed.

The odd thing is that almost everything that we worry about never happens. I find that wild and fascinating. When I heard that statement a few years ago it really made look over my life and realize how true it was for me.

Just so enjoy your funny, witty, wise and intriguing posts. Excellent!! :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Robin,

Oh - I really could write a book about hypochondia and the intense trauma it can cause. In fact, after a recent visit to the US, I plan a follow up post based on some of the TV commercials I saw over there.

Sometimes I think we live in a world where we are programmed to be afraid of stuff that can harm us - and being a gullible fool, I have fallen for that stuff in the past. These days I am more cynical and tend to dismiss most of the nonsense I hear and read.