Jul. 25th, 2016

benevolentspectre: (Default)
Hypochondria, especially when paired with an anxiety disorder, is a hell of an illness to have. I've been lucky in that my own case has mellowed out as I've aged, but there are still times when a pain in my lower back has me convinced my kidney is failing, a headache means a brain tumor for sure, any sort of pain in my liver or diaphragm is obviously indicative of my stomach being about to explode.

It's torture. Pure, utter torture. My anxiety amplifies my fear of Devastating Illness in the fact that my thoughts race and I cannot focus on anything else. I'm sure one day I'm going to end up dying of a perfectly preventable illness because I am so aware of my hypochondria that it's to the point that I don't even really believe in any symptoms. I'm freaking crazy, so anything that may be serious obviously is not.

But then my brain also does the opposite simultaneously, working to convince me that even the most mundane of symptoms are deadly.

So what am I supposed to believe? There's no way to be sure unless I went to the doctor for absolutely everything, but not only do I not have the money for that, my social anxiety prevents it from happening since I don't want my doctor knowing how much of a freak I am. My entire mind is a paradox.

One of the worst things about it too is how ignored it is. General consensus from non-hypochondriacs seems to be that hypochondriacs are dramatic and annoying. How about you spend a day being as worried as a hypochondriac about every little twitch, every spark of pain, every minor discomfort, and see how sane you are by the end of it?

My high school had a mandatory health class for all freshman. One of our units was, of course, about mental health. My teacher was very serious about the "typical" illnesses. She spoke in hushed tones about depression, not holding back when it came to discussions of suicide and about how devastating and tragic the disease is. We talked about how anxiety and PTSD are awful in holding back the people affected by them.

We went through every common mental illness. Honestly, I'd give more examples, but that was, what, six years ago now? I don't remember and I'm not going to make something up to prove a point. Just know that every illness was covered with respect.

Except one.

I'm sure you know where I'm going with this.

My teacher treated every mental illness with respect, as I said. She also treated the people affected by these illnesses respectfully, making it clear that the illness itself was to be blamed rather than the people suffering from them. The discussions during that unit were heavy and personal; a lot of people admitted to either having some of the illnesses themselves, or knowing someone who had them. I didn't, at that point in my life, know that I had an anxiety disorder, but I'd known I was a hypochondriac since fifth grade.

I didn't speak in class a lot, but the atmosphere during that discussion seemed safe. People were sharing personal things, admitting to having depression and anxiety. I knew hypochondria would be mentioned, and I was gearing up to admitting to having that myself.

That is, until my teacher finally reached that topic.

"So, does anyone know what hypochondria is?"

"Isn't that the disease where someone complains about feeling sick or hurt all the time?"

"Yes. Aren't they annoying?"

...Followed, of course, by a five minute discussion about how hypochondriacs are nothing but dramatic and annoying, spear-headed by my teacher.

I wanted so badly to speak up. I wanted to share my side, share the absolute terror I felt every time there was a pang in my chest, every time my head started aching, every time I got a freaking leg cramp (because obviously a leg cramp means that I have a blood clot. Obviously). Share how I tried to keep my worry to myself most of the time, but sometimes, the circling thoughts got to be too much and I needed to tell someone if only to have them reassure me that the odds of me dying from whatever pain I was suffering from that day were high.

So, you brilliant health teacher, six years too late I am apologizing to you for being so annoying.

I'm sorry that you have to feel a little irritated hearing me make mention of my swollen ankle for the third time today. It's only because I've been near-hyperventilating for the past half hour over the thought that all this pooling blood is surely going to lead to a blood clot which will then make its way to my heart and kill me.

I'm sorry every time you mention feeling a little under the weather, I end up feeling sick, too. I don't even know if this is a part of my hypochondria, but all you have to do is say your head hurts for me to start getting phantom pain in my own head.

I could never be a human doctor because just studying human anatomy makes everything about me hurt. I almost had to leave my anat&phys class in the 12th grade because learning about the lymphatic system was making my entire body feel electric, and not in a good way.

Hypochondria sucks. I know a lot of people try to romanticize mental illnesses, but I have yet to see anything about hypochondria, and I can tell you why. There is absolutely nothing to romanticize. The people who have it are constantly terrified and the people who don't are apparently annoyed by us.

(for the record, I never intended this journal to be a platform for me to speak about my mental illness. I just want to write something at least once a day, and this is what came to mind for today. Don't expect me to constantly write Odes to Anxiety, or some shit. I'm not into it. My mental illnesses are a part of me, but they're not who I am.)

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Cammie

September 2016

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