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.)

Do Not

Jul. 22nd, 2016 06:58 pm
benevolentspectre: (Default)
My grandfather likes touching me. No, not in the way you're thinking. He'll grab my foot when I'm sitting on my bed. He'll poke my arm when I'm eating in the kitchen. And, apparently, he'll tickle my neck when I'm at a crowded art exhibition.

First of all, I hate being touched. There is a very short list of people who I don't mind being touched by, and an even shorter list of people from whom I will actively seek touch. The majority of my family doesn't make the cut of either list. My own father doesn't make the cut of either list. Of course, I have to tolerate things like hugs from my family because otherwise I am a Monster, but most everyone knows by this point that touching makes me uncomfortable.

I have had many adult talks with my grandpa about not touching me. He always brushes me off with a:

"But I'm your grandfather."

So I went to my grandma. She brushed me off with a scoff and a:

"But he's your grandfather."

So I went to my parents as a last ditch effort, and I continue to go to my parents. I continue to beg, plead that someone, somewhere just get this man to stop touching me, but wouldn't you know it? They brush me off every time with a:

"But he's your grandfather."

You know what? I'd like to think that him being my grandfather should've solved this problem the first time I spoke to him about it. After all, a grandfather should care more about the comfort and feeling of personal safety of his granddaughter than his own entertainment, right? And the touching really is for his own entertainment. He thinks it's hilarious to see me jump, hilarious when I slap at him and whine at him to get away, hilarious when I spend the rest of the day flinching whenever he gets near me out of fear that I'll be touched again. It's a joke to him. No matter that, again, I have explained to him very politely and seriously that it makes me insanely uncomfortable. I don't care how "innocent" the touches are; I don't like it. It's my body. That should theoretically be more than enough to stop the touches.

It clearly isn't.

My little sister has been at art camp for the past month. As today was the last day, all of the students chose a few pieces to put on display at an exhibition. I went with my parents, sister, grandpa, and a few (irrelevant) cousins.

I hate crowds. They make me anxious and paranoid and the worry that I'm going to be touched by a stranger at any moment does not help. While this may not seem relevant, I also hate bugs/spiders touching me. It's necessary to make that known.

I was surprisingly okay at first, despite people crushing in toward me on all sides. The place the show was being held was open enough (for the most part) that I didn't feel trapped or claustrophobic, so long as I stayed close to my mom.

(This may sound horrendously pathetic for a 22-year old, but anxiety is a bitch, okay?)

That is, until my grandpa decided it'd be a wonderful joke to come up behind me and tickle the back of my neck.

Not only did this mimic the feeling of a bug on me (throwing my fear response into overdrive), but as soon as I realized what had actually happened, my brain caught up to the fact that hey, I was surrounded by hundreds of people in an enclosed space and anyone could touch me at any time, either accidentally or on purpose. I was completely at the mercy of the crowds.

I didn't want to have my back to anyone, but that's kind of difficult in an art exhibit. After all, it'd look a little strange having my back to the artwork. I tried to shrink in on myself, hunching down and keeping my arms wrapped around my middle, but it was too late. This "innocent, playful, joking" touch threw me into the third panic attack of my life, and god was it embarrassing.

I had already made a fool of myself during the actual event, as I had yelled quite loudly, "Don't do that!" at my grandpa when I first realized what happened. But now here I was, arms tight around my stomach, fingers of one hand pressing bruises into my clavicle as an attempt to distract myself from the shadow of panic, breath short and panted, tears gathering in my eyes, threatening to spill at any moment.

My mom eventually noticed and, in typical fashion, had absolutely no patience for it. She thought I was doing it on purpose to get attention on my sister's special day. No, actually, I was horrified and my own horror at my actions was only making things worse. I knew people were staring, wondering, judging. But that knowledge only made my breathing more labored, forced the tears to drip from my eyes.

My mom dragged me out of the exhibit and to a chair near the front. There were still too many people. They were all watching me and now that I was in a quiet area, they were all listening too, as my mom ripped me apart, threatened to leave me alone. I could barely talk at first, but the fresh(er) air of the open area eventually calmed me down, thankfully before she could make good on her threat and actually leave.

But not before she gave me my favorite excuse once again:

"He's your grandfather."

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Cammie

September 2016

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