Sunday, February 26, 2006

Oxymoron: Don’t worry, mom


I am an anxiety-riddled worry wart who thinks every ache and pain — every pimple, bruise or rash — is the beginning of the end. If I were to go to the doctor every time I worried about my health I’d be charged rent for taking up space in the waiting room.

There, I've said it. It’s out in the open; the elephant in the living room that I’ve been dusting around for decades.
Somehow, I don’t feel relieved.

Instead, I find myself working my way through the medical profession as if the potential of being awarded an honorary doctorate were the end goal. Unfortunately, the only thing I’m learning is that there’s something infinitely worse than NO information at all: a little bit of knowledge is the absolute pits. (Thank you, Internet).

Becoming a parent only seemed to heighten my anxiety and make the eventuality of my demise seem that much more frightening. As has become my custom of late, with each new symptom, fleeting or otherwise, I scour the Web for the worst-case scenario. When I find it I topple off the edge of the world.

People call folks like me “hypochondriacs,” but I don’t think the word is an accurate description.

We are the people who go to doctors because there IS something wrong. They just don’t know exactly what … yet.

When I turned 30 the doctor said … “well, this is when you start getting stuff.” Before that moment I don’t really think I ever gave much thought to the kind of stuff I’d be getting. When she mentioned it, however, I had no choice. And really, I didn’t have much time. Turns out that in a few days, my blood told her I had a thyroid condition — thyroiditis. Not serious, actually pretty common, she said. Pills were the answer.

Next came sinusitis, dermatitis, allergies, headaches, stomach upset, aches and pains, more weird blood tests and specialists. New people in white coats hired on to track the niggling, borderline results the lab sends back. If there’s an “itis” in its ending I’m pretty sure it’s going to find me. I have friends who patently REFUSE to see doctors because “they always find something.”

My husband tries to calm my already fragile nerves, but I am not comforted by the notion that stress may be getting the better of me. “If it were all in my head,” I tell him, “why would I have a borderline test result?” I used to joke about my fears. I’d tell people I was pretty sure I had malaria or tuberculosis when I came down with the sniffles. It was somewhat comforting to get my worst thoughts out in the open.

Now I have trouble even considering such possibilities.

I tell myself there are other causes besides avian flu when my nose starts to run and my eyes get itchy. I search the Internet to find the least scary among the reasons why my right foot might have fallen asleep as I was sitting on it.
"Must calm down," has become my mantra.

“I can live with eczema,” I think in the doctor's office as he examines the red spots on my finger tips. But after I leave I wonder what was really said in that little room. Did he say there were no symptoms of serious concern BEFORE or AFTER he listened to my lungs … why then did he make a return appointment for three months? What is he NOT telling me? Spin, spin, spin for the next 90 days.

All this spinning is like a bad theme park ride — "peecups" careening out of control. Great! Now I'm nauseous. Of course, I still have to remind myself that I’m not a doctor … I don’t even play one on TV.

No comments: