It is 2 pm on a Thursday and I am currently Google searching symptoms to a pain in my leg that has been bothering me for the past several weeks.
“Leg pain” brings up far too many results, so I narrow my search with more descriptive words: “Shooting pain in my right leg swollen knee” -- voilà, the results come in.
Despite the fact WebMD says I could be experiencing early onset arthritis, my eyes jump to the worst-case scenario: blood clots.
My next Google search: “blood clots in leg”… this cycle continues for the next 45 minutes until I am certain I am living with a blood clot in my leg that will eventually make its way up into my brain.
I am a hypochondriac.
The earliest memory I have of spiraling out of control with health concerns falls somewhere around my early teen years. I suffered from horrible anxiety, probably stemming from my underlying hypochondria.
When an anxiety attack would begin, no one could tell me I wasn't having a heart attack; I just wouldn't hear of it.
Since, in my mind, every anxiety attack was definitely actually a heart attack, I turned 18 and was happy to still be alive. I made it through.
After turning 18, I spent an alarming amount of time searching WebMD for every single possible diagnosis for the following scenarios:
Coughing - definitely have lung cancer Arm Cramp - probably developing bone disease Swollen Lymph Nodes - could be seven different cancers Stomach Ache - more than likely to have ulcers Eye Twitch - going blind
The peak of my hypochondria commenced immediately when I suffered through my first migraine. I had experienced headaches in the past, nothing a few Ibuprofen couldn't handle. But this was something completely different.
I had surpassed the normal, everyday headache and had entered a world wherein this phantom headache was putting me on my ass, stuck in bed for hours, unable to open my eyes.
My mind spiraled out of control with nothing to do but lay in darkened silence. Do I have brain cancer? Maybe I have a brain aneurysm; I think my grandmother's mother died of that. I could have a blood clot in my brain…
I never once had to admit I self-diagnose to my boyfriend; he figured that out all on his own. “Stop Googling your symptoms!” is a frequent shout in our relationship.
I initially used the excuse that going to see a doctor is too expensive, and it makes more sense for me to figure it out on my own.
This excuse ran its course within a single week. I really only began tucking my tail between my legs and actually seeing a doctor when his and my relationship began; I didn't want him to think that I was too crazy, after all.
In the midst of all the chaos hypochondria brings, I am thankful to say I have never once been diagnosed by a doctor with any of the worst-case scenarios I have played out repeatedly in my mind.
I have gotten courses of blood work done, all coming back as completely normal and healthy, and I have seen dozens of doctors to address the same concerns -- all of them assuring me I am fine.
Despite this, there is still an underlying fear of looming death anytime I cough or have a pain in my body.
Hypochondriasis is actually a mental health disorder. Fearing the worst takes a massive toll on people, especially people like me who refused to accept I had hypochondria for a long time. I preferred to obsess over the idea I could die any day.
Since learning of hypochondria, I have forced myself to recognize I am probably not dying of an obscure condition. Not today, at least. This thought keeps me from rushing to my laptop to write my will every single time I have a migraine.
For the record, though, I leave all of my shoes to my mom.