if only i’d known: it’s fine…at least for now
They tell us that hypochondria is on the increase thanks to the accessibility of Google and the ease with which we can source some pretty dodgy online medical advice. ‘They’, of course, being other people on the Internet. I contemplated offering you a dictionary definition of hypochondria but remembered I was no longer on the high school debating team so I’ll give you the laywoman’s definition to compensate. A hypochondriac is someone who has a constant, irrational fear of contracting a serious medical problem.
My name is Mehal and I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac. I don’t think it has roots in my childhood because I can’t think of a time when I was excessively worried about illness or medical conditions as a tot. Hell I was the kid who insisted I go to school even when I had the flu. What can I say? I loved learning. I was a nerd. Why do I suddenly feel defensive?
I first remember diagnosing myself with type 2 diabetes and heading to my GP to divulge my findings.
D (Doctor): Hi Mehal. What can I do for you today?
M (Mehal): I think I have type 2 diabetes.
The doctor stares at me in what can only be described as disbelief. His face becomes skeptical and then he just laughs. In my face!
I look on in horror.
M: I mean I could be wrong but I was reading on the internet that when you have diabetes you drink a lot of water and go to the toilet a lot. I do that.
The doctor explained that most people drink water and go to the toilet…regularly. I was in fact normal. What a relief because I really wasn’t prepared to switch to diet coke.
A couple of years later I staunchly believed I needed a root canal on a tooth that was causing me barely any discomfort. Not wanting to sound completely irrational, I drove myself to the dentist, all the while practising my deep breathing, and professed that I needed a filling. Apparently there was nothing wrong with that tooth, or any other tooth for that matter. He did send me home with an ultra smiley crocodile balloon though. Score!
I have a tendency toward worst-case scenarios at the best of times. But imagine when a medical practitioner fuels your fear? I hate being poked or prodded and saying ‘uhhh’ is as about invasive a procedure as I’m willing to undergo. So when I started getting headaches and had to go to the optometrist for what I thought was going to be stronger prescription lenses and ended up having orange drops inserted into my eyes and told I could go blind I was what you might call “shit scared”. To add insult to injury my optometrist told me it could happen in the next month.
OK maybe what he said was I needed to see a specialist within the next month, but that’s not what I heard. When I asked what I had, he assured me he’d never seen anything like it. The end was nigh. I could feel it.
I didn’t deal with my impending doom well. I called one of my favourite childhood friends, who happens to be an ophthalmologist, and frantically read to her my referral. Her response was much like my GP in the first scenario. She laughed, though this time only in my ear. She assured me everything described by my optometrist only happened to elderly patients and those with diabetes. So as you can imagine I then freaked out about having diabetes. Which resulted in a second frantic call to my pharmacist friend who told me to go and get my blood sugar taken pronto.
In the meantime I’d managed to wonder at the blessing of sight, contemplate helplessly how I’d learn Braille in less than a month (surely I was too old for that), had a more-than-mild panic attack when I realised I was petrified of dogs and that guide cats were simply not reliable. Or existent.
A second opinion eventually confirmed that I’d keep my vision, at least for now. Apparently optometrists do this all the time. How comforting.
I realise the conventional structure of these types of articles is such that I’m expected to offer advice, wrapped neatly in a profound life lesson, topped off with the beautiful blue ribbon that are my poetic words. But, given the collection of anecdotal evidence I’ve put forth, I assume we’ll both agree: I’m not really fit to do that. I do think it’s safe to assume the Internet should not be used for diagnosis of anything really. No, if you want answers, you should definitely consult Twitter. They know everything over there.