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Posts Tagged ‘hypochondria’

  1. How to Change the Rules in the Game of Anxiety

    August 6, 2017 by Diane

    This week, I played the game of anxiety in the circus of my mind.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the worst possible outcome for a future event and fixate on it, running the movie loop in your mind until your body reacts with sweaty palms and skipped heartbeats and a rise in blood pressure and a plethora of digestive issues, and then visualize the worst possible explanation for what’s happening with your body.

    This is considered round one.

    You may continue playing rounds, choosing different future events to obsessively worry about. You’ve won the game when you become a nervous wreck.

    I realized there’s a better game.

    It goes like this:

    Visualize the best possible outcome of events and fixate on them, running the loop in your mind until your body reacts with a smile and a bounce to your stride and a wide-open grateful heart, and then fixate on how wonderful you feel.

    You might have noticed it’s the same game.

    It just has different playing pieces.

    Since anxiety is a game manufactured in the mind, it occurred to me: why not set the mind to visualizing happy tidings rather than worrisome thoughts?

    Oh, you can’t fool the mind?

    That’s what I thought. Until I caught on to the fact: my mind isn’t all that bright.

    I’m sorry, but my mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and what’s nothing more than whatever squirrelly thought I’m feeding it. Don’t believe me? Here’s a test:

    Imagine eating a lemon. Can you see the juices squirting as you cut into it? Can you smell it as the two halves fall away? Now, suck on one half of the lemon.

    I’ll bet your taste buds are tingling like crazy right now.

    See? Your mind was duped into thinking you were really eating a lemon, and sent that message to your taste buds.

    Granted, it’s not my mind’s fault that it’s none too bright. After all, it’s buried under a lot of grey matter without eyes to see or ears to hear. It relies on me to give it the real McCoy.

    It’s my fault for feeding it a bunch of malarky.

    Dave had surgery this week. I volunteered to be nurse for the day.  Had someone else volunteered me for the task, I would have questioned their sanity. Sending a hypochondriac to be a Florence Nightingale is a sure sign of Squirrels in the Doohickey.

    But I love the guy, so I stepped up to the plate.

    Here’s how:

    I worried endlessly, peppering my thoughts with “what if?” scenarios. What if the surgery goes badly? What if he gets sick from the anesthesia? What if he starts bleeding? What if he gets an infection and I have to take him back to the hospital? What if the surgery goes badly, he gets sick, he gets an infection, his incisions bleed, and I keel over? That was my real concern; that I wouldn’t remain upright through the whole ordeal. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle whatever happened, and Dave would end up taking ME to the hospital.

    I worked myself into a proper anxiety attack. I fretted. I ruminated. I lost three pounds.

    I WON THE ANXIETY GAME!

    Then the moment arrived: the changing of the guard.

    Carolyn, who drove him to and from the hospital (definitely not a job for a hypochondriac), brought him home, and I showed up, ready to take over.

    I took a deep breath.

    I cautiously called his name, and stepped inside.

    Dave was peeling off his shirt. He turned toward me.

    I avoided looking at his gauze bandages. I wondered about all that rusty-colored stuff on his skin. Blood? Antiseptic? Please be antiseptic.

    “Warning!” he said.

    I braced myself. This is it.

    “I saved my gallstones,” he said. “They’re in a bottle on the kitchen floor. Wanna see?”

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    I almost cried in relief.

    “Um…maybe another time. How are you?”

    “Good! I don’t feel any worse than I do on Monday mornings getting up for work.”

    I gave him a sponge bath, a shoulder massage, and some energy treatments, opened a package of Saltines for him to eat, and hung around until he got into bed. Then I watched over him from the Jesus Chair.

    I was able to do this because, well, the visualization I had conjured up was much worse than the reality.

    And before arriving, on the verge of panic, I grasped the epiphany that anxiety is a mind game. The true winner games the system.

    Since my mind does an ace job reacting to my fearful images, why not choose images that tap into feel-good chemicals, instead of all that adrenaline and cortisol? I told myself I can just as easily visualize lying on my sky blue blanket on a vast green lawn, a cool breeze wafting by, the faint sound of a bi-plane motoring overhead, someone mowing their lawn in the distance, a father, perhaps—nice, safe, comforting, neighborhood sounds.

    Then, instead of worrying about whether I would be okay, I could focus on making sure he was okay.

    Game over.

    Now, about those gallstones…

    I did take a peak. Then I left Dave with a small bag of cherry pits from my lunch, so he could show them to the guys at the office. “Look how big my stones were!

     


  2. True Confessions: I Was Held Hostage by a Hypochondriac Dentist

    May 1, 2016 by Diane

    dentist chair

    Dear Dr. Lu,

    Every six months, after you poke at my gums, and scrape and buff my teeth, I entertain the thought of finding another dentist. Not because you recline the chair to such depths that my head is in China, or because you mutter just loud enough for me to hear, “That tooth has twisted even more! It’s ninety degrees now!” The reason, Dr. Lu, is because if we were in a contest to determine who is the greater hypochondriac, you would win.

    I’m reluctant to walk into your lobby where the photos of perfect veneer teeth lining your walls mock me, where the samples of bacon-flavored toothpaste tempt child carnivores. I am reluctant to commit myself to your bright light and sharp implements as you feverishly hunt for something wrong. I am reluctant to be motored upside-down, although the thirty minutes of traction, paid for by my insurance company, is a bonus. I am slightly more reluctant to hear your warnings:

    “If you don’t get a mouth guard, you will grind your teeth right down to the nerve!”

    Yes, Dr. Lu, I have heard your alarms. I have suffered your exclamation points. I am aware that if my teeth crack from the pressure, you might not be able to FIX them, a horror I refuse to contemplate—not because my teeth may be splintered, but because you would be the one I would be reaching out to in the middle of the night, a hypochondriac dentist from Hell. I am cognizant that a mouth guard will save my teeth, which is why I agreed to purchase the device.

    “Fine. I’ll get it.”

    “Think about it,” you said, practically purring with delight.

    “I’ll get it.”

    “Let me know, after you’ve thought about it.”

    “I said I’ll get the mouth guard!”

    “It’s five hundred dollars, you know.”

    As if I needed that parting shot. As if I needed to be reminded: well, there goes the retirement nest egg. 

    No, Dr. Lu, it isn’t the capitulation on my part to spend my last dollar on this robber-of-sleep that compels me to once again rethink dentists.

    It’s the hour-long torture I had to endure to make the mold for this five hundred dollar chunk of plastic. It’s the accusation that I moved my head when you held me hostage in the chair with that cold goop pressed between my clenched teeth. It was not I who moved, Dr. Lu. It was you. You, who held the goop in place. Yes, you—reaching for something the minute my teeth clamped down. “Don’t bite me!” you shrieked, and, “Hold still!” And then you reached, jerking my head which I tried desperately to immobilize. Oh, the glare you shot me after prying my jaw open and examining the smeared glob. “We have to do it again!”

    Five times, Dr. Lu. Five times you shoved that goop in my mouth. And every time, you moved.

    “I can’t make any more!” you wailed. “We’ve made fifteen!”

    Five. It was five.

    “I’m sure it’’ll be fine,” I told you, pulling from my Buddha-like self the calm that you lacked.

    But it didn’t end there, did it, Dr. Lu?

    Oh, no.

    When I returned for the final fitting of the completed mouth guard, the suction was so tight you had to brace your diminutive foot against the upside-down chair to pry it off. “That’s a good fit!” you said, your face aglow, as I had visions of calling 911 in the morning to get free of the thing, or roadside assistance, or someone with a crowbar.

    Yes, Dr. Lu, I have entertained the thought of switching dentists many, many times over the past ten years, dragging myself to your office, wondering why I am the only one coming and going. Did you display the bacon toothpaste, which now collects dust on your shelf, to lure a new generation of patients?

    Oh, I’ve tried to find a new dentist. I’ve searched Yelp, reading the reviews. But the only dentist available on my back-alley insurance plan is a man reportedly terrified of blood.

    So you may rest assured, Dr. Lu, I will continue to bare my teeth for you alone. Because a hypochondriac dentist seems like a much better bargain than a dentist who might blanche and keel over, leaving me with a drill spinning madly in my mouth.


  3. Book Review: The Germ Files

    February 28, 2016 by Diane

    The Germ Files

    Jason Tetro spent fifteen years researching microbiology at the University of Ottawa, so he’s a germ expert. Or a hypochondriac. Being an expert hypochondriac myself, I opened this book with some trepidation after reading the bold red type on the back cover: “SOME GERMS ARE OUT TO GET US.”

    Yikes.

    I plunged bravely onward, opening the book at random to a page about honey. With its proteins, antioxidants, minerals, fructose, glucose, sucrose and fermented antimicrobials, raw honey can attack bacteria known to cause cavities. Sweet! But wait, that’s not all. Once swallowed, it prevents heartburn and damage to the stomach wall from acid production. How cool is that! And just how does honey manage these miraculous feats? Because in it’s raw form (that’s unpasteurized, folks), it’s fermented, containing several good bacteria and their byproducts.

    Byproducts? Oh, geez. I don’t want to know.

    Flipping to another page, I discovered that Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, two species of probiotics, not only help you digest food, they release a plethora of vitamins and minerals in the gut, help prevent the onset of the trots, and…check this out…keep us calm. And oh, by the way, they seek out and destroy bacteria “known to cause rotting and human infection.”

    “GET ME A BOTTLE!” I hollered to no one in particular. And then this caught my eye:

    Where do the people who produce probiotics for consumption find their bacteria? Well, in milk or some fermented material…maybe.

    Or human feces.

    Wait! What!?

    Specifically, baby feces. What better subject for gathering specimens than an infant with its gut full of strong bacterial species.

    Feeling woozy yet?

    Fear not. After all the testing in the laboratory to see if said feces bacteria can survive stomach acid, bile, and loss of oxygen, and have the ability to cling to human cells in the digestive track while dueling with potential pathogens and not harming its human host in the process, those who remain victorious are used for probiotic development. The end result is far, far removed from that sweet little baby’s behind.

    Whew.

    This book is filled with fascinating tidbits. From hygiene to beauty products, health, food, diet, childcare and yes, even sex, the author does a bang-up job of explaining how germs impact us for the good or ill, where they come from, how they live (and die), how they protect us, and how to avoid their harm. And he does so in a highly readable, entertaining yet informative fashion.

    If you want to live in harmony with those 137 trillion freeloaders that you’re harboring, read this book.