On Being A Hypochondriac

Tout bien portant est un malade qui s’ignore.

Jules Romains, Knock

Hi, my name is Paola and I’m a hypochondriac. 

I think it just needed to be said. You see, most people would think it’s not normal to be calling the French SAMU for an indigestion, but that’s the kind of thing me and my best friend Ludivine would do in a heart beat. 

Now please don’t get me wrong: we really, truly, are lovely girls who’d give you the shirt off our backs and everything. It’s just that when we have a headache, we automatically think we have a brain tumour. 

The worst part of it all is the amount of bad faith we can show. Let’s take situation one: I feel queasy, with a strong headache. I go and complain towards a normal person, who will tell me, naturally enough, that it’s probably something I’ve eaten and that it’ll pass. My answer to this perfectly sane and sound piece of advice? One, Cry: and what do you know? Are you a doctor? I don’t think so! Two, carve the worst possible scenario ever: I have meningitis and you just don’t care! Three, huff and puff and go on Google: “meningitis symptoms”, “Doctissimo” “Imayhavecanceranddie.com”. 

Then, when it’s all over, when, after calling about 23 different doctors who repeatedly tell me it is NOT meningitis, that I should STOP going on Wikipedia to make my own diagnosis, that it IS something bad I’ve eaten, I’ll go back to the normal person, all smug and happy, and tell he or she: you see? There was absolutely no need to worry like you did. You can be so nervous for nothing sometimes. Which often times seems to spark murderous thoughts in the mind of my interlocutor. Funnily enough, even though the probability of dying at the hands of a friend or parent I’ve driven mad is probably much higher than me getting meningitis, I never worry about that. For those of you who like me are Big Bang Theory Sheldon Cooper worshippers, just picture a gassy Sheldon knocking on Leonard’s door, thinking he might have Ebola when really, he’s just eaten way too many Brussels sprouts. There, picture clear enough?

Us Hypochondriacs just love each other’s company. No, really, we relish it. Why, you ask? Well because we can ask and probe and reassure one another until blue in the face, and no one can tell us to stop and come back to the lovely fields of sanity, because, well, we’re all as bas as each other, like: “Do you feel the same lump I’m feeling here? Here, I’m telling you, you’re not touching properly!” or “I’ve been feeling tired. I might have lymphoma.” or the best of the worst “I’ve bumped my head. I have a brain haemorrhage now”. 

The saddest part of it all is that, when we’re having a crisis, we truly, really believe that our fantasies are true and that we’re on our way to eternal sleep. Non hypochondriacs might think we’re just drama queens and kings, which I strongly resent. Hypochondria is like a compulsion, and no matter how many doctors you see or exams you take, you don’t feel reassured more than half a day. Then, you just go back to wanting to live in a hospital in case you might need a CAT scan. 

But why are we wired this way, one might ask? Some people argue it’s because of a tough medical family history, some think it’s the fear of dying. Other simply think we’re Molière’s Imaginary Invalid. 

I choose to blame the media, who tell us to worry about our health: we’re just over-achieving students.


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