Taking a proactive approach

I have decided to start going to therapy for my constant hypochondria. While it is easy for me to poke fun at myself here and in real life about my anxiety over imagined medical misfortunes, the reality of the situation is far from humorous.

Case in point: While eating lunch last Friday, I felt something lodged in the back of my throat. I assumed it was a bit of food that had failed to go down properly, so I tried to wash it down with a few swigs of tea. No luck. When Honey and I got to the car, I stuck my finger into my throat and felt a lump on the right side. My mind started racing as I tried to figure out what was wrong. I imagined that I was having an allergic reaction to something that I ate and that I might wind up in the emergency room because of an obstructed airway. I wondered if it might be something more serious like cancer, and started pondering all the disfiguring treatments and surgeries I might need to endure.

All of this worrying made me very anxious, and when I get anxious, I shut down. I stopped responding to Honey’s questions, which he understandably didn’t appreciate. It didn’t seem to matter that I realized my thoughts were illogical; I was unable to quell my anxiety. Once we got home and my panic subsided a little, I decided that enough was enough. While I may not be physically ill as often as I imagine, I am sick and tired of worrying about my health.

So, I’m hoping to learn some coping mechanisms. I know I could probably take medication to control my anxiety, but that would just be treating a symptom instead of the problem. Maybe an experienced counselor can get to the bottom of why I overreact to every ache and pain. We’ll see.

Do I need medication for this?

I might be the world’s worst hypochondriac. Every pain, every twitch, every ache is something serious, something so terribly dire that I am sure to meet an untimely death. I’m not sure how I got to be this phobic, but I am sure the internet has added to my problems. It is far to easy to google a common symptom and find all kinds of horrific diseases associated with it. It’s also easy for me to read a news story about something terrible and then begin worrying that I have the same affliction.

Case in point. When Natasha Richardson fell, hit her head, and subsequently died several days ago, the press were on the story 24-7. It was impossible to access a news page online without seeing stories about how minor head injuries can prove fatal, or how doctors refer to the condition as “talk and die” because patients often experience no symptoms for hours before deteriorating quickly.

chickenhypoFast forward a few days. I’m out in the yard removing some branches that had fallen during our winter storm and one of the larger branches hits me in the side of the head. Not real hard, but enough to give me a headache. And right over my ear, which is where the news story had pointed out as the most dangerous spot to get hit. I panicked.

I wondered if I should go to the emergency room, but felt like I was probably overreacting. I went inside and laid in the recliner, trying to calm myself down but distressing over the possibility that I might be dead in an hour. Honey noticed that I had stopped talking, so he inquired what was wrong. I filled him in, knowing how crazy I sounded as I explained – something he was quick to confirm. An hour later, after realizing I was probably not going to die of a hematoma, I relaxed a little.

The internet isn’t all bad, though. I helped me figure out what was wrong when I had appendicitis and has helped me research many of the issues that I’ve discussed with my doctor – like high cholesterol. I think it has even helped me figure out another health problem that I’ve been having recently (real, not imagined).

Yesterday morning, my screaming bladder forced me out of bed around 4am. I had been drinking alot of water the evening before, thinking that the headaches I had been suffering daily for the last couple of weeks might be related to dehydration. As I stood over the toilet, I started feeling terribly weak and lightheaded. Then my hearing started going out. This, of course, caused panic and made my heart start racing. I quickly stumbled back to bed, where I laid for several minutes before my hearing returned to normal and my heart stopped pounding.

I figured this was related to some other symptoms that I’ve been having lately. I often get a rush to the head when I stand up after sitting for a long time, so much so that I can hear my heart beating in my ears and feel like I’m going to pass out. My headaches have been terrible, usually right along the back of my neck and top of my shoulders. I bent over to get something out a cabinet the other night and saw flashes of light for several moments after standing back up.

So, true to form, yesterday I turned to Dr. Google to find out what might be causing these problems. I suspected high blood pressure, but was surprised to learn that low blood pressure is normally the culprit in these situations. Apparently, in some people, the blood flow isn’t that great when seated or lying down, so changing positions causes the blood that has pooled in the lower extremities to be quickly forced into the upper body. This causes lightheadedness, headaches in the exact locations I mentioned earlier, and sometimes fainting while urinating.

The causes can be varied, but the two that stood out to me where dehydration and malnutrition. I already know that I don’t drink enough fluids. Two or three sodas each day just isn’t cutting it, and my diet usually varies somewhere between chocolate and hamburgers.

So, once again, I’ve decided that I have got to make some changes. I was already on the right path with the increased water intake, but I figure that I need to eat better and start taking a multivitamin. Hey, I know I’ve talked about this diet thing before, so I understand if you aren’t buying it.

Anyway, how funny/ironic is it that a self-diagnosed hypochondriac might also have self-diagnosed orthostatic hypotension? I’m pretty sure I don’t need medication for the latter, but am no longer so sure about the former.