I’ve spent the last 72 hours convinced that I am dying. So convinced in fact, that I’ve run through all the resulting scenarios in my head. The “I’m sorry Mrs Aslett, but you only have 3 months to live” diagnosis, the leaving our house for the last time moment, the insisting on keeping the kids away and sheltered during my final days talk with my husband.
The panic, panic, panic.
Because this week I have breast cancer.
Two weeks ago its was fibromyalgia.
For most of the Summer it was bowel cancer.
Six months ago it was cervical cancer.
I could go on and on. For years in fact. I can trace it back to frantically checking my moles as a teenager. Checking their colour, their texture, if I had any new ones. Obsessively counting the number of them up my arm.
I’ve had hernias, brain tumors, appendicitis, bone cancer, stomach ulcers – the list continues. All result in my untimely demise whether that be directly (terminal cancer) or indirectly (death on the operating table/sepsis and so on).
Last week a red blemish appeared on my right breast. On the first day or two it didn’t bother me at all, I knew it was an insect bite. We have a lot of mini type mosquito things getting in at the moment when its dark and the lights are on. I had a similar bite on my leg only a fortnight ago.
Except with this one, I kept touching it and checking it and poking it and thinking about it.
And like any insect bite or spot on delicate skin it became angry from being obsessively prodded. So angry in fact that it swelled and got redder and my boob started to hurt because every couple of hours I was kneading it like a bread roll checking for lumps.
And that’s when my health anxiety diagnosed ‘terminal breast cancer‘.
Everything that my health anxiety diagnoses is always terminal somehow.
I don’t mean to sound flippant when I write this, I know there are people out there with cancer and they are dying and that this is real. They won’t see their kids grow up, they are living this and I’m not making light of that terrible and unfair situation. But what I am talking about here is mental health not physical health.
My mental health and how my anxiety around health is becoming a big problem for me.
The thing is, logically I know that this is madness.
Absolute fucking madness. I’m off my bloody rocker and then some.
I know that the panic caused by this anxiety makes me feel ill, makes me feels sick, makes me feel dizzy. I know it makes me feel tired and yet has me up at 3am with obsessive and intrusive thoughts. I know that focusing all your thoughts on one body part will make you notice it more, make you question it more.
I KNOW ALL THIS.
And yet I cannot control it. I cannot control my thoughts.
But I reject the term hypochondriac, which is no doubt what you think I am.
I’m confused by the way we use it. We say “stop being such a hypochondriac!” when someone over exaggerates about or even makes up an illness. We use it to describe someone who is seeking attention or sympathy or concessions as a result of their dramatic fake demise.
The last thing I want is attention.
I don’t go around telling everyone that I have this illness or that problem. No, no no, I keep it locked away inside my head for days rattling around like a big fat bumble bee. Until the thoughts become so overwhelming that I either start crying or vomiting or losing my mind.
Luckily I have a husband who is now well versed in the “no it’s fine, that’s normal, you are fine” speech.
Without a doubt the best medicine is saying your crazy shit out loud to someone who loves you. The second best medicine is Googling health anxiety, finding a forum and reading posts from other sufferers who are going through the same mad shit you are. The third is going to the Doctor and letting them eye roll you for the hundredth time because it’s always better to be on the safe side.
But the very worst thing you can do is Google your current worry and give yourself more reasons as to why you are ill or dying. That’s the very worst thing.
Health anxiety is real, it’s a real problem. You are not a “hypochondriac“, you have a mental illness and so do lots of other people just like me.
photo credit: Vitor Pina throught the glass train via photopin (license)
Sarah is the Founder and Editor of 5WHYZ.com. Mum of two, master of none – she lives in Kent with her husband, children and three cats. She struggles with general, social and health anxiety plus an irritating compulsion to compensate for other peoples bad behaviours.
For a few years she wrote via her own sites Admissions Of A Mother/ Mum OverRun but found the Mummy Blog genre limiting and in the end exhausting.
When she was 8 years old she was an audience member on Live&Kicking where she met Steps and Jamie Theakston. Which was fucking awesome.