Saturday, February 10, 2007

"I cannot go to school today," said little Peggy Ann McKay...

Oh, I talked to the doctor yesterday. My bones are fine. Take that, inner hypochondriac! Now shut up!

When I was little I was a total hypochondriac, terribly so. I was the kid who read up on flu symptoms to get an excuse to miss school. In my head, I'd turn some gas into stomach cancer and aches and pains into... well, I'd find some rare condition for it to be. I wanted to be sick, hurt, damaged... I wanted the attention and the privileges I associated with being sick, and I figured that the pain would be okay on account of everyone telling me how brave I was, what a good patient I was... Mind you, my mom probably would have switched to "Buck it up, kid, you'll survive" after the first 24 hours, but I was young, these ignorances must be forgiven.

Anyway, I outgrew that, along with my childhood biblio-kleptomania and my violent tendencies (mostly). But it's still there, a little, it's just in the back of my head, suppressed by my common sense and the guilt I feel every time I feel like I'm inconveniencing someone. The trouble is, I can recognize if I have actual physical symptoms, but I can't always tell how bad they are, so a couple years ago when my chest was so tender that I couldn't lay down on my stomach without crying in pain, I went and looked up possible explanations, and all I could come up with was breast cancer or an infection, both of which are fairly serious... and hardly ever affect otherwise healthy teenage girls. But I had myself totally convinced I was going to die or at least have to get chemo before I went to the doctor and she informed me that it was a perfectly normal condition where the tissue is a little lumpy and there's some inflammation. I think I was a little bummed that I wasn't going to be some abnormal example of how statistics can go wrong, though.

This probably was closely tied to my general attention-grubbing as a kid. It's kinda funny that for so long I was so determined to be noticed, any way possible, and now I can't look a person in the eyes when I have to talk about myself. I'm brief and I talk very quickly if I introduce myself-- most people know me by the first syllable of my name, as the rest of it gets lost in my effort to shift the attention away. I went from being the girl who teased her hair and died half of it white to play Cruella DeVil for a chorus performance to being the girl who can't manage to say her own name in an introduction.

Anyway, I'm still a hypochondriac, but only mentally. I'm constantly trying to explain my slightly problematic personality traits as mental disorders, when in fact they're probably not even that big a deal to anyone but me. I mean, I've pretty much figured out that I'm shy and that I get panic attacks in crowds and social situations. But I'll hear about say, narcissistic personality disorder, and I'll think, "I want attention sometimes, maybe I'm a narcissist!" (This is funnier if you remember that I have the self-esteem of a particularly disgusting old penny that's been on the sidewalk for weeks). The worst disadvantage of this is that hypochondria is a mental disorder itself (albeit a common, minor one) so I can be a hypochondriac about having hypochondria, and never know for sure if I'm actually a hypochondriac or if I'm just being hypochondriacal about my hypochondriac tendencies.

Wow. Six versions of the word "hypochondria" in one sentence. New record?

You Are 32% Hypochondriac

You can deal well with being sick - even if your symptoms are a little scary.
You're occasionally prone to worry about your health, but only when you have pretty strange symptoms.

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