There’s only one way to explain it. It’s like walking through a minefield each and every day. Most people don’t realize how much emphasis there is these days on health-related subjects that are constantly being thrown in our faces. Unless, of course, you’re a hypochondriac like me and you spend your time dodging bullets all throughout the day in order not to bring on a panic attack about the latest disease of the week.
Hypochondriacs come in two different flavors. One is the kind where they run to the nearest doctor or medical facility for every little hangnail. And the other is the kind where they try to avoid even the utterance of the word “doctor”, “hospital” or “disease”. In my earlier years, I was the first kind. Now that I’m older, I seem to fall into the second category a little too much. So my experiences these days are of the “walking through a minefield” category as mentioned above.
The regular morning and evening news shows are even a culprit in this quest to make me fall apart. I’ll be sipping my morning coffee, listening to horrific local accidents, fires, and murders. Then they’ll switch to even more horrific world news related to war, weather, and the planet’s downfall in general. Then, unexpectedly, some doctor will pop his head into my living room through my TV to tell me the grisly details about some disease or condition that I absolutely must be aware of. Unfortunately, my remote control button isn’t as lightening fast as I would like, and before I know it, my head is filled with details that I’d rather not know about so early in the morning.
The evening news is the same. I like to have my TV on while I’m cooking dinner, and the drone of the news reporter is there, really, just to keep me company. As I’m stirring the noodles, I suddenly hear the words “deadly symptoms”, “silent killer”, and “most of us have it and don’t even know it”. As I’m frantically diving for the remote control again, I accidently hear “a shortened life expectancy” before being able to turn the channel to something benign. Or malignant, as the case may be.
Since I don’t avoid my health totally, I do find myself at the doctor’s office for a reluctant appointment every now and then. I thought I had these trips to the doctor all figured out. When I sat down in the waiting room, my plan was always to immediately pick up the latest women’s magazine about crafts and celebrities, all the while avoiding any glances to the wall of pamphlets and brochures, complete with full descriptions and pictures of any and all diseases and/or conditions. I do pretty good with eye avoidance, so I thought I had this one beat. However, my family doctor is a very good one and decided to put a TV in the waiting room. Instead of showing us patients episodes of game shows or old sitcoms to calm our nerves, his TV has only one thing to watch and that is an endless stream of medical and health related subjects. If you thought medical pamphlets were descriptive, how’d you like to see the latest ruptured body organ in full living color before the nurse calls your name and then takes your blood pressure? I am totally baffled as to why a doctor’s office would show such frightening images and talk about such awful subjects, although most normal people would refer to it as “informative”. I refer to it as “a plot to kill me prematurely”.
When I get back home, I like to put on the home designing channel to calm me down a bit. But even this period of time backfires on me. If you were counting, like me, you’d be surprised at just how many commercials are medical related. There are the ads for the latest and greatest prescription drug where the advertisement may or may not tell you what it’s for. But they do tell you the long list of scary side effects. I don’t know about you, but the list of side effects would long scare me off from taking it, no matter what it was for.
Then there are the lawyer advertisements that offer to help you with your lawsuit against the latest and greatest prescription drug if you were brave enough to plow through the scary side effect list. Ha! Now you’re suing the pharmaceutical company. How brave do you feel now, eh? Don’t mind me. I’m just jealous because I’m a wuss who doesn’t like medicine either.
While I’m blaming TV for bringing on episodes of hypochondria in my fast beating heart, just take a peek at the TV listings at night. There is a plethora of disturbing medical and doctor and hospital shows, with lots of patients lying in bed with tubes, and bloody grisly scenes of people on gurneys. Why? Why is this entertainment to some people? I don’t believe it’s the “love stories” between the doctors and nurses that bring in the ratings. It must be the demented medical scenes. I must be missing something.
My beloved internet is not totally innocent in all this either. One time I spent many nervous weeks plowing through a wealth of symptoms online and coming up with only one conclusion, which was that I was a goner. Luckily for me, I was wrong, and my doctor sternly told me that although the internet was a useful tool for most people to keep a check on their health, I was clearly not one of them. I think he’s right.
I came up with another theory too. Us older adults spend entirely too much time talking about not only our own symptoms and illnesses, but for some reason, there’s lots of retelling about other people’s medical trials and tribulations as well. Throughout our conversations, you hear a lot of “Oh my God” and “Oh I feel like that” or “Mine looks like that too” and “How long did he live after that?” You get the picture.
I’m trying the best that I can. But it’s not easy being a hypochondriac in this informative day and age. I remember being in my twenties and after yet another visit to my family doctor at the time, he smiled at me, kindly patted me on the shoulder, and told me that although he couldn’t guarantee it, he really felt in his heart of hearts that I was a young healthy girl that will go on to live a long life. In this day of lawsuits, a doctor probably can’t say that to you now, but I cannot tell you what an immense relief that was to me, at least for a while till it wore off. How come none of my doctors say that to me now? Why? How come? Is there something they’re not telling me? What’s up?