Today’s Special: Health Anxiety With A Side of Googling

Meningitis. Colon cancer. Leukaemia. Brain tumour. IBS. Celiac Disease. Depression. Stomach ulcer. PCOS. Endometriosis. Kidney infection. Whiplash. Concussion.

You might feel as though you’ve just read the index of a medical journal, when in fact, I’ve actually self diagnosed myself with each of these illnesses, at least once, over the past six months.

It’s normal to occasionally be concerned about your health. You wake up one morning with a huge itchy rash down one side of your body, and of course, you’ll check with a doctor to get it resolved. With me however, it’s a little different. I’ve always dealt with mental health issues throughout my life; severe anxieties (social and general), and it’s just something that’s become an engrained part of me, yet, the one thing that seems most prominent is my hypochondria (or health anxiety, as it’s more commonly referred to today). I’m actually a generally healthy human. I exercise regularly, I practice yoga and meditation on a daily basis, I drink way too much water, I don’t go anywhere near alcohol or drugs and I have a reasonable diet. I’m lucky. I have no reason – yet, to be concerned. But without fail, every night I go to bed thanking my lucky stars that my appendix didn’t decide to explode inside my body.

It doesn’t help that my anxiety gives me physical symptoms: depersonalisation, shakes, headaches, chest pain, to name a few. Last year, just before Christmas, I developed a chronic stomach ache that would just not shift, and so, I did what most normal people would do in that situation and checked in with my doctor. I got 5 different test tubes of my blood taken, and of course, they were healthy, but that wasn’t enough. I needed more confirmation that I wasn’t going to crash into a heap and die. So, I got an ultrasound. It was fine. Everything was fine, but the pain persisted, and despite being reassured by way too many professionals, I turned to Dr Google and diagnosed myself with about eight different illnesses. Long story short, the pain is only there in the morning now and it’s 99.9% a symptom of my anxiety which I’m causing myself. Sigh.

I had to stop watching Grey’s Anatomy. That’s right. I had to stop watching my favourite group of goofball surgeons because I couldn’t handle the constant illness, death and tension. I can’t watch anything on television remotely about illness, so 24 hours in A&E isn’t really my thing. Private Practice? Nope. Mercy? Definitely not. I remember when I was younger and Swine Flu was everywhere. I was completely terrified that I’d get it. Then Bird Flu was a thing, and again, I was in a panic. When I went to Cyrus almost two years ago, I insisted on buying mosquito repellent because I was terrified that I’d die of malaria. In a way, it’s almost a good thing that I’m constantly thinking about my health, because if I do ever get ill, I’ll get help immediately. If anyone in my family is ill, I’ll be right there with my potential diagnosis (trust me, I know almost everything about every potential illness). But, it’s also tiring, draining and distracting. I don’t often ever switch off from health completely. Trust me, I would if I could.

After a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably not scared of illness, but dying (which most likely explains my irrational, crippling fear of planes. Seriously, I’m not going to Portugal with my family this year because I can’t face projectile vomiting in a terminal again). My phone, which was actually designed to communicate with people, has become an online surgery for me almost daily. A quick look at my search history will reveal things similar to:

“help im breathing what does this mean”
“headache causes”
“webMD. again.”

I just can’t seem to accept the fact that I’m physically healthy, and I’m incredibly grateful that I am in good health, but I just keep Googling. The closest I’ve come to dying in the last year is either when I had a common cold, or when I tried to turn onto a main road in third gear. In fact, a few seconds ago, I whacked the front of my head off the hob which hangs over my oven. It hurts a little. I probably have concussion, or worse yet, an internal bleed. Be right back.

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