My Teenage Hypochondriac

Hypochondriac defines the word hypochondriac as someone who is excessively preoccupied with and worried about their health. But really I didn’t have to look up the definition. I could have told you what that meant without even turning on the computer. You see I grew up hearing that word over and over again. One of my grandmothers was afflicted with this disorder. I distinctly remember the phone ringing at all hours of the day and night, my grandmother on the other end needing to speak to my father—right away—lest she die while waiting for him to get out of his easy chair. I often listened to conversation after conversation between my mother and father about these phone calls and the imagined diseases and maladies that always came with them. The first time I heard the word, “hypochondriac,” I immediately ran upstairs to our shelves of books to pull out ol’ Webster’s and looked it up, and although the definition wasn’t comprehendible for such a young mind, I knew that the connotation of the word was not a good thing.

And so, it was no surprise to me when one of my sons started displaying the same signs and symptoms of my grandmother at a very young age. (Dear geneticists, if you are looking for your next gig perhaps locating the hypochondria gene would be a worthwhile venture. Trust me, the people who endure the drama would forever be in your debt.) And because of my experience with good old Grandma…I was prepared. I knew the remedy to such nonsense. Ignore it. Plain and simple. Put no credence in any ramblings of a neurotic son.

I have to tell you that most of the time, pretending that I didn’t hear statements like, “Mom, I think I have MERSA.” Or “Mom? Could I be dying of a heart attack? My chest is really tight.” Or “Mom, I’m pretty sure that I have some kind of cancer. Feel this lump! Am I going to die?” worked for the most part. And if ignoring didn’t stop it, usually a simple, “No you don’t have cancer.” Or “No you aren’t having a heart attack.” Or “No, you do NOT have MERSA” coupled with an “I promise” did the trick. For years I fended off affliction after affliction after affliction by using just these strategies, and for years that simple promise worked because…well…it was a promise that was really never broken. He never did have cancer or a heart attack or even MERSA and so those promises held enough credence to calm the obsessive compulsive consistent and constant health related panics. That is until…  Read the rest of this entry »

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