I grew up with parent doctors, being exposed to lots of medical books and knowledge of diseased most other kids would not have thought of. However, I was not affected by it until I was maybe…12-13? Maybe a bit older. And of all the things that would trigger my hypochondria, it was a copy of Reader’s Digest.
I remember the story quite well. It was written by a parent about how her son (daughter?) had gotten a brain hemorrhage after knocking his (her?) head on a cabinet. The story was written dramatically – the child woke up screaming, it was all sudden, it was such an innocuous knock. I have no idea why this story would stick to me. A while later, I knocked my own head (how, I cannot recall anymore). I became convinced I might get a brain hemorrhage too. My heart beat fast all the time, I waited with bated breath for the moment when I too would wake up screaming.
My parents reassured me nothing was wrong. I did not have a brain hemorrhage. They assured me that they would keep a 24, or to be safe (and probably to allay my fears) a 48 hour watch on me. During that time, if the knock was serious, it would show in the form of a concussion or something else. Nothing happened. The knock just became a bump on the head which lingered for a day or so before going away. However, I did get fever for 4 days after that. My dad called it a panic fever. He told me that I was so panicked and worried that my body literally reacted with a fever.
It slowly began from there. I had gastric problems growing up. I had a weird feeling near my lower right ribcage for months, maybe a year or more when I was around 16 – like a sock was wadded up there. I felt my abdomen and was convinced I felt lumps there. My mom had a benign tumour removed in my secondary school days – I thought I had a tumour too. I googled it – I was convinced I had an inflamed liver. I agonised over it for weeks before mustering up the courage to ask my dad about it. I remember the phone call:
Dad: Okay, I’ll test you for other tell-tale signs of an inflamed liver. Do you feel a pain when you jump?
Dad: Do you feel any pain when you run?
Dad: Do you feel any pain when you engage in physical activities of any sort?
Me: No. I’ve been playing tennis and having PE a few times a week.
Dad: Do you see any yellowing of the whites of your eyes?
Dad: Then your liver is not inflamed.
And so that was the end of it. The feeling eventually went away. I don’t even remember when it did. It’s just, one day a few years later, I woke up and remembered about it and…it had just fallen out of my consciousness somewhere along the way.
I had numerous other scares along the year (a more memorable one being breast cancer). 2015 ended with some visual migraines. I have had these before – weird lines in my vision that spread to the periphery and clear up within 20 minutes, followed by a headache for a few hours. A quick google search (aha) revealed that this is a visual migraine. It is completely harmless and indeed, googling some more (oops), one of the less painful migraines (I read of people having splitting headaches, numb arms, impaired speech, all from migraines). However, it made me suddenly aware of my vision. And lo and behold, within a few weeks of agonising over my vision, I realised my floaters, which I had since I was very young, were suddenly a lot worse. I always had a few floating around in my vision, but I had barely noticed these for years. Now they were everywhere.
Cue the articles about retina detachment and impending vision loss. I would just start crying because I was so scared. I imagined I was seeing bright flashes. I would see stars when looking at a cloudy white sky (although I later read that this is a perfectly normal phenomenon that everyone experiences, if they actually focused – I probably began noticing it because I was so focused on my own vision).
Did anything happen? Well, I finally asked my mom about it. She said retinal detachment is extremely rare for someone my age, and what I should be looking out for, really, is vision loss. I had experienced no such thing. So, it was not retinal detachment. I plucked up the courage to ask some of my friends about it – turns out, others have it too! One guy said he could see the moonlight bouncing off his floaters sometimes, another said he didn’t need bright light to see them at all. People my age had them to. The difference was that I agonised over it like crazy, whereas they simply thought it was dust or just ignored it. In the months since, once I began forgetting about the floaters, I could go by hours without seeing them.
I could go in detail about the other afflictions I had/thought I had, but this should do. As a summary, the floaters were followed by an infection (completely unrelated) that I had to take antibiotics for which tired me out so much that I am 99.9% sure it weakened my immune system and in turn led to: eye-twitching, gastric, food-poisoning, a random one day bout of allergy where my lip swelled up, allergies on my legs and finally a three week flu. YAY good end to 2015 and a good start to 2016.
You might understand that by this point I am fed up with my own immune system. I am always “sick” these days. The thing is, other people I know are “sick” then too. They also have floaters, some regularly get migraines and headaches, so many people at school had the flu at the same time I did, food poisoning is not unheard of. I was getting whacked continuously, yes that needed work, but it was the wearing down of my mind that worried me. I was always fearing that I was going to get something again. That I was sickly. That I was frail.
And I’m not! I am a young, pretty healthy person otherwise. I am not as fit as I used to be, but I used to exercise so much, and my body is still capable of that. I had to overhaul myself physically and mentally. It may not prevent sicknesses – but it will mean that I won’t live my life being scared and afraid. There are some ailments that I can’t prevent, but there are a ton that I can just by adopting the right lifestyle and mindset. So that is my history up there, now for the future.