One of my coworkers was talking the other day about how her house had a bedbug infestation.
Which meant that I couldn’t concentrate on anything until I got home, flipped my mattress over and examined every inch of it and my bedspring for any sign of bedbugs.
No, I had no reason to believe that I had them. I’m not particularly itchy at night, don’t have any bites or rashes, and keep a really clean house. But because someone I knew had them, I spent all day convinced that I did too.
Because I am a hypochondriac.
I don’t even know if that’s the right word for what I am because it goes so far beyond health issues with me. For example, if someone I know gets a flat tire, I’m suddenly convinced that my tires look flat.
To be honest, I think this is an inherited condition. My dad’s mother used to watch the news all day and worry that all of the bad stuff that happened on the news was happening to our family at that very moment.
The internet is the absolute worst thing in the world for a hypochondriac. I mean, my most visited website, after Facebook and the Amazon page for my book to check how sales are doing, is probably WebMD.
WebMD has this symptom checker thing to diagnose what’s wrong with you. It’s a picture of a person and you select the areas of your body that are bothering you. So if I have a cough or sore throat, it tells me I have either a common cold or tuberculosis. It’s PROBABLY a cold, but the argument for tuberculosis is pretty compelling.
I always freak out when I visit WebMD though, because there are two things that are listed as potential causes for EVERYTHING that could possibly be wrong with you: cancer or HIV. Have a headache? WebMD will tell you it’s a tumor. A rash? AIDS. Stomachache? Cancer. Earache? Cancer AND AIDS.
WebMD should have a password on it just for me. Because all the diseases are linked, IMDB-style. So over the summer, I got a bad mosquito bite from walking Rosie. When it wouldn’t stop itching, my dad joked that I had West Nile. I ran to my computer to look up West Nile on WebMD to see if I had the symptoms. Ten minutes later, I was pretty sure I had lupus, strep throat, anemia, and pre-eclampsia, despite not being and having never been pregnant.
Luckily, all four diseases cleared up by the next morning when the bug bite stopped itching.
But here’s the ironic part: most hypochondriacs spend half their lives in their doctor’s office. My primary physician apparently moved offices about five years ago and I didn’t know that until last year when I was running a fever for a week and my mother blackmailed me into going to the doctor (let’s not get into what info she had to blackmail me with).
Maybe I don’t like going to the doctor because my parents never took my brother or me when we were kids. Maybe it’s because my brother is now a doctor and I therefore understand that doctors can’t know as much as WebMD does. Or maybe it’s because deep down I know that I don’t have every incurable disease known to mankind.
Except it’s none of those reasons. It’s really because I don’t actually want to know if I have anything that bad. I mean, I’m actually pretty healthy. So if I DO have something incurable, it’s not bothering me too much. And I’m worried that if I go to the doctor, it’ll be like when Mr. Burns did on The Simpsons and found out that he had EVERY disease.
And if there IS something wrong with me, it’s just the like monster under my bed. If he’s not bothering me, I don’t want to know that he’s there.
So please, creators of WebMD, do the world a favor and take your site down. I don’t want to be told that I have the bubonic plague when I sneeze three times. And clearly, I’m not capable of keeping myself off the site.
I wonder if that means I have meningitis. WebMD, here I come!