Confessions of a Recovering Hypochondriac
I'm a pretty optimistic person. I can even be a bit Pollyanna-ish about the world at times.
I'm optimistic, that is, until I'm sick or have a minor household accident. Then I go full-on crazy.
A lingering cough from a run-of-the-mill cold has me certain I have lung cancer. A 24-hour bout with the stomach bug has me rolling on the bathroom floor screaming, "Why, God, why? I'm not ready to die!" A tick bite has me checking WebMD for symptoms of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
I get it honestly. My mama has been telling she is going to die ever since my daddy died. That was 18 years ago.
Now to be fair, Mama has had her share of major health challenges. Most notably, there was the heart attack that beset her while my husband made her favorite dinner, fettuccine alfredo.
I guess the mere scent of the pound of butter and half-pound of cream cheese was too much for her heart. Mama no longer eats fettuccine alfredo.
Yet long before the fettuccine alfredo incident, Mama was, let's say, a wee bit on the dramatic side when it came to her health. I finally got her to stop telling me she was dying by snapping, "If you're gonna die, will you please just get on with it, so we don't have to keep talking about it?"
Before you deem me a horrible daughter, you should know that Mama laughed heartily at my retort, then looked me over head to toe.
She changed the subject, asking sweetly, "When are you going to do something about your hair?"
Last summer, I called Mama, my go-to person for my hypochondriasis, in a tizzy because I sliced my index and middle fingers while cutting vegetables.
"I think I need stitches," I told Mama, my voice a little weak from the sight of blood.
"You better call 911," she said.
I was mortified. There was no way I was calling 911. First off, I would never call 911 for a cut to my fingers. Secondly, I feared I had been flagged by EMS ever since my daughter called 911 to report me as, and I quote, "a bad mommy."
I had told Isabella to go to her room for a time-out, and that day's preschool lesson in 911 had apparently made an impact on her. Bless her heart.
"If you won't call 911, you'll just have to drive yourself to the hospital then," Mama said, and despite, or maybe because of, the wooziness in my head, I made the poor decision to take her advice.
Halfway to the hospital, I noticed the white kitchen towel I used to wrap my fingers had turned red. My head started spinning, and my foot pressed the brake.
And that's the last thing I remember before I fainted. I awoke to the face of a concerned jogger with a phone to his ear. He was on the phone with a 911 operator.
Unfortunately, I fainted at a busy - busy for Pinehurst, anyway - intersection. Before long, I was surrounded by other joggers, one of whom noticed the booster seat in my car and asked if I needed help with my child while I was at the hospital.
Another moved my car for me; it was blocking part of the road. Half a dozen motorists stopped and offered their help.
By the time the ambulance arrived, I had worked myself up into a full-on panic, but the paramedics were soothing and reassuring.
They coached me on breathing until I stopped hyperventilating, adopting instead heavy breathing that sounded like a pervert on the other end of a phone.
Once I was calm, a paramedic unwrapped my hand and examined my cuts. I looked away. I had already seen the flayed skin and did not wish to see it again.
How the paramedic uttered her next words to me without laughing, I do not know. I admire her restraint.
"Honey, I'll get you a Band-Aid."
I wasn't bleeding to death. I did not need stitches. I needed a Band-Aid. I needed to rein in my crazy.
I accepted the paramedic's offer to drive me to my car, figuring a ride in an ambulance would cheer me. It did, and by the time we arrived at my car, I was feeling downright Pollyanna.
Contact Melanie Coughlin at email@example.com.
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