"One of my life’s firmest principals has been this: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, shame on both of us."
--Stephen King, from On Writing
Oh, the shame of it all…layers and layers of pure, unadulterated shame. Readers, I’ve been had again by my own personal arch nemesis, and, what’s worse, my adversary bested me using all the usual tricks. Nothing new in the arsenal, no unforeseen twist or shocking spin—I simply proved myself more gullible than a third grader in a bad lunch swap.
Regular Readers know of my propensity to fall victim to severe bouts of hypochondria. You may even recall the 54 I once scored on the Whiteley Self Test for Hypochondria. (In the interest of perspective: a score of 44 +/-11 indicates a positive result; 55 represents the Top Score). If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you’ve met Dr. M, my long suffering General Practitioner, and been introduced to The Crazy Herb Lady, my wonderfully eccentric homeopath.
I used the above phrase “since the beginning” in acknowledgment of the fact that I haven’t blogged much about my hypochondria recently. Graduate School was many things, but one of the most beneficial was its ability to keep me focused and, frankly, too busy to respond to the taunts and insults of my Inner Hypochondriac.
But I’ve had a full 10 days of near-complete inactivity preceded by a nearly 3-week stint of moderate occupation which apparently rendered me ripe for the picking when a visit with The Crazy Herb Lady--a long overdue (haven’t been in nearly 2 years) check-up in the interest of continued health and vitality-- took an unexpectedly grim turn. Seems I have some frankly alarming systems on the fritz, due no doubt to my breach in medical vigilance during my graduate studies. And—bam, gotcha—just like that hypochondria captured my metaphorical flag. And I didn’t even know it.
I spent a couple too many days in a semi-fog of anxiety, gloom, and general dread before I realized I’d been played. It was as though I walked right into a trap. Almost invariably, my most gripping episodes of hypochondria have unfolded during “lulls”—times when I have just a few too many unstructured hours in the week. Often this happens in May, as the hustle and bustle of the school year ends and before summer hits its full stride. Something will seem a little off, a symptom will appear—some seed, something real enough to give structure to an impending certainty that my anomalies signal outcomes on the far awful end of the range of possibilities.
A cough? Lung cancer, guaranteed. A burrowing tick? A rampant case of highly aggressive melanoma. Stomach ache? Colon or ovarian cancer, if not both.
It goes down like this every time. And I fall for it. Again and again, each time convinced of merits of my new symptoms, solidly certain that it won’t turn out as good as it did last time. Or the time before that. Or that.
Never scoring well on those portions of standardized tests which call for pattern-recognition prowess, I floundered for some time before recognizing the blueprint. But I’ve got it now. Really. My nemesis may have no shame, but now that I know how the fiend presents I can implement some early-detection screening. Because it would really be a shame to let myself get fooled again.