If there was one thing I could truly change about myself, it would be to be permanently freed of hypochondria, a mental health condition I’ve had for much of my life and probably the single most frustrating part of all my ongoing health issues at this present time, as it may indeed be at the core of them all.
People often think hypochondria is something that should easily be able to be turned off. Honestly, it isn’t, just like it isn’t for someone suffering from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, or any other mental health condition for that matter. What I find perturbs me the most with this condition from an external perspective is when someone who has never dealt with it thinks they could handle it far better than I do. The reality is someone who’s never dealt with this mental disorder (or any other mental disorder they’ve never had but think they could handle better) has no clue how challenging it can be and how much it wreaks havoc upon living any sort of a stable life.
I know that most think that having hypochondria just means you worry a lot about your health but it’s so much more than that. Take for example a few weeks ago when I was playing a round of mini-golf with my partner. At one point I sat on this wooden crate while waiting for my turn on one of the holes, when suddenly I felt this pain where my butt hit the crate. My mind immediately raced to the worst. Was it a bug bite, a spider bite, a bee sting, did I sit on a rusty nail, is there a sliver in me now, on and on my mind raced, obsessively, to even the most obscure possibilities. For the rest of the day the worry of what it was occupied me, so much so that I kept going into bathrooms and looking at my butt cheek to see if I could identify what happened. It took over 36 hours for my mind to calm down about this, when the small reddish spot finally began to disappear. But for those 36 hours or so, I hardly had any serenity at all, as my mind raced over and over again about something that most likely wouldn’t have bothered the majority of individuals it happened to.
I could share countless stories like this where some “ailment” immediately kicks off a wave of hypochondria, where I end up feeling imbalanced in my mind and body until the “ailment” either completely disappears or doesn’t grow any worse. Frankly, of all the health issues I continue to deal with, this for me is the worst because when it is active, my thinking is the very thing that works against what is reality.
When a pimple is most likely just a pimple, my hypochondriac thinking leads me to believe it’s the start of or part of some terrible skin condition. When an ache in some part of my body occurs, I think it’s cancer. When my hand occasionally shakes while holding something, I think it’s Parkinson’s. I’ve probably had just about every disease on the planet by this point, at least in my mind. The mind obsessions with hypochondria tend to feel so real, real enough that I have often attempted to intervene in the body’s natural healing processes, only to make things far worse. Years ago, I’d run to the doctor repeatedly for this condition, sometimes five days a week to different specialists, asking for one test after another because of the hypochondriac worries convincing me I knew what I had, none of which ever proved to be real.
The harsh reality of how this first began might indeed relate to the unconditional love my mother always gave me each time I was “sick” with some perceived “ailment” as a kid. During those moments of “sickness”, she was so kind to me, giving me treats and attention I usually never got. I don’t remember her ever being drunk or mean to me during those times either. Did my hypochondria totally manifest because of that? I’m not sure, but the solution I used for a long time to deal with my hypochondria was medication, which only made me a zombie more than not in life. Nowadays, I am choosing to walk through each episode of hypochondria free of medications, facing each health-related fear head on, and doing my best to do nothing, except let my body work through it naturally. It is very tough sometimes to do this though, because those fears always feel so extremely real.
Because of how much this negatively affects my day-to-day living, there is one prayer I have with God regularly now and it’s to become permanently free of this mental health condition that most don’t understand. I truly believe that much of the peace and joy lacking in my life comes from having hypochondria and constantly dealing with one health-related crisis in my mind after another.
So please God, if you could answer one prayer for me, I pray you fully take this hypochondria disorder from me for good. You once took another disorder fully from me, that being my addiction to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, so I know you can take this away too. And I know that when you do, I’ll be able to live a much more stable life, just like I experienced when you completely freed me from each of those former addictions.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson