During one of my recent visits to my parents’ house I came across The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide, also known (to me) as The Original Dr. Google.
Originally published in 1982, the book has all kinds of helpful info about anything you can think of that might be slowly killing you and/or people around you.
This book started it all. My paranoia that there could always be something wrong with me, even if I feel fine. And if I don’t feel fine, I’m definitely going to die. It’s all rooted in what I read in this book.
And it’s not the book’s fault. I would have found SOMETHING to be anxious about. The options and possibilities are endless! There will always be something in my immediate environment for me to obsess over and drive myself insane thinking about. But the book was there and facilitated and enabled this level of obsession with health so my anxiety became a health-focused anxiety.
I used to pore over this book for hours. When I was too young and couldn’t read I would look at the pictures. When I could read I would still mostly look at the pictures because they really gave me the most alarming level of information and I think that’s what I was looking for, in some twisted way.
Like, “show me the really messed up stuff because it helps convince me something is really wrong.” And it’s an endless cycle of thinking something is wrong and looking it up, then momentarily feeling better because you feel like you have some kind of control over the situation if you have more knowledge about it.
And then feeling more anxious and way worse and needing to look for more information to feed your terror. And so it goes. Hour after hour, day after day.
During particularly anxious times in my life I have stayed up all night long looking at the internet, mentally digging a deeper and deeper hole into a sickness I don’t even have.
Or maybe I do. Who even knows?
As soon as I finally got my own health insurance when I got a “real job” at 29, I felt relieved that I could go to the doctor for a reasonable price whenever I needed to.
I always need to.
I’ve spoken to most women I know about the gynecologist – if they like theirs, if I like mine, if I can recommend one. It’s a big thing with most women that they feel comfortable with the person performing their gynecological exams. Some women even prefer to not have a male doctor.
For the record I DO like my gynecologist and I like her so much that she’s also my primary care doctor and I’ve been going to her for over 10 years (DR. TULLY WHAT UPPP). But sometimes I’ve been convinced something is wrong but I’m away or can’t get an appointment or need to go down the street from my office to the urgent care place during lunch and that will just take less time and effort than going to my main doctor.
Where I’m going with this is that I’m so concerned for my health at all times that I don’t even care who is going in there as long as they’re qualified to examine me and give me some kind of a diagnosis. It could be a Times Square Elmo, I do not care as long as they’re wearing gloves and have a degree.
I live in complete and constant terror and the terror will not subside until I have some kind of definitive answer.
During the COVID times of now, this terror has started to involve the fear of infecting others. Actually, the fear of infecting others with whatever I diagnose myself with is always there, but now I feel an added social pressure and responsibility. Getting sick with COVID suddenly creates a negative perception of your character.
You were IRRESPONSIBLE.
You are putting people around you IN DANGER.
Maybe you even DIDN’T WASH YOUR HANDS.
WHAT WILL YOUR FRIENDS AND COMMUNITY THINK OF YOU?! HOW HARSHLY WILL YOU BE JUDGED?! MAYBE YOU’LL BE A LEGIT OUTCAST UNTIL LIKE 2025. OR FOREVER.
The truth is, no one is trying to get COVID, and it’s sometimes unavoidable. We can’t judge people’s character on their ability to fight off an invisible, microscopic foe. Most people are doing their best. I don’t know why it turned into such a social crime to get sick.
I mean I guess I do know. It’s because people are insane.
And maybe everyone else grew up reading The American Medical Association Family Medical Guide too. And maybe everyone lives inside their own personal mental prison of health-related stress and anxiety.
So maybe I shouldn’t feel so lonely and isolated and insane. I guess everyone is turning to Dr. Google these days. It’s a lifestyle.