I have not been writing so frequently lately and we've already covered my preoccupation with politics as one distraction. Let's move on to hypochondria. NO! I am NOT a hypochondriac! Every moment of ache and pain, queasy, "weird" sensation, headache, muscle ache, joint ache, heart palpitation, ear ringing, itchy patch, and blurred vision is REAL and is likely a precursor to something truly awful, and which will cause me tremendous suffering until that blessed moment of release into the endless purgatory of trying to pass a math test to get into Heaven. (I know there must be a test. I hope its spelling; pretty good at spelling. But probably it's math.)
The thing is, there is nothing much wrong with me. Physically I'm in good shape. No chronic anythings. Slightly elevated blood pressure; slightly high cholesterol. I take low doses of drugs for those. That's it. But my overactive imagination that conjures up a litany of "what ifs" has been diagnosed and is pretty chronic -- "generalized anxiety disorder"with the subset "health anxiety" being the most predominant since some unexplained fainting episodes a few years ago, the memories of which still haunt me.
So, I do spend a lot of time fussing about this or that "symptom" and imagining the worst and bugging Hub to explain what it could be and what I should do. He used to take all this rather seriously and would conscienciously try to help. Now he tells me to call my primary care provider. He does triage me though, so my poor doc isn't inundated with Nervous-Nelly calls. Hub listens to me while he's reading the paper and I'm sure he's concerned enough to rule out everything but those symptoms which might be truly alarming, but he also knows that most of what I complain about is normal body stuff that everyone has, they just don't carry on about it. In fact I know people with real, potentially life-threatening conditions who seem to go about their lives with nary a care for the Grim Reaper. I am amazed. My anxiety keeps me stuck on the sofa, scrolling through Mayo Clinic and WebMD sites when I'm at my most distraught. I am definitely NOT booking a flight to Madrid. Lately I've been focusing on some out-of-the-blue joint and muscle pain and morning headaches. Also memory loss. Is constantly forgetting names (or getting them mixed up) normal? How about sort of forgetting where I'm headed when I get to the bottom of the hill on my street and take the automatic right when I should have turned left?
At my age, in spite of our absolute vow that it not be so when we were all younger, many conversations with friends revolve around physical ailments, terrible diagnoses, and fears of mental and physical decline. It's impossible to deny, avoid, and put off. These things are real and for my age cohort are often the answer to "what's new?" because dealing with all of it can be all-consuming. It seems everyone has had a joint replacement, a case of shingles, or an errant organ. Everyone's waiting for test results. A friend and I went visiting the other day to the homes of two other friends who we don't see frequently. They are lovely, smart, funny, creative women. We had a blast catching up. Yet, in the course of that day they both independently brought up the idea of suicide as a totally valid and hoped for response to dementia or debilitating illness. This is what we talk about over coffee and cake these days. It's not depressing really, just weird to find myself at this stage where these conversations are not ironic, but deadly serious.
So, I think about my eventual decline and demise too. I think about it too much. I get nervous, frightened, terrified. I spend a lot of time trying to stay strong, balanced, and flexible with yoga classes, strength training, treadmill walking. I try to challenge my brain to grow new neurons by reading and doing "brain games". I have enormous gratitude for the fact that (I'm knocking on every piece of wood I can find right now) I'm, so far, healthy and able. My anxieties are controlled by yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices (also time-consuming), and by shifting my thinking from negative to positive, when I remember to do it. So, instead of assuming the worst, I'm working on assuming the best. I will live with fully functioning faculties to the age of 106, then perhaps die the night after Hub and I cheer on the Seahawks as they bring home the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XCI. Boom!
At least, that's the view from here...©
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