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Rant #284
(published June 29, 2006)
Confessions of a Hypochondriac
by Sarah Flake
One minute you are perfectly happy, just popping online to surf the internet—the next you discover that you have some obscure, untreatable disease and one week to live. This, my friends, is the beauty of the internet. Every time my knee aches or my jaw pops, I'll promptly turn to the internet to investigate which delightful new diagnosis I qualify for. Through a simple Google search, you too can have the disease of your liking in five minutes or less!

In the past two years alone, I've discovered that I am Obsessive Compulsive, have Raynauds's Syndrome, Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy (say that 10 times fast), Restless Leg Syndrome, Tinnitus and Agoraphobia—to name a few of the more charming ones. And to augment in times of health, it's always helpful to freak out about possibly having skin cancer every time I get a zit. It's really quite entertaining actually. Just type in any random combination of symptoms in a search engine, y viola! Your own personalized devastating illness.

Think of the possibilities—that woman calls up. You know the one - the lady who if you have to hear her grizzly birth story one more time you are just going to burn your own ears off. "Hi Sarah! We haven't chatted in forever, how about lunch?" Well, thanks to your diligent internet research, you can brightly respond, "I'm sooo sorry, (insert cutesy name), I've just been diagnosed with hairy tounge disease and really shouldn't be out in public for the next few weeks." Then utilize her speechless pause, make a gagging noise and quickly hang up. You've just successfully avoided bad conversation for at least another month. Suddenly you have a really cool sounding disease that should get you pity points when you get pulled over for speeding, a free pass to behave badly, an excuse to sleep in, and the high card in any argument. I can't be the only one who has discovered this.

But of course the best part of discovering you have an obscure illness, is finding other people who claim to have it as well. Last year I was thrilled to find that one of my friends also had Restless Leg Syndrome! We then very seriously discussed the ill effects it had on our lives and how other people "just don't understand." Deep down, we both knew it was total baloney, but for one brief, shining moment, we felt like survivors of the Ebola virus, victoriously reflecting on how we had emerged as diamonds from the rough due to the immense hardship we had to endure with our "sickness." My husband doesn't understand. Granted, I do start 25% of my sentences with "I have this pain in my (insert random body part.)" I have finally stopped telling him about all my pains and go straight to the internet where a world of do-it-yourself-doctor sites and voodoo-witch women cheerfully embrace me in their leprous arms. Without these caring medical experts, I would just be a healthy, happy, mom who could probably use more sleep. Instead, I'm magnificently decked with an illness for every occasion. You name a symptom, I'll disease it up so badly that by the time I'm through with it the Black Plague will look like a series of minor paper cuts. It's a gift.

So next time you feel like calling in sick to the office, take a minute to really come up with something good before getting your boss on the phone. The flu just doesn't cut it anymore, kids. Let's step it up a notch. I would be remiss if I failed to mention my favorite self-diagnosed aliment, hypochondriac. Don't act so shocked.

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