I’m dying. I mean, faster than some and slower than others, but it’s not going to happen in the next 10 minutes. Probably. But we’re all dying, aren’t we? So how exactly, if you are occasionally prone to morbid delusion, do you reconcile that?
I’ve had a few actual brushes with death, which doesn’t help dismiss the notion. When your body is in a real and actual degenerative state with various organs telling you to go fuck yourself, it’s hard to ignore the steady decline towards what seems like an inevitable conclusion. And migraines — sweet Jesus — when it feels like your eyeball is going to explode out of your head it is easy to imagine that a stroke is not only possible, but imminent.
I’m not sure where this started. It pre-dates my actually being sick, I think. As a child I suffered two things: chronic nosebleeds and headaches. (I say headaches, because I don’t think they were migraines back then, but getting regular headaches were still a bit of an anomaly, in that other kids didn’t seem to get them except when they were sick.) The nosebleeds were presumably benign, but blood is scary. Even more scary was the fact that I’d often get them in my sleep, so I’d wake up to a bloody pillowcase. If that doesn’t convince a six-year-old with an active imagination that she’s dying, I don’t know what would.
Fast forward several years and there was more blood, this time in the toilet. Yes, gross. Yes, embarrassing. Yes, I didn’t tell anyone about it for years out of said embarrassing grossness and instead just waited to silently die from a bowel perforation.
Thankfully I did eventually seek treatment, but not before my fatalistic (although at this point not entirely unjustified) delusion was fully entrenched.
This is where you will tell me that imagining that I am dying is what makes me sick.
Now I’m imagining that I am dying because I am imagining that I am dying.
So thanks for that added layer of guilt.
See, this is the problem with delusion and obsessive thoughts. If I could stop myself from ruminating, I wouldn’t be mentally ill. It’s not that I don’t know much of it is nonsense — or at least that it serves no purpose to obsess over my mortality other than to further harm myself. I know that. But the thoughts continue to niggle at my brain, and the fact that I continue to get sicker reinforces it.
The definition of hypochondria is “excessive preoccupancy or worry about having a serious illness. This debilitating condition is the result of an inaccurate perception of the condition of body or mind despite the absence of an actual medical condition.” But that’s not me, exactly. I do have medical conditions. Real, quantifiable, testable conditions.
When we were kids, my brother said to me “you don’t fake being sick, you really make yourself sick.”
Did I make myself sick? I don’t know. Maybe? Sometimes when I’m feeling especially self-destructive, I do blame myself for that. The illnesses that I have genetically come from both sides of my family. I just seem to be a repository for all of them, all at once. I am either very unlucky, or there is something about my mental and physical makeup that has made me prone to triggering them.
Ultimately though, does it matter? If somehow I ‘talked myself into disease’ with my negative attitude, they’re here now, and real, and have to be dealt with.
Conversely, what if I didn’t cause them? What if my frustrating paranoia has helped me. Most of my illnesses were detected very early (including my skin cancer), and were diagnosed after initially being dismissed by doctors because I was too young, or the wrong sex, or they had doubts. But I wasn’t wrong.
So maybe being paranoid and overly sensitive to every change in my body has served me well.
It would be a strange sort of irony if my conviction that I am dying is inadvertently responsible for the prolongation of my life.