Archive for May, 2012

Don’t be a Hypocondriac about being a Hypocondriac

After several months of inactivity, I have found myself back on my wordpress page. I keep saying that I’m going to write more and real life people seem to like my stories, but whenever I sit down to write, I get performance anxiety.

This picture comes up when you google “performance anxiety.” It makes me laugh.

But all that is beside the point because today, I am here not so much to tell a story, but to share an important message that I think we sometimes forget, especially those of us in our 20s who are still feeling young and healthy. And that message is:

If you feel like something is off with your body, GO TO THE DOCTOR!

I don’t really know why, but this is something I have always struggled with. I have always had this fear of being accused of overreacting over an illness. Probably because sometimes (okay okay…often), I overreact about stupid things. I get too upset over a breakup or take a criticism too personally. Those things are silly and I should work on them. But you know what is not silly? Going to the doctor when you don’t feel right! I’ve been a grown up for ten years, but I have still managed to screw things up by ignoring the above advice.

I FAIL AT ALL THE THINGS!!

Some examples:

1. I walked around on a broken leg for three weeks:

About three years ago, after running a marathon, my leg was really hurting. I figured I was just sore and it would go away. I walked around on it for about three weeks until the pain became really bad. I finally went to the doctor and I had a pretty bad stress fracture. If I had gone right away, the stupid plastic boot I had to wear would have been off in time to wear heels to my annual holiday party and maybe my leg wouldn’t also now serve as a rain predictor.

My leg tells me that it is raining in this picture

2. I let myself look stupid by being stupid about going to the doctor:

After starting law school, I was noticing that I was having a very hard time concentrating, but I just blamed it on the fact that I found studying law very boring (one of the MANY reasons I regret law school) and tried to push through it. I finished my 1L year at the bottom of the class with a C+ GPA. Over the summer, during a routine doctor’s appointment we were talking about law school and I made a joke about my inability to focus and my bad grades (I dont remember it exactly, but I’m sure it was funny). The doctor, however, thought I was exhibiting signs of ADHD. I started taking medication and went from being a C student to an A student, even earning a couple of CALIs. I told you I was smart! If I had gone to the doctor sooner, maybe I would have a job.

I thought a rap song about CALI awards, would be better than a picture.

3. I did nothing for several months while my immune system ate my brain* (maybe)

For the past few years, I have had these weird episodes where I get tingly fingers and feet and sometimes my face gets numb. They were very infrequent and so I just wrote them off as the result of stress and a poor diet. But about two months ago, they started to get worse and since I had paid the extra money for insurance during the bar exam studying period, I decided to get my money’s worth and get it checked out. The doctor was very concerned about these symptoms, ordered an MRI and some bloodwork, and told me to come back in two weeks for a follow-up. After spending hours earning my M.D. at the University of WebMD, I was convinced it was diabetes and began the grieving process for all of my favorite foods that I would soon have to give up.

I was a dual degree student, majoring in sexiness and online self-diagnosis

Despite my attempt at self-diagnosis, when I went back to the doctor’s office for my follow-up appointment, I got the diagnosis equivalent of a sucker punch.

“The MRI showed some lesions on your brain,” the doctor said. “We can’t be sure what it is until you see a specialist, but the MRI indicates multiple sclerosis.”

She said some other things, but I was bawling and I have no idea what those things were. I dont even know why I was crying because at the time, I had no idea what MS was. I had not taken that course at WebMD just yet and the only thing I knew about the disease was that there is a foundation that sometimes sponsors races, which I suppose was enough to make it Sarah-Mclachlan-Arms-of-the-Angel worthy to me. I’m still waiting to see the specialist, so I don’t have  any other news (or peace of mind), but what I have learned about MS is that the earlier you start treating it, the better. In fact, there are some studies that show that starting treatment right away severely slows down the progression of the disease, allowing many people diagnosed with it to live fairly normal and healthy lives.  So I guess what I am saying is that it I am really glad I went to the doctor’s office. Maybe (and hopefully) it will be nothing, but if I had continued to second guess myself, it really could have been so much worse!

So the moral of the story is this: if you don’t feel right, get it checked out. You know your body best. I’ve had friends who have felt sick and it took them several visits to several different doctors (and a lot of perseverance) before getting a diagnosis. Medicine is not an exact science (I should know, I do have my WebMD degree), but you know yourself better than anyone else. Be your biggest advocate and even if it turns out to be “just one of those things,” dont feel stupid for looking into it because, as the kids seem to be saying these days, YOLO (that’s “you only live once” for everyone my age and older) and you probably want to make that “once” last as long as possible.

Be well and feel free to share your own stories in the comments.

*MS doesn’t actually cause your immune system to “eat” your brain. My understanding is that it is an autoimmune disorder where your body attacks itself causing the lining of your brain to thin, which causes lesions and scarring, which then affects certain functions depending on where the damage occurred on the brain. For more info see the National MS Society’s website.

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