When I started to get into all this alternative health stuff, quite a few people raised quite a few eyebrows. They knew how much I hated doctors and conventional medicine; they knew how squeamish I could get about all sorts of 'body' issues (I used to throw up when I had to change a particularly fulsome diaper…); and last but definitely not least, they knew I was a terrible hypochondriac.
The smallest pain, or ache, or 'issue', and I'd immediately be off imagining the worst-case scenarios and secretly panicking myself to death. That's one of the reasons I used to keep myself so busy with work and other things. When you're killing yourself with 18 hour days, you don't really have time to notice, or think about, the weird little pain that showed up in the middle of your chest.
God's been very kind to me the last few years, and He helped me deal with my hypochondria a few different ways:
1) He arranged it that every single doctor's visit I ever had left me swearing I'd never go back again. If the doctors I'd been to had been an iota nicer, or less arrogant and condescending, I'd have been hooked popping into the surgery every two days to check out my latest symptoms, (and probably also to get my regular prescription for Prozac.)
I've seen so many of my fellow hypochondriacs get caught in this vicious circle of desperately needing 'official' reassurance that they're ok, only for that to wear off a day or two later, when the next weird symptom showed up.
2) He helped me to start learning much more about bodies, mine in particular, and health, and the links between emotions and physical issues. I calmed down tremendously once I realized that not every little twinge was a precursor for something awful, and was much more likely to be a small reminder that I was subconsciously worrying about something, or repressing a feeling that needed to be addressed and dealt with.
3) He sent me Rav Arush, and his books. I read something in the Garden of Emuna (I think) that summed it up like this: (paraphrasing): "If you're panicking about having a serious disease every time you get a little muscular twinge, that's a complete lack of emuna and you need to work on it." He was right. Once I realized my hypochondria was a sort of mental illness, I stopped beating around the bush and started asking God for some serious help to sort it out.
4) He clued me in to the fact that if I didn't stop being a hypochondriac, I was going to severely mess up my children. Ahh, my poor children. How many things I seem to have learned at their expense. As I said, I'd secretly panic every time I had an ache, or pain, or spot, but I wouldn't actually tell anyone about it, or act on my panic. But with my kids, it was different - I'd completely and obviously freak-out.
Again, my huge dislike of doctors meant that I wasn't shlepping them off to the GP every few days, thank God, but I would walk around with a huge sense of foreboding and fear that 'something serious' was wrong, and it permeated the whole atmosphere and made us all feel awful.
People make a lot of jokes about hypochondria, but I have to tell you, it's one of the worst ways a person can suffer. It causes so much anxiety, fear, worry, upset and general panic, because there's ALWAYS a strange pain, or a twinge, or an unexplained rash to deal with, and you can be in a constant state of tension.
Hypochondria wears away your nerves like nothing else, especially when you're also a mother.
So what do I suggest, for my fellow hypochondriacs out there?
The first thing is to talk to God regularly, every single day. Hypochondria comes about because we fear the worst; we think the world and God is somehow out to get us; and on a very deep level, we also feel like we don't want to, or deserve to, live.
These aren't simple issues, and without God in the picture, I don't know how you can genuinely and permanently resolve them.
The next thing I'd suggest is to learn some simple energy exercises to calm down the Triple Warmer meridian. Triple Warmer governs the 'flight or fight' syndrome, and it's behind every form of panic and anxiety known to man. If you regularly calm down Triple Warmer, a huge amount of your inner tension will melt away automatically, which means you'll find it easier to stop over-reacting to every little cough.
The last thing I'd suggest is to learn more about your health, and how your body and soul actually work together. Hypochondriacs are usually pretty sensitive people, just the 'pain' they're picking up is normally spiritual and emotional. Once you make those links for yourself, you'll find it much easier to understand what's going on, and what the pain is actually coming to teach you (and no, the message is usually not 'you're dying'.)
If you have hypochondriac tendencies, you should know you're not alone. Most of the world does these days. You should also know that you don't have to continue to suffer. Talk to God, calm down Triple Warmer and continue reading this blog, and you'll see for yourself how sooner or later, the clouds will part, and you'll stop worrying (so much…) about your health.
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