Home » Can we talk about hypochondria?

Can we talk about hypochondria?

The past few weeks I have been thinking a lot about the way my mind works. What prompted this was taking Kristin Oliver’s class, and preparing to go to her retreat this coming weekend. I have been trying to shift some patterns in my life, and have been fascinated to learn that 95% of what we do, think and feel is controlled by our unconscious mind. This makes changing patterns or “stories” in our lives incredibly challenging. It also explains why the concept of willpower is so difficult, because so much of what we do is just on autopilot and there is very little that is actually intentional.

Something I have struggled with, but do not share freely, is hypochondria. This is not a condition I have always had, but rather one that came about after a scary experience. I had just completed my third (and final) cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the first of which resulted in the pregnancy, which resulted in EVAN. I had a feeling something was wrong with a vein in my calf, and had scheduled an appointment to see a specialist. Of course I did some online research to determine what might be happening with this vein that was looking so lumpy and feeling achy. Doing online research about health concerns is something I generally avoid now, because the sites will all give you the worst possible scenario, which will likely be cancer or impending death.

I had all of these worries swirling in my mind after getting the news back from the fertility specialist’s office that this IVF attempt was unsuccessful. I never considered that the hormones and medications I had been injecting into my body might be the cause of the problem with my vein. When you choose IVF, you are focusing on the dream of a baby, and not the list of possible side effects.

That evening, I was driving Evan home from the circus, after having just dropped my sister at home. I must have been worrying about my vein, and believe now I had what I now know is a panic attack. It scared me so much that I pulled over and called 911. I was sure something in my vein had shifted and must be the cause of the lightheaded feeling I was experiencing. Once the paramedics came, they checked my vitals and couldn’t find anything abnormal, and by this time my husband and sister arrived. The paramedics suggested that I might want to go to the ER to be checked out, but didn’t think it was necessary to transport me there. My sister took Evan to our house and Bryon took me to the hospital.

After we arrived, I knew that it was going to be a long wait because it was a typical Friday night in the ER. Once they took me back, things started happening really fast. I had a doppler ultrasound of the lumpy vein in my leg, which revealed a deep vein thrombosis (or DVT), which is a blood clot in the vein. Then I had a CT scan and they found a bunch of old and new blood clots in my lungs. They told  all of these were likely a side effect of the IVF cycles. I spent five days in the hospital and was not allowed to get out of bed, while they were giving me injections of a medication to get my blood clotting levels in the “therapeutic range”. During that time the doctors I spoke with were very serious, and all told me that I was lucky that I had listened to my body. In fact everyone who came to my room told me I was lucky I had listened to my body, so after that, I really started listening!

I spent the next few years going to the doctor with any ache or pain, imagined or real. (The brain apparently doesn’t even know the difference) I did not care how much money I spent in co-pays, as long as the doctor could ease my fears, which would have spiraled into panic attacks by the time of my appointment. I was especially listening to the vein in my leg, which is damaged and sometimes aches. I have had it Dopplered on Christmas eve, and the day before hosting Thanksgiving for thirteen guests. Each time knowing that if a blood clot was detected, I would be transported to the hospital where I would spend almost a week. All these tests have been negative by the way, except for the one I had hours before flying to Amsterdam last spring, which ended up being a Baker cyst, and not life-threatening, but which presents itself as a blood clot. 🙁

In the past few years I have gotten better, and am not in a state of constant fear of my health, but periodically I will feel a twinge and the fear starts again. This is the “story” I desperately want to change, for myself and my family. It will take continued work redirecting and retraining my thoughts and working with Kristin, but I am hoping with time I can have an ache or pain and know it is just that and likely nothing more.

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