My sophomore year of college was rough. My freshman year ended badly, I had two jobs and a nervous breakdown that summer. Going into sophomore year I was a Resident Assistant and wasn’t sure if I had any friends.
I didn’t have a roommate. I gained twenty pounds. I went to the health center a lot. I was convinced I had a rare adrenal gland disease. I did workouts in my room alone with plastic wrap around my waist to sweat off the weight. I ate fried food from the on campus grill for dinner every night alone in my room.
During one visit to the health center I saw the doctor’s notes. “Teary-eyed female”. It made me so angry. It was so dismissive. I was sick and needed help. But she was right. I was teary-eyed. I wasn’t the kind of sick she could help with. No one recommended a therapist or psychiatrist, not that I’d have gone. It would be several more years before I started looking into my mental health. And nearly 20 before I got the right help.
Hypochondria has always been a symptom of my mental illness. I never make up symptoms – that’s not what hypochondria is. The symptoms are real. The weight gain, high blood pressure, depression. All really happening. It’s just not Addison’s disease.
Recently I had to go to the ER for possible diverticulitis. Again. I had it summer 2018. Ended up needing a colonoscopy. They diagnosed me with diverticulosis and recommended a high fiber diet. No big deal. Fast forward almost 2 years later and it happened again. It presented differently this time and the treatment was different. They didn’t give me IV antibiotics. And instead of the oral sulfa antibiotics they gave me last time, they prescribed Augmentin.
After one pill I broke out in a rash. Mostly it was underneath my breasts like a waterfall down to my mid stomach. I was having an allergic reaction to the medication. But I didn’t know that. That didn’t even occur to me. I thought the rash was from the infection. Dr Google said it could be ulcerative colitis. I took a second dose. Rash got worse. Now it was around my chest and neck. I panicked. I could feel my mental state deteriorating. Every negative thought swirling around came to the front. I’m a bad mom, a bad wife, I’m going to die!
I was able to CBT my way out of most of them. But nothing could shake the feeling I was dying. I was convinced the infection in my lower colon had seeped into my blood stream and the rash was a sign of that blood infection. I was afraid I was going to die in my sleep.
I took my temperature. 97.6 That couldn’t be right. I had my husband take his temperature to see if the thermometer was working correctly. 95.3. Oh no! What if it was off by 3 degrees? That means my temp is 100.6. A low grade fever. Should I go to the ER? I don’t want to. I’ll be there forever. I’m tired. The kids will worry. But if I don’t treat this infection I’ll die. I’ll leave them alone with no mother. I can’t let them feel that pain. They are too young! Quickly but silently I was loosing my grip on reality. I shot up out of bed and ran to the bathroom to vomit. Surprisingly that knocked me out of that state of mind for just long enough to think rationally. I could call the doctor and ask what I should do. So I did. She called back a few minutes later and said that the rash sounded like an allergic reaction to the Augmentin. Stop taking it, take 2 Benadryl and get a new antibiotic at the GI doc the next day. Only come into the ER if I vomit again.
I slept well, did some work and errands and went to the appt. I started breaking down again. I texted my sister, teary-eyed, about my fears that I was dying. That I would die young due to the childhood trauma and toxic stress. With everything else going on being sick was too much. My cup was empty. I felt bad about that. Why is it empty? Why does that happen so easily? She said because it has holes. Hers does too. We didn’t make those holes but we are doing the work to patch them.
I am so exhausted. Things like this happen and I feel discouraged. I want to be normal. Have normal reactions to stress. Not vomiting from nerves. Not spiraling with thoughts of dying and leaving my children motherless.
My hypochondria hasn’t been that bad in a very long time. I hope this isn’t the start of a set back. There’s no time for a set back.