The Dance of the Hypochondriac


Here’s the story of illness, avoidance, and testicles.

I know doctors are going to hate me for this, but I’m a closet hypochondriac. I’m that friend you have who will never go to the doctor yet constantly worries about every little thing. I was in the bathroom this morning and I heard the neighbour’s window cleaner sneeze. I nearly had a heart attack. Hmm… I’m very suspicious of sneezing people. I’m covered in these red rashes and have been for years. My thinking is, ‘Well, if it was serious, I’d be dead by now.’ And nobody else I know has them, so they’re certainly not contagious. And I feel fine and dandy. Yet if you even think about booking me a doctor’s appointment, I’ll curl up into a ball and start crying, shortly followed by a prompt will writing session. I know people like me are universally hated but we don’t care. We’ll gladly accept the consequences. Heck, I didn’t even go to the doctors when my eyes turned blue. They’re still pretty blue now, which would concern some folk, but I think they look sure pretty…

I say I’m suspicious of sneezing people. I always have been. Not in general, you must understand, but lately, a lot of people have been sneezing. It’s the first stage of what I’ll from now on call ‘sick madness’. You start to notice little things. At first, they seem inconsequential. But, after a while, you start to go a touch mad. You’re sitting there on the bus or the train and one person sneezes. Then another. You start to become paranoid. Is there some sort of sickness going around? It plagues you. It eats away at you. All day at work, you sit there at your computer trying to imagine a scenario that doesn’t involve some apocalyptic virus outbreak that will see you surrounded by zombie-esque disease laden bastards who are out to eat your flesh and take those you love. No, instead, you’re trying to concentrate on your spreadsheets, but that doom scenario plays on a loop in the back of your mind.

Your nerves are frayed. You’re on edge. You’re panicking over nothing. And you know that yet you can’t stop panicking! Calm down for God’s sake! You become twitchy. Maybe you start to shake a little. You become very self-conscious that others will think you’re mental. And then, then, the worst thing possible happens. Somebody sneezes. Right behind your head. And you can tell by the sound of that sneeze that they did not cover their nose or mouth. It went everywhere. A tornado of mucus hurtling toward you. You want to dive for cover, but you can’t. You are socially bound to stay in that spot. An itch you are not allowed to scratch.

This is stage two, readers. My mum has fallen ill. A nasty cold. Now, for the closet hypochondriac, you know how ridiculous you are. We all do it. We all pick up on the sneezers and we all figure out that something is going around. We can only pray and hope that it’s nothing serious. Although there is a nagging doubt in the mind of every hypochondriac that it is a mixture of bird flu and the bubonic plague. Every single time.

But you can’t act on it, can you? Imagine if I started walking around my home covered in those white suits with goggles on and a facemask. Wearing bright yellow gloves and thick boots, all taped to my white suit. Sure, I wouldn’t get sick, but I would look crazy. And, you know, it’s not right, is it? You can’t avoid a sick person that you live with. We all want to get as far away as possible until the infection has passed and then disinfect the house when you get back. Burn all the clothes, things like that. But the social rules are that you must show solidarity. You can’t abandon someone in their time of need, even though it’s blatantly obvious that that is the only logical move. So you try to act normal. But you can’t, you just can’t, and so you venture ever deeper into the pit of sick madness. Stage three.

This is a funny one. It’s a dance. You try to act normal whilst not acting normal. You stay in your room more often. You might scratch your nose when you walk passed the sick person, a subconscious move designed to block entry points into your body. You’re trying to block any stray germs entering, even though it’s a ridiculous notion. You may even hold your breath. But you will find yourself washing your hands more. Not biting your nails. Washing everything the sick person has touched before you use it or avoiding using it altogether. “Oh, you’ve just washed your hair with my shampoo?” “Yeah. I’m cold. I’m tired. I want some soup.” “Aww, okay. I’ll do that right now.” “Oh, but I thought you were going to have a shower.” “You know what, I’ve suddenly decided I don’t want to wash my hair tonight.”

You feel awful, but you can’t help it. It’s human nature to be frightened of being sick. Nobody likes being sick. You don’t want to avoid the mother or the father, the brother or the sister, the son or the daughter, your best friend or even your partner, but you do. You avoid them like the plague. “You gonna sit down and have dinner with me?” “Oh, I’m… not hungry.” “Cuddle up and watch a movie?” “Oh, yawn, I’m really tired, I’m off to bed. You sleep in the spare room. Goodnight, honey…”

They know we’re doing it, by the way. They just put a brave face on it, but inside, they’re miserable and you’re a big reason why their miserable. And no amount of flowers will change that. And look, we’ve all done this but equally, we’ve all fallen victim to it. So then we move on to stage four.

If you’re lucky, this is the final stage. You’re sick. Every single thing is sickness. You wake up with a bit of a sore throat, bit gravely, just like every other day of the year – oh my God, I’ve caught the bug, I’m going to die. You get a bit of a headache – oh my God, it’s a symptom of the bug, I’m going to die. You’re out in the cold waiting for a bus, you get the sniffles – oh my God, I’ve got the bug, I’m going to die! And so on. Every little thing is the bug your loved one has. Nothing can convince you otherwise. Quite simply, you’re screwed. It’s the end of the world, nothing is going to be as it was, that’s it, I’m a dead man walking.

You wake up the next day, all is well. Your loved one is better and you’re showing no signs of the illness. Oh, well, I guess I was wrong. All that fuss for nothing. How silly! Ah, wonderful. Guess it was a bit stupid. Getting all worked up for nothing. That sick madness. What a beast. But if you’re unlucky, oh my, say hello to stage five. A STAGE FIVE, PEOPLE!

It really is the end of the world for those folk. They fall very ill and fall victim to the thing they were. They are now the ones who are preyed on. People avoiding them and so forth. And so the cycle begins again. Until the next big illness arises, and then the dance of the sick madness begins once more…

I feel very bad for my mum. She’s soldiering on regardless. Coughing and spluttering everywhere, all over the house. And in my face. Oh, man. I haven’t reached the end of the sick madness, readers. I’ve just entered stage four. I’m convinced I’m ill. I’m sure I have a fever and am I paler than usual? Have my testicles swollen? I can’t really tell. Oh, no, say it aint so! I’m not entering stage five am I? Oh, break out the rosary beads and the Hail Marys, this is the end! I’m doomed, I tells ya!


American travel writer, humourist and former magazine editor, Caskie Stinnett (1911-1998), once said: “The trouble with being a hypochondriac these days is that antibiotics have cured all the good diseases.”

Peace Out :|:

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Please feel free check out the latest posts from my other two blogs:

To Contrive & Jive
New Posts Every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday
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Hark Around the Words
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