How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being a Hypochondriac

By the time I got on the bus to go to Boston last Thursday, I knew something was very wrong with the ol’ bod.

This in itself is not strange. I’m a hypochondriac, so I’m using running my inner diagnostics, trying to figure out if that itch or this pain means imminent death. What was strange was that there wasn’t anything in particular wrong, symptom-wise. Sure, my throat was a little sore. And maybe I was a touch achy. But nothing that would be upsetting in and of itself.

By the time I got off the bus four hours later, I felt like my head was made of glass. Everything seemed very far away. I was very, very cold, and it was getting hard to breathe.

“I’m pretty sure I’m dying,” I told my Mom when she picked me up.

“Oh no, baby, do you feel sick?”

“I think I have … bronchitis, or the plague or something.”

“Do you have a cough?”

“Something’s infected or blocked. I just feel wrong.”

The cough came later, after I’d missed the memorial service I’d traveled home to attend and spent a day on the couch shivering. And then my lungs filled up. By this time, my Mom had stopped doubting that something was wrong and was mostly trying to get me to stay in Boston til I got better.

By Tuesday, I was well enough to sit up and didn’t feel so much like the end was near, so I took a bus back to New York. First thing Wednesday morning, I went to my doctor. She took my temperature (close to normal, thanks Tylenol) and listened to my chest, and felt my neck so carefully I was sure she was looking for tumors. (Told you. I’m nervous.)

“Well,” she said. “Your lungs are clear. You don’t have pneumonia, that’s for sure. But I think you might have a touch of bronchitis.”

Bronchitis! You would have thought I had won the lottery.

“I THOUGHT I HAD BRONCHITIS,” I told her happily. “I KNEW I DID. AND MY MOM DIDN’T THINK SO, BECAUSE I HARDLY HAD A COUGH AT ALL. BUT I KNEW IT! I TOTALLY KNEW IT! BRONCHITIS! THAT’S GREAT!” I was so excited, I forgot to measure my breaths and starting coughing all over the place.

She looked at me strangely for a moment. I composed myself.

“Well, OK,” she said, holding the ends of her stethoscope, the way you’d hold the air brake if you were trying to escape a crazy person on the bus. “So, maybe a touch of bronchitis. What I’d like you to do is to try steam for a few days, and maybe an inhaler. See if you can loosen up that mucus.”

“Hmm. What are my other options?”

“Well, we can give you some antibiotics, but those will only work if it’s a bacterial infection. And we have no way of knowing if that’s what you’ve got.”

“The antibiotics. Definitely. I want those. I want all of those. Give me the drugs. That’s the way I want to go.”

You can go ahead and laugh, but it’s been two days for me and Mr. Z-Pak, and I feel at least 50% better. And I have not gone near any steam, unless it was for a shower. So suck it, holistic remedies! I’m not a hippie. I don’t make my own pants, I don’t smoke pot, and I want the antibiotics.

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