Hello. My name is Andrew Todd and I’m a hypochondriac.
Some people have a cough. I don’t. I have lung cancer.
Some people have a twitch. I don’t. I have sclerosis, sclerosis, sclerosis, scleroris, also called multiple scleroris.
Some people have nothing at all. I don’t. I always have something. I’ve even had Motaba, the fictional disease from the film Outbreak, because I’m a hypochondriac, and I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from a made up movie monkey.
Hypochondria messes with your mind. Not just in the obvious ways. The thinking you’re ill when you’re not type ways. Hypochondria makes me jealous of those who are genuinely ill – at least they know what they have. I don’t. Not until I’ve checked NHS Direct, WebMD and the ‘TellItToMeStraightDocAmIDying?’ internet forum where GPBobaFett357 confirms that “Yes, tiredness and heavy eyelids immediately after waking up first thing in the morning is definitely caused by… sleep tumours. Deadly, deadly sleep tumours!”.
I even feel jealous of people who are genuinely ill because at least they know they can be cured. There’s no cure for hypochondria. Even if there was, I’d just catch something else. Like the Black Death, which I’ve also had. It’s remarkably similar to the common cold. If only Dark Age doctors had prescribed two paracetamol, a cup of Lemsip and a Netflix subscription, they could have avoided a global pandemic. It worked for me, it would have worked for them.
Every headache’s a brain tumour. Every tremor a sign of Parkinsons. My nose bleeds will never end. I know my response is neither rational nor sane, I know that. But, while everyone is aware, on some level, of their body clock counting down the days, my body clock is bloody Big Ben. Every hour on the hour: “DOOM! DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!”.
DOOM! That brown mole is… the start of skin cancer! DOOM! That white spot is… a leprous pox! DOOM! That red itch… is viral meningitis!
I should see a doctor. But I don’t trust doctors. How can you trust someone who gave dyslexics such a hard word to spell? Or stutterers and stammerers such hard words to say?
Doctors don’t even know any medicine anymore. Last time I went to my doctor, all he did was check Google. To book a holiday. Do you know how much that hurt? To be ignored by a man who has sworn the Hippocratic oath. Especially when I had cerebral palsy. Again!
Hypochondria’s not even a cool mental illness. We don’t get to wear a black bin bag and get off with her-from-The-Hunger-Games like Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook. Ironically, for an illness that’s all about being ill, we don’t even consider it a proper illness. Hypochondria’s other name is ‘Man Up Syndrome’.
“I think I might have bird flu because a seagull shat on my head.”
“I think I might have brain parasites because I fell asleep watching Star Trek 2: The Wrath Of Khan and they crawl in your ear while you sleep you know.”
“I think I might have scurvy because I don’t like bananas.”
But I can’t help it. I can’t choose my mental illness. I can’t pick nymphomania, kleptomania, Wrestlemania or Romania (research note to self – double check these last two are proper manias).
If I had a choice I’d choose nice mental illnesses. Something like Foreign Accent Syndrome – “I am lookin’ for ze Madonna wiv ze big boobies!” or the Cotard Delusion, also called the Zombie Delusion – “I’m a zombie and I want BRAINS!” – or, my favourite, Tourette’s Syndrome, which is 50% genuine mental illness and, I believe, 50% opportunistic heckling.
And the strange thing about hypochondria is how predictable it is. There are tens of thousands of illnesses yet hypochondria acts like there’s just three. The big three. Cancer. Cardiac Arrest. Athlete’s foot. Imagine going to a garage that acted like every emergency was the worst possible thing that could happen to you.
“Hi, I’ve think I’ve got a flat tyre – can you take a look at it?”
“No need. I can see the problem from here.”
“Oh, is it the tyre, Â it looks lower than the other three?”
“No. It’s definitely exhaust pipe AIDS.”
“Are you sure? The exhaust pipe isn’t connected to the wheels.”
“Sorry mate, and your tyres have athletes foot. If I were you I would just curl up in a ball and cry yourself to sleep just like you do every single night.”
“Oh, imaginary mechanic, you know me so well!”
It’s the lack of variety in hypochondria that makes me watch every medical drama on telly. Many hypochondriacs avoid all medical information because it makes them more anxious. “Got that! Got that! Got that too! Oh God, I’m going to die!”
But, when my Big Ben strikes DOOM I don’t want what everyone else had, I want to be unique, I want to be the world’s first hypochondriac hipster.
“Is this brown mole skin cancer? No, it’s malignant hyperpigmentation – it’s the next big thing!”
“This white spot? Leprosy? Do I look like Jesus? Yes, I know I’m wearing sandals, I am a hipster, but that spot is clearly Denghe Fever which I caught after watching a Discovery Channel programme about rafting in the Congo.”
If hypochondria is all in my head, then I want my head to be bloody brilliant at picking fictional diseases.
But’s that’s the problem, isn’t it? It all in our heads.
Hypochondria is something that no one can see. People think I must be making it up. It’s a mental illness and we’re not good with mental illness. We don’t even have it in the Paralympics – and they’ve got blind people playing basketball: how mental is that?!
I have this theory. In the hierarchy of illnesses you get one point for a losing a limb, two points for a coma and three points from any disease that would actually get people to respond to an office wide email for a charity challenge. The mentally ill get minus one point. Hypochondria minus two.
We don’t get sympathy. All the mentally ill get is a straight jacket and a padded cell because, you know, it really help the mentally ill to have their arms strapped together so they can’t protect their delicate brains when they ricochet off the walls in an all-white padded bouncy castle/loony bin. Yes, we protect the mentally ill by making it impossible for them to protect their brains. I told you, Doctors are pricks.
Well, I say fek that. It’s time for me to “Man up!”. Yes, “MAN UP!”
My hypochondria’s an illness: as destructive as cancer, as strong as AIDS, as difficult to cure as athletes foot. I’ve don’t need to be ashamed. I have a big boy sickness. A proper disease. Just like Spanish flu, syphilis, scarlet fever and, my current illness, the all consuming rage virus from 21 Days Later*. Which I’ve also had, because, as I told you, I don’t let fiction stop me catching a made up disease from made up movie monkeys!
Say it loud. Say it with me. Say it proud “My name is Andrew Todd and I am a hypochondriac
*Though I might just have had the cold and that’s why I wasn’t training last week.