OCD, Hypochondria, and Self-isolation

Every so often, I go through a send-the-men-in-white-coats episode. Sleep recedes for days. Hypochondriacal internet searches consume me. In winter 2007, before Egor and I were due to pack up Liev and move 2,500 miles North, I convinced myself that intense toe pain was gout.  Nevermind that such pain historically indicates I had given myself bursitis by walking/sitting/standing on my tiptoes.  

Logic and personal history can’t compete with my brain, shouting, “You have gout. GOUT! GOUT!!!” Nor do they ignite my brain like the terror of debilitating illness during a major life change. Fortunately, after the third sleepless night, I saw my doctor and resumed my OCD meds.  

Even with meds, I fret about gout, cancer, appendicitis, or whatever illness a twinge in my body remotely suggests. I do not trouble my doctor; she makes me nervous, and I avoid seeing her except for my annual physical when I put on my big fake smile and tell her I’m “Awesome!”

Before high-speed internet graced my life (yes, I’m that old), I perused used-bookstore medical journals to symptom check myself. I would ask my Mom, who either gave me helpful reality checks or joined my freak-out train.

Part of the trouble is obsessiveness.

Once I married, I sucked it up. My ruminations embarrassed me so I kept secrets. Not until my first pregnancy did I change. Being responsible for an unborn baby’s health motivated me to open up. Thus, Egor got a full dose of my neuroticism. Despite losing that first pregnancy, I did not become more obsessive during my pregnancy with Liev. Pregnancy hormones agreed with me, I assumed. Or, perhaps sharing worries unburdened me as well.

After Liev’s birth, I resumed hiding my fears from my husband. It has taken me years to share my ridiculous thoughts and fixations. Sometimes he looks at me as if he cannot believe I have hidden such strangeness from him. I am a new version of myself that he needs to adapt to.

Confiding excessive and unrealistic worry makes me feel like a burden as if I subtract from our family. Consider this: I received a brutal poke to my navel a few days ago. I fretted nonstop for two days about appendicitis. Every twinge sent adrenaline surging through me, causing my heart to shiver as images of blood and hospitals and beeping machines darkened my vision.

At night I had appendicitis nightmares. In one, my appendix burst, releasing shards of green wine bottle glass that spilled out in a slurry onto my bed. In my dream-horror, I worried more about secret drinking than shredded insides.   I did not share my struggle. But I wonder, if Egor or Liev were to come to me with this, would I fault them? What message do I send to Liev by keeping my worries to myself? 

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