I have a problem.
Well, if you ask me, I probably have many problems.
That headache? Definitely not a hangover, definitely a tumor. My hands shaking? Oh my God, I have early onset Parkinson’s at the tender age of 21. And that leg cramp? It has nothing to do with the fact that I thought I could do the splits and everything to do with the fact that I’m going to be paralyzed from the waist down.
My main problem is that I am a Grade A hypochondriac, a disease that has caused me many years of stress and hours of crying in the shower, and has caused my friends and mother many years of annoyance. As of 2015, it has no cure.
WebMD is my best friend and worst enemy. I have it set as a favourite on my computer tabs and as the home page on my iPhone. No, I never went to med school, but I can diagnose you in .5 seconds. And I will, whether you want me to or not.
Some people might call me “paranoid”. I like to think of myself as “eternally prepared and informed for whatever comes my way.”
Let me tell you a story.
Spring, 2010. A young Elly had just returned home from tennis practice and was enjoying a leisurely afternoon of The Barefoot Contessa and hummus on the couch. It was needed, after a stressful day (if the pollen-induced allergies don’t get you, the mosquitos will). Grabbing a piece of pita the size of my face, I reached for a scoop of hummus and was seized by a paralyzing pain in my stomach.
Too shocked to call for help, I dropped my pita. Needless to say, this only caused me more duress because I am not in the habit of abandoning my food. Once I had gathered my thoughts, I yelled for my mother, who was in the kitchen. She comes running over, equal parts concerned and dramatic because she is Greek and that is how my people are. Between gasps, I managed to convey that I have sharp pains in my stomach and that I’m pretty sure I’m dying. It might have been the hummus, or maybe this is a sign that I should never have tried exercise.
I am certain that I will need surgery, and she needs to get me to the nearest doctor immediately. She is not impressed. She tells me that I am fine, to stop eating all the hummus, and that I should turn off the TV and go study for chemistry.
Chemistry? I say indignantly. I have mere hours to live, and you’re telling me to focus on Erlenmeyer flasks? Yes, she says, and leaves me to my death in the TV room. I somehow summon the strength to reach for my phone and type in my symptoms. Oh no. I either have appendicitis or a surprise pregnancy. Ruling that I am 16 and, unless Immaculate Conception is back in style, it’s probably appendicitis, I stumble to the kitchen, holding on to the sides of the walls.
This is not because I am dramatic, but because I need to maintain balance so I don’t collapse and because I refuse to spend my last minutes on earth watching Ina Garten make a salad. I beg my mother to call the doctor, an ambulance, or at least my father- he will see reason! She tells me to eat something -the universal cure- and to stop talking so much. Grudgingly, I eat a sandwich. Minutes go by, and I am miraculously still alive. The appendicitis has gone! The sandwich was a miracle!
I later discovered that my ailment had more to do with a certain time of the month and less to do with a crippling illness, but the point is that it could have been appendicitis.
And one day, when I am old and ailing in the hospital from some legitimate disease, I will finally be able to say I told you so.