Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Hypochondria - warning: quite a rant. Nice cup of tea advisable.

I’ve got terrible wind. Terrible. Personally, I’m going to blame the fact that a) I’ve always been a bit windypops and b) I’m eating enough pulses, fruit and other fart-engineering foods to single handedly put another hole in the ozone layer. Carbon footprint? Carbon fartprint more like.

My colleague has just rumbled me. Having mastered the art of the silent trump, I’ve just dropped one that could commit genocide upon a herd of elephants. As I viciously let it go, I watched out of the corner of my eye as the gas invaded his personal space. Initially he flinched, screwed his face up and then threw his head violently to one side, as though a ghost with an invisible sledge hammer decided to take his (sizeable) bonce to task.
‘Oh my… (a pause)… Gracious!’ he exclaimed, oddly. He is one of these people who refuse to swear – something to do with religion. He thinks that if he effs and jeffs his Hell Stock will rise at the expense of his Angel Points, even though Baby Jesus, Allah, Brahman and co know that when he says ‘Oh my days’, or even ‘Oh my gracious’ (which doesn’t make any sense), he really means, ‘Fuck me furiously!’ / ‘Bollocks on toast!’ / ‘Flaming fanny rags!’ Etc. I hope Baby J appreciates my honesty. Anyway, after his melodramatic response to the anal kiss that I blew him, he eyed me suspiciously before sending me an email that simply said, ‘You should go and see a doctor about that.’ It’s arguably the funniest thing he’s ever said, but in the deep recesses of my mind, the hypochondria switch, which has been firmly flicked to OFF for years, seemed to waver. What if there is something wrong? I mean, this smell is deathly unnatural. Oh my GRACIOUS! From fart to death in 48 seconds…

As a result of my hypochondria, I think that I’ve had every illness that there is. And it’s always terminal. Even non-terminal illnesses become terminal, that’s just how it is. Normally when I fall ill, it’s usually tonsillitis as I’ve always been susceptible to it, but until the doctor says so and gives me the green light to continue living, then I always think the worst. It’s Ebola, throat cancer, consumption, rabies or something equally ridiculous. First I try and convince myself that the niggling pain in my throat is partly due to tiredness and / or stress. Then I’ll go to bed and irrespective of whether or not I’ve downed half a bottle of TCP and snorted a packet of crushed Strepsils, I’ll surface the next day with a veritable tennis ball extravaganza taking place in my throat. It’s as though Freddy Krueger has been Voguing away in my throat as I slept. Then I begin to feel miserable as I fear that the end is very nearly nigh.

The best part is always trying to get an appointment with the doctor. That’s if you can past Attila the Hun, receptionist extraordinaire. I swear to God, you’d think that your arm would have to be hanging off and your bollocks have turned septic before an appointment is granted and even when it is, you end up waiting for approximately four and a half weeks, by which time, said throat / testicles / arm, et cetera are bored of their undesirable state and have either fallen off or just stopped being melodramatic and have unwillingly healed of their own accord. Then you go to the doctor anyway, rigid with fear that they’re going to tell you that it was just round one of the death battle and you have precisely three and a half minutes to live. In reality, the bored, hard-up doctor will eye me with irritation and tell me that there’s nothing wrong with me whilst almost imploding with resentment because thanks to me, someone who needed to be seen five minutes ago has just slipped off the dish in the waiting room.

Even when I am fortunate to get an appointment without three birthdays passing, I dread going but I have to in order to get yet another ‘all-clear’ so I can continue living. Until the doctor’s permission to resume life is granted, I am consumed by fear that the Grim Reaper is about to claim me as one of his own. Being a devout and fully committed hypochondriac, the very thought of entering a doctor’s waiting room (let alone surgery), is life threatening in itself. Firstly you have to sit with a dozen or so legitimately ill people and their sickly, snotty children who run around coughing, spluttering and scratching their soiled backsides before touching everything. Then you’ve got the token pensioner who reeks of wazz and looks as though the rigor mortis has already set in, even though they’re not yet dead. Or are they? Often I can’t tell. Judging by the skin tone (usually purple with alarming black patches on the oversized nose, hairy ears and sunken cheeks) I actually wouldn’t be surprised if they had come in when they first felt a wee bit poorly sick and bitch-face Attila just left them there to die. They’ve probably been waiting for five months after just coming in to get their blood pressure checked. Ironically, if you don’t go in ill, the chances are you’ll leave with moments to live anyway.

My hypochondria all began during the summer holidays when I was a teenager. In order to relive my jaded state I would read. I would pick up books and lose myself in them, often for days at a time. This was all going well until I chanced upon a set of family health encyclopaedias and realised, by the time I’d reached the end of them in horror, that I had the classic textbook symptoms of everything that these books considered life threatening. This seed of worry coincided with a day trip to The American Adventure, a theme park in the East Midlands. After queuing for aeons to go on the rapids, I attempted to haul my considerable bulk into the big dinghy type thing (at the time I was in the peak of my glorious fat days. I was about five feet five inches, and a size forty two inch waist. I could’ve been the dinghy), when the capsule half gave way under my feet. In a disastrous attempt to retain my dignity, I threw myself dinghy-wards and ended up falling squarely on my arse. In the process, I banged my coccyx, but the pain didn’t really begin to register until the next day or so, and when it did, it really hurt. In my mind, I couldn’t just have a bruised coccyx, either. Oh no. Doctor Red Pants consulted the health encyclopaedia where it transpired that I was in fact the recipient of bowel cancer. Simple as that. I was going to die. After a week of funeral planning and last will and testament writing, I finally made an appointment with the doctor. It took ages for the day to arrive where my diagnosis would be confirmed, and when it did, I remember my sister offering to drive me down. Gratefully I accepted, and I was grateful again, retrospectively, when she declined my offer to come into the surgery itself.

I remember walking into the room and seeing a gaunt little man looking at me expectantly. After taking him up on his offer to have a seat, I poured out my catalogue of problems, culminating with my despair at being afflicted with such an awful and tragic illness. At fifteen! The doctor sat up in his chair, seemingly amazed at my rather melodramatic utterance. After pressing me as to why I thought I had bowel cancer, I recited, parrot fashion, the classic symptoms: blood in faeces (I would wipe my arse until I bled and then not realise why I was finding blood – as I said, I was going through a strange teenage phase), lumps in the abdomen (with hindsight, I was mistaking fat cells for tumours) and so on and so forth. I wasn’t making it up for attention; I honestly believed that I had these things. At this point, I think that the doctor was expecting Jeremy Beadle and chums to jump out from under the desk but alas, he didn’t. In the end he did what he had to do. An anal inspection.

At the mere mention of such an intimate intrusion, I miraculously felt a million times better, one hundred per cent, in fact! Even though I wasn’t entirely sure what the procedure entailed, I just knew that I didn’t want it. I gave a limp protest, but no, I was having an anal inspection and that was that. Firstly, I had to remove my shoes, trousers and boxer shorts. Following this, I was instructed to lay face down on the bed where I spent the next five to ten minutes being horribly finger fucked by Dr Sital.

I laid there, rigid, scared and horrified as he systematically plunged his finger in and out my dangerously tight arse, curling and bending the offending digit as he fished for the tumours that I was convinced were smuggled up there. After he was satisfied that my rump was a cancer-free zone, he removed his probing pinkie a little too fast and I shat myself. Or so I thought. Ignoring his invitation to get up and get dressed, I remained motionless, wondering whether or not it would be appropriate to ask for a toilet roll, or failing that, a sand paper-esque NHS paper towel and a bucket of hot, soapy water. Anything would do: I just wanted to die with dignity, for God’s sake. After asking me to get up for the ninth time, I found the courage to reach down and feel my back side – despite there being a vat of lubrication liberally smeared around the hole, a log had fortuitously neglected to slip out. The relief was enormous and rolled on again moments later when I sat down opposite him and he gave me the all clear: I was going to live! I was so pleased that I didn’t care about the wet patch seeping through the arse of my trousers as I walked out of the surgery suggested to the waiting patients that I had just committed a childish act in my pants.

Then there was the time when I woke up with a slight rash on my leg, which I initially didn’t think anything of, but Mam encouraged me to go to the doctors. I refused but she insisted and called them herself. Scarily, the receptionist had an appointment available and I could be seen within an hour. This was a sign, I believed. A sign of imminent death, no two ways about it. Mam came with me and raised her eyebrows as the doctor prodded me with various implements and told me that he was unsure what had caused the rash. He ran a glass over the affected area on my leg and raised his eyebrows before scratching his head.
‘It’s a petechial rash,’ he concluded.
‘What’s that?’ Mam asked her voice filling with concern. The doctor lowered his voice as though that would stop me being able to hear him. I was closer to him than Mam was.
‘It can mean several different things. We see it in meningitis and some forms of blood cancer.’ Mam and I exchanged looks of horror. The doctor cleared his throat. ‘Can you go to the hospital for some tests?’
‘When?’ I asked, my voice trembling.
‘Now. I can get your results back first thing tomorrow.’ Oh Lord up above, I’m officially on my way out, I thought.

Within forty minutes, the taxi ferrying us to the hospital – I had asked for an ambulance but the doctor simply shook his head and giggled – arrived at the Accident and Emergency room. After being directed to Haematology, I took a ticket and sat down waiting for them to call my number. Worryingly, it was all far too similar to procuring food from the delicatessen counter in the supermarket. An hour later, my arm had been pricked, my blood had been taken and bottled and I was sent home to sit it out. That night, I didn’t sleep. In my head, fears swam around and kept me awake. I had overheard Dad express his surprise that the results were coming back so quickly and although he never said as much, this could only mean one thing: bad news. The doctor had promised to ring with the results at nine thirty the following morning, as soon as the results were back. When the clock struck eleven thirty without as much of a peep from the quack, I pictured the doctor wandering around his surgery, clutching the piece of paper with my results on, trying to work out how he was going to break the news of my meningitis-blood cancer double whammy to me. At eleven forty, the phone rang. Shaking, I picked up the receiver, and almost broke down when the doctor introduced himself.
‘Am I dying?’ I asked feebly. The bastard laughed at me. I wondered whether mocking the afflicted was contrary to his Hippocratic Oath.
‘No, not at all. Your test results have come back clear.’
‘What? What? Sorry? What?’ I spluttered.
‘You’re fine. There’s nothing wrong with you.’
‘Oh. Thank. God.’
‘I thought you’d be pleased.’ I gave the thumbs up to Mam who had been anxiously standing by my side. She beamed and planted a trademark heavy kiss on my cheek.
‘So what do you think it is?’ I asked.
‘A sweat rash,’ he said. A-fucking-what? And then to add insult to injury: ‘Or it could be your weight – the pressure you’re putting on your lower legs could have caused the blood vessels to burst. Have you ever considered losing weight? You should. You could do with dropping at least a couple of stones.’

What doctors fail to grasp, is that fat is the friend of the hypochondriac. You see, every health manual always states that sudden, inexplicable weight loss is indicative of certain doom. Dropping a couple of stone? Was the doctor mad? In my head, fat was my only guarantee that I wasn’t ill. People would prod me in the love handle and say, ‘don’t you look well!’ meaning that I’d put on weight since they last clapped eyes on me. Well yeah, I suppose I do look well, I’d think, as I’d congratulate my good health with a life-enhancing Big Mac and fries. Super sized.

As every hypochondriac knows, prevention is better than a cure. Ladies and gentlemen, please step up and see how dry my bloody hands are. In order to avoid picking up a life threatening illness, I must wash my hands approximately fifteen million times a day. Once, when I worked in London and took the Central Line to work every day, I was sitting at my desk when a group email popped into my inbox. I read, open-mouthed about the analysis of the insides of a Central Line tube. It spoke of having found traces of dog shit, rat shit, human shit, horse shit, fox shit, even the shit of shit on the seats. On the very tube line where I would sit, twice a day, five times a week. Right, I thought to myself, I’m never touching a thing again. And then one morning my friend told me of a man she knew who sat down on a dirty syringe and immediately I realised that I’d never sit down on a tube again. This made journeying to and from work somewhat problematic, as I would stand on the tube and refuse to hold on. When the trains came thundering to a sudden halt, as they almost always would, I would end up performing Michael Jackson-esque dance moves as I would inadvertently moonwalk and twistily knee bend-come-jump-come-fly my way down to the other side of the carriage, preferring to break bones rather than make hand contact with any contaminated surface. I would recoil in horror as I would witness people clinging to the greasy handle bars that feel as though you’ve just stroked an unwashed dog and every so often, I would spy them unconsciously scratching their genitals or picking their nose before replacing their now-soiled hand back into the handle. Eventually they would get off and within seconds, another eager hand would readily take its grip in the handle. I would then watch behind cupped hands as the owner of the hand would let go of the handle and casually chew his or her nails. Inside I would be screaming, ‘NOOOOOOOOO!’ as it dawned on me that they should have just chewed on the previous persons groin and cut out the middle man. I always used to carry a bottle of hand cleanser in my bag for when I took the tube and then one day I was told that over-using it (which I surely did) would lower my resistance to bacteria and before I knew it, my body would be held ransom to a super bug. Aaagggggggh!!!

It’s just too much. And I need to fart again. Maybe it will just kill my colleague and death will escape me??? Oh my GRACIOUS indeed...


Anonymous said...

Love it!

Johnny you brighten up my day!

Anonymous said...

Actually cried with laughter and my collegues looked at me like i was some kind of mutant.

Brill, Brill, Brill!

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