Not to harp on the fact that I’ve been sick— it’s starting to sound a little woe is me, ew— but I’ve been unwell for a bit. I’m feeling so much better than I was, and every day I feel a little stronger. It will be over soon, and I can put this nonsense behind me.
I’m not all that superstitious, but I’m crossing my fingers, tossing a pinch of salt over my shoulder, and looking up at the sky with puppy dog eyes. In my best Oliver Twist, I ask, “Please, sir, I want it to be over.” I know you’re busy dealing with famines and a literal plague so, I’ll understand if you can’t do anything. Um, if you can spare thirty seconds, and it’s not a bother, my tummy still hurts.
Do I need to look up the definition of harping? Mm, it would seem so, yes.
Bear with me, I’m not going to moan about it much longer. In fact, this will be it. As soon as I’ve said one more thing. Just a little bit more and…You know what? I just rolled my eyes. I’m annoying myself. That’s never a good sign, is it? No, it most certainly is not. Get on with it already!
Fine, geez, I’m typing as fast as I can.
So I’ve been— well, you know— and I thought it would be a good idea to open my laptop and type my symptoms into the Google search box, thingy. Oh, don’t look at me like that. You can’t tell me you’ve never looked up some random sensation or used the word, thingy. Our bodies do weird things, and sometimes we have questions. The only way to get an answer is to look it up in the thingy.
Hm, I don’t know if I can trust someone who’s never asked the internet for medical advice. Nope, it’s unnatural. Just think about it. It’s two in the morning, your big toe is throbbing, and you have to figure out if it’s gangrenous. Sure, you could wait until morning and ask a qualified adult. But you’ll lay in bed all night, tossing and turning, wondering if your toe’s about to fall off. What if it spreads to your belly button? Losing a toe is one thing; losing half of your body? That’s a big deal.
Knowledge is power, so hello, Dr. Google! Do body parts randomly fall off?
For legal/ethical reasons, I should point out that the internet is not a licensed medical provider. If you think a body part is infected or about to fall off? You should talk to a real-world person about your medical or mental health concerns. And no, that doesn’t include Uncle Bucky on Facebook or your neighbour’s dog walker who sells essential oils. Making the oils in their parents’ garage is industrious, and I wish them well in their entrepreneurial endeavours.
I personally find these oils very relaxing, and they most certainly have their place? Selling them doesn’t qualify anyone to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please, go to your licensed medical provider for all health-related needs.
That being said, I lit a candle and googled my symptoms. That damn candle didn’t relax me, not one bit. Nope, I went from concerned straight into a panic. The top three results were disconcerting at best. I either had the bubonic plague, cancer, or ebola. What? How did it put these three things together? Why are they first? You’d think they would prioritize according to likelihood, right?
I haven’t been anywhere near a monkey so, I scratched that one off the list. Also, if the Black Death had made landfall on Canadian shores, I think that would’ve been newsworthy. Even in our current news cycle, an ancient disease that killed millions would be a talking point. It might’ve bumped that plummeting rocket out of the top spot.
Using my limited deductive reasoning skills, I dismissed two out of the three, but that left one. A scary diagnosis that made me bite my lip too tired. More terrifying than multiple plagues? Yes, because it could happen. And plagues don’t happen? *Cough* COVID *Cough*
Fine, plagues aren’t out of the realm of possibilities. Oh my God, I’m going to bleed to death from my eyeballs. My body will turn into a puddle of gooey, oozy, sticky, gelatinous….Stop! Light another candle and take some deep breaths.
Friends don’t let friends Google their symptoms. At least, they don’t let them do it alone by candlelight in the wee hours of the morning. I highly recommend a Googling buddy. Someone who can keep you calm, use rational thinking, and point out the more logical explanations.
Like, I don’t know, read a little further because it also says you could have a gastrointestinal infection. It’s not very pleasant, but it’s not immediately life-threatening. The majority of cases go away on their own. So, make another hot water bottle and drink plenty of water.
See, don’t you feel better?
Right, but with my luck, I’m not sure I like my odds. I mean, the plague sounds pretty convincing, and you can’t tell me it’s completely impossible. Oh no, they have pictures!
And this is why you need someone who’ll shut it down, pull you off that metaphorical ledge, and keep you grounded in reality. It’s tough love, but it’s for your own good.
I could’ve used that kind of love the other night when I looked up my symptoms for the tenth time. Why did I run the search so many times? Did I think it would change? The first nine searches said that I was gonna die a horrible death. This time? Nah, it’s gonna be different. It’s going to tell me that I have a severe case of too many rainbows shooting out of my butt.
Ah, what a relief that would be. So let’s type this in, hit enter, and…Damn it!
Do you do this? I can’t be the only one who runs multiple diagnostic searches hoping for a different outcome. I know that the results are for reference purposes only. Seriously, I get why these websites exist, and I shouldn’t take them so seriously. I shouldn’t let them live rent-free in my head. I shouldn’t, but there they are, making themselves at home.
It doesn’t matter how often I tell myself not to do it. Yep, there I go, clickety-click-click-click. I refresh the page hoping for a more satisfactory outcome. It’s silly, I know it is, but it’s an impulse I can’t control.
Even after the sun comes up and business hours resume, I rerun the search. I could call my doctor, but his office is impossible to get a hold of, and what’s he gonna tell me? I have the stomach flu. That lacks a certain degree of gravitas. I’d much rather sit here, refresh the page, and wonder which one of my neighbours smuggled in an African green monkey.
What’s wrong with me? And don’t call me a hypochondriac. I’m not afraid that I have a rare, exotic disease. The internet is worried, and it’s telling me to seek out immediate medical attention. It’s the search engine that has the problem, not me. I’m just reading it and starting to wonder, what if it’s true?
I’m just spitballing here, but what if the algorithm is out to get me. It’s screwing with me for shits and giggles. The global-industrial complex is out to get me. Why? Why would it target me? Me! Of all people, why are you picking on me? Damn you Bill…Nope, I’m going to let that one drop.
But I still think the internet is screwing with me. It saw that I post a lot about anxiety, depression, and mental illness. It looked at my past search history, took it all in and thought, yeah, this one. She’ll be fun to screw with. Hee hee. Haha. Bwahaha.
I’m starting to sound like one of the special people, aren’t I? Yep, that’s fair, but at least I see it. I know that I’m being completely irrational and jumping to the worst possible outcome. The dice was rolled. I passed go and went straight to jail. I didn’t collect two hundred dollars, and I haven’t played Monopoly in so long. I can’t remember out it works.
Oh, you get the point.
I always assume the worst is going to happen so, I look for validation. You’d think I would try to find reassurance or comfort. If I was a healthy person, I’m sure that would be the right thing to do, but I’m not normal. I always look for confirmation that my negative assumptions are correct.
Do you do this, or am I the only one dressing up like the Mad Hatter?
I’ve come to expect the worst out of any situation because it feels safer. If I do that, then I can prepare for whatever’s about to hit. If I prepare then- when it happens- it can’t hurt me as much as it did last time. Except, the anticipation triggers the anxiety, and I waste a lot of time worrying. Which leaves me feeling the exact thing I’m trying to avoid: hurt and scared.
I hate merry-go-rounds! They make me nauseous, and my legs turn wobbly. Can I get off this ride now, please? Oh, you’re just going to spin it faster, and I have to hold on? So, the merry in the go-round is a misnomer? A trap, trick, or is it for giggles? I don’t feel very merry.
I reached for my computer again, let out an exasperated sigh, and chastised myself out loud. Oh my God, stop it. This is getting ridiculous. You know what’s wrong and it will be fine. Running another search will only turn your stomach into tighter knots. If you’re really concerned, pick up the phone and call someone. Sitting here, toying with the what-ifs, won’t help with the what-is.
I used much harsher language than that, but I thought I should make this family-friendly. There was a lot more cussing, and I’m sure I called myself an idiot multiple times. I questioned my sanity, and that set off a fit of giggles. My sanity is not in question. It’s been answered, and I think it’s clear to everyone.
There are fancy terms for what I’m doing here. Catastrophizing is one, and cognitive distortion is another. It’s a learned behaviour born out of repeated trauma. A protective mechanism that doesn’t actually work very well, but there it is. Working overtime to help me feel safe but failing miserably.
I don’t feel safer— I never feel safe— and it certainly hasn’t changed my circumstances. If anything, it denies me moments of peace and happiness. It keeps me trapped in these negative experiences because it won’t let me see a way out that doesn’t involve pain. It only show’s me the negatives, but I know that there are positives.
There are always positives. Even when I can’t see them or I don’t want to look, they’re there. The birds are chirping out my window. The smell of the vanilla candles. The strength returning to my body. The cloud’s parting and the glimpse of blue sky. There’s always something good going on, but I’ve wasted so much time looking for the worst.
There is good out there. There is beauty and wonder. There are better ways to spend my time, and all of them would make me happier. Focusing on them? Stopping the catastrophic musings? Well, it doesn’t feel natural in any way, but it’s worth a try because we all deserve to enjoy our lives.
If nothing else, it would stop the internet from screwing with me. Take that search box thingy!