They say I’m a hypochondriac: my parents, The Olympian, my friends. They say it because it’s true.
There is no way to deny that I am hypersensitive to somatic sensations. I know I am. I’m the first to say it.
But even so, no one takes me seriously. Even in the face of structural changes in my hands, objective evidence that can be seen with anyone’s eye (as long as it isn’t a blind eye). But still, I’m firmly told by my pissed off mother, “You do not have rheumatoid arthritis”.
Pains in my knees, my ankles, my toes and my hands themselves. These are not real pains, these are imaginary. Make-believe men are inside my bones with their make-believe knives. None of this is real. Running and stopping because the pain in my ankle is so bad. Limping for several minutes while it works itself out. My hands cramping and seizing and giving way with too much weight. Low-grade fevers, quickly fluctuating from normal to abnormal and back again.
Even this objective evidence means nothing to anyone else. Perhaps I held the thermometer next to the light to get a higher reading. They wouldn’t be surprised. And anyway, even if it is a little high, I just have a cold/tummy bug/48 hour/week-long flu. I think this is meant to be reassuring. It isn’t.
I’m faking. I’m faking. I’m faking.
My father sees so many people who are faking or misattributing their symptoms that he never believes a word I say. It’s all “normal”. All my experiences are perfectly normal: entrapped nerves, muscle spasms and muscle twitching, pins and needles and loss of sensation, weak hands and arms, burning and tingling and swelling. Unpredictable and overwhelming fatigue. In fact, my father has just so happened to have every single one of these symptoms at some point in his life (usually when he was about my age). He tells me this every time I say anything.
They say they believe me but that I’m just hypervigilant, overly sensitive. They say that all of these signs and symptoms mean nothing. They are indicative of nothing. There is nothing wrong with me. There never is.
There is no recognition, or compassion or concern. It’s all in my head, so why should there be?
He makes fun of me, my father, “just another illness you can have” he says. As if I actively seek out illnesses and want to have them. As if my goal in life is to be sick. My ambitions and passions and dreams reach far higher than his. I have the determination, the perseverance, the courage to follow them through. I am young and I am smart. Yet down every street I turn, I face a road block. One, they would say, is constructed by my mind (and maybe it is).
Or maybe the road blocks I face are unhelpful “support”, lectures and dismissals, eye rolling and sighs of frustration. Those are the barriers that stand in my way; strong and immovable. But I will slip quietly through them, because that is what I must do.
They say I’m a hypochondriac: my parents, The Olympian, my friends.
They say it because it’s true.