A Hypochondriac’s Guide to Staying Alive

fourth year MK Manoylov

photo by daniyal tahir

photo by daniyal tahir

I’m embarrassed to admit it, but “I don’t want to die” has become my mantra.

My hypochondria arose sometime in high school when I convinced myself I had sepsis (who knows from what) and paced around my room wishing everything and everyone I knew goodbye. I know how stupid that sounds even as I write this, but I genuinely thought that. I’ve always thought I was no more than three doors down from death.

Now, I’m not an extreme hypochondriac. I’ve never gone to the hospital in a sweaty panic thinking I’m having an obscure reaction to a substance I never even took. When I feel a sudden ache or pain in my body, I don’t read WebMD symptom lists and go down a rabbit hole of tumors, ulcers, cancers, and fatal diseases.

Despite my electric-hot anxiety attacks, there’s always a cool, steady me standing in the back of my brain observing my meltdowns. That person says, “Dude, calm down. It’s not what you think. You’re better than you think you are.”

I don’t think any of us ever listen to that person, but watching myself from that person’s perspective gives me some insight about myself.

As I intermittently stop writing this piece to check my pulse (just cause you never know), let me give you some tips on how to stay alive from your very own neighborhood hypochondriac:

  1. Remember that underneath the anxiety is an insatiable, crushing will to live. Any creak or strain in the body is a reminder that it will someday die, and goddammit, you’re not about to die sooner than you want to. Thinking about death so much makes you all the more happy  to be alive.

  2. Statistics are on your side. The small percentage that you, as a twenty-something, could get a heart attack, stroke, or some other sudden irreversible bodily damage is like a refusing to get in the water because of shark phobia. Don’t be afraid to swim just because that possibility is out there. If anything, worry more about more practical things, like shitting your brains out after eating romaine lettuce.

  3. You’re less likely to worry about your body if you take care of it. So stop smoking Juuls and binge drinking. Eat healthy, go for a run (or at least a walk), and try to get some sunlight. If you know you’re doing everything right (as well as you can), you grow confident your body’s ability to stay alive.

Now, if you don’t mind me, I’m going to go chug some water and eat some kale. If I don’t come back, tell my family it was the sepsis.

Happy Monday