Friday, May 3, 2013

A Catch-22 For Hypochondriacs


     Many of you may know that the premise of the classic Joseph Heller novel Catch-22 is that it's virtually impossible for a soldier to get a Section 8 discharge from the military if that soldier believes he is going crazy.  The logic is that someone who was actually going crazy would not know it and would not ask for the discharge. Ergo, anyone who is lucid enough to make the request is clearly not crazy enough to warrant one.
     I've been wondering recently if that same Catch-22 situation would occur in people who are growing senile. And, because this can be a sensitive subject for people dealing with bonafide mental health issues, let me emphasize that I'm referring specifically to myself and my own hypochondria. The question is if I'm losing my memory, would I even remember it?
     This comes up because, as I say, I'm a hypochondriac. I didn't do a blog post yesterday because I was feeling incredibly ill. In fact, I had been feeling sick for most of the week, but had taken the approach that if I ignored it long enough, I would eventually start to feel better.  And, in this particular situation, I would, in fact, feel better for awhile. But then I'd feel worse again. Without getting into the specific symptoms, of which there were many, the best way to describe it is that I felt incredibly weird.
     Now, the hypochondria kicks in when you start thinking about all of the things they MAY be happening to you. Am I going to have a seizure? A stroke? A heart attack? Irritable Bowel Syndrome? Should I call my doctor? Should I call an ambulance? Why call an ambulance when I can drive myself to the hospital? Stop being so dramatic. I'm not about to die. Am I?
     A word of advice. If you find yourself in a similar situation and you're as prone to hypochondria as I am, it's best to stay off the Internet.  There are diseases and conditions that you've never even heard of that fit the symptoms you may be having. In fact, it seems to me that many illnesses have the exact same symptoms, which is probably why good doctors run tests before making an official diagnosis. 
     So what was happening with me? Here's the story:
     Last week, I called the automated phone system at the pharmacy to refill a prescription and was told that I was out of refills and that my doctor had to authorize another one. Would I like the pharmacy to contact my doctor? Yes, I would. Mr. Robo-Phone then told me that my prescription should be ready by Monday. But it wasn't. The automation had failed and my doctor had not been called. So I made a mental note to call him myself ... which I promptly forgot to do.
     By Monday, I had begun feeling slightly ill, but thought a good night's sleep would take care of it.  As it turns out, I slept horribly on Monday night and felt worse on Tuesday. Maybe it's a stomach bug, I thought. I'll feel better tomorrow. Wednesday comes and goes, and I'm not feeling better. I have a bad sleep again Wednesday night and by Thursday, I'm thinking: "I should call my doctor." And the bell goes off. D'oh! I was supposed to call him on Monday! I was clearly suffering from the side effects of not taking that medication for several days. Once I took the magical pill, the weirdness went away.
    So I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better, but am now concerned about why I would forget something as simple as a phone call. Am I forgetting other, more important, matters? Would I know it if I were? It's a real Catch-22.