Being 'Sick' Became a Blessing
By Thao Nguyen
I’m a self-diagnosed hypochondriac. The search history on my phone, laptop, and work laptop predominantly features WebMD and the Mayo Clinic. I pretty much convince myself I’m terminally ill once a week. Oftentimes, my fears are unfounded, and I’m left with eye rolls from my family and friends once I have to report to them that, once again, my fears were false alarms. But then, this past April and May, I actually had to come face to face with real health scares.
It started with a trip to the ER in the middle of April after I had a pretty severe nosebleed that wouldn’t stop. A few days after that, I fainted in a Safeway. Add onto those episodes the fact that I had lost about 20 pounds in the course of a few months without any effort, and for the first time, I wasn’t the only person seeing red flags when it came to my well-being. I found myself taking multiple days off of work to visit specialists and to do X-Rays, blood tests, and CT scans. The inside of my elbow was constantly bruised from having needles stuck in them every few days for testing.
It was exhausting and stressful. For the first time since I was 13, my insomnia didn’t keep me up for hours on end once bedtime rolled around - I was too tired and fell asleep almost immediately every night.
On top of all of my appointments, I was keeping all of my family and friends updated. And while I greatly appreciated all of the support and care I received, I felt like I owed everyone good news. I felt like they all wanted and needed to hear positive things from me, and the pressure to repeat “I think I’ll be okay” over and over to everyone really got to me. I was already extremely impatient about waiting to hear back about my results, but the idea of having people stressed out about me and potentially having to deliver bad news at some point gave me extreme anxiety. I wanted to be healthy more for the sake of everyone else than for myself. That’s obviously not the healthiest mindset. Putting that extra pressure on myself definitely didn’t make the process any easier on me. It was also not fair of me (and slightly presumptuous) to feel like a burden to my loved ones.Yet I couldn’t shake that feeling the entire time I was waiting for results and visiting different doctors.
But despite all of the distress I felt about disappointing my loved ones, I was surprisingly not too stressed about my health. Instead I felt very blessed.
My doctor suspected that I may have had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, hyperthyroidism, or diabetes. As far as illnesses go, they were all pretty tame and treatable. I still had all of my limbs. I had family and friends who very clearly cared for me. I still had my wits about me. The list goes on and on. Thinking that I could have actually been sick made me extremely thankful for everything I had. I felt peace of mind that is usually foreign to me whenever my hypochondria acts up.
I found out that I was mostly healthy. It turned out that one of my specialists had failed to treat an infection that was destroying the tissue in my nose, which is amazingly easy to treat. Getting the news was a huge relief and I felt an even huger sense of gratitude. It’s ironic - and slightly cliché - that “getting sick” was what it took for me to take a good look at all of the positives in my life. I’m insanely lucky in so many ways, and realizing that has made my a lot happier and at peace in my day-to-day life. There are so many things that we can take for granted that could be taken away in an instant. The experience showed me that the next time life is overwhelming, its important and helpful to set aside time to take note of all of the things that are going right.