Your Local Doctor: Now Offering One Stop Shopping for Hypochondriac Middle-Aged Women

Doctor's Office (Tools of The Trade)

I RARELY GO TO THE DOCTOR. I mean, I think about going to the doctor all the time, but once I acknowledge that those voices are just my hypochondria talking, my symptoms usually disappear.

 

There are a lot of new and exciting symptoms to investigate and worry about when you enter middle age and the body decides to self-combust.

 

On a personal level, I would love to see more of my doctor because she is fabulous. I really enjoy our time together. I would like to be her real friend in the real world if she hadn’t seen my vagina and knew all about what a complete fruit loop I really am.

 

We are a similar age and she talks to me like a friend would. One of the few great things about being middle-aged is that the doctors become more invested in your health, especially the more it deteriorates. I suppose that we hypochondriacs become a huge gateway to doctors’ salaries now that improvements in medical science are helping us to all live longer.

 

But what I hadn’t appreciated before yesterday’s visit is just how similar it is to going to the mall these days – it’s one-stop shopping for all of us hypochondriac, middle-aged women. At my doctors, I can get my bloods taken, pick up my scripts, sort out contraception and get my flu jab all on the same site. I haven’t spotted the morgue yet, but it must be there somewhere.

English: Shopping carts in ABC Tikkula.
English: Shopping carts in ABC Tikkula. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I went in for a simple pap test yesterday and came out with a full shopping cart of flu and whooping cough jabs, a heap of blood tests and enough scripts to keep me sane for at least the next six months.

 

I’m fine, really.

 

My doctor is super-efficient. There’s none of that dancing around the problem or awkwardness when I have to open my legs to a complete stranger and pretend that I’ve still got a working pelvic floor. She’s a straight-talking speculum-in-and-out doctor with no messing around, the only slight discomfort being when she commented that I’d ‘obviously had my babies vaginally.’

 

I tried not to feel hurt that my vagina is obviously no longer in its first flush of youth.

 

The pap test included a free skin and breast check with it – a veritable three-for-one bargain – so never one to resist, I found out that the two moles I was convinced were melanomas are actually age spots –THE SHAME – and even the breast check was straightforward once she’d located them squirrelled away under my armpits.

 

She sold me a flu jab too. I recoiled in horror when she suggested it at first – I mean, flu jabs are for really old or really ill people aren’t they? – but at $30 a pop, it seemed like a good deal.

 

My blood pressure was a little high and perhaps I should have mentioned the three coffees I needed before I could place my feet in the stirrups and we agreed that coming off the fruit loop pills in the short term (as Kurt approaches his HSC/or prison), may not be the best timing.

 

And I left the surgery armed with a stack of reading material about other degenerating conditions I can research and worry about before my next visit.

 

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Midlife Mayhem – Am I A Hypochondriac Or Just Getting Old?

The subject matter of good dinner party chitchat has found a disturbing niche, now that we’ve hit our forties. Although ‘life was supposed to begin’ at this stage of our lives, we seem to be stuck at the ‘recognition of our own mortality’ roadblock far earlier than we anticipated. Whereas in my twenties we used to wax lyrical about alcohol consumption, sexual prowess and the female orgasm (apparently they were mutually compatible then), and in our thirties we circum-navigated career goals, marriage and babies, discussions these days seem to have stagnated around our health, or lack of it. I blame all those self-righteous health magazines and the Internet for our health obsession, but maybe it is just another symptom of the ‘midlife crisis’.

The ‘midlife’ alarm seems to resonate somewhere between your late thirties and mid forties, and serves as a reminder that you’ve reached the ‘half time’ point in your life and there’s not much time left to score some real goals. For some, those goals might be a new philosophy of life (Madonna and Kabbalah?) and for others they might involve a sea change. But at this stage in the game of life, sometimes your fitness doesn’t necessarily live up to your promise. It is a worrying indictment of our age group that in our circle of friends, more people take Statins these days, than drink alcohol.

Take my own health. Over the past six weeks, I have experienced debilitating lower back pain (I’m guessing it’s NOT a sports injury), the cold virus, severe toothache and the monthly peri-menopausal utopia caused by my female reproductive zone being forced into retirement. The old man’s sympathy has extended to ‘you’re getting old’ when I’ve sought comfort, whereas I suspect that I could be the first human, still walking, to suffer from cancer of every major organ. All other ailments aside, I am obviously suffering from mild hypochondriasis.

There’s no doubt in my mind that I have been assigned the ‘time-waster’ label by my GP, although, contrary to popular opinion, this hypochondriac is rarely spotted at the surgery. Consulting a doctor is a double-edged sword – if I go, she might tell me there’s nothing wrong with me (when I know that there is) and if I don’t go, and there is something wrong with me, I’m going to die anyway. A visit will have been precipitated by the ‘doom and gloom’ of self-diagnosis on the Internet, and the standard appointment time invariably stretches to double time as my telephone book of unrelated symptoms are analyzed. All roads lead to cancer when you pump a symptom into Google. 

There was a time, before cancer began ravaging acquaintances and freaking the rest of us out, and when it was fun to smoke, drink heavily and consume vats of any ‘type’ of fat, that conversation at the dinner table covered world politics, the career vs children conundrum or religion. But these days, world news has lost its x factor in comparison to the anguish caused by faulty bodily functions. ‘Man talk’ now encompasses ‘piles’, ‘wind’, and ‘bloating’, while ‘girl talk’ dissects issues of ‘bone density’, ‘vitamin supplements’, and ‘muscle mass’. Can someone explain to me how, scientifically, you can still put on weight when both your muscle mass and your bone density are decreasing? You might want to note that we’re saving ‘death’, ‘erectile dysfunction’ and ‘loss of sexual libido’ for our fifties and sixties.

So if I’m not really ill, why do I spend more on health than retail therapy and possess the energy levels of a dying battery? My svelte, septuagenarian next-door neighbour is still surfing, so maybe my physical well-being is being compromised by a poor mental outlook to aging, and my dwindling estrogen is not the culprit after all?

In one of his more lucid moments (Friday night; 2/3 of a bottle of Penfolds, Bin 28), the old man compared retirement to Buddhism. Apparently, once you retire you stop worrying about premature death because your philosophy of life changes and you finally appreciate that it is a positive state of mind that brings happiness, not wealth. Retirement, (and the reason our neighbor is a living advertisement for Viagra), provides the luxury of free time, time to focus on happiness and make yourself that ‘better’ person you always dreamed of being, physically and mentally, rather than focusing on what is missing, when you are a small cog in the large wheel of the rat race.

Hypochondriasis is ‘health anxiety’ in disguise and it’s pretty common for us midlifers. It is a bonafide illness and we can seek help for it; middle age is not, unfortunately.

Dinner Party from Flickr.com courtesy of Alastair R

The 7 Gals of Menopause (back) from Flickr.com courtesy of HA! Designs – Artbyheather