I have late-onset hypochondria. Yes, that is a made up condition. Yes, this is a self-diagnosis. But doesn’t that just make me right?
In the past year, I have been convinced the following things would kill me: ingesting poison ivy (without actually ingesting any), Lyme disease (saw a tick once) and aneurysm (it was a headache). Now, there’s my ass. My tailbone has been sore for six months. I am not imagining this. I’ve had an ultrasound, X-ray and lots of people poking around the top of my butt crack. And before any of them came to a conclusion, I did: I determined I was suffering from stage 11 butt bone cancer and my daughter would grow up motherless and I wouldn’t live to give her a sibling or witness the incredible woman she will grow up to be.
That was the official self-diagnosis. Including the Ginny stuff. It’s what I spent weeks thinking about, and how I developed a habit of wistfully smelling her hair.
I don’t have butt bone cancer. I know this because a) that’s a wildly rare thing and b) people who are smarter than me have discovered my tailbone is just screwed up from sitting on my ass all day. I also knew this all along, deep down, because when your ass hurts and you also sit on your ass all day, medical school isn’t a must-have for securing a diagnosis. But even with that information in my head, my heart was so sure about the pretend cancer thing. Convinced.
This hypochondria should make no sense. For most of my life, the greatest risk to my health has been a belief that nothing could really pose a great risk to my health. My body, I believed, was just really good at being a body. But now, again and again, I find myself being positive my body is about to fail me. And that’s because, I’ve come to realize, it already has.
In February of this year, we learned the pregnancy I’d been carrying for nearly 11 weeks had failed. The heartbeat was gone. There had been a heartbeat. We’d heard it. We’d nicknamed it. We’d promised it to Ginny. Eleven weeks is a long time. And then it was gone.
But it didn’t actually go anywhere. In March, I had a D&C to make it truly gone. We mourned. But honestly, by the time I left the hospital, I felt I was ready to move forward. By that point, it had been weeks. Weeks of sadness. If I really wanted a baby, the only route was through, and then beyond the grief. What was my first miscarriage after having Ginny? Just a thing that happened. So I was getting through it, goddammit, quietly and without delay.
This is what we do to ourselves when we allow the weight and taboo of miscarriage to silence our grief. We are silent because we don’t want to admit our bodies have failed us. Have failed our partners. Have failed our parents, and our children. Even though I’d already discussed my first miscarriage publicly, it wasn’t until I was way pregnant with Ginny that I did. Like having a viable pregnancy erased the shame. Now I’m 1 for 3. And that fact felt too much to admit.
But the grief is just coming out in other ways. Like causing me to think that because I wore the wrong gloves to pull poison ivy, I probably got some into my system, which will probably cause my throat to close in the middle of the night when I won’t be able to get my sleepy husband to understand what’s happening and call for help, so I’ll die. Who is this crazy person? Am I stuck with her now? Because she is the worst.
Forgiving my body for what’s happened is done. I’ve been in the forgiveness business for a long time. I know how it’s done. Rebuilding trust is not as well-exercised a muscle for me, and that is the task at hand. I don’t trust my body anymore. It’s going to take some time. I hate shit that takes time. Also annoyingly time-consuming is the actual pain in my butt (I’m for real going to physical therapy twice a week for it. Butt PT is a thing). That’s weirdly necessary. But not necessary is wasting even more time creating an additional, self-imposed pain in my own ass by obsessing over how every tingle in my body is going to be the end of me. A girl’s only got so much time.
So I’m done. Or, at least, I’m starting to be done. The road to trusting my body again isn’t completely clear to me. I assume it’s not as straightforward as following awkward exercise handouts from a physical therapist. But I do know it starts by not waiting until this body has done something marvelous again to admit it did something terrible. Not an awful disease or fatal reaction, but just a sadly ordinary, traumatic fail. And it might happen again. But it might not.