How can I stop my concerns about declining health?
August 29, 2006 3:31 PM   Subscribe

How can I stop my concerns about declining health?

I've had a chronic health condition for some time now. It's starting to erode my confidence in my general health.

Whenever some little physical anomaly happens (e.g. I have a weird sensation somewhere), my first thought is that it's something serious that's due to my health condition. Also, if I'm feeling mentally tired or slow, I attribute it to my health condition wearing me down and making me duller. (In reality I think the effect of my condition on my physical and mental performance exists a bit, but that it's much less than I'm giving it credit for.)

These thought patterns don't go to the point of an obsession, but I am noticeably less confident in my abilities than I used to be. I sometimes feel as if things are falling apart, or that I'm going "downhill." Any recommendations on how I can get my old, carefree state of mind back?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (4 answers total)
I have several goofy chronic conditions (every few years the doctors discover another one; the latest discovery, about 18 months ago, was made when I came very close to bleeding to death during surgery), and I often deal with this by joking about it. Seriously, when I start fretting, I say to myself in an exaggerated game show announcer voice, "ladies and gentlemen, let's play Headache... or BRAIN TUMOR?" Then I'll envision the the cheesy game show set, complete with a flocked red velvet "Wheel of Disaster," and scantily clad assistants to bring me platters of drugs.

Additonally, I've developed a sort of one-woman spoken word piece that I've performed maybe 8 or 10 times over the years, based on the various medical records I've read over the years, as well as copies of my X-rays, slides of my tumors (I wasn't supposed to keep them, but I did!), CD-roms of the digital images of various scans of various internal organs, etc. -- over the years it's become a bit of a multimedia extravaganza. Whenever I perform it (and recently I actually did a recording of it for a CD a friend of mine is producing), people seem to get a big kick out of it. I do, too.

This is not to say that I use laughter as denial. It's not that I don't take care of myself (I eat well, I exercise, I do yoga, I go to therapy, I cuddle pets and small children on a regular basis, etc.), or suffer when I have to go through various treatments or procedures, or sometimes just feel like shit from the various aches and pains that come with the territory of the delicate ecosystem that is my body. I just let myself feel frustrated or scared when I feel frustrated or scared, just like I let myself feel happy or sad or hopeful. They're all just feelings. They come, they hang out for awhile, they go, and another feeling drifts on downstream.

But in the end, life is terminal, no matter the particular condition(s) you or I may have. Hell, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow, or I could make it to 100. So the best I can do is stay up-to-date on the medical knowledge and protocols surrounding my conditions, take care of myself, and laugh about having taken a swan dive into the shallow end of my family's gene pool. In the end, I figure I'm actually pretty lucky -- with all the strikes against me, I could have been dead by now. The fact that I'm not is pretty damn sweet.
posted by scody at 4:04 PM on August 29, 2006 [7 favorites]

I've been living with a chronic illness for several years now that will (eventually) be the cause of my death. Modern drugs keep it in check, but I do have a twice-a-day reminder of my own mortality. A few thoughts on things I do:

I have a trained professional that worries about it for me. (My doctor, in other words.) I am lucky in that she does take the time for me, is willing to do much by e-mail, and (I think) I'm not her hardest case. Admittedly, I've delegated this after learning enough to know whether I trust her or not, and enough to be able to understand what the bloodwork is telling me. I also do what she tells me. I've been lucky with doctors -- when I have doctors I don't trust / respect, things are much worse. (Also, she specializes in this condition, as does everyone in her practice)

To what extent is this a specialized situation versus something more general? I've found that a support group can be occasionally helpful, and especially a close friend or two with similar conditions also helps me bounce concerns off of them, and get reassurance that it's not the illness but me being a damn fool at the gym the previous day. I find the friends more helpful than the support group to be honest; but the formal nature of a support group may be better for some people.

Are there good markers for the condition? For me, there are three major markers that I have checked every three months. (which is the standard of care for this particular illness) I know what these numbers mean, what the reference ranges are, what the error of measurements are, and what my trendlines have been. This also helps ground me in reality versus fear -- "well, it could be the end, but the last set was 0/560/29%, so it's unlikely I've declined that fast."

so, in a nutshell: someone watching my health who I trust; knowing the current state of my health, and people who are in the same boat.

e-mail is in profile if you have more questions.
posted by printdevil at 9:59 PM on August 29, 2006

I try to keep in mind that life is a terminal disease. We all die eventually, the only difference is that some of us know how it'll happen (I'm diabetic).

Whether or not you believe in a higher being (I'm agnostic) you might find the Serenity Prayer useful:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Delete the God reference and you may still find it useful as a mantra of sorts.

Like scody, I get headaches (well, migraines and other odd aches and pains) and play the "It's a Tumor" game (using a Schwarzenegger voice). I think having a sense of humour about ourselves is a wonderful thing. Humour can make the darkest day a wee bit brighter.
posted by deborah at 10:30 AM on August 30, 2006

This article in yesterday's Washington Post might be of interest.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 11:56 AM on August 30, 2006

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