The Practiced Hypochondriac


Posted by in August's Magazine

You can’t win with a hypochondriac, of which your correspondent is the absolute acme of prime examples. The merest throwaway line on parting – such as “look after yourself” – will find me grinding my teeth and heading for the nearest mirror whilst analysing every portentous syllable of those dread words. When I get to that mirror I’ll turn on the harshest light and scour my face for the alarming tell tale signs that will surely point to why someone would say LOOK AFTER YOURSELF rather than goodbye, cheerio or even, god help us, laters.

Even perceived compliments can fill us hypochondriacs with feelings of dread. ‘You’re looking well…” Now there is a good start. So why follow it with, “You look like you’ve lost some weight.”? That conversation will end abruptly for my concentration will be focused solely on the vexed question: How can I have lost weight, I’m not on a diet? At the nearest available opportunity I shall park myself in front of a computer and key into a search engine – ‘reasons for dramatic weight loss’.

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If compliments can stab like a dagger, harsh words can sometimes bring a warm glow. After the above conversation it was an unalloyed joy to run into the legendary Mitch in the Cask & Barrel Bar. As usual he had about him a look of haughty disdain as he went about his business. “Oi Mitch!” I piped up. “Are you ignoring me?” Quick as a flash he replied, “Oh, sorry Billy, I didn’t realise it was you, I thought it was some old fat guy with grey hair.” My heart skipped a beat. Oh joy of joys, he called me fat!

Oddly enough doctors aren’t the answer for the practiced hypochondriac. An appointment at my surgery usually goes like this. When my medical file is delivered to the duty doctor by forklift truck he already seems strangely prejudiced against me. After studying it for a scant half hour he is still only on page two. He lets out a deep sigh and regards me with a jaundiced eye – he can’t possibly have Jaundice can he!!? – before sighing again, steepling his fingers, and almost weeping the question: What can we do for you today Mister Gould?

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