I can't bend my neck and touch my chin to my chest without terrible muscular pain. All my life if I had a stiff neck my mother would say to me, "Well, can you touch your chin to your chest? Ok, good, you're fine then. It's just a stiff neck." When asked what else it would be, she'd say something about spinal meningitis. I had no idea what that was, but it sounded horrible.
And my mom wonders why I'm a hypochondriac. Honestly, it's like accusing someone of being an alcoholic all the time and then being surprised to find out that they have a problem with alcohol. I don't think I started out worried that I was going to die of cancer or AIDS.
What child isn't saturated with information about all the diseases and dangers of living? And it's not complete information, either. It's just enough to make you really worry if you have even one symptom associated with a certain disease. Like the stiff neck. Turns out, the chin to chest test should be done when you're lying down and you should be able to do it without raising your legs (from WebMD).
Last summer Stoker and I went camping. Well, we tried anyway. It was over the Fourth of July and it turned out to be hotter than the bayou outside--even in the middle of the night! We're mountain people (I really love to say that) and it's typical to experience a hot day and then a cool night in the mountains or the desert. Not so in the south. Plus, in all my life, I have never seen more bugs than that night except in the Temple of Doom. Bugs are great in the daylight, when you can see where they are, but when you find a giant spider having dinner on your backpack, it's disturbing.
So, we went home instead of camping. We hadn't been able to sleep and I'm pretty sure there were potato bugs (I've always called them this, in fact they are woodlice) in my sleeping bag and gigantic crane flies inside the tent. It didn't matter that we kept things zipped up. They found a way in.
Potato bugs (I'm going to keep calling them potato bugs for sentimental reasons) weren't the only thing I was sharing with that night. I had two ticks. They were tiny, devilish, and looked like small moles. I don't think they bit me. But after that, I worried I was going to catch Lyme disease.
I remember when I was a kid, there was a television commercial about Lyme disease. Some famous girl from some contemporary sitcom did the advertisement. I'm probably the only one who remembers it. The girl came on and talked about what a devastating disease Lyme disease is and how easy it is to catch it. Most people don't even know they have it. Something like that, and then please give us some money for Lyme disease research. Very depressing.
I don't think I have Lyme disease. At least, I got through that run-in with the ticks last summer. We're all okay. Except the ticks, we drowned them. But Stoker and me, we're fine. We still go outside. It's probably a stupid idea, but I run through tall grass on my daily run. Apparently, ticks hang out on the tips of blades of grass, waiting, the way hobos wait for a train. As an animal or person passes by, the ticks hop on board . . . like a hobo . . .
Last week, this mysterious bruise appeared on the back of my thigh. I had recently read that tick bites looks like a mosquito bite, a bruise, or a bulls-eye. A few days later, my neck starts hurting. Meningitis can be caused by Lyme disease. Look it up!
Ok, so I'm pretty sure my stiff neck isn't because of an infection. I'm pretty sure I've been turning the air conditioner down too low at night, and lately Stoker has really been hogging the blankets. This morning I woke up with only a corner of the blankets covering my lower back. And I was all curled up in a ball, like I was cold. So, I blame Stoker. Ha ha.
He came in to wake me up and I said, "I think I know why I've been having a stiff neck." And he asked why. I said, "Because for some reason, I never have any covers." And he was like, "So, uh, is that my fault? Are you blaming me?" He didn't say it defensively, just with that kind of sweet, resigned tone, as though I always find a way to blame him for everything.
And I won't lie to you. It usually goes that way. I don't know, it's something programmed into the female. I remember when my sister Dani was pregnant the first time, and really close to being done with it. Jason, her husband, would tell my family that occasionally Dani would shoot him these piercing glances, as though she blamed him for her suffering. And she did. Because, it was HIS fault she had that parasite growing in her. It was really funny. Guess you had to be there.
So, don't worry. I try to overcome my tendency to blame Stoker (stupid stereotypes, I blame the stereotypes!). It only happens when I'm grouchy. It's true of him, too, you know. When he gets grouchy, mainly. But usually he's perfect.
Also, don't worry, I'm trying to overcome my hypochondria. It's just hard to find a balance with that. You don't want to worry too much and go crazy with worry, but you also don't want to ignore what you're body is telling you. I guess I could always check for ticks. Obsessively.