Tuesday, June 12, 2007

My Hypochondria: Lyme Disease, and Meningitis

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.


alfaqui said...

I arrived here searching for hypochondria and lyme. Nice to know that i'm not the only one in the world. hypochondria may be a mind illness, but certainly you prefer to have it than being right about what scares you.

Nicole Grotepas said...

Hey! Thanks for dropping by. I get a lot of traffic over the disease posts, especially this one.

I definitely wouldn't want Lyme disease and I'm pretty sure I don't have it (still), though I've never been tested. And I think if I do have hypochondria, it's a relatively mild case :). But yes, I'd rather be a hypochondriac than someone with a plethora of real diseases (and not psychosomatic disorders heh heh).

I hope you don't have it. As I get older, I tend to believe more and more what my mother always said: "You're healthy as a horse." I don't even want to THINK about the potential irony of that one. ;)

Dan said...

You know, they say that hypochondria is the first sign...

I also came here for the same search terms. I got inundated with ticks recently on a camping trip, much more than 2. But it was in a low (but not zero) risk area. Am I shaky, and is my neck mildly stiff because of bad sleep? Is the tiny lump in my throat because of the cold going around the office or is it my lymph nodes?

It's a bit comforting to hear about the chin test, I can definitely do that no problem. I do have an interesting spot that I'm watching as well, though.

Anyway, not much of a point here, just want to chime in. Thanks for the post.

Nicole Grotepas said...

Thanks for the comment. I recently had a blood panel done and there was a slight indication I had been exposed to Lyme disease, but then an infectious disease doctor ruled it out. Who knows. I hope you don't have it because it's a terrible disease. I recently saw a portion of a documentary about it (it was really late and didn't catch the whole thing) and there seems to be a lot of confusion about it in the medical field. If they catch it soon enough, supposedly they can stop with antibiotics. If they don't, it wreaks neurological havoc. They also mentioned that the idea of zero risk areas isn't necessarily true. So, if you think you have it, I'd go have a blood panel done by an infectious disease doctor. It'd be better in the long run to know right now whether or not you have it.