The Sickness Chapter

In honor of my sickness and my obsession with what getting sick might mean for me, I have resurrected a lost chapter from LITTLE PANIC, one on sickness, that was killed, swiftly and painfully, at the last minute. I present it to you now…


            There is no reason for my back to hurt, but it does just like that and out of the blue, and that’s why I think it’s cancer. Alex’s sister’s back hurt and she ignored it for months and when she finally went to the doctor they told her she had cancer of the soft cells and she died four months later. I didn’t do anything strenuous, so there’s really no explanation for it. If I have cancer then I’ll regret how much of my life I’ve wasted and I’ll be paralyzed because I’ll know it’s too late now to even try and achieve my goals. If it still hurts tomorrow, it’s cancer. Maybe I should take something. I’ll take something. If the Advil doesn’t work, it’s cancer.

            Cancer would explain my relentless exhaustion, which I’ve Googled and is definitely a symptom. I’ve been exhausted for months, and I don’t know why, but now my back hurts and I can feel a new, terrible reality descending on me. Also my pee is pretty dark, which the Internet says is dehydration, but I know it’s other things, too. Just in case, I drink some water. When I lie down I feel a sort of throbbing in my sinuses, which makes me think that maybe it’s a sinus infection that’s making me so tired. When I look it up, I see it’s a symptom. I follow the links in the comments section and wind up on an allergy site and read an article on inflammation, then follow the links in that comments section to a natural remedies site. I love natural remedies. Anything that promises to change and fix me, I believe, and buy. I learn about Edgar Cayce, the father of holistic medicine, who discovered an ancient healing technique that offered instant cures. All you need is hemp or wool flannel, a towel, a heating pad, a glass jar, a plastic bag, a spare bed sheet and Castor Oil. After buying all that, I come across other anti-inflammatory cures: turmeric soaks, Colostrum pills, oil pulling, nasal rinses, tea tree oil and lavender for the bottom of your feet, and a raw CURES EVERYTHING ginger, apple cider vinegar and garlic shots. Soon, it’s four hours and ninety-three unanswered emails later.

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I am sick

I don’t feel well. I’ve been fighting off a cold for two or three weeks, but now it’s descended upon me and I’m sick. As an anxious person, getting sick is always a little scary. If a new symptom arises, one that’s not normally associated with the cold I’m used to getting, I become worried that I have Cancer. I am always afraid I have Cancer. My back hurts a bit and I immediately worry that it’s terminal. This is because I’m afraid of death, and I’m afraid of death because I have extreme separation anxiety, and–get ready for this one–I’m afraid to be away from the people I love after I die (despite not believing in an afterlife). I’m also afraid I’ll be forgotten.

But, back to getting sick. I get sick a lot. I get sick when there is something big on the horizon I don’t want to get sick for. I get sick when I start dating someone I REALLY like. Essentially, I have mastered the art of willing myself ill. I don’t like having low energy. Or feeling too unwell to get out of bed and walk my dog. When I’m sick, I worry that I’ll never get well. That this is the sickness that will last forever. That I will be the one person in the world to catch the UNcommon cold, which never ceases.

“sickness spreading” by bornazombie is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Because I grew up with a heavy mist of dread taking up all the room inside my body, I am not a fan of feeling symptoms that suggest I am not well. Until I went on Anti-Depressants when I was 25, my anxiety was relentless, all-encompassing, and it scared me. When it grew thicker and more ominous, I often couldn’t move because I was afraid I’d knock something loose and the dread would grow worse and kill me. So much of my childhood was spent being held against my will by the symptoms inside my body, that now, when I get sick, it scares me in the same way my anxiety scared me growing up.

And, because whatever was plaguing me didn’t plague other kids, I naturally assumed I was the only person in the world to be suffering in this particular way. Now, when I get sick, I often need to announce my ailments and ask other sick people what their symptoms are, just to make sure ours match and that I don’t have a rare form of something that might kill me.

This is all to say that anxious people, when sick, are unhappy in a very specific way.