Tales of a Hypochondriac
Art by Kirsten Hemrich
The hypochondria comes at night. Always at night.
She slithers in through the window along with the breeze. The air that was once fresh becomes rancid and noxious. Fumes of anxiety and self-doubt twist and hang in the air. “You should Google your symptoms,” she whispers, her voice soft and soothing. “It will help.” She strokes my arm lovingly and curls against my chest.
It’s 2 a.m. and the blue light from my computer screen mimics skin-cancer causing ultraviolet. I imagine that it’s causing my eyes to develop something malignant, only to be revealed in a doctor's office a few years later. The left side of my face feels strangely numb. The sharp pang of a headache erupts over my right eyebrow. My tongue is dry and the palms of my hands itch.
My hypochondria smiles in encouragement as my fingers hover over the keyboard. Headache and numbness, I type in. After a few bated breaths, Google reacts quickly to tell me that it’s probably a brain tumor.
“A brain tumor!” my hypochondria squeals. “Then what’s the point of anything?”
We spend the rest of the night discussing the things I will miss out on due to my untimely death. My hypochondria reminds me to call my doctor in the morning to share my suspicions with him. “He’ll probably send you in for an MRI,” she says.
I start to protest against her, thinking I might be healthy after all. “What if it’s just a stress headache? Isn’t everything just stress? That’s what my doctor will say.”
My hypochondria shakes her head sadly.
“It has to be a brain tumor. There’s no way it can be anything other than the worst thing.” She speaks to me like an old friend, laying my head in her lap and playing with my hair. I fall asleep to her singing to me.
"There’s no way it can be anything other than the worst thing.” -My Hypochondria
In the morning, my hypochondria has fled. She hates the clarity of the morning, the cacophony of the outside world, the way life moves forward without a glance at your anxiety from the night before.
I wait for the pang of a headache or the ache of a joint, but nothing comes. I walk over to the window and lock it, hoping that she won’t find any vulnerable cracks to enter through.
That night, I expect her to creep in along with the gloom and the fear, but she doesn’t appear. The empty darkness is stifling and lonely and wonderful. I fall asleep before midnight and have a featureless dream, my mind exulting in its newfound freedom. Though I don’t know how long the silence will last, I can only be grateful that she’s whispering in someone else’s ear.
In another room, she’s tucking the next girl into bed. “Two days late and you’re not on birth control?” Her eerie timbre snakes into the girl’s subconscious as it once did mine. “You’re definitely pregnant.”