I ordered flowers today for my Aunt’s funeral. I gripped my stomach as I talked to the nice man in Los Angeles about exactly what I wanted--white roses and white tulips with some English Ivy and twisting twigs. I added a note from all of us. A pain shot through my abdomen.
When things get really emotional or stressful for me, I have the uncanny ability to place all my stress into my body. I have perfected this talent over the years. Usually it takes a few days for the full effect of whatever is eating me up to make its way into a physical symptom. Today it hit hard and fast.
I hung up the phone feeling bewildered. I am not prepared to bury my Aunt. I feel her loss so much more significantly than I was prepared for. And now I’m certain that I will be the next one the family will bury.
See, this is what I do. I know it probably keeps me NOT thinking about the things too painful to think about. And I’ve mastered the talent. It has taken years, but it’s the one thing in my life that I know I am really very good at.
Clinically, I think they call it hypochondriasis. I’ve actually never been really diagnosed. But my friends have been happy to diagnose me. “Oh Terry, it’s just in your head,” they will tease. I kid about these things, but its really real and scary.
This afternoon my husband had to scrape me off the ceiling. The pain in my stomach frightened me so much. I am convinced I’m having serious health issues that involve something deep and dark and terminal.
I quickly go through a myriad of morbid scenarios. And then I hole up in my home and worry.
The creative part of me has a field day. I have had so many terminal illnesses in my head that I’ve buried myself more times than I can count.
This is the part of being a creative person that I really hate. In a mere second I can project so far into the future. Scenes play out quickly and brutally.
I try to go to my “nice” place. I try and breathe. I force myself out into the world. This all helps, sometimes.
My eldest put into perspective last night, “Mom, are you feeling alright?”
“No, dear I have some stomach issue.”
“Oh Mom,” he teased. “Last week didn’t you think you had a brain tumor?”
His loving humor really helped. It brightened by dark mood. And he made me realize that my stomach is probably just that, a stomachache.
But how can I be sure?
How do you cope with stress? Do you assume the worst when it comes to medical issues? Do you meditate or use any other coping tools to deal with life’s difficulties?