Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Can I Be Sure?

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?


  1. Oh, so sorry you are going thru this stress. I find exercise works really well. And making a little time for myself for reading or watching a movie. Maybe because I spent so many years losing time, dealing with migraines (now mostly taken care of by Imitrex), I refuse to give up more time to feeling crappy for very long. I hope your stomach, and your soul, feel better soon.

  2. Thanks Maureen. Migraines are awful. I have dealt with these fears for so long. I'm working on it! Sounds like I need a nice island get away!!!!

  3. I used to assume the worst all the time - now that I am dealing with a concrete medical issue of my own, I try not to dwell on the worst case scenario! I am a big believer in, "it is what it is" (although I absolutely HATE that phrase). Stress is a huge aggravator of my condition, so I try my best to avoid it (ha!)

    I cherish my "alone" time; reading, web surfing, knitting - anything I can throw myself into to block out whatever is stressing me is good.

    You can always go to the doctor if it will put your mind at ease.

    Take care

  4. Patti you are so practical. The word doctor brings shivers to my spine!

  5. Wow Terry! We really are in the EXACT same place today aren't we? I so so so feel your pain (as you know). I wish I could say something to make you feel better but if I could, I'd say it to myself! I also am able to translate all stress into a physical malady in my body. Headaches, stomach aches, sore joints, etc. I've had it all. And I can't go on like this. I'm tired of crying. Tired of worrying. We should try to work through this together! The doctor also gives me the shakes.

  6. Dramaformama you are the best! I wasn't sure I could put this post out there today. Then I pushed publish and went directly to your blog. I was shocked. Is the universe trying to tell us something.

    I will e-mail you soon.

  7. I am so sorry that you are going through this. I do think that we creative types and writers tend to tell ourselves stories that forge way into the future and involve sinister things. Good for novels. Not for life. How do I cope with stress? Writing. Talking. Wine on occasion. Reading honest words from people like you.

  8. Hi Terry,
    I was just writing about using visualization techniques and informal biofeedback on another blog yesterday!

    I've learned that if I don't get out of the house and go to my exercise class everyday I can spiral into depression. It's Jazzercise and filled with my friends and it makes me happy. So that helps.

    I don't like to mention this (because it's so HUGE) but I had a brain tumor 9 years ago and the major symptom was not headaches, it was facial numbness from where the tumor was pressing on a facial nerve. I NEVER thought I had one and I can't even express how it threw me for a loop from the second I found out till it was out.

    I do try to remind myself each day that living involves a great deal of remembering that I'm not in charge and that I have to be comfortable with the unknown. If I can get used to that, things seem to go better.

  9. As a younger woman, my own shoddy coping mechanisms resulted in all sorts of nasty gastrointestinal symptoms. The cure for me was yoga. Since starting my practice (now woefully relegated behind the demands of being a mom) I have become much better at dealing with stress. I know it doesn't work that way for everyone, but it was a life-saver for me.

  10. Oh my friend know where I stand on this one. I'm the one who was sure I would not get to celebrate my 51st birthday because my mom died at 50. You are the one who talked me off the cliff, remember?

    Take a deep breath. Take a few doses of chocolate. Take an exotic vacation. Just do what it takes to ease up on yourself.

    Let's both live to be 95, just so we can bug everyone in our lives that much longer. :)

    Hang in there, my friend.