I am, truth be told, a rabid hypochondriac. Those who know and love me appreciate my finer obsessions with various obscure diseases which I've seen patients die from. I've written about it before. And I exaggerate a bit (as in, I'm not trolling the internet for new diseases to panic over, nor do I create symptoms), and am mellowing with age, but I still worry irrationally at times. I'm not proud of this. I'm actually quite embarrassed about this. But, it's who I am. And there it is.
I never considered it an asset.
Yes, friends, today, I won the step-mother of the year award for empathy and compassion, because it seems we may have another hypochondriac in our house, in the form of a 13-year-old and I, being an overreacting worrier, am in the best position to handle the situation. I am the superhero of imaginary illnesses...the queen of panic...the empress of empathy.
When T. came upstairs to talk with R. and me and had a worried look in her eye, I just thought maybe she'd forgotten to tell us about a ballet rehearsal, but lo and behold, that worried look was the beginnings of a hypochondriacal worrying. She said, "I have this pain in my neck it just started while I was working on the computer!" (She'd been sitting there for over an hour in one position, crooking her neck to see the screen). "Do you think it's a tumor?" R. said something rational about it being a crook in her neck, but rationality gets you nowhere in hypochondriacsville. In the village of hypochondriacs you need reassurance, dammit. You need familiar reminders that life is a good place and all is well. You need security and love and understanding. And so I jumped in, my moment in the sun. I said, "Oh, sweetie, no! There's no way it's a tumor. Here let me massage it for you. See, it's just from sitting that way too long. It's a neck spasm. I get them all the time..." She looked at me with her beautiful brown eyes and said, "Really? Because it really hurts and I've never had one." We got a heating pad. We massaged some of the cramping away. She took some Junior Strength Motrin. She repositioned in front of the computer in a more ergonomic position. I promised we'd watch a family movie after supper. She took a deep breath.
As I walked back upstairs I thought, "Christen, you worry about never being good enough. You recognize you're always second best. You doubt you make a difference in their lives. You constantly compare yourself to others. You panic about how they view you. But today, well, today you found your calling, at least in this one area of parenting...at least you've got the hypochondriasis covered."
And that's something. At least for today.
Tomorrow: fear of spiders.