In fact, the last time I had to take to my sickbed was May 1999, although I think that had more to do with the man I had just started seeing rather than illness.
That doesn’t stop me being a complete hypochondriac. I once steamed open a letter from my doctor to a specialist where I was going for X-rays, and it said: “An exceptionally healthy young woman who worries unnecessarily about her health.”
I think it has less to do with my own health and more about how much I read about the arbitrariness of life. At any given moment, an aneurysm can send you to an early grave; cancer can suddenly be discovered throughout your whole body. Our entire existence spins on a dime.
A few months back, I developed earache. Naturally, I thought it was a brain tumor and started to worry about my belongings spread throughout the world in different places and who was going to clear them all. More to the point, who was going to find me? No one I know has my address in the US, and the first anyone might know about my demise would be the Daily Mail’s sub-editors staring down at a blank page where my weekly copy should be.
Then, I noticed that the bottoms of my feet were a strange color. I took to Google to see what this could possibly mean, then developed a migraine with the worry of how I would live when my legs were chopped off to stave off whatever infestation was clearly developing. And have you read about this new tick that can give you a disease even worse than Lyme’s?
It transpired that my foot problem was nothing more than the brown dye on the sandals I hadn’t worn for a while transferring itself to my bare heels; my ear and head problems were down to my cheap glasses. I need glasses only for reading, and I could no longer afford to replace my wonderful Tommy Hilfiger ones that kept being stolen. But the cheap pharmacy ones – my head felt like the filling in a Sumo sandwich. It’s not that they were especially tight; they were just so heavy. I started clenching my jaws in my sleep again, too – reading late night Google diagnoses on your phone does that to you; and then that, too, can give you head pain.
It may be due to high Covid stress levels, but I worry about the health and wellbeing of everyone around me these days. If my friends are off social networking for a couple of days, I am all but ordering flowers for their funerals. I see planes and helicopters fly over the Hudson every day and am always relieved when one passes my window without exploding. I am suspicious of anyone carrying a bag and traveling by themselves (that used to be me, too, which may explain why I was always stopped by Customs, who clearly share the same anxiety).
We live in difficult times, and when I look up how many phobias there are, I begin to realize just how anxious I really am.
I don’t have arachibutyrophobia – fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth, because I don’t eat it (probably because of a fear of it sticking to the roof of my mouth). I don’t have Bogyphobia – fear of bogeys or the bogeyman, but then that’s probably because when I was little, I was told that if I didn’t go to sleep the bogeyman would come and get me, so I slept soundly through his visits.
I possibly have Chrometophobia/Chrematophobia – fear of money – which is why I never have any, I suspect.
And I probably also have Lutraphobia – fear of otters – ever since I saw Mij the otter in Ring of Bright Water was chopped in two by some workmen with an axe when I was seven. My mother tried to comfort me by saying it was a cousin of Mij who had come to visit (Christine Evans quickly corrected me on that delusion in school the next morning, and I returned home, hysterical). But maybe this isn’t a fear of otters, just a fear of careless workmen wielding axes, and I don’t think there’s a name for that.
My heightened state of anxiety these days, though, I am going to put down to a whole new phobia – Googleaphobia. Because no matter what happens to me, my friends, or in the world at large, I am onto Google to investigate further, and now I live in fear of what I am going to find there.
I could just stop, of course, but Googleaphobia is a fear akin to a scary ride at the funfair: you’re frightened of it, you know it’s going to terrify the life out of you, but you want it anyway. You’re hooked on the fear.
So, I’m going to keep going with my quest for life support from Google, just to see how many more lunatics are out there offering services they can’t actually deliver and preying on my fears about everything in order to fill their own coffers.
My fear of having money is about to get a whole lot worse with these crooks, I fear.
Fear of fear.
You see? I’ve got that, too.
Bring on the men in white coats.