Friday, November 4, 2011

A Tale of Hypochondria

Early in October, I went on a much-needed vacation that got a passing mention in this blog. What I didn't mention was that while I was there, I started experiencing this incessant abdominal pain. Well, without going into too great a detail about my bathroom habits, I will say that I was diagnosed with IBS almost 10 years ago, and abdominal pain is nothing new to me. However, incessant abdominal pain is a horse of a different color!
Usually, when something goes wrong with my health, I assume the worst. Last spring, I started feeling a persistent tingling in my feet and was convinced that I had diabetes. I visited the doctor and requested a diabetes test, which came out negative. The doctor also tested me for vitamin B deficiencies (also negative) and concluded that my problem probably stemmed from standing in place too long at work. Once I had duly embarrassed myself with this false alarm, the tingling disappeared within a few days, mission accomplished.

When my tummy started hurting nonstop, I naturally self-diagnosed a bowel obstruction. However, as those bowel habits that I'm trying hard not to go into much detail about hadn't changed much, an obstruction seemed unlikely. As I researched the issue further, a few words kept popping out at me: celiac disease.

Celiac disease is a tricky little disorder; while many patients suffer bloating, diarrhea, constant pain, and all sorts of nutritional deficiencies (sometimes characterized by tingling in the feet!), others have no symptoms. If you have any one of the symptoms, you might have the disease. And I had TWO.

Well, I worked myself into another frenzy of anxiety. The thought of having to start a gluten free diet depressed the heck out of me. I visited celiac disease websites compulsively for a few days, and called the doctor for another appointment, which I could not get until the middle of the next week.

In the meantime, I started feeling these twinges that would appear and disappear spontaneously under my solar plexus and under the left and right sides of my ribs. As I noticed them and paid them more attention, they migrated up into my chest, and then up into my throat. It felt like the time I got a pill stuck in my esophagus. I worried a little half-heartedly about heart disease, but really it sounded suspiciously like acid reflux (except I thought heartburn was supposed to burn, not feel like a cramp!), Guess what! Tons of the people on the celiac disease forums also suffer from acid reflux! Coincidence? I thought not.

Well, my doctor (who persistently refuses to diagnose these dread diseases I keep coming down with) diagnosed acid reflux and prescribed me an antacid. However, at my request, she also ordered 3 celiac blood tests.

They came back negative. I started feeling better almost immediately.

And then, a few days ago, I remembered a certain party that I chickened out of attending this summer. I had driven myself almost all the way there, getting more and more nervous as I got closer. By the time I reached the street where the party was held, I had reached a pinnacle of anxiety. When I cruised past the door to the house where the party was held and didn't see any sign of a party, I knew I couldn't go through with it. So I kept on cruising back towards home, feeling that very same constricted feeling under my sternum. I remember explaining to my boyfriend later why I couldn't possibly attend: "I was so nervous, I got heartburn! And I never get heartburn!"

So now I see the reason for all this recent gastric upset. Stress! First I was all in a tizzy looking for jobs, and then that tizzy swung right around into full-blown bedbug paranoia, and then when I started feeling the physical symptoms, I made them even worse by worrying about them!

Unfortunately, the stress is not over. Today, while looking for a tank top in my bags of clothes in the basement, I saw a brown spot on one of the white bags. I looked closer. It was a bedbug! A deadbug bedbug, but how had it gotten there!? Best case, it blew out of the freezer when I was trying to retrieve it (I vaguely remember losing one of my specimens due to some injudicious breathing). Worst case, it had made its home in the basement, or in my bags of clean clothes!

Tomorrow we do our second treatment with the pesticides. I will remove the thick protective layer of diatomaceous earth around my bed and replace it with a thin, killing layer. I hate to do this, because I've been bite-free for almost two weeks and I want to stay that way, but if you want to lure bedbugs to their deaths, you have to use yourself as bait. I will wait two weeks, maybe three, and if we are still getting bitten, I will call in an exterminator. My worst fear is that even that last-ditch effort will not succeed.


Geoff said...

Glad you're okay but...strange how everything always comes around to involve bedbugs!

OMG I just figured it out! You are going to secretly start shilling a bedbug spray.


I figured you out!

Everything is tying in together nicely. You are the new eastern shore sales rep for SlugBug Pro©.

Mom said...

Valerie-I am very glad you don't consult with me for all your medical woes-you would surely drive me crazy with anxiety and worry....

Valerie said...

I kind of thought I might be doing you a favor by keeping quiet.