Ten Covid-19 Survival Tips from a Seasoned Hypochondriac

Ten Covid-19 Survival Tips from a Seasoned Hypochondriac
By Becky Randel

         These are strange and scary times; times where we look to experts in various disciplines to tell us what to do, how to get through this.

The doctors instruct us to wash our hands, don’t touch our faces, drink lots of fluids, and only come to the hospital if it’s life-threatening. Oh, and monitor your mental health because stress makes you sick.

The scientists and epidemiologists say…er, um, only get your groceries delivered/grocery stores are mostly OK; decontaminate every item you buy/you only need to wash fruit; all of your meals should be cooked at home/take out is fine; the numbers are looking better/we haven’t yet peaked.  Call us in five years when we’ve had a chance to do multiple double-blind studies.

The “nutrition experts” and “wellness influencers” say you must boost your immunity. You might have thought your immunity worked before, but you were wrong. You need to immediately do this #intolerancechallenge and buy this #sponsored supplement and #AD this adaptogen to your smoothie. Otherwise, you will die.

And fitness professionals say exercise every single day for hours, because gaining weight is worse than dying.

Yet, amidst all of this advice, there is a group of experts no one is consulting- people who know more about symptoms and sickness than possibly anyone else in the world. We are the hypochondriacs, and we’ve been living with the perceived threat of death every day for our entire lives.

Throughout my 42 years, I have suffered from the following: multiple brain tumors, lung cancer, breast cancer, ALS, rabies, spinal meningitis (at least three times, and obviously, the more dangerous bacterial type), Lyme disease, one serious heart attack and one mild, ulcers, infections, a swollen spleen (that was a rough week), Alzheimer’s, multiple bouts of food poisoning, paralysis, and once, complete organ failure. None of my (clearly idiotic) doctors have diagnosed any of these ailments, but I’ve miraculously recovered anyways.

I’ve either had Coronavirus three separate times this month, or I’ve had it once, and it’s lasted four weeks. I’ve had no fever or cough or shortness of breath, but I did allow my doctor to prescribe amoxicillin for swollen lymph nodes, which I surmised was an unknown symptom of the virus. She thought it was more likely an infection (and may have wanted to pacify me).  So, even though my chart says I’m allergic to amoxicillin, Azithromycin was being hoarded, so we decided to give it a go. (Penicillin allergies are commonly misdiagnosed, after all). Unfortunately, mine wasn’t.  So now, I have a full-body rash – which, don’t forget, could also be a symptom of a virus, which brings us back to square one.

How, might you ask, have I maintained a somewhat normal (my husband would disagree) life, recovered from all of these illnesses, and sustained the multi-attack of Coronavirus?

The craft of surviving life as a hypochondriac is a complex art form, but I will give away my secrets so that you, too, may understand how to get through a daily fear of death. #Hero.

  1. Know your math.  Right now, about .2% of our population has tested positive for COVID-19, and the mortality rate hovers between 3-4%.  If someone said ‘you have a 97% chance of survival’, you’d feel pretty confident. Additionally, we ALL know someone who likely had it and wasn’t tested, so the death rate is probably lower.
  2. Have a fellow hypochondriac on standbyso you can go back and forth, pacifying one another as you discover new symptoms. If I cough once a day, I am surely on death’s bed. But, if my sister tells me she coughed today, I can easily see that it’s most likely nothing, and I can tell her so.  We do this for each other multiple times a day.
  3. Avoid the ‘regret-sies,’  i.e, “I shouldn’t have let the kids play outside on our street, even though they were ten feet away from the neighbors, because they all touched the same football, and now we are going to die.” (this is a hypothetical).  You’re trying your best. And if you’re a neurotic hypochondriac, you’re likely making better choices than most of the population.
  4. “Symptom alternatives.” In other words, coughing and congestion are Covid symptoms, yes, but we’re also sitting in dust all day, and pollen is at an all-time high, both of which cause the same reactions. Your chest pain is most likely because you haven’t removed your sports bra since yesterday’s dog walk, and shortness of breath during Peloton is not a symptom, it’s the point of Peloton.
  5. Timing: This virus started spreading WAY before the government took it seriously, and weeks before we were taking precautions. So, you’re safer now than you were on March 7th. Yay.
  6. If you have a thermometer, use it. You can’t argue with numbers, and if you don’t have a fever (100.4 or higher), you probably don’t have Covid-19. Or at least, not a severe case. If you don’t have a thermometer, ask someone to feel your forehead. Do notdo this yourself, you will have a fever 100% of the time.
  7. Two words: “Viral load.” Nothing has made me feel better than this article. In other words, with all of the precautions we’re taking, even if we do somehow get coronavirus from groceries, it will likely be a mild case.
  8. If you feel a wave of panic, distract yourself at all costs. Psychosomatic symptoms are powerful. I get sick every time I travel because I spend weeks worrying about getting sick on my travels. (As I write this, I’ve suddenly started coughing, but when I pause to shop for more sweatpants online, it stops).
  9. Find a friend or relative who is a doctor(or your son’s friend’s dad, who you barely know), so you can “check-in” if you get scared.  Yes, they’ll think you’re psycho and annoying, and they might even tell their son to stop playing with your son because he comes from crazy stock, but your son can make new friends. Especially when he shows them WebMd.
  10. Be Like Bob.Bill Murray famously said, “If I fake it, I don’t have it.” Sometimes it works to tell yourself, “Yup, I probably have Covid-19, and that’s that.” Dr. Leo Marvin’s motto of “Baby Steps” works well here, too.

When and if indisputable symptoms arrive and you’re truly scared, remember, you’re not alone. Lots of people are feeling symptoms. Remind yourself of the other sicknesses you’re usually afraid of; good news – this might just be spinal meningitis.   And lastly, draw the line – if you cannot breathe, you’ll go to the hospital and the brilliant doctors will take over. Worrying does not protect you.  Remember all the times you were wrong when you were quite sure you were dying?

At the very least, you can take solace knowing that if you die, you’ll be vindicated, and they cannot write “hypochondriac” on your headstone.

On a serious note, to our healthcare workers braving this pandemic (and who brave the wrath of hypochondriacs every day), I honor you. You’re the real heroes.