But are you really sick?

I don’t want to depress you at all but one day you will die. We will all die no matter
Opinion

I don’t want to depress you at all but one day you will die. We will all die no matter how much exercise we have, no matter what food we eat, no matter if we smoke or not smoke, no matter if we drink or are teetotal. It’s just a matter of time.

What we can do — if we want to — is to have as good a time as we can while we are here. Life is not a rehearsal and all of that.

We have a friend who is the classic hypochondriac. If he has a headache it is probably a brain tumour, if he has a sore back it is probably kidney failure, if he coughs it is probably influenza, if somebody says he has a crooked, ironic smile then that is probably due to permanent nerve damage and if he has what my mummy used to call the “runnies” then it is probably cholera.

The merest twinge has him seeking an online diagnosis and I have watched him with utter horror and fascination as this sort of dodgy diagnosis eventually convinces him that he probably has a very rare form of Ebola. Once, when a dog playfully licked his hand he was near-hysterical thinking this could lead to rabies. When he had a slight nosebleed he just waited to die because of haemophilia.

He has been to more doctors in every specialist field desperately seeking answers than I have had refreshing cold drinks on a hot day. This has only led him to conclude that all medicos are complete charlatans, unable or unwilling to pinpoint the cause of his latest ailment. If he didn’t have an orange yesterday then he could risk scurvy – you get the picture.

If he doesn’t get a fistful of prescriptions from a visit to a doctor then he has to be almost physically restrained from reporting this alleged quack to the Medical Board for total negligence.

Then, finally, one brave medical practitioner bluntly told him to his face that he did have an illness — a psychiatric illness — and it was called hypochondria. He cried tears of relief at finally getting a diagnosis until he got home and looked it up. Oh dear, then there was an uproar.

“He,” he said referring to this medico, “is a disgrace to the profession. I’ll get him struck off. I’ll see him rot in hell.”

I’ve done my best, when I’m in the mood to humour him, to be supportive. “It’s one of God’s major miracles that you are still alive,” I’ve said, not that it has done the slightest bit of good.

I suggested to him that he join Hypochondriacs Anonymous but when he went to the first meeting he was told the first step to a cure is admitting that he was not ill which enraged him and he abruptly left. He would have stomped noisily out but his left foot is a bit sore and it is probably bone cancer — probably a total leg amputation might only catch the cancer in time.

I once jokingly told him that I understood that the latest Hypochondriacs Anonymous Annual General Meeting had to be abandoned when everybody called in sick. He didn’t find that remotely funny.

It is one of life’s ironies is that the only illness he refuses to believe he has is hypochondria because to admit to that would necessarily mean admitting that everything else is imaginary.

“I’m not a hypochondriac. I am only proactive and very careful about my health,” he asserts. Being careful about his health means taking a trunk full of jumpers and thermal underwear to a Barrier Reef resort during the height of summer just in case the weather changes.

Humour doesn’t work. I told him the story about the hypochondriac camel who looked backwards and noticed a suspicious lump on its back but that went straight over his head.

When he books a hotel he asks how long it would take an ambulance to get to the nearest major hospital emergency department. When he goes to a restaurant he cross-examines the waiter as to whether he has first aid training and, specifically, knows how to give the kiss of life should he have a stroke or heart attack. You can guess that this raises more than the odd eyebrow.

I, and everybody who knows him, is subjected to long, rambling lectures about how the only truly effective medicines are those advertised on the lunatic fringes of the internet and that international drug companies are involved in a giant conspiracy to stop the world from being aware of these alleged miracle cures.

He orders concoctions online and which are described as ancient blends of secret herbs and spices developed by Tibetan monks who lived on Mt Everest in the 7th century or by scientists working in a secret and heavily guarded laboratory in Switzerland. He floods everybody’s inbox with bizarre miracle cures
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Mind you, he did get something of a shock when I told him that I said that British comedian Spike Milligan was spot-on when he once said, “Told you I was ill.”

It’s on his tombstone.

Do you know someone like this? Share your stories with us.

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