On hypochondria

I am extremely talented in the art of self-persuasion, but to say that I have been gifted with this ability is only accurate about 50% of the time; the other 50% presents itself as more of a curse.

This probably sounds like an oxymoron. This is because it is an oxymoron. See, I can very easily convince myself that – amid major catastrophic, cataclysmic conditions – everything is going to be fine, all will work itself out, there’s nothing over which to get worked up. However, it takes little work for me to then be completely and totally assured that nothing will ever be right in the world again and that, really, we’re all screwed.

It’s a wonder I don’t suffer from more frequent headaches. Or emotional breakdowns.

Early yesterday morning, I woke up to the most intense of itches on my ankles and feet. I’m talking about the insanity-inducing kind of itching. When I got out of bed, I took a closer look and discovered at least a dozen tiny red bites covering my legs from the knees down.

Maybe it was because I wasn’t fully awake yet, but my very first reaction – the very first place my brain went – was Hypochondria Mode. Specifically, I knew that I had bed bugs.

Bed bugs are making a resurgence worldwide, after apparently going underground and planning their bloody coup for the last fifty-or-so years. And it seems that the ones who’ve resurfaced are some pesky little mofos, with total eradication proving to be a tricky, time-intensive, costly process. I only was superficially aware of this new(ish) phenomenon before yesterday, but I guess seeing those small itchy bumps on my lower extremities triggered some sort of previously-unmade Neural Connection between the Part Of My Brain That Reads The Health Section Of The Newspaper and The Part That Is Convinced I Have All Of Those Damn Diseases.

Now driven to act by some sort of primal brain area, I immediately immersed myself in some pretty hard-core internet research (oh, God, the pictures!). After reading some kind of Paper written by Harvard People, I was convinced. I informed my mother, whose reaction was initially horrified until she asked where the hell they could have come from.

“Uh, they come from everywhere!”
“But you haven’t been in a hotel or anything.”
“But they come from everywhere! They come in on your clothes!”
“Then how come I don’t have them?”
“Well, maybe you just don’t know it yet!”
“Okay, well, they look like chigger bites to me.”

Wait. Chigger bites?

In my haste to self-diagnose, I had forgotten that I’d spent time crawling through some bushes the day before, removing a wasp trap (that never caught any freaking wasps, what a waste of $5!) and pulling weeds.


My leeriness slowly melted away as I more closely inspected my ankles. Having been bitten by chiggers no less than 6,000 times in my life, the origin of my mystery bites now made complete and total sense. Suddenly – just as quickly as I’d been convinced otherwise – I knew that there were no bugs in my bed.

And last night, I slept like a baby.

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