Have You Got It?
Paranoia and mutilation compulsion

With less damage to your karma than an illicit affair and fewer side effects than day trading, calling in sick when you're not is one of the few innocent leisure activities left in this modern world. As you lounge about on your sun deck eating corn dogs, it likely doesn't occur to you that the guilty pleasure of a day off work could be the milk seed for the rapid, vicious growth of a destructive psychosis -- and could -even create the mind of a vicious homicidal maniac.

Yes, that's how it all starts: A spurious claim of vomiting can, unchecked, accelerate rapidly into a grotesque and pathetic disease that will culminate in secretly-filmed FBI video tapes of you injecting syringes full of fecal matter into your own backside. Not so relaxing now, is it? We've prepared a diagnostic test, at no cost to you, to help you discern how fast you're careening down that log ride of insanity. Have you got it? We hope not. But for the love of God, find out.

1. How's your health?
Dizzy, with light headaches, slight fatigue, chance of nausea.
Sunny disposition, million-dollar immune system, can't wait to run my next marathon.
My health is fine; it's my child who's seriously out of whack.

2. You've graced the insides of a hospital how often in the last year?
About twenty times... could be more, I lose count.
I hate hospitals. I bought cough syrup in 1990, however.

3. Are you a healthcare worker?
No, but I know so much about the field I might as well be one.
No, the whole profession makes me feel sick just thinking about it.
No, and I try to stay away from 'em.

4. Have you taken it upon yourself to diagnose any of the following people with a serious disease?
Your unwitting spouse?
Your darling infant?

5. Is your better half frequently away on so-called "business," or preoccupied with his or her career?
Yes, the jerk is never around.
No, I wish. Can't seem to get rid of him/her.
I've got no spouse, but thanks for bringing it up.

6. Think back: The last time you were at a hospital, did you feel:
Nervous, a bit angry, and generally freaked out?
Tired, bored, and sleepy?
Confident and relaxed (and a big help to all the nurses)?

7. Your 3-month-old child is seriously ill, and doctors want to put a tube directly into child's heart. What is your reaction?
I'd get a second opinion.
I know all the risks, so I'd give the go-ahead immediately.
I'd ask for details about the risk involved.

8. How often do you think about death?
While flying in small planes or when the in-laws visit.
Like a radio with only one signal, it's all I seem tuned to.
I haven't given it much thought since I stopped listening to the Cure a decade ago.

9. You've been feeling faint lately. Irritatingly, your doctor assures you that there's nothing wrong, and suggests you see a shrink. What is your reaction?
Accuse her of lying and being selfish, you vow never to see a shrink and demand to see her superior. Immediately line up four more appointments with different doctors.
Say thanks, but you want to find a second opinion.
Ask her to tell you more; eventually ask how you should go about finding a proper psychiatrist.

10. You suspect you have a deadly disease. How long does the feeling last?
At least six months -- or until all the CAT scans come back negative.
For the five minutes after I watched the special on brain tumors.
I'm so healthy, it's silly for me to worry about getting sick.

11. When you are discharged from the hospital, what thought goes through your mind?
I'll be back.
I hope I'm not back soon, but knowing me, I will be.
They shouldn't have discharged me when I was so dangerously ill!
Thank God I'm outta there!

12. Were you physically or sexually abused as a child?

13. Have you ever knowingly poisoned yourself, or otherwise harmed yourself, with the intention of becoming gravely ill?

14. Have you encouraged doctors to perform invasive surgeries on your child in order to figure out a seemingly evasive diagnosis?
Yes -- gotta make sure they do their jobs.
No -- all surgery is so dangerous, I try to stay away from it.

15. Do you have a history of a prolonged, multi-system illness doctors are unable to diagnose?
Yes, do you have any ideas?
No, I've gotten a clear diagnosis on all my symptoms.
No, but my child has really been suffering.

The ex-editor of On Our Backs magazine, Athena Douris loves horror flicks and always shows off her injuries to anyone willing to look. She recently had scalp surgery and slept on her face for two days.

See also...
... by Athena Douris
... in the Whoa! section
... from October 29, 1999