Thursday, July 24, 2008


Thanks for leaving comments, dear folks.

I've read them and hope to respond next well as posting about Stockholm Syndrome.

My time and energy have been channeled into helping one of my teenagers through a rough patch. And if you've ever had a challenging teenager, you know what I'm talkin' about.

Back soon.

In the meantime, here's wishing you strength and inner peace.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Overcoming Hypchondria

While I'm doing a bit of research on the next post about Stockholm Syndrome and whether it applies to some of us adult children of narcissists, I'd like to the answer the following question posed by an Anonymous commenter:

"Yes, I actually got here by googling elderly narcissistic parent with dementia....I am in a long Groundhog effect loop with a narcissistic mother and hope to add lots and lots of comments. Right now though, I want to ask you about your getting over hypochondria?? How??? I could really use some help."

Well, heck, I'm probably just as qualified as some advice columnists out there, so I'll give it a whirl. Which means I'm hardly qualified.

First, some thoughts.

--Both my self-absorbed parents modeled hypochondriacal behavior. My mother spent a lot of time in bed with various ailments and a bad back. My father went to the emergency room. A lot. I think I picked up on their fear of illness, even though I rarely got sick myself.

--For most of my life, I've repressed anger and resentment toward my parents. Secretly, I hated them, but pretended to be loving and dutiful. I believe that in order to distract myself from my real feelings, I became riddled with anxiety and became a raging hypochondriac.

In order for me to stop being a hypochondriac, I had to admit I loathed my parents. I had to be honest. I had the luck of having mental health insurance. I spent a year with a therapist and just talked. For the first time in my life, I was allowed to express myself without being corrected, interuppted or yelled at. Much of my anxiety was released. More was released when I finally set some boundaries and began to stick up for myself.

But the hypochondria had got out of control.

It had become a HABIT. The repeated breast-checking for lumps, the constant nagging worry that every little ache and pain meant some horrible, lurking cancer had a life of its own...a thing that fed on itself and was eating me up. If you have hypochondria, I don't have to explain to you what it's like.

But there was something else, too. Something linked to feeling UNWORTHY. Like I had no right to be happy, to exist, to breathe or be well.

Every opportunity for joy I ruined with worrying about a possible disease.

So I had to break the cycle.

Don't laugh. I had to sit on my hands so I wouldn't check for breast lumps. I started off with small increments of time: an hour. For an hour I wouldn't think about any of that stuff. When I finally succeeded, I stretched it to two hours, then three, then four, and so on until I'd reached a day. The days eventually reached a week. In the beginning, I had to distract myself with projects or forcing myself to be in the moment with my children, my husband or watching a movie.

I repeatedly told myself, "I am worthy" and I "deserve to be happy." I forced myself to go to the doctor regularly and in between, gave myself permission not to fret. That sounds easy...the deciding. But it isn't. The most important aspect to this was the decision to embrace my worth. To value myself. To allow myself to be happy and joyful.

I honestly feel that if I were actually to get sick, now, I'd be upset, sure, but I'd fight whatever it was. I wouldn't want to let it control or define me. The hypochondria was masking something I was terrified to face.

If this sounds too simple to be true, please believe that this worked for me. It simply took a lot of practice and mindfulness to break an awful, terrible habit.

If you've dealt with hypochondria and would like to share any thoughts about it...or how to overcome it...please leave your advice!