You’re sick at home, perhaps it’s night time, and your local medical centre is shut. You are wondering what’s wrong so a quick look online and some self-diagnosis should definitely ease those worries…
I had been getting very frequent headaches, fatigue and light-headedness. You know that feeling when you’re so hungover the room is spinning and you can’t even look at the ceiling without wanting to ‘shout groceries’? That. I had some other symptoms too, but the dizziness was my biggest concern and my mind began to get creative as to what I might have.
So I did what any sane, intelligent and capable (all of these may be debatable in my case) person living in the first world does; I went straight to Dr Google. I did this in order to alleviate my concerns and take a little worry out of life. Surely my symptoms could be explained with a simple diagnosis, treatment recommendations and I’d be well on my way to recovery by morning? Oh no. It did not exactly pan out like that.
Within a millisecond of punching my symptoms into Google over 15 million of pages of information were at my service. There are so many helpful websites on this internet thing! Information like this can be quite helpful:
“Dizziness may be just mildly annoying or caused by something possibly life-threatening.”
I won’t go into too much detail, as I spent quite some time trawling through all my potential ailments, but my search brought up a large number of possibilities. My possible diagnosis included: anaemia, brain tumour, chronic fatigue, anxiety, menopause, ear infection, stroke, brain tumour, heart attack, Meniere’s disease and BRAIN TUMOR.
I guess you could say I was pretty certain I had a brain tumour. I could feel it. I mean, I could actually feel it. I’ve always had a sort of lump on my head at the back there. And as I kept reading about the symptoms I was certain. I definitely felt tired and foggy in the morning. I wasn’t sure how to measure my blood pressure, but it was probably quite high. I couldn’t see any possibility of NOT having brain tumour.
By the morning I was deciding which pyjamas I would wear to hospital for my surgery, and who I would leave my coin collection to in my will (hey, that could be worth a lot of money one day…). I hadn’t had my brain tumour diagnosed yet, but had definitely developed a serious case of cyberchondria.
It took me a few days to get to my GP, so I had time to come to terms with my illness before he would confirm it. My GP and I have the same surname and whenever I see him he always cracks the same joke about me being his sister. I’m usually a bit of an easy crowd, but this time I wasn’t laughing. I walked into his surgery with a brain tumour and I walked out of there with a diagnosis of Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV) and a script for anti-nauseous medication.
Vertigo is pretty annoying and lasted for months, but it wasn’t life-threatening or serious at all. One the one hand it was a relief and I could cancel my order on those modest-but-sexy pyjamas I wanted for the hospital. But on the other hand I wasn’t allowed to climb ladders or operate heavy machinery. There went my weekend plans and career as forklift driver.
So I know you must be devastated to learn my career as a forklift driver never really took off, but please take heed in my message: don’t self-diagnose. No good will come of searching your symptoms online, it will probably make you think you only have a few hours left to live. And you can really freak people out when you start sending them suggestions of songs to play at your funeral and preferred picture for the funeral booklet. For me, next time I’m sick I’ll go back to my trusted method of diagnosis and call my mum. At least even if I am dying she knows just what to say to make me feel better.
Have you ever had cyberchondria and decided you were not long for this world?
Ps. If you must self-diagnose (which I know you will, you guys never listen to me! ;)) this article summarises the best sites to use and how to be skeptical.
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