Monday, 31 March 2014


Just because I might have a tendency to hypochondria does not mean I will never get ill.

And I cannot deny the symptoms logged in some of the images pinned to my mental calendar as memory tags.

My current concerns began on 11 February 2014, when tingling started in the thumb, index and middle finger of my left hand. I have long experience tingling in my face, but suddenly this was more pronounced, as if I am recovering from a dentist's injection and other times feels like I have been burned, and spread to my tongue, accompanied by a slight metallic taste.

Searching the internet suggests these are symptoms to have checked out. On 17 March I did register with a doctor with the intention to make an appointment, but have not yet done so. As a hypochondriac, I've become used to scaring myself, only to have my carefully monitored symptoms dismissed, sometimes after tests. Pains in my lower back were not signs of kidney disease, but probably exertion. Pains in my chest were not a heart attack, but a muscle spasm (intercostal neuralgia). The clicking vertebrae in my neck, which began 18 months ago and I sometimes fear may be behind these latest developments are nothing to worry about: many people experience the same.

More to the point, over a decade ago I experienced similar feelings of tingling skin on my arms and a clammy deadness in my legs and was checked out to the point of an MRI scan, that found nothing wrong. I feared at the time the commencement of a nervous disorder – in the darkest moments the dreaded MS that disabled and finally killed a brother-in-law. Nothing found and my worries faded, though the tingling cheeks I have experienced for as long as I can remember, never really left.

My recent internet research suggests possible other causes. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one, though I am not a vegetarian, even if I rarely eat red meat. I follow a fasting diet two days per week and have been stricter since Christmas and lost around 5 kg as a result. Perhaps that prompted a vitamin imbalance. Just in case, I started taking a vitamin supplement, also on 17 March.

Carpal tunnel syndrome could explain the tingling fingers. In a bizarre coincidence that seems like a cosmic joke, this came up in a telephone conversation with my father on 19 March when he told me he is booked for an MRI scan as he has been suffering from tingling fingers. He attributed this to carpal tunnel syndrome at first as my sister had been diagnosed with the same some years before (she was probably also beset with fears of the MS that took my brother-in-law). Then on 27 March a colleague at work mentioned she thought she was developing carpal tunnel syndrome ("Are your fingers tingling?" I asked, but she has aches in her wrists).

I do spend too long on the computer and both these symptoms and the clicking in my neck seem linked to the duration and levels of stress: if I work late into the night I know it.

There have been times when I have woken with both forearms and hands numb and I have started to wonder if this is computer related. As part of a life reassessment, I'm trying to keep work to set hours (though I am typing this early morning).

Whether from vitamin supplements, less typing or nervous disorder remission, the symptoms have diminished to slight tingling in my left thumb, index finger and middle finger, with the same tingling cheeks. Now I am in monitoring mode and my fears have started to recede. I have told no-one.

But there have been seem dark moments. My memory tag of 16 March is visiting a nature sanctuary with my wife. It had been a few years since we have visited and as we walked around I wondered if this would be the last opportunity – and so a moment to be savoured.

On 6 March I was running on an empty beach and decided to close my eyes, thinking of how life would be if I lost my sight.

On another run on 25 March, I ended up sitting on a bench at the top of a hill, feeling wonderfully healthy from the exertion and wondering if the symptoms were just another descent into hypochondria and not signs of my imminent demise.

It struck me that something will get me in the end. Like everyone around me I am ageing, day by day. Like everyone before me, I am mortal.

So run while I can, I thought, charging back down the hill.

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