Why Medical Encyclopedias are Very Bad for your health
People, we are all in grave danger.
That is the startling discovery I made when I paged through one of those Time/Life A - Z self-help medical books written in layman's terms especially for the general public, thus enabling us to diagnose ourselves with an alarming array of illnesses without any assistance from a doctor.
This book is any Hypochondriac's dream. You can start off optimistically enough on page one - as I did - thinking that you are in excellent health, never suspecting that an all-consuming illness is slumbering inside you just waiting to rear its feverish, poisonous head when you least expect it to.
But trust me, no matter how optimistic you think you are in terms of your own health and well being: by page two you will firmly believe that you are definitely dying.
I'm so bewildered right now (and I'm only at the chapter on Osteoporosis. Page 188. And I have just as many pages left to go, not counting the glossary), I have completely forgotten why I picked up this book in the first place.
I've FORGOTTEN?!? Must be the first sign of Alzheimer's?! Yes, what do you know! There it is, on page 50 under Head & Nervous System and next to Headaches (and if you have a headache right now, I'm afraid I have very, very bad news for you: you possibly have a brain haemorrhage, or Meningitis, or a brain tumour, or a temporomandibular disorder, or... Oh, just call an ambulance.): "Alzheimer's Disease: Signs and Symptoms: Memory problems that become progressively worse! And Confusion, faulty judgement (according to my parents, I most certainly have both of those!) and an increasing tendency to lose things!"
I'm convinced. That's me! I have all those symptoms! The car keys have been gone since last Thursday and my mom always says if my head wasn't screwed on... Well, even that is of no help anymore, because here goes my mind anyway.
The book starts off pleasantly and helpful enough.
"We want to show you how you can best take care of yourself and your family." (Ha ha. That last bit is very funny. I think my family would rather expire than allow me to come near them with medical advice! I can hardly follow a basic cooking recipe, let alone step by step instructions on how to correctly apply first aid under pressure during an emergency.)
But halfway through that seemingly sincere introduction, they start dropping the hints - that you are about to find out that you are actually very ill - as subtly as nuclear bombs.
In order to best terrorise you, they list all the things that can possibly be wrong with you (and, if it isn't already, will be soon!) in alphabetical order: from Animal Bites to Appendicitis, to Yellow Eyes to Xenophobia. (Okay, Xenophobia isn't REALLY listed in the book, but it might as well be, because I'm a foreigner in the United States, and right now I'm terrified of myself!)
Here's some of what I've learned from the book so far: If you are feeling a little bit blue, you are actually manic-depressive.
If you are exceptionally happy... well, you must be deliriously insane then.
If you are thirsty... you might as well forget about it, because you're already dehydrated.
If you are hungry, you are either malnourished OR you are imagining it, which signals a definite obsession with food, in which case you are:
Well on your way to obesity,
Bulimic or - once again -
If you have two glasses of wine in one sitting, you are a full-blown alcoholic.
If you have NO wine, ever, you will definitely die soon because that means you never get any of those important antioxidants found in red wine and which the French seem to flourish on.
Too much exercise can lead to such severe and multiple injuries, I tremble just thinking about it. (Trembling: the first indication of Parkinson's.)
Mild exercise isn't good enough, so don't bother.
No exercise is terrible and will also kill you soon.
If you're too hot, you have a fever (which indicates many other things, none of which is ANY good.).
If you're too cold, it means you have the chills, poor circulation or - I hate to break it to you - that you are simply not alive anymore.
See what I mean?! (And if you don't, you probably have cataracts.)
I've just read that my freckles, which I've always naively assumed to be nothing more (or less!) than an unfortunate side effect of having red hair, could actually be skin cancer.
I think I'd better lie down now and wait for the ambulance to arrive.
See you at the hospital, but take care not to include any Self Help Medical Books in your stack of bedside reading material. You may not last through the index.
P.S. This is dedicated to Joelle, who happens to be quite ill (for real) right now. Get well soon, Moxie girl!
Oh, and also to Natalie, who recently bade a fond farewell to some brain bits. Luckily for us, it wasn't any of the important bits containing her marvellous vocabulary and writing ability.
Or you can
The Wish List (Because yes, she really does need more how-to books. Honestly!)
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