Why Medical Encyclopedias are Very Bad for your health

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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:
Obese,
Well on your way to obesity,
Anorexic,
Bulimic or - once again -
Manic-depressive.

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.

7 Comments

Natalie said:

Oh, those things would be my nightmare. I'm way too big a hypochondriac to own books like that. WebMD is a portal to evil for me.

And I appreciate the shout-out. It's nice to know that I haven't lost any important brain bits. Heh.

heather said:

hmmm....and that still doesn't account for all of the illnesses you may have without showing any symptoms at all. i wonder if my insurance company knows how ill i really am? ;)

Ms. Pants said:

I'm forbidden to look at any of those things. My family is tired of hearing how I now have cancer of the eye, meningitus, ebola, anthrax, west nile virus, bird flu, leprosy, fungal hooptyfloob, joobaflotz majoris, slapty back wabbamatz, jinormous makamontosis.....

That I'm still walking is a miracle.

I AM A WALKING MEDICAL MIRACLE, GODDAMMIT!

shaunacat said:

Geez, I knew there was a reason I didn't keep those kinds of books around!!

Hope you're doing well!

Helen said:

At least you weren't looking at the DSM-IV. That's the mental illness diagnosis book. Crack that baby open and you immediately need to start sewing on the straight jacket cause seriously-I think you can GO crazy just by peeping into it.

Repressed? Oh that's me. Afraid of being alone? Me, too. So what does that mean? I have what?

just laughin said:

I think this is great, I was laughing the whole time. I am even printing it for my husband to read cause this is his mom to a T, I think she has this book cause every week she is dieing of something new LOL.

Redsaid Author Profile Page said:

just laughin: Although I am ecstatic that you found this amusing, I just consulted the Encyclopedia, and according to it, uncontrollable laughter is one of the earliest symptoms and indications that a person might be going funny in the head!! No need to be alarmed, though. It sounds as if a bit of insanity might be just what you need to be able to deal with your mother-in-law! :-)

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is a South African girl living in South Africa. That doesn't sound very original, we know, but you might find it remotely interesting when you learn that she has only recently returned to South Africa for the first time after a nine year, one month and two week (non-stop!) stint in the United States where she accidentally became an outlawed alien (also known, especially in immigration circles, as an 'illegal immigrant.' We prefer the term 'outlawed alien' ourselves). During her reversed exile from her homeland, she kept herself occupied by winning this website (but only after shamelessly bribing the judges) and thus being unleashed on the web where she slowly, leisurely became the World's Laziest Blogger; by being a nanny and by attending sci-fi conventions in search of other aliens. In the US, she also made her sailing debut, her international acting debut, tried and failed to learn the piano, and never learned to cook. She is hopelessly addicted to coffee, dogs (especially Labrador Retrievers), how-to books (with a particular fondness for her copy of the Time/Life A - Z Medical Encyclopedia), and she tends to grossly overuse parentheses (we're not kidding) during her attempts at writing, which you may - if you really have masochistic tendencies - subject yourself to by reading the words to the right of this column. If you REALLY and truly STILL want to know more, you can read her C.V. here.
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comments
  • Redsaid Author Profile Page: just laughin: Although I am ecstatic that you found this amusing, I just consulted the Encyclopedia,... [go]
  • just laughin : I think this is great, I was laughing the whole time. I am even printing it for my husband to read ... [go]
  • Helen : At least you weren't looking at the DSM-IV. That's the mental illness diagnosis book. Crack that b... [go]
  • shaunacat : Geez, I knew there was a reason I didn't keep those kinds of books around!! Hope you're doing wel... [go]
  • Ms. Pants : I'm forbidden to look at any of those things. My family is tired of hearing how I now have cancer o... [go]
  • heather : hmmm....and that still doesn't account for all of the illnesses you may have without showing any sym... [go]
  • Natalie : Oh, those things would be my nightmare. I'm way too big a hypochondriac to own books like that. We... [go]
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