As I sit on the exam table, I try to find the best way to tell my doctor why I am there today. “I have been having really bad headaches”, I say. “I mean these headaches come every day, and I am taking an ungodly amount of Ibuprofen”. Even before I made the appointment, I had already convinced myself that the only thing that could cause me to have a headache every single day of my life is a brain tumor. Not to mention that after all the Ibuprofen I have taken, I am sure I have developed an ulcer. My doctor, on the other hand, is not as convinced. After I go through the series of tests and wait several days for the results, I finally have my diagnosis.
I discover that I am not dying of a brain tumor, or any terminal illness for that matter. I have been diagnosed simply with plain old headaches, not even migraines. Relieved from the news that I am not dying yet, I start to realize that maybe all those times that I was called a hypochondriac jokingly by friends and family, just might be true. The pain that I feel is real, I just tend to exaggerate it and dwell on it until I think it is much worse than it is. This is a trait my father says I got from my aunt, who sits around the house all day with one of those medical dictionaries and self-diagnosis herself with every scary illness in there. She might just have a hangnail, but if the symptoms add up, she convinces herself that her finger needs to be amputated. I, however run to the doctor every chance I get. I don’t just have my regular doctor on speed dial I, have several. Gynecologist, dermatologist, podiatrist, yep I’ve got em all. Thankfully, I have good insurance.
As I think about all of my doctor visits, I have to laugh. I laugh at all the money I’ve lost on co-pays, prescriptions, Ibuprofen, etc. I laugh at all the worrying I’ve done over the years, thinking that after each visit I was going to leave with grim news, I laugh at all the countless Internet searches trying to find medical websites to find symptoms to match mine so I could confirm my demise, and I laugh because laughing makes me feel good without prescriptions.
I believe that laughter simply can be the best medicine for me. I don’t think that if you really are sick you should just laugh it off, but it feels great to have a good ol’ laugh. The kind where you are laughing so hard your side hurts, tears stream out of your eyes and you can barely catch your breath. Whether I am with friends, co-workers or just watching a funny movie, laughter makes me feel better about whatever is going on in my life, physical or emotional. Thankfully, I have finally learned not to run to the doctor over every little thing that is wrong with me. Instead, I keep a few good friends by my side, a couple of funny movies on hand and a bottle of Ibuprofen in my medicine cabinet, just in case.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.