Mystery and Excellence on The Human Body - A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

A Severe Case of Hypocondria

There were four of us — George, and William Samuel Harris, and myself, and Montmorency. We were sitting in my room, smoking, and talking about how bad we were — bad from a medical point of view I mean, of course.

We were all feeling seedy, and we were getting quite nervous about it. Harris said he felt such extraordinary fits of giddiness come over him at times, that he hardly knew what he was doing; and then George said that he had fits of giddiness too, and hardly knew what he was doing. With me, it was my liver that was out of order. I knew it was my liver that was out of order, because I had just been reading a patent liver-pill circular, in which were detailed the various symptoms by which a man could tell when his liver was out of order. I had them all.

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all  the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the  treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch — hay fever, I  fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and  then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to  indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into — some fearful, devastating scourge, I know —  and, before I had glanced half down the list of "premonitory symptoms", it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for a while frozen with horror; and then in the listlessness of  despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever — read  the symptoms — discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it  for months without knowing it — wondered what else I had got; turned  up St. Vitus's Dance — found, as I expected, that I had that too —  began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically — read up ague, and learnt that I was  sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about  another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in  a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for  years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I  seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the  twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got  was housemaid's knee.

I felt rather hurt about this at first; it seemed somehow to be a sort  of slight. Why hadn't I got housemaid's knee? Why this reservation?  After a while, however, less grasping feelings prevailed. I reflected that  I had every other known malady in the pharmacology, and I grew less  selfish, and determined to do without housemaid's knee. Gout, in its  most malignant stage, it would appear, had seized me without my being  aware of it; and zymosis I had evidently been suffering with from boy hood. There were no more diseases after zymosis, so I concluded there  was nothing else the matter with me.

I sat and pondered. I thought what an interesting case I must be  from a medical point of view, what an acquisition I should be to a  class! Students would have no need to "walk the hospitals," if they had  me. I was a hospital in myself. All they need do would be to walk  round me, and, after that, take their diploma.

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

Then I wondered how long I had to live. I tried to examine myself. I  felt my pulse. I could not at first feel any pulse at all.

Then, all of a sudden, it seemed to start off. I pulled out my watch  and timed it. I made it a hundred and forty-seven to the minute. I tried  to feel my heart. I could not feel my heart. It had stopped beating. I  have since been induced to come to the opinion that it must have been  there all the time, and must have been beating, but I cannot account for  it. I patted myself all over my front, from what I call my waist up to my  head, and I went a bit round each side, and a little way up the back. But  I could not feel or hear anything. I tried to look at my tongue. I stuck it  out as far as ever it would go, and I shut one eye, and tried to examine  it with the other. I could only see the tip, and the only thing that I could  gain from that was to feel more certain than before that I had scarlet  fever.

I had walked into that reading-room a happy healthy man. I crawled  out a decrepit wreck.

I went to my medical man. He is an old chum of mine, and feels my  pulse, and looks at my tongue, and talks about the weather, all for nothing, when I fancy I'm ill; so I thought I would do him a good turn by  going to him now. "What a doctor wants," I said, "is practice. He shall  have me. He will get more practice out of me than out of seventeen  hundred of your ordinary, commonplace patients, with only one or two  diseases each." So I went straight up and saw him, and he said:

"Well, what's the matter with you?"

I said:

"I will not take up your time, dear boy, with telling you what is the  matter with me. Life is brief, and you might pass away before I had finished. But I will tell you what is not the matter with me. I have not got  housemaid's knee. Why I have not got housemaid's knee, I cannot tell  you; but the fact remains that I have not got it. Everything else, however, I have got."

And I told him how I came to discover it all.

Then he opened me and looked down me, and clutched hold of my  wrist, and then he hit me over the chest when I wasn't expecting it — a  cowardly thing to do, I call it — and immediately afterwards butted me  with the side of his head. After that, he sat down and wrote out a prescription, and folded it up and gave it me, and I put it in my pocket and  went out.

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

I did not open it. I took it to the nearest chemist's, and handed it in.  The man read it, and then handed it back.

He said he didn't keep it.

I said:

"You are a chemist?"

He said:

"I am a chemist. If I was a co-operative stores, and family hotel  combined, I might be able to oblige you. Being only a chemist hampers  me."

I read the prescription. It ran:

—"1 lb. beefsteak, with 1 pt. bitter beer every 6 hours.

— ten-mile walk every morning.

— bed at 11 sharp every night.

— And don't stuff up your head with things you don't under stand...." .

From Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

A Severe Case Of Hypochondria

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