Attention Future Self: You’re Welcome

Carie ShermanDo you ever wonder about the type of person who might be taken over by a cult?

Me too. And I bet it’s someone like me.

I’m a searcher. I’m always looking for mechanisms for improvement. When the Tony Robbins and Zig Ziglars and Deepak Chopras of the world sleep, they dream of my face, emerging from beneath a halo of dollar signs.

I hide my addiction in a bookcase that rivals any self-help section in a big box bookstore. Even my followers on Pinterest–a treasure trove of inspirational gold–remain unaware since the advent of the “secret” board.

So what got my attention this morning? A little nugget that shined brighter than all the rest:

do-something-today-that-your-future-self-will-thank-you-for

I love it. It’s quick. It’s actionable. It’s scalable. Totally doable.

So Today I Told an Old Friend to Suck It

When you’re sick, it’s easy to let anxiety rule the roost. But this chicken is ready to fly the coop. In a rare moment of consciousness, I said goodbye to an dear, old friend. I won’t promise forever, as the thought makes my chest tighten, but for today, I will not Google my medical symptoms.

Even though my hand is burning and my left eye is twitching.

What Dr. Google Doesn’t Know is What Hurts Me

The information age helps and hurts, medically-speaking.

It helps, because it’s propelled us from the days of yore when education and information were held by a chosen few.

It hurts, because medicine isn’t just science. There’s an art to obtaining a proper diagnosis.

Dr. Google is a Pitiful Diagnostician

Sure, my old friend knows that Nausea + Headache + Loose Stool = Colon Cancer. He also knows it means IBS, Inhalation of a Noxious Gas Present Only in Sub-Saharan Africa, and Ate Ice Cream Too Fast and Forgot to Take Lactaid.

Dr. Google lacks context. He has no idea whether there’s a stomach bug going around or if I drank too much wine with dinner. Google has nothing on a physician who learns through years and years of clinical experience.

I imagine the imbalance of art and science Dr. Google perpetuates is causing an epidemic of a common problem historically seen in medical students. Called nosophobia, or  Third Year Syndrome*, it causes students of medicine to think they are experiencing the symptoms of whatever disease they are studying.

Who among us can say we haven’t googled a few disparate symptoms and decided it was time to get our affairs in order? “But Doc, I googled it. I have all the symptoms of RPI Deficiency!”

A retrospective review of my powers of self-diagnosis would reveal that I’m about as likely to win Powerball as I am to interpret my symptoms.

I have enough health problems. Anxiety is one of them. A big and miserable one. I have better things to do than waste precious waking hours following a rabbit into the web of medical misery. If I’m still concerned, a trained professional is a phone call away.

Sure, I’ll have to take it one day, one craving of the keyboard at a time (I’ve stopped myself twice this morning!). But the more distance I put between me and Dr. Google, the better off “future me” will be.

Do you agree?

*According to Wikipedia, authors of a 1998 study called into question “the widely held view that medical students are more likely than others to have excessive anxiety about their health,”citing law students and others also experience this type of hypochondria. It’s this author’s opinion that more studies should be done on students labeled as Smarty-Pants, or like this author, Clearly Working Above Actual Ability. It’s a thing. Ask my mom.

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