Stress Test

By now, I think just about everyone I know has shared this New Yorker comic with me:

david-sipress-it-s-a-simple-stress-test-i-do-your-blood-work-send-it-to-the-lab-and-nOkay, fine, it was only about five people, but I still find that significant. Of all the New Yorker comics that exist and of all the neurotic people that could jump to mind upon seeing them, this comic puts my friends and family in mind of me.


Recently, I watched the movie Romantics Anonymous (Les émotifs anonymes) with a friend. (The movie is very sweet, and French, and available on Netflix, so if you’re into romances about socially anxious people and chocolate, check it out.) In it, a character claimed that the three most stressful situations in life are moving, weddings, and exams.

My friend wondered, “Are exams really that stressful?”

I said, “Maybe he means medical exams.”

She replied, “You would say that.”

Also fair.

Recently I underwent a new medical exam of my own, and alongside it my usual trio of Stressing, Obsessing, and Second-guessing (yes, that’s SOS for short).

In advance: I stressed over whether I was following the preparation diet properly. I went online the day before—never wise—and found prep instructions from other doctors that included instructions mine hadn’t, all of which it was too late to implement. I stressed over how my change in routine for the day of the test would affect me for the rest of the week. I stressed over getting another diagnosis. I stressed over not getting another diagnosis.

On the day of: I stressed about whether my doctor’s office was properly handling the referral and billing process for my insurance (with good reason, turns out). I stressed about whether I was blowing the right way into the breath tester thingamabob. I stressed about the fact that midway into the test the receptionist realized she’d overlooked a detail about my insurance.

Properly dealing with this detail, I learned, would involve time travel. I stressed about not knowing how to time travel.

For the rest of the week: I continued to stress about the insurance, making phone calls to two different doctor’s offices and to the insurance company and not knowing what to say once I got on the phone with any of them.

To one, I said, helplessly, “I feel like the middleman here; I don’t know what I’m talking about,” to which she replied, “You are the middleman. You’re the patient!” I also said, to the same receptionist, “I’m only twenty-three!” Poor thing, she had no idea she was in for an impromptu counseling session, but she handled it well. Maybe twenty-three isn’t that young, considering in some places and times I’d have several children by now and be managing a household. Be that as it may, it’s true: I had no idea what I was doing. And it was stressful.

When I got the results: I compared my chart to others online and stressed over whether my doctor had gotten the diagnosis right. Those graphs don’t look the same! I thought. The peaks aren’t right! I stressed about taking a potentially unnecessary antibiotic. I stressed about my insurance’s prescription coverage. I read studies, second-guessed my doctor’s choice of antibiotic, then worried that I wouldn’t hear back from the pharmaceutical company before the weekend to learn whether my new tablets were gluten-free.

Now: The test is over! All I have left to stress about is whether I’m taking my antibiotics with enough time before and after meals and between doses and with enough water and without lying down within the next 10 minutes—why is that?—and without forgetting a dose. I’ve woken up several mornings convinced I’d forgotten to take it the day before (no wonder I’m having nightmares).

Oh, and if all that’s not enough and I feel myself entering stress withdrawal, I can always stress about whether or not any of this will do me any good.

Or about how stressed I am.

Tell me how you deal with stress, and your thoughts on the top three most stressful situations in life. Do you too Stress, Obsess, and Second-guess?

If you’re looking for more on medical stress tests, the fine ladies behind Breaking Up With Captain Crunch and Sassy Celiac have both written hilariously about their colonoscopies—fun!

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7 thoughts on “Stress Test

  1. SStitches says:

    Oh, I definitely SOS. Moving is definitely in the top three, but I would say making travel plans and travelling go on my list (do they count as one or two?). For a few years, I had to carry two passports with me every time I went anywhere, and I always get stopped and asked awkward questions at the border.

    I think, after a while, you’re just put under so much stress that it begins to roll off your back. My husband and I have only been married two years, but we’ve already been put in so many “If we can make it through THIS, we can make it through anything” situations that our freak-outs have gotten more manageable. And this is coming from someone from GAD w/ panic attacks. (Over time, your gluten management may help with even situational anxiety. Intestinal disorders and anxiety disorders are closely linked.)

    • Molly says:

      Traveling is definitely stressful. Why two passports, though?

      As to gluten/stress—I’ve read that, too. It’ll be interesting to see what changes with time, if I can just relax enough to notice. 🙂

      • SStitches says:

        I needed two passports because I’m an immigrant! The UK Border Agency doesn’t require that you migrate a visa from an old passport into a new one, and I changed my name when I got married. I have a new visa in my new passport, but I’ve still needed to carry the old one so far because I was entering for the first time and knew I had to be questioned.

  2. I think we all SOS at some point or points in our lifetime.

  3. I’ve developed a strategy that works for me. I allow myself a bit of a total freak out about the thing and then I just go and do something else. I know that sounds easier said than done, but it’s become easier as I’ve gotten older to override worrying thoughts through forcibly not thinking about the thing and distracting myself with other stuff. I don’t really know how it works!

    I second moving house and medical tests for the top three most stressful things, and I’d like to add going to new places for the first time. I don’t know what I did before google maps! I’m memorising street names all around the place I’m going in case I get lost. I’m searching for local stores in case I need to ask directions, and I’m going up and down the street on google street view trying to learn what a place looks like before i get there. I don’t know why this makes me so anxious. But it really does.

  4. […] cheerful demeanor helps you to hide it (unless you’re broadcasting it to the entire internet, like I do), you do have a brooding, anxious side. Try to remember it’s springtime out there, and there […]

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