Why Can’t We Get Out of Our Heads?

stuck in your head

Source: Google Images

About one month ago, I was bitten by a mosquito and the wound it left behind swelled up to the size of a grapefruit. And, no, I am not over-exaggerating. I sent a picture of it to my mom, who’s a nurse practitioner, simply to show her how large it had gotten. I wasn’t looking for her medical opinion. But she shared it anyway.

“That’s infected,” she said. “You could go septic if it gets into your blood stream. You need to go on antibiotics immediately.”

And the adrenaline rush ensued.

My hypochondriac self proceeded to stand in front of the mirror — fully naked, nonetheless — to make sure I hadn’t missed any other obscurities on my body. Of course, in this meticulous process, I did a self-breast exam. And I found what felt like a lump in the bottom of my left breast. It was tender to the touch. And I was nowhere near my last period.

Now, as some of you might know, I found a lump in my right breast last summer, and it turned out to be a cyst that is being monitored regularly. So even though I know better than to assume the worst, what did I do? I still assumed the worst.

I had a panic attack.

My fingers flew to my phone, and I immediately texted Ann Marie, my dear friend and founder of breast cancer advocacy group Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer. After about 10 minutes of back-and-forth, she threatened to hit me. I didn’t laugh at the time, even though Ann Marie’s point was a sarcastic, well-meaning “chill out.” But I look back today and chuckle at myself a little bit.

Why, in our society, is it in our nature to assume the worst? Is it because, even with our modern technology and medical advancements, we still feel plagued by disease? Is it because our culture has simply become too wishy-washy and prone to complaint? Would we not, hundreds of years ago, just sucked it up?

I think, for me, it’s recognition of the fact that there is something incredibly wrong in our world. We can’t pronounce half the ingredients in the processed foods we eat. We can’t decipher the mixed messages of our medical industry (i.e. one day doctors are reporting that caffeine is bad for you and the next it’s perfectly okay). Many of us feel like we can’t recover from illness without taking some form of drug, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription medicine.

And the sad truth is: None of these things are good.

We have become a weak culture because of our modernization. Our food is giving us cancer; our immune systems aren’t as strong as they should be; and we’ve all become hypochondriacs. That’s why, when we find a lump in our breast, or a notch in our skull, or a mark on our skin that we never noticed before, we panic.

Last week, I finally had my bilateral sonogram and both breasts are absolutely fine. This isn’t to say that it couldn’t have been something. But the point is that it wasn’t something. (Although, I fully admonish doing self-breast exams, hypochondriac or not.)

In the words of Ann Marie: “Stop over-thinking it. Oh-em-gee, I’m gonna smack you.”

Rant: America’s Work Ethic

I have to admit, one of my biggest pet peeves is getting a work-related text on Sunday — my holy day of relaxation with my boyfriend. I find these texts annoying because, not only are they are a reminder that the start of the work week is just around the corner, but they often lead to me doing some form of work on a Sunday.

I believe part of the reason my coworkers see no problem in this is because of America’s work ethic — this unsavory concept that probably began with the industrial revolution, inflicting long work hours upon us, assuming we be available 24 hours/day, 7 days/week to satisfy any and all needs of our superiors. And although slavery ended in 1863 thanks to Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation, I do believe that all of us Americans have been enslaved to the government since birth. We may be free to travel, to eat delicious foods, to spend days on the lake and evenings at the restaurant of our choice — but we need money to do all of those things. And how do we obtain money? Work.

Did you know that most European countries shutdown for the entire month of August? Also, many businesses in Greece, Italy and, up until recently, Spain shut down for a few hours any time between 1 and 5 p.m. for siestas — also known as naps or simply relaxing. In fact, a study completed by the Harvard School of Public Health monitored 23,000 healthy Greek adults and found that those who took midday naps (for at least 30 minutes three times a week or more) were less likely to die of heart disease compared to those who never nap. Not surprisingly, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans (each year 735,000 Americans experience a heart attack). According to the American Society of Endocrinology, short naps help alleviate stress and strengthen the immune system.

Taking time from work to relax, whether alone or with family, is not solely a tradition in the above-mentioned countries. In Sweden, workers regularly pause for coffee breaks called fika — these typically happen shortly after arriving at work and a few hours after lunch. The French practice a daily ritual called l’aperitif, in which, the hour before dinner, family and friends will gather to enjoy wine and appetizers.

A few summers ago, YouTuber zefrank 1, most commonly known for his “True Facts” videos, published a video that basically showed how much time we waste in our lifetime — via jellybeans. He measured out 28,835 jellybeans, that’s one jellybean for each day the average American will live. Here are some of the facts he points out.

-We will be asleep for 8,477 days.

-We will be at work (“hopefully doing something satisfying”) for 3,202 days.

-We will be in a car commuting to work 1,099 days.

-We will watch TV for 2,676 days.

-We will attend community events, like charities and classes, for 720 days.

-We only care for the needs of family and friends for 564 days.

Five-hundred-and-sixty-four days. That’s it. And that is incredibly depressing.

My advice? Don’t think about work on the weekends. What can’t be done today can certainly be accomplished tomorrow. Don’t text your coworkers on a Sunday to ask them a work question that doesn’t need to be answered until Monday. Read a book. Visit with family. Sit around in your underwear. Do nothing. The world will still go on. Everything will be okay.

“Do you know what we need to bring back into this house? Cocktail hour.” — Harry Goldenblatt, Sex & the City