HAVANA TIMES — Hypochondriacs are individuals who suffer imaginary illnesses. They constantly experience all kinds of pains and feel lousy practically all the time.
She has high blood pressure and has a blood pressure monitor on a small table next to the door to her house, in case she has to leave for the hospital in a rush. She checks her blood pressure obsessively several times a day.
Every time I pay her a visit, I scold her for how she is constantly complaining and saying she has this or that illness. She wakes up with a headache. As soon as she starts doing anything, she feels exhausted, so she drinks juices and eats things with a lot of sugar, to restore her energies. This makes her put on weight and upsets her. She doesn’t like being fat, but is incapable of exercising.
Whenever she sleeps in an uncomfortable position, some muscle or other invariably contracts. She gets bursitis if she moves an arm quickly. She also suffers from constipation and chronic diarrhea – in short, she’s a bundle of health problems, all of them caused by her constant physical and mental weariness and her imbalanced life.
I recall a film by Woody Allen in which a divorced filmmaker who shoulders much work stress suffers a temporary bout of psychosomatic blindness. This hilarious comedy, however, has an edifying end: the character finishes his movie and gets his wife back.
The truth is that this woman is very lonely and isolated. Her son has a family of his own and has moved away. She retired, but her husband still works, a situation that has rifted them apart, as they barely see one another. She spends her time talking to her neighbors, who are in a similar situation, people who only share with her their mundane daily experiences. At home, she does household chores and then watches soap operas to pass the time.
In her youth, she did many things without growing tired. She was a professional who also made the time to look after her family. When I look at her today, I barely recognize her. I realize the lack of life projects can destroy people’s existence. Stagnation attacks and hastens the death of the body and spirit.
The lack of friends and an interesting social circle where one can share one’s thoughts, secrets and worries creates anxiety. This kind of company is crucial to us, even more so than the company of our partners. Dancing, exercising and playing are a way of combatting stress and boredom. Setting goals for oneself is a way of shedding one’s tedium.
I was recently reading an article about nuns who were involved in all kinds of chores within the convent, from work in an orchard to teaching classes. This constant movement and development kept them alive at age 80 and more. A study demonstrated their neurons remained active and even renewed themselves thanks to this philosophy that makes study and work a central part of daily life.