More on the SIL

SIL, in my non-professional opinion, suffers from illness anxiety disorder and has for years. She is now convinced she needs a covid test, and texted to ask where she could purchase some. She has has not been in close contact with anyone who has had covid and has no symptoms. Well, almost none…
When referred to the appropriate CDC site to see if she had exposures or symptoms that warranted testing, she replied, “I HAVE a symptom. When I do my 2-hour run up the mountain and back, I’m fatigued. I need a test!” Was not impressed when someone suggested that was a symptom of age, not covid.
The sad part of this is none of us can figure out a useful way to respond. Discussing the issue makes her think her concerns are not considered legitimate, and she is right, no one thinks she is at special risk, especially given family members who are and are not racing out to get tests.
Suggesting she might benefit from dealing with anxiety is not helpful–is it ever? So family changes the subject (“Say, how about that local sports team? I’m going to get a drink–who else needs one?” “I’ll help you!” “Me, too!”) and she is thus ignored, which cranks up the intensity, which further isolates her. It is sad, and no one has a way to help her move forward. Any thoughts?

Can she just go ahead and take a test? Maybe that would relieve that particular worry and then maybe see a doctor for some meds or maybe therapy for the anxiety?

I was in therapy and have had to use medications for panic disorder so I know how painful it is to suffer from this type of illness. It is nice that you want to help her.

Tell her from a fellow sufferer, that it can get better with help from people trained to help, if she will accept it.

Unless she has been completely isolated from all of humanity for several weeks in a row there is still a very small chance she might have picked up covid. I’m assuming her anxiety is latching on to that.

Unfortunately for her, covid tests are rather thin on the ground right now.

If she wants an at-home test places like Walgreen’s and CVS and some big box stores sell them. If they have them. The possible down side there is that if it comes up negative it might not settle her anxiety and she’ll what a “professional” or whatever test and insist on a testing site.

There’s supposed to be a government site on line where you can sign up to have a covid test sent directly to your home, she might be interested in that.

You may have noticed that nowhere do I suggest discouraging her from seeking a test. I’m not sure that would do any good. Send her off in search of one. That way she’ll perceive you as helpful and she’ll be out of your hair for awhile.

I don’t think there is likely to be any harm from her getting an “unnecessary” test, and possibly some good if it can help reduce her agitation.

Much good advice here, many thanks. While SIL could go to govt site for freetesting, she refuses to wait in the lineup. She could purchase tests, but the family is strapped for cash. You have to buy several at a time at $10/pop.

Cash problems never stop her, though. She laid out $3K for a private MRI (we’re in Canada) her doctor said was not warranted. MRI found nothing. She then went for a colonoscopy, again, against doctor’s advice, paid privately, and made husband take a day off work to drive her to a clinic 2 hours away rather than wait a month for a local clinic.

Govt policy here is, please don’t go to govt centre for tests unless you have symptoms. Thus the “fatigue” symptom is looming large. Despite her concern, perhaps because of it, she could not Google to find tests for sale. I found them in about 2 minutes, forwarded her the info. I also sent info from the govt site and its recommendations, but as noted, this advice was not appreciated.

Oh, this just in. SIL just found out her 23 year old daughter has been issued tests from work. She works with youth at risk, 30-40 hours/week, often has to take them to emergency room. SIL demanding daughter give her some tests so she can test herself immediately, despite no contact and no symptoms. Daughter is refusing, as she has to account for every kit and log every test for employer. Much drama ensuing. Ah, the holiday season!

Two pithy sayings:

  • Not my circus, not my monkeys (for you)
  • Sometimes, the stress of not eating the cookie is more harmful to your well-being than the cookie is (about SIL)

Best of luck !

“Health anxiety” is a real thing. When you’re in the throes of it, you’re afraid and sometimes facts give temporary relief, sometimes not. It is an utterly miserable thing to suffer from. It goes beyond hypochondria.

Some excellent info and resources here for learning about it. After reading this, I was relieved to find out that my health anxiety might NOT be based on an actual physical condition. I assumed that if I was worried about something, that meant it was probably true, and I could not talk myself out of it. Being diagnosed with breast cancer didn’t help. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: She might be interested in perusing this site.

Thanks for this. No question in my mind it is a real thing and a very hard thing. The frustrating part is SIL has had several people suggest she may have a problem and she steadfastly denies it, doubling down on the argument and driving people away. Her daughter’s pediatrician actually suggested she had a very minor case of Munchausen’s by proxy, based on number of times she took her kids to emergency, clinics, and different GPs with minor or non-observable symptoms.

SIL is the wife of my wife’s brother. This means I get a lot of the calls and texts from SIL “because all of husband’s family think I’m nuts and don’t take me seriously.” The sort of irony is as someone now 65 (SIL is 50) and recovering from recent cancer surgery and radiation, I’m the most at risk person in the family and it is getting hard to stay patient when I get the long "explanation"of her fatigue symptom as evidence she needs a test. Thus I vent here so I can be supportive!

Your SIL has a very real problem. It may or may not be the particular problem she thinks she has, but she does have a problem.

The rest of the family telling her she doesn’t have a problem and/or she’s nuts/whatever is essentially gaslighting her, which does NOT solve the problem and doubling-down is a very typical reaction to gaslighting.

Seems to me (and remember I’m not a medical professional or a counselor, nor do I have the full story) that SIL wants people to acknowledge her anxiety and fear. Given we are in the middle of a global pandemic it is not entirely irrational, and even if it was, her distress is very real. She really is anxious/fearful. It’s not fake. It doesn’t need a rational or logical source to be a real emotion and a real source of misery. If someone doesn’t at least acknowledge that it is very unlikely SIL would listen to anything else they have to say.

Both parties actually want to problem solve, but the “rest of the family” is NOT offering assistance that is actually helpful even if they have (or started with) good intentions.

Please do continue to vent here if YOU find it helpful.

Just tell her where she can take a test.

Broomstick has several excellent suggestions or she could just talk to her doctor.

I’m not entirely sure I understand why you don’t want her to get a test. Even if you truly don’t think she has it, there’s no harm in getting a test. As others stated, it may (or may not) ease her mind to get an answer, regardless of what it is. In fact, if it came up positive, she’d probably feel better because she’d be able to tell herself that’s why she’s fatigued. Granted, if it comes up negative, she’ll put even more mental energy into pinpointing the problem, but I get the feeling she’d be doing that even if Covid never existed.
So, just on the face of it, my response would be to give her some ideas about where to get tested or buy a test.

Again, not knowing much about the situation, my suggestion there would be to stop responding. Or, at the very least, when you get one of these texts, wait a few hours or a day before responding (and maybe still don’t respond to some of them at all). It may have the benefit, to you anyway, in that she’ll start asking someone else since you ‘take too long to respond’.
Either that or maybe when you get medical questions feign ignorance and tell her to call her doctor.

She knows where to get the free test, but will not line up for it. It’s a drive in test, so it’s not because she’s worried about getting covid from people in line. Also, health authorities have been clear that only people with symptoms should go for the test: supplies are limited and just going to reassure yourself is not recommended, though this does not stop a lot of people. Have twice given her site to purchase her own kits, which she hasn’t done. Have suggested she see the family doctor, but then received lengthy explanation about why the doctor isn’t very good. This revolves around the doctor not signing off on MRI and colonoscopy since SIL did not meet any of the criteria for said tests.

SIL has also said she wants to buy tests so she can test herself every day, “just to be safe.” Agree, lots of reasons to be careful and test, but this is a long-standing pattern with no end in sight. We are all much more supportive than my rants here suggest, but it is wearying.

The ONLY way to get “lots of tests” so she can do that is to order them on-line. That is difficult enough in the US, but I suspect more so in Canada where you say you are located, or she is located.

She does sound like a bit of a hypochondriac, but I again remind everyone I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone. Even so, there is a problem. My sympathies, this is not something easy to deal with.

It is a tough one, and some people are being damaged by the anxiety and refusal to get help. Thanks everyone for suggestions, feedback, and a warm place to rant.

The anxiety is a real mental health issue. Is there a way you can get SIL to a doctor for the covid issue, but have her husband explain to the doctor in advance that the family is concerned that the anxiety is driving much of her behaviour, and ask the doctor to consider both issues in their examination and recommendations to SIL?

Here are some other considerations WRT health and health anxiety. As a fellow sufferer, I empathize deeply. These points can help me get some perspective if I still have a grip on reality. The hardest thing to come to terms with is that there is no certainty when it comes to health. That led me to coin the expression, “Sometimes you do everything right and they still die.” On that upbeat note-- :roll_eyes:

Inaccurate Beliefs Driving Health Anxiety

Mistaken Belief: You can know the status of your health with absolute certainty : You can never know with 100 percent certainty that you are healthy. Chances are, if you suffer from health anxiety, you know the anguish of going to the doctor’s and immediately upon leaving the office thinking, “What if I didn’t explain my symptoms accurately? What if they misunderstood what I was saying? What if they missed something important?” The truth is that with being human we all run the risk of getting sick or having an illness pop up with no warning. I hate to say it, but we will all die and that may be the result of illness or of old age, but either way our choice is to enjoy our life being present for the things that matter or spend all our time trying to prevent illness and miss out on all the joy that can be found living in the moment.

Mistaken Belief: Symptoms and sensations indicate illness and always have a specific cause that can be determined : This is a fallacy. Sensations happen all the time for many reasons, including for no specific reason. Sometimes sensations and symptoms are related to a specific health concern, sometimes they are indicators of nothing. However, once they are noticed, focused on and resisted, they tend to become more prominent simply because of the hyper-focus on them. To convey this idea with my clients I sometimes like to ask them where they are itchy. At first, they look at me blankly, but then usually identify a place that is itchy. The idea being that when you scan your body for sensations and symptoms you will likely find them. Just because you are aware of these experiences does not mean they are necessarily important or dangerous.

Mistaken Belief: Having the perfect diagnosis will always lead to effective treatment and elimination of all symptoms : While often there are effective treatments for your symptoms, this is not always the case. There are some conditions that even when diagnosed treatment options are limited. This is especially true for some chronic conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Headache Disorders, and Musculoskeletal conditions like Fibromyalgia. Your OCD is misleading you to believe that having a diagnosis (i.e. “the Answer”) will lead to relief.

Mistaken Belief: You are responsible for taking all possible precautions to avoid illness . The reality is that if you took every precaution, you could possibly take to prevent illness, you would never be able to leave your home or have anyone come to your home, including the mail carrier. Even then, you couldn’t be sure that you took all precautions to prevent illness. Most enjoyable things in life inherently come with some risk. If you get out of bed, your risk goes up. Stay in bed too long, and your risk goes up too. But your OCD, not restricted by reason, would have you believe that there is no amount of risk worth taking when it comes to your health.

From here: Shedding Light on Health Anxiety OCD | Sheppard Pratt

The COVID pandemic has created the perfect storm for health anxiety outbreaks–and not without good reason-- 800,000 deaths in just the USA? If that doesn’t kick of some level of worry IMHO, you’re just not paying attention.

I feel for your SIL.

I’d respond with ‘I don’t know what to tell you then (maybe call your doctor)’ and leave it. She’s not asking you how or where to get one, she’s asking you to figure out how or where to get one faster than all the schmucks waiting in line.
Also, this is one of those cases where she could have waited in line for an hour or two and been done with this days/weeks ago instead of spending all that time looking for a way to not stand in line.

I suspect that one will not be done for her. Some people test compulsively, daily if they can.

Sounds like she doesn’t really want a solution, she just wants an audience.

I don’t think anybody would blame you for getting up and leaving this terrible movie you didn’t want to see.

You’ve done what you can for her short of going and getting the test for her, which would still not be appreciated anyways and would only lead to her anointing you her personal COVID test butler.

I partially agree (the other part isn’t disagreeing, just other ideas) and that actually goes together with her kid’s doctor suggesting she might have munchausen’s by proxy.
That’s one of the reasons I’ve suggested OP tells her to call a doctor and/stop responding. If what she wants is an audience, she’ll find it one way or another. If the OP can push her off to her doctor, then it’s their problem. If he stops responding, she’ll bug a random customer at Target.
Plus, I get the feeling that if she gets tested, regardless of the result, she’ll be texting OP about another problem and another problem and another problem.

Again, thanks everyone for the support, suggestions, and ideas. I appreciate very much. Also, a nice, clean place to rant is appreciated!

best wishes to for 2022!