How to know it’s time to go to the doctor

When do you know it's time to go to the doctor?

Call me a hypochondriac. Call me paranoid. Call me sickly. Call me anything you want. I know I freak when my body doesn’t feel right. If I’m in some kind of pain, or feel dizzy or maybe even a little out of breath or just tired, I start thinking of a trip to the doctor.

And thinking of the doctor always leads to thinking about money.

Sure Obamacare has helped, but it’s not as if going to the doctor is completely free. So every time I feel under the weather, I procrastinate. I stay up late agonizing about what to do. Should I go to the doctor? Is this serious enough to merit the cost? When should I get off the couch and call the ambulance?

I’m not giving any medical advice here, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who goes through this type of drama: to go or not to go?

When I was young, I felt invincible. I used to never go to the doctor. If I had a pain I did what the coach said: walk it off. Now I’m fifty and any little pain sends me whirling for a diagnosis. Was that pain in my chest a heart attack or indigestion? If I get a pinched nerve, the flu, a stomach cramp, I slowly build up on my paranoia. And pretty soon I’m thinking cancer, heart attack, brain tumor, pulmonary embolism, stroke, you name it.

Also Read: 8 Tips for healthy aging at any age!

When do you know it's time to go to the doctor?It’s getting more and more difficult to decide whether it’s time to go to the clinic. And when I enter my symptoms into the Google search field and start reading articles online, well … you get the idea.

A few months back I got pneumonia. I had no clue I was sick. I thought it was the flu. I called my doctor and his over-the-phone diagnosis was that I had something viral. No problem. Three weeks later when I had a second bout of fever, he sent me to get an x-ray. And there it was: pneumonia.

Of course, I was thinking it had to be something much worse, something deadly, and although it was a serious illness, it was treated and I recovered.

I think it’s important to listen to our bodies. Not every pain is a terminal illness, but I think we know intuitively when something feels off. It’s certainly better to be safe than sorry. So regular checkups are important. And if the symptoms are major or persistent, I go to the doctor. A cold or flu feels like a cold or flu. But if it lasts more than three weeks or the symptoms worsen, it’s a good idea to go to the doctor. Stomach cramps, pinch nerves, exhaustion, they all have symptoms we’ve pretty much felt before. If it’s something big and nasty, I keep telling myself it will feel that way: big and nasty. If it really feels major, I’m sure I’ll know. And I’ll do just what my doctors answering service says, hang up with them and dial 911.

Phillippe Diederich

Phillippe Diederich is a bilingual author and photographer born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Mexico City and Miami. His photography has appeared in The New York Times, Time magazine, U.S. News and World Report and other national publications. Phillippe's novels Sofrito and Playing for the Devil's Fire are both published by Cinco Puntos Press. He is the recipient of a PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship and the Editor-in-Chief of Viva Fifty!