This morning I woke up hating Dick Cheney. Not in itself an unusual thing, I suppose, but the twist here is the particular reason I hate him today. You see, I hate Dick Cheney because he has a deep vein thrombosis, or blood clot, in his left leg.

 Blood clots have been a major theme in my health paranoia for quite some time and until this morning I rather thought I had warded their spector off forever. Or at least for a good long while. This morning when I woke up, though, I had a pain in my left leg. Just a sort of vague ache and tense feeling in one particular spot. Naturally the first thing that came to mind was Cheney’s deep vein thrombosis. Yippee!

Of course I have had this feeling over and over again in the past few years and never has it turned out to be anything even remotely dangerous. I get a little ache, a little twinge, a little stiffness in my muscle, I freak out about blood  clots and waste a lot of time and energy worrying, and then it goes away.

So why now? Why did this happen all last Summer, then not for months, and now all of a sudden again? Because both last Summer and in the past week or so I felt stressed out. The causes were different, but the effect was the same: I felt stressed, I worried, I tensed my muscles all over the place without realizing it, and that led to these weird little aches. Intellectually I know this, emotionally it still takes some convincing to make it stick.

But unlike last Summer, I now know the mechanism that is at work. Then I was just flipping out because I couldn’t imagine what could cause these very localized aches other than a blood clot. I had nowhere else to hang the explanation, and I am the sort of person who needs an explanation. That’s a problem in itself, but one for another day.

What’s helping me get through this current pain is knowing that the cause is stress and muscle tension, added to having a general feeling of stress that makes my mind more receptive to these thoughts. That’s the real lesson: watching your panic and seeing where it comes from in your mind. Why are you open to panic right now? Is there anything you can do to remove that source? If not at least you can recognize it for what it is and focus on that instead of the panic.

 Of course that doesn’t help me hate Dick Cheney any less.