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The 38th Lesson

On a warm Sunday morning in early-April this year, I got up with some pain in the little finger of my left hand. It was a small bump. It wasn’t there when I slept the previous night, so it seemed to have appeared out of nowhere.

“You may have hurt your finger while sleeping,” said my wife.

“But there’s no sign of a cut or bleeding!” I told her. “What could be this?”

“It happens sometimes,” she tried to soothe my nerves.

Anyways, a week passed, and then two, and that bump got slightly bigger. It was a bit painful earlier, then more, and then the pain gradually reduced. But the redness and the bump remained.

Over the next two months, I saw around five different doctors, and all asked me to wait and watch and do nothing. I thought none of these doctors knew anything about this bump because each one had named it differently. And that is when I did something I now realize was one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made in my life.

I started searching the Internet for a possible explanation of my issue. “Red bump on small finger,” “small finger bump + 2 months,” “small red bump on finger + no pain + eight weeks,” etc. were just three of the hundred searches I made on Google. Each time I got different answers and mostly hinting that that was it for me. Some sites suggested I had developed arthritis, while some even told me that I possibly had cancer.

This got me worried. In fact, I got so worried reading all the “life threatening” stuff that came to be – because I invited them into my mind and conscious – that I finally got down to creating a Will, just in case something was to happen to me soon.

My wife thought I had become a maniac. I felt like a zombie. And a few doctors I showed told me that I needed a psychiatrist. And then, a couple of psychiatrists I went to, recommended me a few months’ dose of anti-depressants, which thankfully I never took beyond the first dose.

“So, you want to see the sixth doctor?” my wife asked after two months had passed. I could realize that she was very disturbed seeing me in a constant state of worry.

“Yeah, let’s go,” I told her. And then, over the next two more months, I met five more doctors. One of them, likely aware that my condition was more psychological than real, took advantage of it and sent me for some expensive brain scans. I took those tests, and they suggested that my brain was working perfectly fine.

Anyways, the constant searches on the Internet continued, though at a reduced frequency. The fear of disease and dying early had already taken a steady space in my brain’s attic. And the repercussions were seen in my daily life. My focus on work reduced. I got constant chills and burning sensations in my hands and feet during the day (which, by the way, Google told me were a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis). I was restless at night. In short, I truly felt like a zombie who had no clue what to do, and where to seek help.

Now you may be wondering, in case you are still reading this, “Why is Vishal telling me his sob story today?” Well, one reason is that I am still alive and happily so. And second is that, like I do on my each birthday – today is my 38th – I would like to share a very important lesson I learned thanks to this above-mentioned situation I went through this year. I call it the…

38th Lesson from 38 Years of My Life
A wise man (or maybe a woman) once said –

Be careful in your words when you are in a crowd, and be careful in your thoughts when you are alone.

I have always adhered to the first part of the above saying but never gave much thought to the second part. That is till I went through the harrowing period this year.

Anyways, it was a lucky coincidence that I picked up Peter Bevelin’s book on Sherlock Holmes during those times and read this wonderful part where Holmes tells this to Watson –

I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.

Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. he will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.

I have been that fool, per Sherlock Holmes, who took in all the junk of every sort that he came across through his reading of symptoms and the possible diseases on the Internet. That wasn’t the stuff that would have made me happy, or bright, or even medically competent. But I took them all, despite constantly experiencing the repercussions on my mind and life. And that was ultimately foolish.

It was then that the lesson of being careful in my thoughts when I was alone got ingrained in my psyche. Apart from my wife, one wonderful book that helped me a lot during those times was Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. I now read one page from the book each night before sleeping, and it helps.

I am not a wreck anymore like I was a few months back. Family support, meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, and a renewed focus on work have helped me get my sanity back on track. So please don’t stop reading what I write on Safal Niveshak. 😉

But if there is one lesson you must learn this year from someone else’s mistake – and now you know that someone – it is that you must be very careful in what you think when you are alone, because you may attract in your life what you may be constantly thinking.

In fact, you must be more careful because even the best and soundest of minds are not immune to such periods in their lives. Of course, I am not talking about myself but Charles Darwin who was a hypochondriac – a person who suffers from health anxiety or a constant worry about having a serious illness. The last doctor I met in August this year told me that I suffered from hypochondriasis.

Anyways, as I shared above, I’ve learned my lesson (I hope so) the hard way. And in hindsight, I realize that I have been lucky to get away with it quite easily after having read how so many people fall into a state of depression through constant worrying.

So please take the lesson I’ve shared above. And please, when in doubt, and especially about your health, do not read the Internet and please don’t trust what it tells you. What you read online may kill you even earlier than what an actual disease may do.

May God bless you with a happy and healthy life.

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About the Author

Vishal Khandelwal is the founder of Safal Niveshak. He works with small investors to help them become smart and independent in their stock market investing decisions. He is a SEBI registered Research Analyst. Connect with Vishal on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Radhe Shyam says:

    Happy Birthday Vishal.

  2. Hi,

    I understand what you have been through, have been through similar situations…
    i would suggest you to buy the book “The trigger point therapy workboo” by Clair davies.

    Within a day or ttwo, you can figure out what is causing the swelling and alleivate the pain easily which is caused due to muscle tightness.

    with regards
    Nikhil

  3. Nandji Rai says:

    Happy Birthday Vishal! It was a wonderful lesson to share.

  4. Hi Vishal -Nice learning.Fear of life in conjunction with social and economical causes would be the cause of hypochondriac. Many of us in one stage or other stage would have a fear of abstract phobia for chronic illness, might be more in middle ages onwards. “Life is a gift, and no one promised me longevity. Hence it’s a slow learning that everyone should cultivate to elevate our senses and deviate from physical attachments. It’s not so easy.But, a philosophical thought would help us better. I recently moved from USA after 10 years and I see the pressure of life even more here in India and when compared to there. My philosophical thought process gave me the succor and strength to my middle age. Good post and good read.

    Reg
    Siva
    Peace > contentment > happiness > pleasure > success. Let it guide your choices.

  5. Nirav Davda says:

    Wish you very happy birthday… though i am a Surgeon myself ..I have gone through plenty of such hypochondriac episodes myself…I still do ….your post is very insightful ..Thanks n Enjoy Your day . Nirav Davda

  6. Ketan Desai says:

    Very true, Vishal on impact of internet knowledge on our lives and minds…and yes, wish you many many happy returns of the day 🙂

  7. Great article as always.
    However, what is the status of the finger.

  8. Absolutely true. It was my experience too.

  9. Amol Dhamale says:

    Happy birthday Vishal…🌻🌻🌻☺

  10. Happy birthday Vishal…
    I love the blog..

  11. Vishal Kataria says:

    Happy birthday Vishal 🙂

  12. Ankit Jain says:

    Hi Vishal,
    Wish you many many happy returns of the Day !!!

  13. Happy birthday Vishal

  14. R K Makhijani says:

    Let me first wish you a very Happy Birthday! Now, regarding the bump on your finger, I can understand how difficult it must have been for you and your family. But I do hope the problem got resolved and that you are fully well. In your article above you have written “Family support, meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, and a renewed focus on work have helped me get my sanity back on track.” (only sanity). I hope you got your health back too.

  15. Anup Kulkarni says:

    Hello Vishal Sir, Many many happy returns of the day !!! I really admire your thoughts and feel like reading every single article you have written or suggested !!! Thanks for sharing the knowledge and being there with us, May God bless you and give you lots and lots of years of success and happiness 👍

  16. Balaji Parthasarathy says:

    Happy Birthday Vishal..

  17. Happy Brithday Vishal!! Thanks for sharing.Wish you many many happy returns of the day!

  18. Atul Patil says:

    Happy birthday Vishal …… everyday is gift from god

  19. Try Homeopathy for the bump on your fingers
    It worked for me. But don’t change the Doctor soon . It takes 8 months for Homeopathic medicines to show effect.

  20. Happy B’day Vishal. can perfectly relate your story to me.

  21. diegobr74@gmail.com says:

    Happy Birthday Vishal! 🙂

  22. Happy B’day Vishal.. Hope your finger heals soon 🙂

  23. Peeyush Garg says:

    Wishing you a very very happy belated birthday Vishal..

  24. R K Chandrashekar says:

    Dear Vishal
    Blessings and best wishes on your birthday. Good to know that that your finger has healed and in the process taught you, like all of us in similar situations, a valuable lesson. I keep saying that everything that happens is for the good. We have all become half baked fakir’s when someone near and dear are not well; googling being the culprit!!
    The greatest fear is fear itself and my favourite quote: I cried because I did not have shoes, till I found a man without feet.
    Cheers

  25. Ashish khadke says:

    Wish you belated happy Birthday Sir !!!

  26. Happy Birthday Vishal

    Our mind has a very mysterious way of functioning. The medical science hasn’t been able to figure out how it works, but our ancestors through spirituality knew how it works and how to control it. Unfortunately, this knowledge which our ancestors had although is not lost but not being propagated the way it needs to be.

    I would like to share my understanding of it. Thoughts are hitting our mind every moment at an unimaginable speed. We cling on to some and let go the others. The quality of our life depends on what thoughts we cling on to. There is a direct connection between mind and breath. If you notice, the thoughts and emotions change the pattern of our breath and vice versa it is possible to control our thoughts and emotions through breath. In ancient times our spiritual gurus recognised this and through spiritual practices were able to control the mind. I have experienced this myself and can say with certainty that through practice one can exercise control over the thoughts and can also choose which thoughts to hold on to and which one to drop.
    One may not agree with me but knowing it is a matter of experience.

    Wish you all the best and a very healthy and prosperous life ahead. You are doing a good job, keep doing it and reach greater heights. God bless you.
    Regards
    Rajesh

    • Thank you Rajesh for your kind words, and also for sharing your valuable thoughts. I completely agree with you, after having practiced what you’ve mentioned for the past few months and seeing the results. It’s largely about our breath. Thanks!

  27. Dear Vishal Sir,
    Happy Birthday Wishes!!!
    Thanks for sharing,i just came out of a similar situation regarding my health.
    Regards,
    Swamy.

  28. Bharath Shetty says:

    Belated happy B’day Vishal. as always wonderful post. lots of learning’s. Thanks

  29. Ritika Mehta Narang says:

    Hi Vishal,
    Wow! It’s a really good post. Coz most of us go through the same. And still go back to google to cross-check every information. I’ve myself been through the same this year and realised that I should firmly avoid google to get mental peace…

    I am glad that you were able to resolve the problem on finally ur own. And I absolutely love ur knack of noticing meaningful sentences and statements in books and correlate it to life…
    Thanks again.

  30. P Arulselvan says:

    Vishalji,
    Belated birthday wishes.
    And thank you for sharing your (scare) experience. Very happy to hear that the bump has vanished.
    I am certainly surprised. Normally I could not think—a person like you who reads a lot and takes care of his health (I read your health related articles), and financially on his own—would go through this. It is like a person drowning deep inside water and not able to breath. Good part is you could come to the surface and are able to breath normally again. That does not surprise me. Because you carried oxygen bottle and life jacket, which were family support and common sense…all the wisdom you have been getting from Mr. Munger and Mr. Buffett, and other veteran investors. No doubt…you could come out of it; if you could not, who could? I am glad you received excellent support from your family.
    I also went through a scare experience in the beginning of the year 2013. Later, after check-up and lab test, it turned out to be a minor issue. Those days (for about 2 weeks) I would get up in the middle of the night perspiring, for nothing. I am able to relate to your experience, though, fortunately I did not have to go so much deep into water.
    I also read the book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’ some ten years back. My important take away from the book was (and is) accepting the worst outcome. I also have read many Osho’s books since 1991. I never much worried about death as long as I was a bachelor. But once I got married and I have had kids (a son and a daughter) I feel enormous responsibility towards them. My parents are still alive in their 80’s and 90’s and I know the benefits of having parents, and receiving unconditional support from them. I want to give the same to my children. When I had the scare, my daughter was 1 year old. I was thinking what kind of a father I was, leaving a 1 year old child in this world fatherless…that was the scariest thought.
    Continue your good work. You have been a great role model.

  31. Hi, Vishal!

    Belated Happy BirthDay!

    I am one of your new tribesmen. I have recently found your blog and just loving all the blog post.

    It is a strange coincidence that the owner of the website I liked the most (Pat Flynn from smartpassiveincome.com) also has his birthday on 6th December and now your website is the second website I like the most and your birthday also comes near 6th December.

    Anyways, you write really good articles Vishal. It is one of my wish to come to your workshops and meet you in person. I will surely do that in future. I love investing and researching about companies and business. It does not feels like work. I can do it all day!

    Again, Thanks for everything you do!

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