Self-Diagnosis in my Twenties

By Selene Hoffstetter

Art By Penny Stuart

Why is it, in my twenties, 
the world starts to fall apart? 
My body gains new medical terms 
I can’t even pronounce — let alone explain 
to others. I sit in front of a group 
of doctors, fearing diagnoses I never 
knew to fear until I reached my twenties. 

I am one of those people, in their twenties, 
who ignore my symptoms — a doctor’s nightmare
as I forget, I am no longer young 
(not like I used to be) 
when I laughed in the face of infections 
and played with open wounds 
in germ-thriving pools 
and only visited the emergency room once — 
after ignoring the unconscious closing 
of my lungs 
and ate random cookies without checking for nuts —
I had no fear of death. 

Now, while in my twenties, I treat 
my life more preciously. 
With bandaids and bandages, 
sports tape and alcohol wipes, 
I try to eat more healthily — bad habits 
have a way of thriving in weak minds 
and mine was always a little too stubborn 
when it came to myself. 
So when a small lump on my neck 
exists for two months 
(and I mistake it for acne) 
and the occasional meal doesn’t sit right 
in my stomach 
(and I blow it off as bad food) 
and my right leg tingles more than the left 
(a new occurrence from the last two days — 
I blame on my deceptive mind)
I sit myself in front of the mirror 
and self-diagnosis as healthy. 

To the room full of doctors —
like the world, I am crumbling.

Selene Hoffstetter

Selene is an enrolled member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Oregon. She grew up in Hemet, California, and discovered her passion for writing during high school at Western Center Academy. She pursued her Associate’s in English at Mt. San Jacinto College and transferred to the University of California of Riverside as a junior in the Fall of 2022 as a Creative Writing major. At the moment, she is actively pursuing any opportunities to improve and expand her skills, knowledge, and influence as a flourishing poet.

CategoriesIssue VI