How to be a Hypochondriac in Russian
Confession number three: I might be a hypochondriac, or, in Russian, ипохондрик. At the first sign of a cold, I’m liable to convince myself that I’m about to die any variety of tragic deaths. When I first arrived in Russia I accidentally cut my toe on a piece of broken glass and spent a week convinced that a deadly infection was slowly making its way to my brain. Fun fact: the Russian equivalent of Neosporin is called офломелид and is sold at any local аптека. I put it on my toe and am still alive. Anyway, since I’m constantly fighting disease related panic, I figured I may as well share a few handy phrases that we’ve been exploring in class that help you express yourself when you’re feeling sick. This one’s for you, my fellow ипохондрики.
1. Мне нездоровится
My new favorite phrase in Russian, мне нездоровится simply means “I don’t feel well and I don’t know why.” If you feel like you’re coming down with something, or maybe the weather’s getting to you and you’re not feeling yourself, or maybe you’ve cut your toe on a piece of glass and fear infection—in any case, you can tell somebody “мне нездоровится,” and they’ll understand that you’re just not feeling your best.
2. Меня мутит, меня тошнит, меня рвет
These three phrases all concern an upset stomach. If you, like me, have occasionally accidentally sampled the tap water, these are the phrases for you. The first two, меня мутит and меня тошнит are synonyms, both expressing that you feel nauseous. The third phrase, меня рвет, is reserved for when things have escalated, and you’re throwing up. Good luck, here’s to hoping you don’t need to use these.
3. У меня голова болит, у меня мигрень (голова/мигрень прошла)
This grouping concerns the head—most of us are familiar with the fairly simple first phrase, у меня голова болит, “I have a headache,” and the second is pretty self explanatory: у меня мигрень means “I have a migraine.” I only recently learned the very simple way to say “my headache or migraine has gone away,” which is, “голова/мигрень прошла,” literally, my headache/migraine walked past. Gotta love those verbs of motion.
4. У меня высокая температура, градусник, быть в бреду
Another phrase that you’re probably familiar with: у меня высокая температура means “I have a fever.” It’s often tough to know if you have a fever or if you’re just a crazy hypochondriac, but in either case, it’s always good to have a градусник, or thermometer, handy. If you happen to have such a high fever that you begin to hallucinate and speak in tongues, a concerned friend might look at you and remark, “ты в бреду,” meaning you are hallucinating/speaking nonsense, quite literally: “you’re delirious.”
5. Меня знобит/меня лихорадит/меня трясет
The first two here, меня знобит and меня лихорадит, are also synonyms, both expressing that you have the chills. Be aware, though, that this only refers to the fever chills. If you are simply chilly, or a bit cold, меня знобит/лихорадит don’t fit the situation. When things get really bad, and you no longer just have the chills but are full on shaking, with teeth chattering, you can say, меня трясет.
Russians tend to believe very strongly in самолечение, or “self-healing/home remedy.” When I was studying abroad in Petersburg a few years ago, my host mother’s remedy for any minor ailment was a shot of vodka, or whatever type of alcohol was lying around the house. When I got a cold at the dacha, and provisions were low, I was offered a warm beer. Did it work? Hard to say. But it never hurts to try out a new form of самолечение.
7. Мне нужно обратиться к врачу
Sometimes, however, самолечение just doesn’t cut it, and in this case, you must go to the doctor. You can then use the fancy construction мне нужно обратиться к врачу to express “I need to go to the doctor.” You’ll get the help you need and also impress Russians with your advanced phraseology.
Most importantly, though: выздоравливай/выздоравливайте – heal quickly! It’s no fun to be sick when you’re studying in Russia, so make sure to eat lots of kasha and borscht to keep up your strength, and throw in a few shots of vodka for good measure.
Emily, studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg