The 6 P’s for Working Well with your Doctor:
Part 1 – The Symptom Diary
In the first two posts about getting organised to make living with chronic illness easier, I spoke about keeping track of medications and making them a bit more palatable to take (especially if you are trying to get kids to take them regularly). The next couple of articles are going to be about working WITH your doctors and other healthcare practitioners, rather than against them.
Speaking from both personal experience and talking to many other people living with chronic illness,
I know that doctors appointments can be among the most stressful situations you have to deal with.
They might not explain things properly, often times they don’t realise how difficult it can be to implement their recommendations, and sometimes you are just not on the same page as them at all.
I had all sorts of disagreements and frustrations with them in the early days,
especially when some of them didn’t agree with our gluten-free and dairy-free stance. If this is a battle you are constantly fighting, you might like to check out Why You Shouldn’t Ask Your Doctor for Dietary Advice.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to make the whole appointment process easier.
Like they used to tell us in the Navy. Follow the 6 Ps…
Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance!
So, without further ado, today we are going to talk about…Symptom Diaries
It’s really important for your doctor or healthcare practitioner (allied health, natural medicine, counsellor etc) to have a thorough understanding of what you are going through. Unfortunately, when we try to explain what we’ve been experiencing, we are often quite vague. We say things like:
“My neck hurts a lot of the time.”
“I often feel bloated and constipated.”
“I’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately.”
But when you stop and listen to these from the doctor’s perspective, you start to think things like:
“Okay, but where does your neck hurt, how often, for how long, is it deep or near the surface, is it like a scratchy-coming-down-with-a-cold hurt, or more of a thyroid-ache? What is a lot of the time? Once a day for an hour? All day every day for the past week?” It’s really quite vague, and not really giving them anything concrete to go on.
When you consider how short a time you have in with the doctor, you really want to be as concise and to the point as possible.
You want to give them all of the information straight up so they can make the most informed decision as to which path to take with your care.
You need to help them help you.
What we have found to be really helpful is to keep a simple symptom diary. You can keep it in your handbag, or on your dressing table. Anywhere that it is handy. Even a printout in your back pocket will work!
What you do, is to record when you are unwell. I write the time and date, the symptoms – including their severity on a scale of 1-10, and anything that may have happened recently that could possibly be a trigger (eg an argument, something you ate, a bad night’s sleep etc).
This allows you to see exactly how often the symptoms are occurring and their severity.
You can also see patterns emerging.
Are they getting more frequent, or further apart? Are they more intense after a bad night’s sleep? Does a particular food trigger your headaches or bloating?
The benefit to this is two-fold.
Firstly, it means that you can give your doctor a really accurate picture of what symptoms you are experiencing, how often they are occuring and how intense they are.
Secondly, and perhaps more profoundly it puts the ball in your court somewhat.
- What theories can you extrapolate from your data?
- What patterns are emerging?
- What can you change to reduce the frequency and severity of your symptoms?
- How can you be proactive in your own health?
Now you can be precise and concise!
Once you’ve done this, at your next appointment with your doctor or Nutritional Medicine Practitioner or Physiotherapist or Counsellor etc, you can walk in and be really specific with what you have been experiencing and what your needs are. This way you can be much more efficient in explaining things because you have figured it out ahead of time, rather than trying to remember it all on the spot.
Let me know in the comments below how you keep track of how you are feeling to monitor your treatment progress with your healthcare practitioners.
Stay tuned for the next article in the series when we talk about your POO and what it’s telling you! And why you need to start paying attention!