When you feel out of balance, either mentally or physically, as if you’re about to be sick, what do you do? Most often than not, you seek the help or advice from a doctor. You have your concerns about several aspects about your health, so you try not to worry about it and simply book an appointment to see the doctor about it.
It has become much more difficult not to worry now that we live in an age laden in technology. People, especially in urban environments, have access to the internet and it can cause more harm than good. What is on the internet? Everything. Unfortunately, people rely on the internet to an almost dangerous degree, more so when it comes to medical situations. Between the time you book an appointment to see a doctor, you may consider looking up the possibilities of what you’re feeling. It can literally end well or terribly wrong.
For myself, when I realized I felt the need to consult with a doctor, I was hesitant about booking the appointment. I believed whatever problem I had could be overcome with pure will, but I knew in the back of my mind it wouldn’t be possible. As someone who graduated with a background in conflict resolution studies and psychology, I knew I had to do something. What did I do? I turned to the internet.
Turning to the internet isn’t a bad thing but relying on it can be dangerous. I knew what symptoms I would be looking for, I knew what kind of problem I had, so all I was looking for was back up and references to say, “Hey, I’m genuinely concerned about my health and I want you to listen and read my facts.” I wanted to be sure that I wouldn’t be telling my doctor baseless information. With my education background, I knew that too much research would be overbearing, but too little would seem careless. All I knew was that I needed my doctor to listen to me.
What did I come up with? That is the biggest question here: what I was trying to figure out? I knew I had depression, so I did enough research to back it up. I was already aware that I was exhibiting enough of the symptoms to be diagnosed for it, but I wasn’t sure about everything else.
I knew I had some severity of anxiety that was distinct from my nerves, but I knew I had to do my research and know how to explain my reasoning to my doctor because it was something anxiety was something hard to believe. I didn’t exhibit severe anxiety, so how would my doctor believe me? I also had an inkling that I may have some form of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but I wasn’t sure at all. I displayed the attention deficit side but lacked the hyperactivity symptoms. Ironically, it was a conflict resolution studies class that gave me the idea to explore that I may have borderline personality disorder (BPD) but given my lack of expertise and its recent attention, I had a feeling that this would be difficult to prove without being considered ‘too far into the deep end of the internet’.
It was a difficult journey, despite being a short one, to explain I have a mental health problem with all these other concerns under my belt. I knew I couldn’t speak to my family physician because it was definitely not his expertise and unpleasant experiences made me see someone else. When I had an injury, I went to see a walk-in doctor and when the follow-up appointment came by I decided to disclose my concerns. I was mentally spiralling out of control, so I knew it was time. Unfortunately, someone else was there instead of him to do my follow-up.
What happened next was as I feared; “You don’t appear to be depressed and anxious—you look lively!”. I decided to disclose everything to her because I knew she had to report back to my other doctor since I was under his list and she was only doing my x-ray follow up. It was unfortunate that she was skeptical when I reported that I believed I had high depression and some severity of anxiety. When I suggested I have BPD, she shrugged it off saying I was paranoid having gone through the internet like so many other people do in this day and age. So, she brought in my actual doctor and it was better.
My doctor understood my struggle. Unfortunately, yet again, he still didn’t believe that I may have BPD, but moderately severe depression and moderate anxiety. Through the discussion of what I should do, what medication to take, and if I should take medication for anxiety and depression, I had forgotten to bring up ADHD all together.
I wasn’t displeased that I forgot; this was a stepping stone. I luckily found a doctor how understood me and wasn’t going to wave off my concerns. This area of health is so stigmatized that it’s hard to find that first doctor who will say, “Yes, I understand.”
It took time and a lot of doctor’s visits to figure out what was really happening in my head. I know the visits would continue because mental illness doesn’t go away without some intervention, but it can be regulated which is still a process in itself. When I found myself still spiralling into the abyss despite my medication, I knew I had to visit my doctor again as soon as possible, and I did. I was terrified of myself and those around me were worried about what was happening to me.
The only difference from all my other appointments was: I decided to write a letter. I find myself a better writer than a speaker, so I wrote a letter to my doctor which would hopefully clear the miscommunication and relay all of my concerns. I explained to him in detail about what I would experience in my thoughts and actions as clearly as I could without digressing into unnecessary tangents. I conveyed as much as I could recall and say with hopes that he would finally understand. It became a two-paged single-spaced Arial of font size 10 letter, but I wanted him to be aware of what I was aware of. To my greatest relief, it worked.
My doctor finally understood what I was going through and understood what had to be done. He was glad that I presented everything in a way I was comfortable with. Why? Everything was communicated in a way that wouldn’t be misinterpreted which wouldn’t have been good for either myself or my doctor. Writing everything; my objective thoughts, objective feelings, and then my opinions and emotions showed him the true extent of my problems. Since I was so comfortable with this doctor, I knew he would understand and do what was best for me given the information.
It is my belief that every patient should make an effort to get their doctor to understand their needs. Some people overdo it and it causes them to go nowhere, or it causes them to be in a pinch with said doctor because it looks like the patient is trying to outdo the expert. The idea is to know your concerns, know how to convey them clearly, and also listen to the doctor to make sure you aren’t shutting out the response you should be hearing. You can go to other doctors for second or third opinions, but do not push for something unless you really feel like you’re not being heard for a legitimate concern.
Do not complicate things for either yourself and your doctor. Find the most comfortable way to express your concern you believe will have your doctor understand you. Do not overthink things if your doctor does not understand, rather remain calm and either explain it again another time or seek a second opinion. There will always be someone who will listen and hear your needs and concerns. It may take time to find that someone, but they are there.