First of all, if you have made the decision to take your life back and seek help from a medical professional I just wanted to let you know that I’m so proud of you. The first step is always the hardest.
It’s happened to me many, many times in my life that during doctors appointments I just feel lost and quickly become overwhelmed. There’s a phenomenon called ‘doctor’s office blood pressure’. It’s the sensation where your blood pressure raises because it’s so incredibly common to experience anxiety in the doctor’s office. It’s also very easy to take a submissive role.
A doctor holds this authoritarian place. Often when they ask if you have questions, every single thing you wanted to say goes out of your brain quicker than the speed of light and we replace that answer with “no”. In my experience, after these appointments, I would leave feeling empty because my goals for the appointment weren’t met. My mind went totally blank. This is common. It’s important to be your own best advocate during these appointments. This article isn’t meant to be a “YOU NEED TO DO THIS” type of article it’s meant to be a guideline for you to start with to get your concerns and goals across.
Often at these offices, they will have you fill out a paper that is meant to be an introduction, if you will, for the doctor to read. Having more detailed descriptions of your goals, concerns, symptoms, and questions ready to go I found is extremely beneficial. So you leave the appointment feeling better and less “what the f#$k just happened to me”.
So first, come prepared. You’ll need a pen and paper (notebook whatever) to write down concerns you have for your doctor and for the information they give you. You could use the notes app on your phone. I also have a guidebook for sale here with some helpful pages you can print out. However, some doctors offices prohibit the use of cell phones (for privacy reasons) and for me, writing down side-effects, questions, answers, concerns, medical jargon in a notebook or on a piece of paper solidifies it in my mind and it makes it easier to read.
Secondly, instead of going in with a diagnosis in mind, write down your symptoms. Not just mental symptoms write down your physical symptoms too. Honestly, this is good for any doctors appointment. Really do some inward thought and check in with yourself. You could write things like: Not enjoying social activity, feeling hopeless, trouble getting out of bed, lightheadedness, fainting, racing heart. If you’ve had suicidal thoughts of any kind write that down also. This bit takes more effort, but if you can write down the dates and times of when you had suicidal thoughts or thoughts or actions of self harm, that will be helpful in your next appointment. Sometimes this takes a bit more checking in and in the moment writing that down can seem impossible. Do your best, write down dates/ times of these thoughts and actions.
Also, again this can be immensely difficult in the moment, but do your best either in the moment or after to write down what prompted this, whether it was an outside action or emotion.
Remember you are your own best advocate. This sounds cold but it helps to remember that this doctor, is going to get paid whether you get better or not so going in with the mindset of a customer and not a patient helps maintain your ground and calm some of that anxiety.
Next up write down your goals for treatment. This seems obvious but trust me this is important. So again this takes a little “checking in”. When you go to this appointment what do you want the doctor to do? Some examples of this might be:
I feel I need to be on medication to regulate my racing negative thoughts, my physical manifestations of anxiety or depression, I’m having visual or auditory hallucinations and I feel I need to be on medication to have this not happen.
As many medical professions will tell you, psychiatrists and therapists work in conjunction with each other and people get the most help if they are seeing both a psychiatrist and therapists.
Doctors will want to know dates and times of when you experience your symptoms. So for this appointment and the next keeping a log of these is extremely important. When you do make the transition to taking a medication, this log will be super important to track if you’re feeling relief, or any side effects. Something that works for me is to make my log as simple as possible. Sometimes The last thing you want to do when your experiencing is write a novel so making something easy to incorporate into your actual life is soooo helpful. Check out my article on setting up a bullet journal/ symptom log here .
Write down your concerns. The biggest one I advocate for it to be VOCAL about asking about the side effects of the medications the doctor wants to put you on. Also I would ask them why they think this medication would give you the most benefit. Again this seems obvious but in doctors appointments sometimes (at least for me) it’s common to get overloaded with information. Asking this question yourself prepares you for their answer if that makes sense.
Now do not be afraid to get a second opinion. If you are not giving with a doctor don’t go back to that doctor. It takes work sometimes but if I would have known that I didn’t have to stick with a shitty doctor and I would have gotten relief a lot sooner.
I also have a short workbook for sale on Amazon that includes helpful tips, guides and lists to fill out as you begin the process of getting treatment.