Welcome to our new series, “Take Our Advice”! Each month, we’ll be selecting a question from our Facebook or Twitter communities, and one of our bloggers will answer it here on Living Like You. Up first – we’re tackling questions related to doctor appointments. We hope you enjoy!
Do you have any tips or tricks for building your courage when discussing embarrassing subjects with your doctor? - LLY Facebook Visitor
Dear Facebook Visitor,
Jamie here! As a seasoned MS veteran, I thought it would be valuable to provide some insight on a question that almost all of us deal with at the beginning of our journeys with MS: finding and establishing a relationship with the right doctor. Whether it’s a difficult emotional impact or a tricky symptom, your doctor is always in your corner. Here are a few tips for making sure you’re getting the most out of your relationship:
Find a doctor you trust – Yes, it can sometimes take a while to find a doctor you trust, and even when you find “the one”, sometimes you feel so close to them that it is embarrassing to talk about bathroom rituals or sex hindered by MS. At the end of the day, it is important to find a doctor that you feel comfortable sharing with, and also can trust.
Focus on the science – When I’m thinking about how best to navigate a doctor’s appointment, I always try to remember the highly scientific posters on the wall and the office. Although they can feel very sterile, it helps me to remember that these appointments were not about being personal, but about navigating the scientific aspects of life with MS. No matter how much I cared about my doctor at the time, focusing on the clinical space helped me deal with some of the real tough conversations that we all have to have.
Make a list – Write down any new symptoms or anything that has been bothering you on a list to bring to your next appointment. Even if at the time of your appointment some of these don’t seem relevant or important, there’s a reason you initially added them to your list.
Separate your emotions - I was watching a crime series once and the coroner was teaching future doctors how to manage emotions. She said something to the effect of, “these are just vessels, shells of people that are no longer there. Objects that were inhabited at a time.” That outlook taught me to disconnect what my body was going through with any emotions that may stop me from disclosure so that I could better share what mattered to me with my doctor.
Push your doctor and help others – Every time I share new symptoms I know that not only is my doctor helping me, but I am also teaching him things that he previously may not have known about. It pushes the science, awareness, and understanding of this complex disease in ways that will hopefully help others down the line. You are doing your sisters, brothers, children etc. in MS a favor every time you test your doctors to expand their thinking.
It’s important to share all my symptoms with my doctor, not just for my benefit, but for everyone else’s as well.
Thank you for your question, and I hope that it will help you on your own journey with your doctor. Until next time!