You would have thought I was Lindsey Lohan headed to prison. I hadn’t slept at all the night before, my heart pounded so loudly I could hear it in my ears, my leg shook frantically against the car seat despite barely having the energy to move and my mind raced from one bad thought to the next.
Prison? No. Sadly, I was just a chronically ill patient headed to a Doctor’s appointment!
Maybe you’ve never had a Doctor tell you: you aren’t sick at all, you’re just crazy, anorexic, you should just exercise more and you’ll be fine or something much worse. If that’s true, you really should stop reading this and go play the lottery! Maybe you just get a dull pit in your stomach but for many of us a trip to the Dr can be a nightmare. This reaction even has a name: “White Coat Syndrome”.
“White coat syndrome or white coat hypertension is nearly always caused due to anxiety, worry and dread: when your body activates the ‘fight-flight’ response” http://www.whitecoatsyndrome.org/
Here are the best tips I’ve found to survive a Doctors appointment and NOT need therapy afterwards!
1) Write Down Your P’s and Q’s
P’s: Write down anything you need the Doctor to Please give you (scripts for medications, referrals, names of supplements, etc)
Q’s: Write out all your Questions ahead of time. It will help you organize your thoughts and keep you from forgetting an important question. Ask family or other patients first to help you think of any questions you’ve missed.
In my experience, when a Doctor sees you have a list of questions, they don’t jump up and leave when you try to take a breath!
2) Do Your Research
If you are going to discuss specific treatment options or get new testing done, try to do some research before your appointment. The more you understand it ahead of time, the less overwhelming the appointment will be. (If research is tough on you, print a few pages of information off the internet and read a few paragraphs at a time).
3) Blah, Blah, Blah
Don’t ramble. Be clear and concise with the issues you are there to discuss. It’s been proven Drs listen for about 20 seconds before making a judgment. If your Dr cuts you off, be firm and clear with what you are saying. Sometimes you have to say the same thing two or three times for your Doctor to absorb it. Don’t give up!
4) Take Cliff (or Emily, or Amy) Notes
Bring a notepad and pen with you to jot down notes of what the Dr tells you. No matter how you try, you won’t remember everything and trying to remember it all is stressful. If you are too sick to take notes, call the office before your appointment and ask if you can record the session. Most Doctors will be okay with that and will just ask you to turn it off if they want to dish any medical gossip (sounds like a joke but it’s happened to me!)
You are trying to listen to every word the Dr is saying but suddenly you start to fade; their face begins to blur, their voice becomes distorted and the room looks like a scene out of The Simpsons? D’oh! If someone is going to the appointment with you, tell them ahead of time you will hand them the list of questions to ask when you start to fade and ask them to take notes. If you’re alone, explain to the Dr you are having trouble focusing and ask if they will write down a summary of what you should do or ask if they have information you can take home to read.
Tips for physically and mentally surviving the appointment – Part 2: 10 Tips for Surviving a Doctor Appointment