To say that going to the doctor stresses me out would be a huge understatement. I hate doctor appointments. I get all tied up in knots for over a week before my appointment looms. Funny thing is, I really don’t know what I’m so worried about. I love all my doctors. I know I can talk to them and they will listen. I know they only want me to be at my best and healthiest. But even so, it’s still really hard and stressful for me. So I fully support the recent initiative by Diabetes Advocates to help with What to Say to Your Doctor by providing some tips and links to resources. And even though I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you what has helped make my white coat syndrome a little less severe over my past appointments.
The first thing is to find The One. Yup, in a way it’s almost like dating. That blind date my neighbor fixed me up on was easy - I knew within 10 minutes I would not be seeing this guy again. It can be the same with health care professionals - you might know right away it’s not a good fit. Sometimes it’s a little tougher than that. I think back to some really nice guys I’ve dated. They treated me well and I liked them a lot. But I didn’t "LIKE like them” (official teen girl speak flashback!!) - something was just missing and I knew I wasn’t doing either of us a favor by continuing our relationship. It was scary and sad but we both deserved better. It can be the same with a healthcare professional. You might like the doctor a lot but something is missing. You’re not getting what you need and your appointments almost seem like a waste of time. It can be scary and take some work to move on and find a new doctor, but it’s probably better for both of you if you do.
So now that I’ve found The One, my appointments should be a breeze, right? Well, not exactly. I’m still a bundle of nerves. So how do I make sure I’m getting the most out of my appointments and the best care I can get? First, I make a list of all my questions in the weeks or even months before my appointment. I type them in the Notes section of my smartphone so it’s easy to add things as I think of them and I know I’ll have them with me when appointment time comes. Next, I ask all of my questions - even the ones that seem stupid once I’m in the doctor’s office. And yes, when I’m feeling stressed I often look at a question on my list and want to skip it because I think it might sound stupid. But I force myself to ask it, and my doctor has never once made me feel silly for asking anything. (By the way, if your doctor doesn’t take the time to listen to and answer all of your questions, you probably have not yet found The One.) And lastly, I remember that my appointment is a two-way street. My doctor will probably also have a list of questions for me, and the most important thing is that I answer them HONESTLY. Even when I don’t want to. At my last appointment my endo was concerned about a huge 300+ spike on the printout of my CGM graph and asked about it. Did I want to tell him that I had a major moment of weakness with my Easter basket? I sure didn’t. But I told him anyway because I’m human and I wanted jelly beans and chocolate that day and even though I tried to bolus for them there was no way I could eat what I ate without a mega-spike. I’m not proud of it, but he understood, he didn’t chastise me, and he also didn’t waste our time trying to figure out a problem that wasn’t really a problem at all.
Sure, I still get nervous and stressed before my appointments. These days, at least I’m less nervous and stressed than I used to be because I know the doctors I see are people I respect and trust and because I show up at my appointments prepared.
Do you have any advice for making the most of medical appointments?