Living with chronic illness is hard, but sorting through all the symptoms to communicate with our doctors can be even tougher, sometimes. For example, perhaps you feel tired. Is it the same kind of tired as when your illness flares? Is it different from that, but sort of like when you’ve had too good a day the day before (and overdone “doing”?) Or, is it a completely different kind of fatigue, one you’ve never felt before?
It’s these and other situations that take time and perception to understand, but sometimes you don’t feel very patient or perceptive. Over the years, I’ve developed a tremendous rapport with my doctors, and we “speak the same language” when it comes to understanding what’s going on at any given time. To get to this point, I have found several things to be very helpful in working with my docs to “sort it all out”:
1) Keeping a symptom log. This includes how you feel, what you’ve done that day, and what you’ve eaten or what meds you’ve taken. This way, you can look back and point to specific instances of when a symptom occurred, as well as the circumstances surrounding it. This is very helpful when, during a doctor’s visit, you talk through your pressing health issues.
2) Developing a “symptom thesaurus.” Learn to describe your symptoms as more than “tired,” “sore,” “in pain,” etc. Tap into your inner author and use analogies that better pinpoint exactly how your feel and what’s going on.
3) Quantify your symptoms, know the timeline. For how long did you feel [symptom]? How far did the pain extend along [position of pain]? How many [symptoms] did you have this week, month? Answers to these questions and other quantifiable questions are very, very helpful for your doctors.
4) Learn to listen through the pain. Sometimes, it’s hard to listen to what our doctors are saying when we’re in tremendous pain or frightened about our illness. Ak your doctor to help you listen and learn, requesting that he or she repeat what he/she is saying, or put it another way, so that you understand and can be a stronger partner in your care.
The better the working relationship between patient and doctor, and the more specific the communication between the two, the more effective any doc-patient work will be. These suggestions above have helped me – Let me know what’s worked for you!
Blessings for the day!