One of the most miserable feelings in the world is the feeling of not being heard, especially by someone whom you are seeking help or just trying to understand you. That's how I felt a couple years ago when I visited my fourth OB/GYN in 1 1/2 years. Yep, that's right. I said FOURTH! I am happy to say that I am in love with this doctor's clinical ability and more importantly her ability to listen, hear, and get me!
As a clinician who trains future clinicians, one of the principles that I try to instill is that, though standardized methods (e.g. normed tests and diagnostic/assessment tools) can certainly provide us with important information about those we provide services, such methods do not always tell the whole story. Sometimes the story is never revealed when relying solely on standardized methods. In my case, my symptoms appeared fairly common and all the "normal tests" for my symptoms were conducted - only to come back normal. Even though the test results were normal, I still had the symptoms. Four gynecologists later, it was determined that my symptoms were not "textbook perfect" and such tests were only helpful in ruling out what was not wrong with me and leading to my concerns being dismissed by previous providers.
What made my current gynecologist different from the first three? Well, several things. But the one most important attribute that distinguished this provider from the others is she took the time to hear me. She did not rely solely on the textbook to address my case. As a person who encourages my own clients to advocate for themselves, I knew that I could not (no, I would not) continue to see a provider who is unwilling to attentively listen to my concerns and explain to me the purpose of any test and diagnostic impressions (in other words, what is causing the symptom and how do I get rid of the cause?). So many people do not realize that they have a right to have their providers address these issues. Your provider does just that - PROVIDES you with a service that, in most instances, you pay for. And even if you do not pay for treatment, you are worthy of having your health concerns (whether physical or mental) addressed appropriately and humanely. The following five steps can help you with this process:
1. Make a list of your symptoms before your appointment. Take some time to think about your symptoms: when/where do they occur? how often? what are you doing when they occur? Sometimes when we see a provider, we feel rushed to discuss our concerns or we may not be able to remember everything we need to tell the provider. Making a list before your appointment alleviates these issues.