Being your own personal health advocate is the best way to make sure you receive the best treatment possible for your fibromyalgia. To become your personal health advocate and an expert patient, you need to understand your condition, learn how to deal with doctors, listen to your body and learn how to be proactive. When you master these skills, you’ll go a long way towards managing your condition and living as normal a life as possible.
Understand Your Condition: Fibromyalgia
If you’re reading this, you’ve already taken a crucial step to becoming your personal health advocate: you’re conducting research to learn more about your condition in order to understand it better.
To become an expert on your condition, you need to know how it affects you. You don’t need to know how it affects anyone around you, but you do need to be intimately aware of what it does to your body.
It doesn’t matter how competent your physician is, they cannot experience what you’re feeling. They’re not with you every day to monitor what you eat, what you do or if you exercise. They’re not there when you take your medications, or when you choose not to take your meds.
In the modern developed world there’s the attitude that a physician knows best each and every time. Doctors are necessary and often it’s a good idea to follow their advice. But they see many patients and don’t focus their entire practice on you. Ultimately you need to make the decision about your care. And in order to make an informed decision you need to put the time and effort into understanding your fibromyalgia.
Plus, you’re more likely to follow a treatment regiment if you understand it and are happy with it. You’ll be able to more easily notice changes to your condition. And you’ll be prepared if you ever need to get a second opinion.
Understanding your condition and what you can do to treat it will also give you a sense of control over a condition of which you have little and this is good for your mental health.
Dealing With Doctors
Maintaining a good relationship with doctors and your healthcare team in general is crucial to managing fibromyalgia. You are the patient and are responsible and in charge of your care. Your doctor is there to help you, but if you feel unsure about a treatment, it is your right to question it. You are also not required to take on any treatments you don’t feel comfortable taking. A good doctor will listen to you and work with you to address any concerns you may have. A good physician wants only the best for you and wants your input.
It’s also important to keep expectations reasonable. You will need to make lifestyle changes to manage fibromyalgia, and there’s no magical pill to treat it. Don’t be surprised if a fibro specialist suggests a treatment option your general practitioner hasn’t suggested.
Value your doctor’s time. They’re busy people. If you know you have a lot to discuss, then book a double appointment so there’s more time available. Always be prepared for your appointment. Know what you need to ask. Don’t show up with reams of printed paper or journals you expect your doctor to read. If you found a piece of information that you think is relevant to your care, be sure to only quote reputable information sources to your doctor.
Try to remain calm even if you’re frustrated.
Listen to Your Body, Be Proactive
Monitor your health so that you know what triggers certain symptoms, and if you might need more treatments or a different type of treatment. Know what causes flare-ups in you and try to avoid those situations.