In the doctor’s office, it can be overwhelming balancing getting the care you need with having all your questions answered. At times, doctors may appear to be in a hurry, not fully grasping what you are trying to convey, or perhaps more dangerously, not taking your words seriously. Talking about yourself and your health care in that scenario can be difficult, but it’s so important. And if you’re one of six out of 10 Americans living with a chronic illness, you may be seeing different doctors quite often, further highlighting the need to advocate for yourself.
As someone with multiple chronic conditions, Nitika Chopra understands all too well the difficulty and importance of learning how to defend yourself from a doctor. The chronic disease advocate and founder of the digital community, app and event Chronicon has been seeing doctors to manage her psoriatic arthritis and plaque psoriasis for 32 years and continues to be anxious with each new visit that she has certain issues or questions she likes to ask will not be addressed.
In this week’s episode of The Well + Good Podcasthost Taylor Camille talks with Chopra ahead of this year’s Chronicon Live Summit in Brooklyn about the community she’s built to support others navigating life with chronic conditions and the importance of feeling empowered to own your own truth.
Listen to the full podcast episode here:
An important part of Chopras’ advocacy is to help those living with chronic conditions feel comfortable disclosing their condition on their own terms and finding the support systems they need to thrive, i.e. people who believe in and respect their lived experience.
For Chopra, nothing burns as much as being questioned about the validity of her needs, like, say, a simple request to hop on an Uber with a friend for a short-distance ride if her joints or bones feel sore. . It’s deeply inspiring to hear the non-supportive response, Wait, what do you mean? I don’t just feel it for myself, but I see people in our community who have shared that they weren’t believed by their friends, family or doctors, and I know how incredibly disorienting it is, he says.
Expecting to be misunderstood, dismissed, or otherwise ignored can make a trip to the doctor’s office even more nerve-racking than it might already seem. And feeling anxious or worried could throw you off track before or during a date, leaving you with unanswered questions once the date is over.
Below, Chopra shares her top two tips for sticking up for yourself at the doctor’s office, whether you’re managing a chronic condition or a new illness or injury, so you can be sure you walk away feeling empowered and armed with information. and next steps.
2 tips from Chronicon founder Nitika Chopra to help you stand up for yourself at your next doctor’s appointment
1. Get support from your network
Your friends and loved ones can serve as your key support system when it comes to dealing with health issues. Talking about your feelings or your plan of action before a doctor’s appointment with someone you trust is one way Chopra recommends building your confidence to stand up for yourself in the moment.
You can send a quick text or jump on the phone with a friend, or you can even bring someone along who is familiar with your situation to make sure you ask all the questions you need answered.
Chopra finds that hooking up with one of her trusted friends before a date does wonders to help calm her jitters. This is a great way to reprogram my nervous system [to reduce stress] in the moment, and then I can remember that I have these people [who support me] no matter what, he says.
2. Make a list of questions in advance and refer to them in the appointment
Doctor appointments can move quickly, and it’s easy for key questions to get lost in the shuffle. To help stay on track and remember everything he wants to ask and say, Chopra keeps an up-to-date list of questions in a note on his phone and adds thoughts as they arise. That way, on the day of an appointment, he can simply refer to the list he’s created to make sure he doesn’t leave out anything important from the discussion. It’s not the most perfectly organized thing, but at least I know I don’t have to stress about remembering important things, he says.
Referencing a list can also keep your doctor from rushing out before you’ve had a chance to comment on certain items. For example, at a recent appointment with his neurologist, Chopra used his checklist to make sure things didn’t wrap up before he had a chance to get key questions answered. [The doctors] the vibe is, let’s make sure we move forward, so I’ll say it out loud, I’ve got three more questions on my list and I need to make sure I get there, so he knows and can keep track, she says.
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