When you’re in pain, staying organized and focused can feel like a monstrous task — let alone advocating for the care you need with physicians who have a busy schedule and may not know your full case. Here’s a cheat sheet you can use to stay on track when you have an appointment.
Be Your Own Self-Advocate
Here’s a cheat sheet you can use to stay on track when you have an appointment.
Before the appointment
Use an app to keep track of symptoms (like the Migraine Insight App!)
The days of writing down symptoms in your notebook, then keep tracking of that notebook, then squinting to read your handwriting are over. Get an app where you can keep track of triggers, symptoms and timeframes with a few clicks. This app was the right choice — your data will be automatically compiled into neat reports that you’ll have in your pocket to discuss with your doctor at your appointment.
Find the right doctor
A specialist is likely to a) have more time to spend with you and b) have a true understanding of your symptoms. This may feel like a series of phone calls or emails that seem exhausting, but getting the right doctor will save time and frustration later. If you have a family doctor, call or send an email in your patient portal, asking for a referral to migraine specialist. This is a common request. You’ll then get a call or email back with a list of possible specialists. If you don’t have a family doctor or your financial situation doesn’t allow for a specialist, your friend Google is there: keywords to use are “headache doctor” and your state.
Write everything down
Write out a script or bulleted list of what you want to cover with the doctor. You’ll have a short amount of time, and you’ll need to cover a lot of information quickly. Don’t feel silly bringing in your script or notebook to the doctor. This is common, and it will help you keep on track if you get flustered.
During the appointment
Bring a friend (or record the appointment)
If possible, bring someone you trust who knows your condition. You might feel silly having someone come with you — don’t! Many patients to do this so they have someone to take notes for them, or ask questions they may be forgetting. This isn’t always possible, so arm yourself with your script, and record the appointment with your phone. You can then follow up with any questions you may have missed.
Say everything, even if you start to get emotional
Being in pain can lower our defenses and make us easily tearful or angry. There’s nothing embarrassing about being emotional at the doctor. You’re getting the help you need. Tell the doctor everything, and be assertive, even if your voice shakes.
Take a breath and be open
The doctor may need some time to get familiar with your case. Listen and take a breath before responding. You may have the urge to immediately push back at suggested treatments or plans, but give yourself 3–5 seconds before answering to evaluate whether you’re answering from a place of calm or pain.
Get the next steps
Sometimes we leave the doctor feeling like we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Ask your doctor specifically for your next steps, with a timeline. This could be something like, “Try this medication for two weeks, track your symptoms, then let me know how it goes.” It could be a list of additional tests. Whatever the next step, wrap up the appointment with a plan.
After the appointment
Going to the doctor can make you feel vulnerable and prone to migraine triggers. Whatever you have planned after your appointment, schedule in some self care, whether it’s a deep breath session at your desk to re-center yourself, a hot bath, a nap or tea. Give yourself a few moments to acknowledge any anxiety you may have.
Keep track of your appointments in a journal. Write the date, the doctor seen, and what you discussed. If you brought a friend or recorded the appointment, check your resources for anything you may have missed. Write down your next steps and put a reminder on your calendar for your next step.
Follow your plan
Keeping organized with your plan and next steps can feel impossible when the pain hits. Do your best to follow the treatment plan prescribed, knowing you may have days where your only plan is to get through each minute. Shoot for following the treatment plan as best you can, when you can, and track your results in the app and your journal.
Join a support group
You aren’t alone. So many people are experiencing exactly what you feel, right now. Many support groups are online and easy to access. Try googling or looking on Facebook for migraine support groups — they’re out there, and they’re full of people just like you, ready to help you!
This can feel like a lot when you’re struggling and in pain. Take it slow and one step at a time, and do what you’re able, when you’re able.
Our Team: We are Here to Help
We are a small, dedicated app development team that wants you to better understand your migraines and triggers. Everyone on the team has lived with migraines at some point in their lives. We are your community, and we’re here to help. Reach out any time with questions. [email protected].
As always — please seek the advice of a doctor for medical questions. Our app team cannot give medical advice.
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