Everyone has to go to the doctor at some point in their life, right? What happens when you and that doctor disagree on a diagnosis? What do you do when you feel they aren’t listening to your concerns or taking you seriously?
I’ve had both of these things happen to me a few years ago when it came to my hypothyroid diagnosis. I had to fight tooth and nail to get them to even listen to me and even then they didn’t listen.
Learning to how to be your best advocate at the doctor is a huge part of your adult life. Some people think that just because a doctor said so, it has to be right, right?
Well, not necessarily.
How to Be Your Best Advocate at the Doctor
Like I said above, I had issues with getting my hypothyroidism diagnosis. I researched the signs and symptoms and was about 95% sure it was what I had. I actually hadn’t even thought about it until my psychiatrist mentioned I get tested. My depression was worsening at an alarming rate and she was wary of putting me on more medication until I got the test results back.
Turns out my TSH levels were high. Not super high, but high enough to be marked off as “high” according to the testing results.
However, my doctor didn’t seem to care about that. She didn’t care that I had all the signs and symptoms as well as high TSH levels, literally what you need to be diagnosed with hypothyroidism.
She was convinced I just needed iron and vitamin D, which I do need as well, but that wasn’t causing my problems. I even tried her recommendation for a month, but it got to the point where after I told her I fell asleep at work, sitting at my desk, covered in a blanket because I was freezing and she still didn’t believe me that I knew I had to take action.
Do Your Research
How to be your best advocate at the doctor starts with being informed.
If something is bothering you, do some research. You won’t be able to diagnose yourself, but it will help you get informed on what the options are. That way you can bring up any questions to your doctor if they do or don’t suggest whatever it is you think is going on.
I did my research about hypothyroidism. I had all the signs and symptoms that came with it, depression, splitting/fragile nails, feeling cold, exhaustion, and hair shedding more than usual. My dad also has hypothyroidism which should have been a flag to any doctor.
I also found message boards for those with hypothyroidism. That’s where I found doctors are reluctant to diagnose someone with it and if I had abnormal test levels, to keep pushing the issue.
I told my doctor I wanted to get tested for my TSH levels, which is what they use to measure how well your thyroid is working. Even though I had a recommendation from another doctor, I wasn’t going to let it go until I got that test.
Having those test results verify my own research was a great feeling, but not everyone is going to have that outcome.
Sometimes you do all the research and you get the tests, but it comes out negative for what you think it is. Remember, that’s okay.
Get a Second Opinion
However, if you come across a doctor that refuses to see the results like mine did, or your doctor is dismissive of your research, or doesn’t think it’s a big deal, the best thing you can do is get a second opinion.
The best way to be your best advocate at the doctor is to get things double checked. Sometimes even doctors are wrong.
If you still feel like you have a problem and you’re not being listened to, get as many second opinions as it takes. Sometimes it takes someone who thinks outside of the box. Especially if you’re looking to get a diagnosis that’s less common or even rare.
A lot of doctors don’t want to think a rare diagnosis is what the problem is simply because the condition is rare. Sometimes you are that rarity.
However, there’s a caveat to this.
Sometimes it’s you who is wrong.
If you keep going to doctors and they keep saying the same thing, it’s very possible they’re right. If your tests keep coming back negative, maybe it’s not what you think.
Listen to Your Body
This is incredibly important if you’re going to be your best advocate at the doctor.
You can’t tell them exactly what’s wrong if you’re not listening to your body.
A lot of us live busy and fast-paced lives. This makes it easy to push aside things we don’t want to deal with, and that can include medical problems.
You need to stop, take a deep breath, and listen to what your body is telling you.
Are you getting sick more often than normal? Does something hurt on a regular basis that shouldn’t? Are you more tired than usual with no real reason?
Whatever it is, sit, think, and write down what’s going on with your body.
Things as simple as significant weight gain or loss can mean something serious.
If I hadn’t listened to my body about the more subtle hypothyroidism symptoms and just chalked it up to mental health, I’d be over medicated for that and not medicated for the actual problem.
Check out this Reddit thread for more people who thought things were “normal” but really weren’t:
To be your best advocate at the doctor you need to know what’s going on, and sometimes symptoms come and go. So, when you’re going through them, write them down in your phone or in a notepad and remember to bring it to the doctor with you.
You never know what symptom that you think is mild or not concerning is actually very concerning to a doctor.
It’s also a way to track what you have going on.
If you get a lot of headaches, mark on your calendar when you get them. Get nauseous a lot? Start keeping a food diary to see if it’s related to what you eat.
If there’s a consistency to your symptoms, keep track of them. There are many apps you can do this with, or you can do it the old fashion way and use pen and paper. You never know when a pattern might emerge and give you a reason for why you’re feeling the way you are.
Go to the Doctor Regularly
This seems like common sense, but if you’re not going to the doctor regularly, you won’t have stats to track to see if something is off.
I know some people don’t like going to the doctor’s office, but, you only have one body. At the very least do a yearly checkup to make sure nothing seems wrong.
When I go to my physical I get bloodwork done. They can test the levels of various things on a yearly, and some bi-yearly, to make sure I’m within good levels.
Every year my cholesterol levels come back high. The only thing I have going for me is that both my good and bad levels are high, not just one. Going to the doctor ever year makes it so we can track where that’s going. I know it’s hereditary and there’s a good chance I’ll need to be on medication for it in the future.
My first doctor kept yelling at me that I needed to be on a low cholesterol diet. If I were to listen to every “diet” I’m supposed to be on due to my various medical problems I would be eating air and drinking water.
Thankfully my second doctor was younger and seemed to be more open to the idea that it’s not my fault and my genetics playing a role in things. Both my parents have high cholesterol so it makes more sense I’ll have it as well.
Have you ever had to get a second opinion on something? Were you right in a diagnosis from the start? Let me know in the comments.
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