I Feel Better

After years of doctor’s visits (PCP and specialists like my Rheumatologist) that I estimate to be at around 250 over the 20 years I have had RA, I have only recently realized how often I actually feel better, mentally and physically, after an appointment with any one of the health care professionals that make up my Care Team.  The fact is, after I have a visit with one of them, I often feel that questions have been answered, symptoms addressed, solutions considered and decisions made.  It makes sense then, that I would feel better, not worse after one of these appointments.  Yet, until now, I really did not consider why.

Doctor's visits for a sense of well-being

Often our trip to see a healthcare professional is prompted by NOT feeling well so who would consider how much better we might feel afterward beyond the physical state?  Not me, that’s for sure.  Of course, I knew that for simple issues like an ear infection a simple antibiotic prescription would often do the trick.  What I did not consider was how important the visits to my Rheumatologist would be to that sense of well-being. I often go to those visits with complaints and/or questions which make me unsettled and anxious when I first arrive for my appointment.  But if the appointment is successful, I leave feeling better and with a plan to deal with whatever issues I brought to the visit.

Planning: The key to successful doctors' appointments

The key, of course, is how the appointment goes and that means planning.  If we go off to appointments with no thought of what we need to gain from the visit, it will not end with feeling better but rather with disappointment and little remedy for what ailed us to begin with.  RA, of course, requires regular visits with a myriad of healthcare professionals.  That makes it crucial that we develop clear expectations for each and every one of them – from the rheumatologist to the massage therapist and everyone in between.  Now all of this assumes that we are of sound mind, if not body when we head off to the doctors.  Of course, many times we are in pain, feeling anything but clear-headed.  That is exactly why the protocols you develop for doctors’ appointments be done before we are at our worst.  For instance, I know that each time I go to see my doctor, I want him/her to understand exactly what I hope to accomplish.  It may be a medication adjustment, symptom relief, or just an ear to understand how miserable I am feeling and some advice on how to cope. But no matter the reason, I never go to the doctor without some level of certainty as to what outcome I am seeking.  Communicating that from the moment the appointment starts is the best way to ensure that happens.  My doctors would be shocked if I did not come with questions and a list of items/issues I want to review.

My Rheumatologist once told me that it was his dream that every patient would come to appointments as well prepared as me.  I have yet to conclude a visit with him without some resolution.  That says a lot about the relationship we have developed over the years.  That is largely due to my planning.  In fact, it is the days when I feel my worst that I am often the most hopeful when I leave.  Even if the physical issues are not resolved, my state of mental well-being is much improved!  And that allows me to plan for whatever physical remedies we have discussed and decided on.

All of this goes back to my original reflection about feeling better at the conclusion of healthcare visits.  What I have learned and am passing along to you is that this is not only in the hands of our Care Team, but actually in our hands just as much!


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