8 Notes to Have When You Talk to Your Doctor about Your Brain
When you go to the doctor to address your mental health, there are usually two big hurdles to jump over: not remembering the things you needed to talk about and being scared to bring things up. The best way for me to get over these hurdles is to give myself a running start with notes. I’ve found that if I have notes in my hand, not in my pocket when I go into the appointment, I’m more likely to tell them what’s going on. I won’t forget anything and it gives me a gentle reminder that these are things I need to do for my own well-being.
The way I remember my notes is a little mantra:
Body, Thoughts, Family, Talk, Food, Fight, and Walk.
- The first note you probably want to have is “They are here to help you. They will not judge you for your illness. Breathe.”
- BODY. A list of all of your internal concerns, no matter how small. Just makes general notes like “my back hurts,” “I cry a lot,” and “I’m constipated often.” What your body is doing can help determine if there is a physical issue that is affecting your mental health.
- THOUGHTS. A tally of when you contemplate self-harm, reckless behavior, or suicide. If you’re contemplating suicide, please call 911 or 1-800-273-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately.
- FAMILY. A family history of mental illnesses and trends you’ve noticed even if they weren’t diagnosed. Your crazy uncle might actually give you some insights on your own health. They might give the doctor a better place to start.
- TALK. The concerns that other people may have brought up about you. If people say you have mood swings, you might be having them and not really realize it. If people say you’re fat, you could believe them even if it’s not true. Please trust your doctor’s opinion over those of others on this matter.
- FOOD. Your eating habits. What you eat, how much you eat, and how often you eat can all impact your health. Personally, I don’t eat enough. I used to eat all the time, but now I’ll forget to eat meals or preparing even a bowl of cereal sometimes feels like too much effort.
- FIGHT. How much you exercise. Just like with eating, there’s a sweet spot on how much you should be doing. The problem of exercising too little is usually forced down the public’s throat, but there is also a thing as exercising too much. So, please make note of how much you actually are exercising.
- TALK. How much water you drink. I would highly recommend getting a water bottle that you know how much liquid it holds, this will make it easier to figure out if you’re drinking enough water.
Your health is incredibly important, and I know talking about all of this can be really hard (making the appointment is hard enough!), but please try to remember that there are people out there that genuinely want to help you. And if what the doctor is telling you doesn’t feel right, you can go to another doctor. If they want to prescribe you medication, but you don’t want to be put on medication, you can and should talk to them about alternatives.
When I first started talking to a doctor about my mental health, I didn’t want to be put on medication—or rather, my mom didn’t want me to be put on medication—but when I went away to college, I decided that I wanted to try it to see if it helped. A lot of my progress with my mental health has come down to me in the doctor’s office with my notes in hand.
Below is a link to download a PDF for you to use for your notes. If you have anything else you think should be added to this list, or some other way you go about your doctor’s appointments, please let me know in the comments below.