The other day I was catching up on some lectures from the 2017 Migraine World Summit, which is an incredibly resource for all migraine sufferers. I highly recommend you invest the time and money to watch as many lectures as possible to see what’s going on in the field. I’ve only just scratched the surface, but one moment caught my attention…
During a lecture by Dr. Peter Goadsby where he discussed the top migraine myths, he touched on the fact that you don’t necessarily need to see a headache specialist, but just a doctor who is truly going to be an ally and be genuinely passionate about learning about your specific symptoms and making you feel better.
This might seem like an overly obvious statement but I can't tell you how many migraine sufferers I talk to or read about that say they are frustrated with their doctor. I hear "my doctor barely spends time with me," "he/she makes me feel it’s all in my head," "he/she tells me there is nothing else we can do."
Well, I'm here to tell you to treat your doctor relationship like a romantic relationship: if it's not working, it's time to break up.
In the healthiest romantic relationships, ideally, you're with someone who shares the same values. You sometimes disagree and that's OK, because when you do you have a healthy back and forth until you find common ground. If two people just don't click, the other person doesn't give you the time of day, or they don’t want to work through the hard times, then why would you want to be with that person?
I'm not sure how so many of us got in the bad habit of being so deferential to doctors. I know I've been there...I have seen my fair share of doctors for my migraines and even though I didn't agree with what they were saying or their advice didn't align with my personal philosophy, I felt compelled to listen to them because they were the "expert" and I was the patient. Yes, doctors know much more about medicine than I ever will. But you know who's an expert in my health? Me! Just like you’re an expert in your own health!
Instead of taking in everything that a doctor says as the gold standard, you should view every conversation with your doctor as a dialogue -- a back and forth dialogue. Here are a few tips to help you make the best of your next visit and avoid feeling helpless:
- Do your homework. Read up on different medications and treatment options so you have some context of the potential plans that will come up.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions. Show up to your visit with a list of questions or bring them up during your visit. Your doctor is an incredible source of knowledge – you shouldn’t feel like you’re inconveniencing him or her if you need time to clarify.
- Ask for more time if you need it. I know doctors are incredibly busy and usually have packed schedules. But if you need more time and you get the sense they are ready to run to their next patient, just ask if you can have a little more time with them.
- Be prepared to walk away. Most doctors try their best every day to help their patients. But sometimes it just isn’t working out for various reasons. Sometimes you just need a fresh perspective, or you just need a doctor that you feel more connected to. Whatever the reason, don’t be afraid to follow your gut and find someone else if you feel it’s necessary.
Remember, a great doctor that you connect with can be your greatest migraine resource. But you have to always be your #1 health advocate, which means you’re in charge of making sure the relationship is always working out for the best. If not, it’s time to move on and find your ally.