When you have a chronic illness, one of the most significant things you can do to improve your condition is become your own advocate. That’s not to say that your health care team isn’t on your side, they may have the best of intentions. However, many women with chronic conditions experience not being believed and so their condition goes under-diagnosed for many years.
You might have heard “it’s all in your head”, or “I think you are just depressed”. What if you could have responded with “No, you are wrong and if you are not willing to help me then I will have to go get my diagnosis with someone who will.” But instead we often trust our doctor and start to doubt our own intuition about our own bodies.
Of course, this doesn’t happen to every women and some are lucky enough to get a diagnosis straight away or have a GP that keeps working toward it. Either way, we all need to be advocates for our own health.
Here are some ways to help you be your own advocate:
- Prepare for your appointment – make sure you have all the information you need at your appointment. See getting the most out of your appointment
- Look for good quality health information so that you are well informed which can help you ask the right questions.
- Improve your *health literacy – expand your knowledge by reading and researching health. Even learning about the different parts of the body is helpful to improve health literacy.
- Improve your digital literacy – make sure that it easy for you to find health information by practicing and improving your computer skills.
- Be prepared to work towards a health outcome, this is self-efficacy. Implementing the agreed care plan can be really difficult but there are a few approaches. Such as working on one goal per week before moving on to the next.
- Make sure there is mutual respect between you and your GP or specialist. If not, then move on.
- The same with shared decision making – if the health professional is not interested then seek a new one.
*“Health literacy is the skills and knowledge of a person to access, understand and use information to make decisions, and take action about health and healthcare. This includes all areas of health and well-being.”