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10 Ways to Become More Comfortable Talking to Your Doctor

By Gay Falkowski

Intimacy issues, bowel and bladder dysfunction, disability fears, family planning, feelings of sadness, overwhelming stress – these are just some of the concerns you may not mention to your doctor because you’re just not comfortable bringing them up. Maybe you’re unsure if they belong in the conversation. Maybe you’re embarrassed. If so, you’re not alone. Many people with MS say they’re uncomfortable talking with their doctor about certain subjects. However, to help you become as healthy as you can be with MS, your doctor needs to know all of your problems and concerns. Here are some easy steps you can take to feel more at ease sharing touchy topics with your doctor:
 
1) Remind yourself that although you are unique, you are just one of many patients your doctor treats day in and day out. Doctors have seen and heard most everything imaginable from those who have gone before you. That fact doesn’t minimize your feelings or problems, but it may be easier for you to talk with your doctor about certain things when you realize you’re not the first person to mention them.
 
2) Think like a reporter. Write down questions and topics you want to discuss during your appointment. Your ‘job’ is to ask questions and report everything that’s on your mind. You may find that reading from a paper helps you break the ice when you’re ready to talk.
 
3) Realize it’s in your best interest to tell your doctor about all the ways MS is affecting your life. Along with physical ailments, include issues regarding relationships, work, family, and emotions. Problems are more easily resolved in the early stages. Remember that old saying ‘better safe than sorry?’ Better to mention even minor concerns and have your doctor check them out rather than let them escalate.
 
4) Go easy on yourself. Nobody’s perfect, and your doctor doesn’t expect you to be perfect, either. Maybe you didn’t take your medications exactly as prescribed, or failed to follow through with an exercise plan, or ate too many donuts – it’s important to fess up. Without knowing the truth, your doctor can’t do a good job helping you stay well.
 
5) Ask a nurse for help. Nurses are important members of your healthcare team. They can provide suggestions and offer reassurance about bringing up sensitive subjects with your doctor.
 
6) Be direct. Let your doctors know you struggle with asking certain questions or discussing certain topics. Start by saying, “It’s difficult for me to talk about this, but…” Sometimes just making them aware that you’re uncomfortable eases your burden and reminds them to assure you it’s okay to talk about all aspects of your life with MS.
 
7) Get advice from others with MS. If you’ve got an MS support network, whether in person or online, ask them how they manage to speak comfortably with their doctors about anything and everything.
 
8) Bring a friend or family member along with you to your doctor’s appointment. Just having them by your side can make you feel secure enough to open up about what’s on your mind. Let them know ahead of time if you want them to participate in the discussion or just be there for moral support.
 
9) Role-play before your next appointment. Enlist a friend or family member to play the part of your doctor. Practice different ways you might approach certain topics. Have your ‘doctor’ give varied reactions so you can prepare for any kind of response.
 
10) Consider your options. If, despite your best efforts, you still feel uncomfortable opening up to your doctor, you may want to find a new doctor. Ask for recommendations from your MS support network, and let them know you’re looking for someone who’s easy to talk to and has a good ‘bedside manner.’