Whether it’s an issue with your mental health or your physical health, advocating for yourself is almost always essential to getting a diagnosis. It’s frustrating but it’s true.
This is something I spoke about briefly in my last newsletter, but I wanted to talk about it a bit more here as I think it’s important!
Honestly I’m not great at advocating for myself but I do want to get better… so this is essentially a big list of things I should be doing but I’m probably not… Oops.
Let’s talk about how we can successfully advocate for our own mental health…
Mental illness is real and you deserve to find someone who is able to help. Repeat this until it finally happens, because having to advocate for yourself is tough and not everyone is going to take you seriously.
If one more person asks if you have tried yoga or meditation… tell them to kindly fuck off. Okay maybe don’t do that. Chances are, they just want to help and don’t know how. Remind them that you’re dealing with a chemical imbalance in your brain that can’t simply be solved by doing downward dog.
Become an expert on you. That sounds strange, but let me explain. It can be helpful to keep track of how you’re doing and how you’re feeling. If you’re anything like me, your memory isn’t the greatest and it can be difficult to recall everything you’ve been thinking/feeling when you have the pressure of sharing it all in the space of a 5 to 10 minute appointment. The more symptoms/conditions that you note down, the more you’ll have to discuss with your doctor. Whether it’s keeping track of your mood, your sleep, etc… having a tangible record of the impact that your mental health is having on your daily life could be helpful!
Don’t let others belittle your experience. No one else is in your brain which means no one else can understand exactly what you’re going through.
If you’re going to a doctor’s appointment, take a few minutes to write down some notes before you go. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re sitting in front of your GP. If you have notes prepared on what you’d like to say, it will hopefully stop your doctor from putting words in your mouth.
Take a loved one with you to the doctors if you think it will help you feel more comfortable. Ideally it should be someone who knows you well and knows the reality of your situation. It means they can advocate for you if you are struggling to advocate for yourself.
Emphasise the severity of your mental illness. If someone isn’t going through it themselves, they probably don’t understand how difficult it is. To advocate for yourself, you have to be frankly honest about your experience. Being open and honest will help to ensure you get the care and treatment you need.
If your doctor won’t take you seriously, find a new one. I mean it! Living with mental illness is difficult enough without the hassle of dealing with difficult doctors. There is no point wasting your time and energy on a doctor who is unable to understand or at least empathise.
Accept that you might be on a waiting list for a while, but do not just sit around hoping that one day you’ll get a phone call. Chase them up and remind them that you are here and in need of mental health services!
Most importantly, you have to be persistent. Advocating for yourself when you’re feeling low is incredibly tough, but you can’t give up.
If you’d like to chat more about living with a mental illness, I have an Instagram dedicated exactly to that! Come join Our Calm Corner