One of the biggest problems many of our readers face is being too shy, too embarrassed or too subtle to let their doctor really know and see how bad things actually are. This can lead to all kinds of problems with your medical records, which can lead to all kinds of problems with your disability case.
Ten tips from readers on how to make sure your doctor gets the whole picture:
Be Honest With Your Doc
It is important to be honest with your doctor about your symptoms. It is important not to lie or exaggerate your symptoms… and it is equally important not to understate or hide your symptoms! As Mark Twain says, “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
“Let the world know what your illness really looks like and does to someone! It is the only way to advocate for ourselves and others!” – Bethanna Parker
Be Honest With Yourself
This is one of the biggest ways people sabotage their disability cases. They are not ready to admit or accept how disabled they are, and they give their doctor mixed messages, or say things to give the impression they might be able to go back to work, even when there is no realistic possibility they will be able to manage this.
This can lead to confusing or inconsistent things being written in their records that can cause major problems. The more you can tell the truth, the more accurate your records will be.
“The more we hide our illness, the less other people understand it.” – Lilac
It’s not easy to tell your doctor embarrassing things. If you need help to walk, eat, bathe or go to the bathroom, it’s really important to share this with your doctor. It’s hard to say at first, but we promise, it does get easier in time.
” I was approved for disability in four months (I was in my low 20s and still working part-time the whole time I was applying). I think the biggest thing that helped me get approved was saying to myself: F*&% social scripts. I’m gonna be honest. When doctors asked me how I was, I would just tell them.” – Petunia
Be Grounded in Reality
It’s great to practice positive thinking. It’s a great to visualize yourself healthy again, and to believe that that is happening. But don’t do that visualization in the doctor’s office. Tell your doctor what is actually true, not what you wish were true.
If you are having a good day, that is great! But before you go to your doctor and say “I’m feeling better” make sure you really are feeling better and your condition really has improved. Don’t say it just because you had one good day or one good week.
“After I was denied disability, I started telling my psychologist all my symptoms (even the embarrassing ones) and explaining how they affected my ability to function. My second application was approved.” – Ivy
Try to discuss your limitations and severe symptoms every time you see your doctor. Don’t worry if you have said it already a million times. Say it a million and one.
“When I go to the doctor, the first thing I say is an update on my condition, my symptoms, and my limitations. I don’t care if I repeat myself every time. I want every record from every visit to be accurate.” – Sage
Some people feel guilty always showing up with bad news at their doctor’s office. They want to be nice to their doctor and tell their doctor how much the treatments are helping. Please tell your doctor the truth. Don’t say something that is not true just to be polite.
It is not your job to entertain your doctor or make your doctor feel better. You do not need to make pleasant small talk. Use your time to tell your doctor what is really going on with your health and symptoms. From the law office of Scott Davis: Common topics that can cause problems in medical records
“At every doctors visit, I tell my doctor each of my symptoms and how they are limiting me. I have been on disability for ten years, and I still do this today. I never talk about anything else during my appointments. I do not chat about friends, family or activities. I talk about my symptoms and the problems they cause me.” – Dandelion
Some people hide their pain while at the doctor, or push themselves to sit, stand, walk or talk longer than usual. Then they go home and crash from pain or fatigue. Don’t do this. Your doctor may write down everything she observes during the appointment: How you dress, walk, talk, sit, act, etc. Let your doctor see what is actually true for you.
“I very rarely leave the house, so on the days when I had doctor appointments, I would use all my energy to actually change out of pajamas. My caregiver would help me bathe. I would be incapacitated for days afterwards. Later I discovered that one of the problems with my records was that my doctor had written in each record that I was alert, well groomed, appropriately dressed, and presentable.” – Violet
Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Some people were raised to believe that it is better never to complain. It is better to “grin and bear it” and remember other people have it worse. If you are applying for disability, please try your best to talk openly about your struggles. You may need to step way outside of your comfort zone, and be very strong and courageous to make this change.
“I found out today from my disability attorney that the biggest obstacle in my case is that I tried so hard to not be a burden to anyone or show my pain and severe symptoms.” – Bethanna Parker
Be Willing to Change How You See Yourself
If you are too ill to work, one of the most important things you can do to help your case is get comfortable acknowledging to yourself that you are now disabled. Being able to acknowledge this within yourself may change the way you talk and write about yourself with your doctors and with Social Security.
“At the beginning of each visit, when my doctor asks me how I am, I usually say something like this: I am continuing to have severe, disabling fatigue, dizziness, and widespread pain. I cannot stand more than 10 minutes or sit up more than 20 minutes most of the time. When my symptoms are bad, I need a caregiver to assist me with eating, bathing and dressing.” – Dafodil
Act the way you act on a typical day. Dress the way you dress on a typical day. Talk the way you talk on a typical day. Let the doctor see what you are actually like. Here’s a great article written by someone with CFS/ME and Lyme. Don’t Try to Look Good When You Feel Like Crap
“I strongly encourage anyone to immediately stop any form of hiding, pretending, downplaying, belittling, making light of, or trying to not be a burden.” – Bethanna Parker
🌷 This page is part of the free online guide: The Sleepy Girl Guide to Social Security Disability
🌷 Learn more about this topic here: How to Have Doctor Visits That Create Accurate Records
🌷 Art on this page by Robin Mead and Elizabeth D’Angelo.
🌷 Page Updated: 7/1/19
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7 thoughts on “How to Stop Hiding From Your Doctor”
Thank you for all of this helpful information. I have been struggling with fatigue and pain (pins and screws in both feet that don’t feel that great either) since I was 30 years old. I was working on a unit that I saw people being able to retire from but it has all changed drastically. Not only can I not keep up doing the normal amount I did before but they want us to be able to do more. I have to be able to lift 50 to 100 pounds and circulate 50-60 surgical patients through a 14 bed unit. I am devastated at the idea of being disabled but I am. I used to be a rockstar nurse that gave all my energy to my job, but I can’t even do that, not even part time. I am burned out and crashing before I have even started. I have been trying to “snap out of it” and I have been giving my regular doctor mixed messages but I need to stop doing that. In my growing up years if you cried or complained and you were not bleeding to death they would scream for you to shut up and beat the crap out of you. This is kind of sick, but the pain from the abuse got my mind off of what was hurting me and gave me an endorphine spike sometimes afterwards. I am tired and I need to start taking care of myself…really take care of myself. I have been in the medical field taking care of people for 25 years and it has been a great privilege but I don’t’ know how to do anything else. I thought I could go back to school, but I can’t sit long enough to really get the work done. I need help and I hope that my doctor can help me do this before I become totally unemployed and homeless.
I have been on mental disability for about 8 months and my review is on Feb, r mths away. I try to seem the same but always tell the psychiatrist I feel better sometimes, but in reality it’s just gotten worse. Im embarrassed and afraid to tell the real issues because I do t want to be hospitalized or keep changing medications because I pay out of pocket until 24mths. I know I should tell everything, but after hiding it for 34 years and made to feel like a liar or totally insane or a danger to myself, it’s EXTREMELY difficult!
I’ve been very ill for over ten years, yet still hadn’t learned some of the lessons about showing others how ill I am. Sadly I’ve been to _____ (I don’t know what, proud, ashamed, in denial ?) to let most others know. This page was super important and useful to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Thank you beth 🏵️ 🌼💛
I can’t imagine not dumping on my docs! I always hooe some tidbit will jog their memory and they’ll think of something new!
But I never really expect them to think outside their box. That’s my job.
also, its really worth it to get a better doctor. Mine sucked and I put up with it for years. Finally switched and I am so glad. The new one is fantastic. Actually listens
So very true! We live the pain every day – and to speak of it defies our struggle to appear normal! So very true!