Experiencing bodily discomfort can be scary, especially if it’s new. At first, you may have no clue what to do. You start out talking to family and friends. Eventually, you consider a doctor. The first visit is more confusing and angering than you expected. Aren’t doctors supposed to be like vending machines? You get the sniffles, you go in and out comes an antibiotic or nasal spray? Why is this so complicated?
That’s because the journey to a diagnosis is a long, hard one. If you’re reading this I can guess you’ve been on WebMD self-diagnosing yourself with everything from leprosy to cancer. You may have even come across fibromyalgia by this point, and you might want to ask your doctor to test you for that. Don’t do that. Fibromyalgia is a diagnosis of exclusion, to be explored in later blog posts, as this is a somewhat controversial statement depending on where you live. It’s basically what you end up with after about a year of tests for everything but fibromyalgia. But there is a way to streamline your diagnosis journey.
For example, I have a severe form of fibromyalgia. It developed over a series of 3 years. There is, honestly, no use in me railing against the medical neglect I received that led to the lack of catching it before it progressed so far. Who knows what might have happened if doctors had seen the tan, fit, blonde pretty twentysomething with a mental health record’s complaints as valid back in 2016? I may have ended up just as severe as I am now. What I do want to do is give you a short regimen for gathering data should you find yourself in a similar predicament.
- Know what pain is.
I honestly didn’t know what pain felt like. As a small child, if I fell down and scraped my knee, my mother did not come over, pick me up, and kiss my booboos. Even when I developed endometriosis at age 14 I thought I was just sick to my stomach, light headed, and bleeding like crazy. I could describe what was going on poetically: “Something is clamping on me,” “this burns,” but I never thought of it as pain, because I was taught to ignore, belittle, and never admit pain from a young age. If you can describe what you feel in metaphors, think about people in movies or books experiencing similar situations and if they were described as being painful. If painful doesn’t work for you, think of “this hurts!” Answer “yes” when the doctor asks you if you are in pain if you can pass the metaphor, movie, or hurt test.
2. Keep a log of symptoms.
Buy a little pocket journal. When you get up every morning, write the date. Whenever you experience a symptom – nausea, vomiting, tingling, bowel movements – write the time and the symptom next to it under the date. Repeat. The point of the log is both for you to show the doctor and for you to learn patterns.
Track your exercise in your symptom journal. Do you feel dizzy or lightheaded? How long are you able to exercise? What type of exercise are you doing? Even if you’ve never exercised before in your life, do this anyway. It will give you a more accurate depiction of your endurance. You can even start off just walking at your local mall or around your neighborhood.
Log what you eat, when you eat, in your symptom journal. Your symptom journal should be written chronologically.
When you write your date in your journal, record what clothes you are wearing and when. Make sure you write down the fabric type of the clothing. This can be found on the tags inside your clothes. This can help you see if there is a pattern between what you’re wearing and whether that triggers a symptom. Numbers 2, 3, and 4 are good things to do post-diagnosis as well.
This 5 step list is great for any diagnosis journey, no matter what the diagnosis may be. Remember to be patient and kind to yourself, because most diagnoses take quite some time. It’s okay, many people have been there before, and get off of WebMD!