I’ve done several posts on the importance of filling out an Appointment Preparation Worksheet which you can download for free by clicking here.  But, that’s only one half of the equation.

The other half of the story is making sure that when you tell the provider what’s going on with you and what you need help with, that you clearly understand what they are suggesting to you.

I developed an Appointment Summary Worksheet to help you do just that:  get the facts straight first so that then you can figure out if what they are suggesting is a match for your needs.

Let me give you a real life example from a courageous client of mine.  He struggles with serious depression and has been in remission for many years.  Unfortunately, he had a serious setback which really “took over” his life in a debilitating way.

Those of you who have struggled with depression may know that its symptoms are often confusing and pervasive. This client was having a lot of trouble describing what was going on with him and he called me because he couldn’t fill out his Appointment Preparation Worksheet in a way that made sense to him.  He felt paralyzed, confused and overwhelmed YET also on top of his game enough to know he needed help.  He had the insight to know he needed to see his therapist and scheduled an appointment.

I am honored that he chose me by scheduling an appointment so I could help him fill out his Worksheet ahead of time. I have a gift for helping others find language for things that can be very difficult to describe and it is my privilege to share that with others.  He could have also chosen to call a close friend or family member.

The point:  When you need help and don’t know how to describe what you’re experiencing, ask someone you trust for help.

The Appointment Preparation Worksheet states:  “Describe Your Current Symptoms”. I asked him some follow up questions and here were his answers to me.  As he told me his story, I typed his answers onto the form.

“Anxious when I wake up in the morning, have difficulty moving and getting to the bathroom, then feel overwhelmed with details.

Force myself to exercise which helps until I get to the cool down.  Hard cardio is especially helpful.  When I cool down, all the anxiety comes flooding back in as I think of everything I have to do during the day.

I remember my precious cat who was recently killed, and think of all the other losses in my life, I can’t stop crying, I can’t meditate, I lose my appetite.

I take my anti-anxiety medication and feel better for about 3 hours and then it starts all over again.”

The second question on the Appointment Preparation Worksheet is:  “Additional Symptoms/Changes/Questions you have”

v  He told me what medication he was currently on and that he was staying away from toxic people, taking his vitamins, drinking water, and taking simple action.

v  He said he wanted help with getting off the anti anxiety medication and figuring out what had him so triggered that he felt so depressed.  He said he wanted to focus on his work again and wondered who he needed to talk to or see to get some help with this?  Was he in the right place to get through this?”

The therapist was so impressed with the form that she asked whether he’d mind if she kept her copy for his records. He was thrilled to have given her useful information that she could refer back after his visit and they scheduled a return appointment.

He then explained to his therapist that he wanted to send her a summary of what she had heard her say to makes sure he had gotten it straight.  She requested that he send this to her by pdf.

He was kind enough to copy me in on his Appointment Summary Worksheet to show me how it worked for him, wanting to make sure he had the story straight.

Here’s what he said:

The Appointment Summary Worksheet asks: “What did the provider say:” Here is his response.

v  Look at the losses that led up to the situation before you found yourself feeling so depressed before your pet was killed?

v  Go back through your history since you’ve seen me last, using a calendar if it is helpful to see whatever changes, losses, insults, difficult things that took place leading up to this event?

v  Think about how your children were affected by your behavior:  what they saw were symptoms of your illness, not the real you and you can follow up with them in an appropriate way to repair those hurt feelings they felt from seeing you in so much pain.

The next question on the Appointment Summary Sheet reads:  What are the next steps for you? Here is his answer:

v  Contact psychiatrist’s office on Thursday and give the nurse an update on my condition.  Maintain anti anxiety medication and ask her advice about continuing it, clarifying dosage and ask about what to do about insomnia.  Ask if I need an appointment.

v  If suicidal thoughts are present, ask for an appointment as soon as possible.  Let them know I’m continuing with social worker and have an appointment next Monday.

v  Look at the individual disappointments, losses, insults, and hurts using a calendar that led up to my current feelings.

He emailed the Appointment Summary Worksheet to his therapist who will either email him back that he got it straight or correct it and he’ll send a revised copy.  If he ends up seeing his psychiatrist again, he’ll bring this approved Appointment Summary Worksheet with him.

Notice how this works:

Preparation Helps:  He went to his appointment with this therapist fully prepared with a list of his symptoms, concerns and questions.  When he got there, he handed it to her as he was too upset to talk and felt it would save time.

Listening Carefully:  She gave him some things to think about which he is now verifying by using the Appointment Summary Sheet

Verifying The Information:  He will submit the Appointment Summary Worksheet via email to his therapist first to make sure he got it straight.

Following Up:  He will wait for her feedback or contact her in 3 days and be sure she received it.

Think It Through:  He will do his assignments, prepare his answers for his next Appointment Preparation Worksheet with his therapist and share his Appointment Summary Worksheet with his psychiatrist if he chooses to see him.

Sounds like a lot of work huh?  Well, that’s one way to look at it.  The other way to look at it is taking this in small steps de-constructs a previously life threatening condition and makes it manageable and has the potential to create a more satisfying life.  I’d say that’s well worth some attention that actually takes very little time to do once you get in the habit.

Notice the effects:

The System Works:  The patient and all providers are all up to date on what’s going on with his mental health  Everyone is well informed about the medications and psychological issues that have led to his condition

Patient Power:  The patient is doing his homework by looking at what individual issues may be contributing to his depression.

Notice the longer range effects.  This is the biggest bonus – the patient is now getting the healthcare he deserves from competent providers who are willing to use their professional expertise and direct it specifically towards what he needs. Hopefully, the patient’s symptoms will continue to improve as he continues to participate in partnering with his providers.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

Think about your own well being.  Maybe your issue is more physical in nature like diabetes, obesity, migraines, fibromyalgia, or heart disease.  Perhaps you have a combination of things going on such as depression as a result of dealing with chronic pain or celiac disease.

Maybe you don’t even know what the problem is but you know something is bugging you though you can’t put your finger on it.  It may be a knee injury that keeps acting up or maybe it’s a result of some surgery that isn’t healing quite right.

My point:  Whatever it is, you can deal with it with competent healthcare by giving clear information and making sure you understand the recommendations that have been given to you. I have given you one of the tools with the Free Appointment Preparation Worksheet.

That is only half of the equation though because you must be sure you understand what is being recommended. You do that by using the Appointment Summary Worksheet which is part of the instantly download-able eBook Patient Power:  Get the HealthCare You Deserve.  Along with the other simple to use Worksheets that take very little time and energy, you have an opportunity to take charge of your health and get your needs met.

4 Responses to “Depression Case Study: Why It’s So Important To Get the Story Straight”

  1. Linda Resca Says:

    What a great service you provide w/your appointment organizer forms Char ! When someone is experiencing the equivalent of a hurricane, inside of them, it’s near impossible to feel organized in a way that will get your needs met during the dr. appt. ! I’m sure your forms bring a sense of relief and ease for the patient.

    Thank you,

    Linda

  2. Havi Brooks (and duck) Says:

    I agree with Linda (hi Linda!) — this is super helpful and really important. It was also helpful to read the responses here and see how useful it is to be guided through this.

  3. Char Brooks Says:

    Havi and Linda:

    Thank you so much for your comments. I am glad it was helpful to see how these simple tools can make getting the healthcare you deserve more attainable.

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