YOU Can Be The Head Of Your Care Team: You psychiatrist or other medical/psychological provider has critical skills to offer you. That does not mean that you have to simply give up control of your life in order for them to help you. In reality, it should be exactly the opposite. The more involved you want to be in your own care, the more your care provider will be able to help you to help yourself. The more accurate and complete information your care provider has about your situation, the more he/she will be able to diagnose and treat you correctly. When it comes to your professional provider, YOU WILL GET EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE, AND NO MORE. By assigning to yourself the role of Care Team Leader, you can regain and keep a good measure of the control that all trauma survivors need, while accessing the help that many people may have to give you.
Continuing To Embrace The Suck Is Not An Option : Some people are reluctant to help themselves, and may use the excuse that “it’s my life, so if I don’t want to help myself, it’s no one else’s business. It’s my option. ” Dr. Croft and I take a somewhat different view of that issue. While your body may belong to you in the biological sense, no one’s life truly belongs to them alone. What happens in your life profoundly affects the people around you. Your PTSD can seriously and negatively affect the mental health of your spouse and your children. I have worked with families in which as many as 5 children became severely mentally ill, simply because a parent would not treat and manage his/her own PTSD. By contrast, your efforts to help yourself, by creating and implementing a care plan, may save your marriage and the mental health of your children, in addition to creating a much better life for yourself.
You Have A Real Medical Illness, So Manage It : If you had cancer, or heart disease, or diabetes, or epilepsy, you wouldn’t be ashamed or reluctant to get treatment. PTSD is no different. Like many medical diseases, PTSD does not get better with time, if you ignore it. Additionally, research shows that untreated PTSD actually contributes to several physical illnesses, especially cardio-vascular and heart problems. So developing and carrying out a care plan for PTSD actually is, in a very real sense, part of your own health maintenance, and your family’s.
Avoid Diagnostic and Medication Errors By Being Actively Involved In Your Care Plan: Many people with PTSD take a very passive approach to their own care. They may passively accept whatever care is dished out to them, often because they do not realize that all methods of care are NOT equal. They likely do not know when they may have a legitimate complaint, or how to know if their treatment is not working well, or whether they have a right to something better than they are receiving. In other cases, patients are not pro-active in their care because passive acceptance may actually be a symptom of their illness. Particularly if they are sexual assault survivors, former captives, or survivors of childhood abuse, simply “accepting” whatever an authority figure says may be what they believe they must accept. This may be a coping behavior that has become imprinted in their psyche – a “leftover” from prior states of helplessness. Still other persons may feel that it is “not up to them” to be involved in their care. Why not? It’s YOUR BRAIN and YOUR LIFE. We cannot think of two better reasons to be involved. Choosing, instead, to pursue care and to be truly involved in your carecan not only yield real benefits, but can also avoid common problems. No physician or mental health care provider can offer you good care if you do not provide good information to them to work off of. “Garbage in, garbage out,” as the saying goes.
Inadequate or inaccurate information can affect your provider’s ability to nail down a correct diagnosis. Sometimes, the same symptom can be a part of more than one kind of illness. If, for example, you simply say that you are tired, fatigued and withdrawn, and provide no more information, your provider may diagnose you with depression. But if you provide more information, for example, about your nightmares. flashbacks, hypervigilence and sensory arousal, then the same symptoms you first described may appear to be symptoms of PTSD, rather than depression. It’s important that you be specific, especially because a difference in diagnosis may also translate into a difference in medication or treatment method.
Inadequate or inaccurate information can affect your provider’s ability to prescribe proper medication. Today, there are numerous drugs that are used in the treatment of PTSD. It is VITAL that you remain actively involved in your care if you want to ensure that the drug which you receive is a drug that is right for you. Ask questions of your provider: What drug are you prescribing? Why do you think it is a good drug for ME? How, exactly, does the drug work in my system? What should I expect the drug to do, and over what period of time? What are its side effects? Expect knowledgeable answers to these questions before taking any medication. Do not leave your doctor’s office without those answers.
If you don’t have this information, then you won’t know what to expect from the drug you are taking, and therefore may not be able to tell if a drug is working up to par or not. You may spend months uselessly continuing to take a drug, without experiencing improvement, if you don’t exercise the initiative to ask your provider, “is this normal?” With some personal involvement on your part, you will know how long to wait before reporting to your doctor that the drug is, or is not working for you, or that you are experiencing negative side effects. If that is the case, your doctor or provider will WANT TO KNOW, because a change in dosage may be needed, or a change in medication may be required. Always remember, that even though you may not be an expert on medication, you are the expert on how you feel.
Staying actively involved in your care plan, asking questions, respectfully demanding answers if you don’t receive them, and making a real effort to provide accurate and extensive information to your care provider, will help ensure that your provider can make the best decisions about how to treat your condition.