Learning Self Care
Currently, I have a goal to support all global efforts to raise awareness about Multiple Sclerosis. With 12 weeks left I feel the best way to help is go back to 2010 at the beginning of my diagnosis with MS. At the beginning of my journey with MS I didn't even know what it was, and didn't believe I had it. As I was being medically discharged from the military for it I was eligible for compensation. I started a daily, detailed record of all my symptoms to get an accurate understanding of what was truly going on. Bringing awareness to my symptoms did increase them somewhat but overall I am so thankful I did. It took my initial response of denial to acceptance, which lowed stress significantly. It helped my doctors better understand my complex circumstances, and I made my health a shared responsibility. Furthermore, it increased my compensation, and opened the door for me to get the help I needed. No one wants a mis-diagnosis!
Instead of directing you to the free resources and templates of medical diaries to collect your information, I am going to list the things you may want to consider. Keep your daily records in a folder, binder, use a notebook, or better yet use your phone so you can add to it anytime. I have used an appointment book with 15 minute increments in the past when I was dealing with so many symptoms at once. Bring your daily, detailed record of symptoms to your doctor appointments. Write your notes down as you speak with your doctor so they are all in one place. Write down the medications the doctor prescribed, and how to maintain compliance for maximum effect. Regardless if it is anxiety, MS, or high blood pressure keeping the detailed record will illuminate any issues or benefits when switching or trying new medications for a diagnosis. You have my permission to copy and paste the list below so you have it saved for your own use. There is a link to the PDF at the end.
Daily, Detailed Record of Symptoms
Date - An obvious one but especially important when your diagnosis takes years.
Time - Each symptom has a recorded time of onset.
Symptom- Describe each symptom the best way you can, include location. The doctors will be able to translate what that means medically. For example, if someone has chronic upper body pain distinguishing what type of pain is helpful (dull, stabbing, pins and needles, etc).
Level- Each symptom has a scale of intensity or pain 1 being the least and 10 being the worst. Be sure to include symptoms that come from mental processes as well, like anxiety or depression.
Medication - What it is and what for? When did you take it? What was the dosage? Also, report when or if you felt relief. A big thing to remember is to report side effects. For example, I felt like I was going to pass out every morning, and light-headedness could be linked to MS but it wasn't. The detailed log combined with reading the pharmacological report on my medications clarified the light-headedness was a result of low blood pressure from a new medication. I called my doctor, we took me off the medication, and got rid of the issue.
Environment- Symptoms can be linked to your environment. Having environmental awareness can clarify if a symptom is linked to the diagnosis or just an allergy, such as noticing a rash formed after you switched detergents. Also, weather may add symptoms to your list because of allergies. Acknowledging you are experiencing several symptoms at once is challenging yet knowing the history that some are from the diagnosis and some are just allergies helps copes more easily.
Diet- What you eat may effect or be linked to your symptoms. For example, if someone is experiencing incontinence or ulcerative colitis diet is a very influential component.
Stress Level - On a scale of 1 being the least and 10 being the worst. Also, just being more aware of your stressors can alleviate stress all on its own. Acknowledge everything going on. Include transitions.
Doctor Appointments - Everything being in one place really helps. Also, having your own log of your history and upcoming appointments for your records helps secure and carve out that time for your health.
Additional Notes - I have collected medical journals, articles, and clinical evidence that support my goal of being healthy, and pasted them in my daily record as they coincided with my symptoms. I still use they records and glad I kept them.
There are many powerful things you can do at the beginning of a diagnosis or chronic illness. Starting a daily, detailed record of all my symptoms helped me face my circumstances head on. It helped me cope with my symptoms and my doctors to better understand them, it increased my compensation, and opened the door for me to get the help I needed. If you or anyone you know is being diagnosed, or coping with a new chronic illness start your daily, detailed record of your symptoms or share this today.