Patient 'Splaining and How to Make It Effective

Patient ‘splaining. We all do it. Heck, it’s part of the job description of a chronically ill person. When the doctor asks how I’ve been doing, I always answer with a monologue. Sometimes I so carefully construct this speech that I’m convinced I could win an Obie Award without stepping foot in New York. Or if not that, at least move my neurologist to applaud at the end. Alas no.

A neurologist that listens

I’m lucky to have a neurologist that listens. I think my primary care doc listens to about 70% of my blather. I’ve revised it several times to get her to listen more. A writer’s work is never done. Same goes for a performer. No matter what you are, there’s one important thing to remember. Consider your audience.

Tips for an MS neurologist appointment

Even a scientist needs you to cut to the chase. You’re the 15th patient she’s had to listen to that day and unless you are her first appointment in the morning, she’s only going to appear to be listening. Count on it. With that in mind, here are some attention-grabbers that will capture them from the get-go:

  • Make ‘em laugh. Nothing fancy. Your favorite meme, for example. Mine is by Lawrence Welk. There are good days and bad days, and this is one of them. Guaranteed they’ll make eye contact with you at the very least. If you can establish eye contact you’re halfway there.
  • There’s been a change... Now, how could a doc ignore that opener? Unless they’re psychopaths they’ve got to say something like: Oh yes? Tell me what’s going on.
  • Bring notes. But don’t let the doc see them. They’ll be relieved to see that you’re organized. But if they see a lot of writing that fills a page, they’ll tune you out before you open your mouth. The palm of your hand is nature’s iPad. Use it.

*Some other hacks that will better prepare you for an appointment that your doc will love:

Reminders for an efficient appointment

  • Remember to check your med refills before your appointment. How many times have you gotten to the end of an appointment and then been asked so do you need any prescription renewals today? Being prepared might save you an additional phone call.
  • Bring your most up-to-date medications list. I keep one on my computer and bring it up the day before my doc appointments. I scan it for accuracy and change the date in the heading to the appointment date (for the doc’s records) before saving the changes to a file name that reflects the date (for my records). That way, the next time I need to hunt for that list, I open the latest version.

So back to other forms of patient ‘splaining. If it’s not your doc then it’s going to be a family member, friend, or coworker asking how you are. This can be very different.

Crafting and controlling your story

Even if I’m talking to my closest confidant (my sister), I’m careful in crafting a response. Pretty much the same things apply as when I’m talking to my doc, only I can get more personal with my sister, naturally. But ‘splaining is performance art no matter who is the audience. In a way, you are a walking, talking journal in that you are in control of your story. But telling your story serves a slightly different function. A personal journal can include things for your eyes only and doesn’t have to follow any form. A monologue is a different version of your story. As a matter of fact, it can be a pack of lies if you wish it to be. There are no rules for your performance monologue. It serves you in the moment.

That is one surefire way to feel your power. To be in charge of yourself, your life, your story.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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