Doctor fidelity doesn’t guarantee a successful mental health recovery, management or diagnosis.
I learned this the hard way.
I assumed, from my own medical experience, once you find a doctor, it’s a lifelong marriage. I rarely deviated from the same doctor. But what my role as a mental health carer has taught me is divorce is always a genuine consideration.
Medical professionals come and go. Some have specialties that don’t suit our needs. Some move away and practise too far for us to get to them. Some retire.
The rotation, addition, and removal of medical professionals are normal with mental health. It’s not a blight on your recovery, nor is it a reflection of your situation. It’s what happens, as guaranteed as death and taxes.
Having the right team around you is imperative, and these right people can be hard to find.
I’ve discovered the many virtues of the ‘right’ doctor. And when the wrong doctor comes along, it’s ok to break up and move on.
The Doctor Needs To Understand You
Some doctors don’t seem to get where you’re coming from. I’ve experienced this with basic pain. I tell them my knee hurts, and they can’t find a bruise, a broken bone or even a scratch to warrant my pain. They don’t understand why I would ‘complain’ and dismiss me.
For those with mental health issues, understanding forms the core of your treatment. You need to be able to express your thoughts with the guarantee of understanding.
I met a man whose doctor never actively listened to him. Every time he said something negative, the doctor nodded. When he said something positive, the doctor wrote it down. By the end of the sessions, the doctor painted a picture that wasn’t accurate.
“It was like I was speaking German”, the man told me. “The doctor didn’t get what I was saying. Or he was only hearing the version he wanted.”
More than ever, the same page becomes a priority. If a patient and doctor can’t align their versions of what is going on, it’s impossible to find a treatment plan. Let alone one that will work, or a diagnosis.
This man told me he hunted for a new doctor after that, which I thought was wise.
You Need To Get Along With Them
I don’t want my doctor to be my best friend, nor would I invite them round for dinner. Yet, I would like to think that I have a get along with well enough that I could if I wanted to.
The more I can see eye to eye with them, have a laugh with them about the small joys of life, the better I can open up to them. It’s part of the trust-building process. It’s part of the understanding process. If you don’t even like your doctor, how can you work with them?
In my experiences as a carer for someone suffering from mental health issues, the right doctor isn’t always the closest to you. Nor are they the one in the fanciest looking office.
It’s the one you trust. I couldn’t care if the doctor wears clothes I don’t like or votes for the opposite political party to me. But if I can’t complete an appointment without an argument, I don’t hesitate to move on.
Your Doctor Needs To Have Time For You
Waiting lists. We all know them. But for my loved one, living on the appointment waiting list has become commonplace. Checking the waiting list. Adding themselves to the waiting list. Waiting for the phone to ring to get into an appointment is painful. The longer you wait, the further you are from making the progress you need.
I’m currently on a waiting list for a psychologist appointment, and I’m not enjoying the trepidation. I can’t plan as much of my life as I would like, nor can I take steps to cope with my carer stress.
I shudder to think what it will be like once I finally do get to see them. How long will it take for me to able to get the next appointment? Will it be months?
I don’t expect any of my doctors to drop everything to see me. Yet, for mental health, we know how issues can spiral without the right team around us. The longer we wait, the worse issues can get. And right now, my stress isn’t easing with time.
Your Doctor Needs To Be Convenient
Travelling hours to attend a thirty-minute appointment isn’t ideal. Like any care, physical or mental, the more remote your care is to you, the less likely you’ll have access to it when you need it.
I met a woman recently who has to travel for two hours to see her partner in a mental health hospital. She goes there every day. An hour to drive there, two to three hours with her partner, and then an hour home. It’s exhausting. And her mentally ill partner can sense the burden and fatigue. The proximity to care isn’t helping either of them.
There needs to be a balance in finding someone right for you but isn’t far away either. There is nothing wrong with finding help closer to home, especially when living remote. Or when your living situation changes unexpectedly.
Doctors complete meticulous handovers. You can transfer into care closer to home and not completely go backwards in your journey. It’s their responsibility to ensure your care transitions appropriately. Most doctors will help facilitate this so the process is easy.
Your Doctor Isn’t Offended
The medical professionals helping you are professionals. If they’re anything like my psychologist, they will have a long list of patients waiting to fill your spot. If you need to find someone else, they won’t take it to heart.
They want you to get the help you need. They’ve told me that. They’ve expressed the importance of seeking help, wherever it may come. If you need to find someone else, it isn’t a breakup in the negative way we’ve come to know it. It’s a forward progression in my understanding.
Doctors, more than anyone, understand how personal the mental health journey is. The cookie-cutter approach is redundant. They want to help, but they know they might not be right for you.
My doctor is the best. But I recognise they’re the best for me and my loved one. And that my doctor might not suit everyone else.
The doctor isn’t the one with the health issues. You are. So always do what’s right for you. I don’t believe you can go wrong with happiness.
In my experience with mental health, I will refer to the person in my life as my “Loved One”. For their own health and happiness, I will not reveal their relationship to me, or call them by any gender. I want to respect their privacy.
I’m Ellen McRae, writer by trade and passionate storyteller by nature. I write about figuring out love and relationships through my own experiences. I’m from the school of hard knocks and studied at the University of Life. And I’m ok with that.