Note: This is adapted from a post I originally wrote for Enroll.com.
I’ve lived with a chronic illness for seven years, but I’ve learned some lessons from this experience that you can use if, heaven forbid, you get a short- or long-term illness. One lesson is to keep a health journal. Keeping a health journal eases tracking of symptoms and responses to treatment and allows you to practice what to say to health care professionals.
When you first suspect you have something more than a common cold, start writing down:
Practicing What to Say About the Illness
Use the journal to prepare for your appointment with your health care provider. Writing is a way to rehearse what to say. Highlight every symptom and anything else you’ve written that you want him or her to know, and take the journal to the appointment. The more concise and clear you are when describing your symptoms, the more time and comprehension he or she will have, both of which are necessary for an accurate diagnosis.
Tracking Responses and Appointments
Once treatment begins, continue tracking symptoms daily. Note the date you began the treatment; the name, dose, and frequency of the treatment; and the date of any dosage changes. Distinguishing new symptoms from side effects can be hard, so tracking is vital. Call your health care provider immediately if any serious complications arise.
My prayer is that soon you’ll be writing about your improved health in your journal, but if not, don’t stop journaling. Note every treatment tried and every appointment with your health care provider and any specialists. Summarize lab tests and procedures you undergo.
When sick, you might not feel like dwelling on it or spending your energy writing about it. However, a health journal will help you remember what’s going on with your body, help you talk to health care providers about your condition, and help them diagnose and treat the condition. Your health is worth the effort of journaling!
Photo: marsmett tallahassee, Flickr Creative Commons
Darla Nagel is an editor and writing tutor who has an invisible chronic illness. She wants to help other patients and enlighten health care professionals about our experiences. If you’d like to be alerted whenever she writes a new post, sign up by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darla copyedits biomedical research while living with an invisible chronic illness.