Being told how you are feeling or what you are thinking is not uncommon. In fact, your loved ones, doctors, and friends may all, at one point, tell you how you are feeling. They may even tell you why you are doing the things you are doing. If they are wrong, though, saying so is okay.
Interestingly enough, when you struggle with any form of a mental health diagnosis or a substance use disorder, doctors have no problem telling you that your symptoms are exaggerated and you are actually doing much better than you believe. Just because they have spent 12 years in education settings beyond high school does not make them an expert on your personal experiences. You are your own best expert, and standing up for yourself is often necessary.
Advocate for Yourself in Doctors’ Offices
Having to stand up for yourself in the face of experts is one of the most difficult things to be done. Not only could they potentially get angry with you, but having the self-reference and self-esteem to do so is difficult. When you are standing up for yourself in these situations, voicing your concerns and your truth may seem impossible. However, the truth is necessary for you to obtain proper treatment. Some doctors may belittle the experiences of people with mental health issues. While this belittlement is experienced and shared around treatment centers and in group settings, standing up to a health professional is difficult but not impossible.
Be aware that not every professional will belittle you. Sometimes, they are listening but do not know how to respond. These professionals who are trying to help you are people, just like us. They are doing the best they can. However, when their best is not good enough for your needs, advocating for yourself is important.
“No, that is not what I meant.”
“I believe what I said was…”
“I do not think you are understanding.”
Be careful not to offend. Their job is to help you, but your job is to peacefully advocate for your needs and make sure they are treating you in the best way possible. If, after explaining yourself, you are still unhappy with the care you are receiving, ask to be referred elsewhere. Try asking your mental health provider for a list of doctors who are willing and able to treat persons with your particular issues. Do not settle for second-class treatment.
Advocate for Yourself With Family and Friends
Our friends and family want what is best for us but do not always equate our current situation with what we are currently feeling and experiencing. Our friends and family have their own ideas of what we are experiencing derived from their history with us and our conversations with them about current issues. Because of a history of experiences, they may be assuming something about your current experience that is inaccurate. While they are trying to be helpful, this inaccurate understanding may create problems in your relationship.
The truth of the matter is they care very much about you and have watched you struggle with various issues. The miscommunication is frustrating but can be overcome. Again, overcoming struggles in relationships is about advocating for yourself. While your friends and family have insight, they do not always see the whole picture. So, advocate for yourself.
Using the statements listed above, try to communicate what you are experiencing. Understand how your friends and family have watched you struggle and therefore may not be seeing you as you are in this moment, but as you were before this issue arose. You do have the right to speak up.
Explain what is going on and ask them not to interrupt you. While they have the right to speak and share their opinions and feelings, you do, too. When the struggle of explaining becomes overwhelming, take a break and practice how you might explain your issues better.
One wonderful thing about family and friends is that once they understand your current issue, they will likely be interested in helping you. In fact, you might want to take them along to your doctors’ appointments and have another advocate in the room.
Things to Remember
You are not alone in battling your health or emotional issues. Your issues are unique to you, and you have the right to be treated as an individual instead of as a diagnosis. Your diagnosis will never define you. Your diagnosis can prove a hindrance in some situations, but the diagnosis should actually give you something to fight. You can get well. You can overcome. However you overcome your current issues, be they addiction to alcohol and/or other substances, mental health concerns, or invisible disabilities, you have the right to advocate for yourself and build a better life. Build the life you want, not the life others believe you can manage.
Invisible illnesses frequently create a challenge in our professional, medical, and interpersonal lives. However, learning how to advocate for yourself and being willing to ask for help and explain your needs will bring you closer to your goals of true well-being. You are not alone. Many people are willing to support you if you are willing to advocate for yourself and ask for help. If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol and/or other substance use issues, reach out to us at Renaissance Ranch for help. At Renaissance Ranch, we recognize the individual needs of every client and are eager to help them succeed in overcoming the issues they face. We offer assistance for every step of the recovery process. Now is the time to start advocating for yourself and be willing to ask for the help you need. Call us at (801) 308-8898 and begin the process of recovery today.