Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.
If you’ve been recently diagnosed, one piece of advice you’ve most likely been given, by your physician or your loved ones, is to get informed about your health condition and its treatment.
How’s that going? Good? Not so good?
Gathering information is one of the hardest things to tackle when you are first diagnosed. Sure, you want to know enough about your condition and its treatment to take care of yourself. But maybe not enough to feel like managing your condition will be an overwhelming job. And you might not want to learn anything that could make you feel scared about the future.
Too much information?
If information causes you to become anxious or depressed, then chances are you may also be wondering if it’s worth knowing it. So finding your way to the best information may not be the only challenge. You might also be battling your own emotional resistance.
And what’s your doctor’s position on information gathering? Some doctors encourage their patients to get informed. Others tell them to stay off the Internet, out of concern they will become misinformed and overly alarmed. What’s your doctor advising you about getting informed? And do you agree?
You might be checking out some of the blogs that individuals living with your condition have started. Here’s another question: can you trust what they are saying?
Getting informed can be complicated, right? If you’re hesitant to get informed about your diagnosis, here are some ideas to think about:
First, it’s normal to avoid information. Humans want to be in control of everything that happens in their lives, and chronic conditions are reminders that we aren’t in control. So it’s only natural that you might want to avoid information that reminds you of where you don’t have control. Information that might even scare you. But also keep in mind that by being informed, you can be more aware of where you do have control through managing your self-care. Information opens the door to knowing where you can have a positive impact!
Ask your doctor for suggestions. Your doctor may have some favorite websites that he/she recommends to patients. He/she may also have some printed information to give you, like pamphlets, which may also include a list of suggested resources, including websites. This is a good starting place.
Stick with reputable sources. As you probably know, not everything you see or read is from a source that you can trust. So you might want to start out with well-known websites of organizations dedicated to serving individuals with your diagnosis, like the American Diabetes Association. These sites will also include resource lists with other information resources. And don’t forget, we have plenty of information and news articles right here on Diabetic Connect!
Buddy up with someone. It can help a lot to have a friend or family member join you in gathering information about your condition and its treatment. But choose someone who is also looking for reputable information and who isn’t going to try to scare you with information about the worst possible outcomes.
Think of information as a way to help your doctor. You and your physician are members of the same team, and the goal of that team is to keep you healthy. When you stay informed, you are better prepared to speak the same language as your doctor. Information also better prepares you to ask questions and to keep your doctor informed about anything he/she needs to know about your health. And, who knows, you may even learn something your doctor needs to be aware of.
As the saying goes, it’s better to know than not to know. Information is your friend, not your enemy. So take ownership of your information gathering. Remember: Information is power!
Where do you turn for trusted information about your health condition? Help our community by sharing your best sources in a comment below.