• Lifes Apprentice

How to go to your GP for help?

I've recognised that I have a problem, now what do I do?

If your life is being impacted negatively by your thoughts, feelings, behaviours or all of the above then its time to grab your metaphorical balls and make an appointment with the GP.

How to make an appointment?

Now, I know that actually picking up the phone and making the call is a mighty task for some people. I didn't make my first GP appointment, the therapist I was seeing at the time did it for me. You shouldn't feel shameful for not being able to do certain tasks that may be categorised as 'normal' or 'simple', because to some of us they're not.

If you are struggling to make the call, I would recommend either:

  • Asking someone you trust to make the call for you

  • Check your GP surgery's website in case they have an email and email them for an appointment.

  • Try being an imposter!- I've used this trick before and I have to say, it is so much easier and makes me feel a lot more relaxed. Call your GP surgery and ask if you can make an appointment on behalf of someone else. All you will be asked for is a name, address and then be given the available appointments. This way, it takes any personal connection out of the conversation and if the receptionist does ask for a reason for the appointment, you can say without any embarrassment that you think they may be depressed. At the end of the day, depression is just a word, nothing more.

I have my appointment, now what?

Here are my tips to you on what to say when you are going for your appointment and what to expect.

  1. Make a list beforehand of any changes in your thoughts, feelings or behaviours that are affecting your negatively.- note everything down, even things you might not think matter. (try the exercise on my blog post, How to fix everything?)

  2. Take something to distract you. Feelings of dread and increased anxiety are completely normal! You are about to go and talk to a complete stranger about the shit going on for you. It would be strange not to feel anxious as hell. Take your phone with a good game on it, a stress ball, even a piece of blue tack. Something that will take away some of your nervous energy.

  3. Keep it simple. Expect to be asked outright 'What can I do for you? or 'What is troubling you today?'- my response to this question was complete silence because, how do you answer that when you are feeling so nervous and really want to get all of the worries of your chest, but don't know where to start? Try answering this question, with "I have been feeling really down lately" or "I'm worried that something is wrong with my mental health" or "I have noticed/ been told by others that I am acting differently and am not myself" This is the hardest bit- getting the conversation started.

  4. Write down your list of symptoms. The GP will then ask you "why do you think this?" or "what has been going on for you?". Better still, they may not leave the question as open-ended and begin to ask specific questions about each area of your life in order to get a picture of any symptoms. If you find it difficult to speak as I do. Write what you want to say down on paper and simply give it to them. Trust me when I say that they will be grateful for the information instead of a long silence. And if you're like me, you will be able to express yourself more in writing them in talking.

5. Be aware that you will be asked questions on your:

  • physical health

  • sleeping patterns

  • eating patterns

  • alcohol and drug use

  • current mood

  • social life

  • home life

  • relationships

  • work/ education

  • hobbies

6. Be honest- From the answers you give, the GP is likely to have a more rounded picture of what is going on for you at the moment. Within the categories above, they are likely to ask about certain emotions, behaviours and thoughts and for an accompanying time period. Be honest and if you don't know, just have a rough guess.

7. If they haven't asked you about something in which you think may be important, don't be afraid to say "I don't know if this is relevant or not, but i..." Even if it isn't relevant, you will feel at ease knowing.

What will happen after I tell the GP? If the GP comes to the conclusion that you are suffering from a mental illness, they will inform you about the appropriate form of treatment.

The following could be a possible outcome:

  • medication

  • talking therapy

  • being referred onto a specific department, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Whatever it is, take it, or at least consider it.

Do your research, weigh up the pro's and cons and ask someone close to you for their opinion.

Getting treatment on the NHS is hard to come by and if it means getting on a waiting list for talking therapy, get your ass on that list because you could be waiting a long time for it.

What if I don't know what to do or I am just too anxious to make a decision? It's easy for me to say all of this, especially if you have just been diagnosed with a mental health condition. I understand that it is a lot to digest. Maybe, taking someone you trust with you could be helpful, as they will be a more reliable party to take in any information. If you can't make a decision then, ask to make another appointment with them, so you can go home and think about your options.

At the end of the day, it is your decision what you do with a diagnosis. It is like when you go for your eyes tested and get a prescription at the end of it. You don't necessarily have to get your glasses from that shop, you have the option to look around and come back if you wish. However, depending on the severity of your condition, age and diagnosis, this may not be an option.

Do not forget! Your GP is there to help you, not hurt you or make things worse, so ask questions or voice your concerns if you have any. They will advise you.

Ultimately, going for help proves that you are aware that something is wrong and if not want, you at least realise that you need to get better in order to live a life worth living.
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