Shatterbox’s post about welfare services & meetings inspired me to write a bit about the numerous types of meetings I’ve had about my health in the last few years.
I’ve had to have meetings with GPs, Counsellors, CBT Therapists, Occupational Health Services, Line Managers, Section Managers, and Personnel Services. The anticipation of such meetings can make you feel a bit like this:
Here are some of the ways I prepare myself for these meetings:
- Take in Written Notes
This may sound like overkill, but during the worst patches of my depression I would be in tears within seconds of trying to talk about my health, and the written notes allowed me to get my points across even when I was too distressed to speak. They also mean I don’t forget any important points or issues, and can steer discussions back to the areas I want to talk about. My current therapist actually found it pretty useful as it meant she had my case history in my words to refer to.
- Take Someone With You
I found it very helpful to have my boyfriend with me when I went to see my GP about anti-depressants, as I was still coming to terms with being diagnosed with depression, and it meant my boyfriend understood the situation as well. I have found it even more important to have support in my meetings at work with managers, personnel and occupational health. At one point I was having meetings with three senior managers and a rep from personnel at the same time! Four to one in a meeting does NOT help when you’re already feeling very vulnerable. I got my trade union involved and have a union case worker who attends meetings with me, which has been tremendously useful. Just knowing someone else is there with my interests in mind makes it easier to cope. If you’re not in a union then you could ask about taking a colleague with you to meetings instead.
- Talk It Over Beforehand
I also found it good to talk over the issues that were likely to come up beforehand with someone sympathetic. One of my counsellors helped me prepare for meetings about returning to work after a three month absence by discussing what might be a sensible return to work schedule and if there were any duties that would need to be monitored etc. At other times I’ve talked to family, friends and colleagues, depending on who would know the most about the particular situation. It helps me work out what I want to say and what I might want to put in writing.
- Avoid Worst Case Scenario Thinking
This one is very hard to do, especially if you’ve already had a bad experience with the people you’re meeting, and it’s only now that I’m in CBT that I’m beginning to get the hang of it myself. I have a tendency to dwell on whether I’ll get upset, whether they’ll listen to me, whether I’m failing to meet certain standards or expectations… all classic anxious/depressive thought patterns. When I catch myself thinking like this I have to challenge those thoughts – have all my meetings gone badly? No. Have I always got upset? No. Have I usually managed to get my points across due to my preparations? Yes.
Some appointments go well and some don’t, but they’re hoops I need to jump through so I might as well prepare for them.