Talking Candidly with My Pulmonologist About My Mental Health

Mental health is a topic that has gotten a lot of attention over the last few years. Many celebrities have disclosed their struggles with depression, addiction, and other struggles, and countless “influencers” endorse therapy, often providing discount codes for online counseling services.

I have been a proponent of therapy for a long time and have seen a counselor on and off for most of my life. In fact, my advanced degree is in Professional Counseling, so you could say I know a thing or two about it.

That being said, I do not think discussions about mental health should be limited to the therapist's office. I believe it is just as important to talk with my other healthcare providers about how my chronic illnesses are affecting me.

My pulmonologist cares about my overall health

I have a wonderful pulmonologist and a great working relationship with him. One of the things I appreciate about him is his concern for me as a person, not just as a person with asthma.

At the beginning of every appointment, he asks how I am doing. He is not just referring to how my asthma is doing though, he is asking about ME; how I am doing. We eventually get to the whole asthma stuff, but his concern for my well-being, as a whole, is refreshing.

I have been with my pulmonologist for many years. During that time he has seen me at my best and at my worst. He has taken care of me in the ICU and celebrated life successes with me. Because we have been through so much together, I feel more than comfortable sharing with him.

Talking about my mental health with my asthma doctor

I have struggled with anxiety and depression for many years, and some of those struggles are directly related to my asthma and asthma treatment. I have PTSD from a stint in the ICU when my lungs were shutting down. One time I had psychosis as a result of taking steroids for an asthma exacerbation. And I have experienced the burnout that comes with having a severe chronic illness. All of these things play into my asthma treatment, not just the physical aspects of treatment, but the mental as well.

My pulmonologist is acutely aware that my asthma is much more than just lung function and medications, that is why he begins every visit by asking how I am doing. I always answer him honestly. Much of the time I am able to tell him that things in my life are going well and that I am thriving and enjoying being alive. But there are other times that I admit to him that I am struggling. Many times it is not necessarily my asthma that I am struggling with, but life circumstances in general.

Grateful to be treated as a whole person

I share with him when I am struggling with depression, which is important because I sometimes have a hard time taking my meds when I am depressed. I texted him the other day because I was anxious that I was developing another blood clot. He quickly and easily assured me that it was highly unlikely, listing out the reasons why.

I could never begin to express how thankful I am to have him as a doctor, but it is not a one-way street. His reassurance and genuine concern for me comes as a result of my openness and honesty with him about how I am doing. Asthma treatment comes in many forms and I am glad my doctor acknowledges that and strives to treat me as a whole patient, not just someone with asthma.

Have you discussed your mental health with your asthma doctor?

Does your doctor ever ask about your mental health? Do they take into account your mental well-being when considering treatment options? Have you ever had a doctor tell you that mental health was not important to your treatment? Let us know in the comments!

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