Understanding how my personality affects my life as a patient

Good self-awareness can improve communication and lead to advocacy

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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Describing myself has always been a challenge. I’m as complex as the next person, but I feel like I’ve been a chameleon my entire life, always adapting to my surroundings to survive.

That drive to survive is how I’ve become edgy, direct, and an advocate for various causes. This edge has also served me well while battling neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD). I’ve taught myself to reserve my personal emotions unless sharing them would benefit the greater good.

Raised as modest and introverted, I’ve always believed that if I did what was expected, life would turn out OK. I grew up loving the stage because I could work on becoming an extrovert. Only those closest to me now might recognize that shy, perfectionist kid driving my decisions, juxtaposed with the assertive self-advocate who is passionate about her beliefs and values.

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What if I ever tire of being this fighting chameleon? What if I just want to be a patient? What if I let the inner soft version of me finally take over? Would this shift be the same as giving in to NMOSD?

Over the years, I’ve met other patients who display this same perseverance to survive, and I’m in awe of their strength. Perhaps their edge is a learned behavior, too, as we’ve all had to find it. If we want our lives to reflect any form of normalcy, we NMOSD patients are always testing our own strength. We don’t have time to crumble like a delicate flower every time we need to produce new bloodwork, lie still in an MRI machine, or endure a painful day without others around us knowing.

Sometimes as I fall asleep at night, I review my day and find it was exhausting. I have a horrible habit of saying yes to everyone, which catches up to me. I subscribe to my brother’s mentality, which is that we’ll have time to sleep when we’re dead.

I worry about how many good days I have left, and how much I can contribute to this world. I never know when NMOSD will rear its ugly head. So I push forward and try to fit in as much as I can every day.

Communication style matters

I’ve always found that effective communication lies at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, and my personality plays a pivotal role in how I express my concerns, comprehend medical information, and adhere to treatment plans.

When I’m feeling more extroverted, for instance, I might readily share my symptoms and concerns, while my true nature as an introvert may require a more inviting and empathetic environment to open up. On some days, I’m more of an analytical personality and require detailed explanations and scientific evidence.

Tailoring healthcare to individual needs

Recognizing the diverse spectrum of patient personalities underscores the importance of personalized and patient-centered care. Healthcare providers must adapt their communication styles, treatment approaches, and support strategies to accommodate the unique needs and preferences of each patient.

These shifts may involve employing varied techniques, such as motivational interviewing to engage reluctant patients, educational materials in various formats to cater to different learning styles, or mental health support services to address underlying psychological factors affecting health outcomes.

Over the years as an NMOSD patient, I’ve been fortunate enough to have amazing clinicians who did adapt their working style to support me.

Empowering patients through self-awareness

Beyond the healthcare provider’s role, fostering patient self-awareness can empower people to navigate the healthcare system more effectively. By understanding how each of our personality traits influence our health behaviors and decision-making processes, we patients can proactively advocate for our needs, communicate more effectively with our healthcare teams, and take ownership of our health journey.

I’ve found various learning tools and assessments online that have helped me discover my personality traits, which I’ve then communicated with my medical team. But only on my extroverted days.

Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder.


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