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Apathy - What can help ?
Nov 1, 2000

My husband was diagnosed HIV positive in late 1999 .I am still negative thus far . He has had a difficult time adjusting to his diagnosis . For one year he has used HIV as an excuse for letting his life slide . Some examples are as follows : He will run out of medication and wait three days to walk to the pharmacy to get the script filled , he didn't show up for Jury Duty or respond to the request , he was arrested for drunk driving , is in default for credit card bills not because we don't have the money to pay but he doesn't take the time to deposit the money or mail the check , he forgot to change the oil in the car and nearly burnt out the motor of our 1 yr. old car . If I don't take care of EVERYTHING in our life it won't get done so I do everything and resent it . His general attitude right now is Fuck it and Fuck everyone . He is still able to function and get to work but he is taking too many sick days ( when he isn't sick ) and I fear next he will lose his job . I love my husband . He is my soul mate spiritually emotionally and sexually . He is so handsome and charming .In some ways a Peter Pan complex is endearing but not caring about anything ever isn't. How can I help him to see that this moment is all ANYONE of us have and that his life is worth taking responsibility for ?Before the diagnosis he was responsible and active . He chose to fight and live yet one foot seems to be in this world with the other out the door . The situation is so old and stale that I'm ready to leave despite the love I have for him . He's burning me out because I work as well as trying to make sure everything is done . This is complicated by guilt because he tested positive and I did not .I feel guilty because he is dealing with this virus and I am not . Any advice would be appreciated .

Sincerely , Bobby

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Dear Bobby,

Why on earth would you feel guilty because you are not positive and he is? I think you need help to work this through. The only good thing you told me was that at least you are thinking of leaving him. Good for you. Why would you want to stay with such a self-indulgent person, regardless of his HIV status? I certainly would not, and I am HIV-positive!!! He sounds like he is acting like a tantrum-throwing baby, and you are indulging him because he has HIV. Hundreds of thousands of us live with HIV and don't let our lives fall apart. He really has to get over himself.

He also sounds depressed. At this point all I think you can do is to let him know that you are so hurt, and frustrated that you are thinking seriously of leaving him. I would use this leverage to demand that he see a mental health professional who is an expert in working with people with HIV.

If he gets his depression treated with a combination of talk therapy and antidepressant medication, then it is very likely that he will begin to invest himself in taking care of his life. He is certainly not taking care of any of your emotional needs.

If he refuses to go for help, then in order to take care of yourself you may need to seriously think about leaving him. This may be the only thing that will get through to this self-pitying, infantile acting person. HIV is not a reason to wallow in self-pity, act out your anger at the world by shirking your responsibilities and making the lives of people you love miserable. He needs to hear all of this from you. You can also tell him that a person who has been living with HIV for over 20 years does not have any pity for him, thinks that he is acting like an ass-hole, and that he should get his butt off the pity pot he has been wallowing on and get help to return to the world of the living. He needs to learn how to live with HIV and stop acting like he is dying from AIDS. Even if he was dying, that would not be an excuse for how he is acting.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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