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Dissappointment
Mar 2, 2002

I am 27 years old. Was diagnosed in December of 2000. Before my diagnosis everything in my life was going the way I wanted - I had just obtained my professional qualification, had ended a very fruitless relationship and my social life was on the uphill. Before my diagnosis I was a very confident, cheerful and outgoing individual. I have always been an achiever all my life and my family have been very supportive and have always been very proud of me. I am doing very well professionally but since my diagnosis my self esteem has detoriarated and I do not work hard to go after the things I had set myself to acheive anymore. Lately I have began to think less of myself as a human being and everytime I think of the future I get dispondent and fall into a depression. As such I do not plan for the future anymore. I have developed feelings of envy and resentment towards most people as I feel somehow I have been robbed of something and I am suffering from a "why me" syndrome. I have not told my family or friends about my HIV status as I am not sure how they will react and I am not ready to disclose my status yet as I am still dealing with this myself. I know for sure that my family will have difficulty coming to terms with it at first but that they will be supportive ultimately. But I am very scared to dissapoint them as everything I have done so far has only made them proud and they highly regard me as their pride and joy and they have great expectations from me. My moods swing from anger, frustration, sadness and sometimes acceptance. I feel anger and betrayal at my ex-boyfriend for infecting me (I was negative before seeing him and he was my only sexual partner)but do not blame him because I am also responsible for my own well being. I am seeing a therapist and somehow he hasn't managed to help me to deal with these issues. Please help.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Two things seem clear. The shame you are experiencing from having gotten infected is really affecting you and preventing you from reaching out to your family and getting their support and love.

The other thing that is fueling the shame or being fueld by it is that you are in the midst of an understandable yet profound depression. The only thing I can advise you is to immediately seek help form a mental health professional who is skilled in working with people who have HIV. Unless you get the depression treated it will only continue to worsen. Left untreated depression can kill you eventually. That is not necessary as there are a wide assortment of anti-depressant medications that in combination with talk therapy can help you get better.

If left untreated your hopelessness, helplessness and powerless will only grow. I am not saying that learning to live with HIV is easy or is not a blow to one's self confidence and self esteem. But it is not any reason to become consumed with self pity either. I know becasue I have been living with HIV for almost 30 years.

My career has continued to evolve, I have had new love affairs begin, and my life continues to be rich, interesting and meaningful. So get on the horn and call your doctor and ask him or her to refer you to a very skilled mental health professional who has alot of experience in working with other people with HIV. Also call the local AIDS service organization and join a support group so that you can meet other men and women living with HIV and from whom you can learn and with whom you can share your struggles.

Please take these actions right away and don't delay. You do not have to continue to feel as poorly as you describe feeling. MIchael SHernoff, MSW



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