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HELP! I'm killing myself with worry.
Apr 14, 2003

Hi! I found out I was HIV positive back in 1992, probably infected in 1991. My t-cells have slowly fallen over the years from 700 then, to 325 last month. My percentage has stayed in between 21-24 the last couple of lab tests and my last viral load was 350, and that has never gone over 4000 in all my years of being positive. I haven't started HIV meds yet, my doc says I still have time to wait. About 8 weeks ago I had a bad stomach flu or food poisining that I was sick from for over two weeks. It really scared me because everytime I get sick, I worry that it's HIV related but my doctor says my t-cells are too high for it to be HIV related. I'm not sure if that scared me so bad that now I'm depressed and have anxiety attacks or if I'm really sick. I ended up going to see a gastroenterologist and had every test they have done and everything was normal. I also had every stool sample done possible and they were all negative. Know my stomach always feels upset and nauseous, I have diarrhea, I think about getting sick with HIV all day, I'm total consumed with thoughts that I'm getting sick. I get dizzy and light headed and feel like crying all the time. It would seem like if i'm just depressed and having anxiety I would have done it back in the early 90's when I first was diagnosed, why am I having this now... I sometimes think because statistically after 11 years of being HIV positive and not on meds, I should be sick from HIV or should show some symptoms. I have to be constantly reassured that I'm ok and I don't have some crazy OI. I can't really talk to other people about this because they think It's HIV and I'm probably getting sick. Should I be looking into depression medication and something to control my anxiety? Or, should I go talk to someone professional. I just feel like talking to people who are don't have HIV, don't understand what it's like.

Tony

Response from Mr. Shernoff

There is no time table for if and when one begins to experience symptoms of psychological distress relatd to living with a life threatening illness like HIV, especially if you have been healthy enough not to have to begin medication. Most people find that having to live with uncertainty can cause them psychic distress. This sounds like it may be the case for you.

Yes, I think your consulting a mental health professional who specializes in working with people living with HIV is an excellent idea. If talk therapy alone does not help you, then perhaps beginning some kind of psychiatric medicaiton may also help alleviate the symptoms that are understandably troubling you. Additionally, you may find joining a group for people with HIV to be hlepful as well.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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