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"We are only as sick as our secrets."

Jun 16, 2003

I am so scared. i have been diagnosed two months ago because of reoccuring headaches and strange rashes as well as swollen lymph nodes. I think i might go crazy. i have been very paranoid and lashing out at my boyfriend for the stupidest of reasons. I have not told anyone but him and another friend. I cant imagine telling my family ever. i constantly feel great anxiety about everything in my life and am thinking about going on anti-depresants again. I have been diagnosed with permanent reoccuring depression. I have a CD4 of 480 and VL above 100,000 - my doctor says they don't measure above that. i dont know what I am going to do. I think i am more tired than usual, but i dont know if my mind is playing tricks on me. i dont feel sick. I am also loaded with many stresses right now and i feel like i might be making it worse.


Response from Mr. Shernoff

It is normal to be overwhelmed following a diagnosis of HIV. But since you told me that you have a history of depression, this is obviously exacerbating your reactions. You need alot of support right now, much more than just your boy friend can supply. You REALLY need to get yourself into counseling with a mental health professional who is very skilled in working with people who have HIV. Ask your primary care doctor to provide you with some names and then make appointments to interview a few and begin shopping for a therapist.

You also need to find a support group at the local AIDS service organization and join it, so that you will meet other POZ people and learn from and with other people who have been through what you are currently struggling with.

With your being in such a crisis and feeling in such a fragile emotional state right now, this may not be the best time to begin telling your family and other friends. But eventually you really need to do that, or else the burden you will be placing on your relationship with your boyfriend can become overwhelming and destructive.

You need to take one thing at a time. Right now that means giving yourself time to adjust to this news and figuring out in the months ahead how to begin to learn to live with HIV. If after you consult with a mental health professional, he or she diagnoses you as depressed, then resuming antidepressant medication is an excellent idea.

These are the first steps that I strongly suggest you begin taking at this time. Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

unexplained hostility toward girlfriend
Counselor training

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