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How to give emotional support to HIV+?

May 27, 2004

My bf was recently diagnosed with hiv. Regardless of what he has, I still love him very much. But what I am dealing with here is not just a person who's struggling to come up with a direction in life, but also someone who is using crystal meth to avoid dealing with the issue.

It's so hard to talk to my bf lately, it's almost impossible. He seems to have shut himself out of anything else but his life problem - which I totally understand, and quite common for people who found out that they have a chronic illness I think. He tries to ask me for advice, but every time when I try to give my opinion, he gets very stressed out and pissed off because of my inability to help him analyze things and provide solutions. For example, he tells me that he doesn't want to do drugs no more, but he also doesn't know how to handle life right now without it (because of the whole dying and not knowing how long he can live thing). He tells me the drug helps him to relieve stress, so I suggested that maybe he can exercise again and get back to the routine to help him relieve stress. His response is that exercise will only give him more energy and won't relieve stress. So I suggested that maybe he can learn yoga that helps him calm his mind. Then he tells me that he needs to do something active, he can't just sit around. Then i suggested that if he's already taking drugs, why not take some medicine that helps him calm down and focus on things, and he tells me that medicine is risky. I am pretty much out of ideas. And he gets very pissed off at me because he thinks that I don't try to understand him and always give me these superficial answers. He thinks that I have this big ego where I will never change or listen to other people - but in reality, those are the only things I can think of :-(. Then things get very awkward, we don't talk much about anything because when I talk about something else, he seems extremely uninterested. And if I talk about his problems, he gets very pissed off. And to him, he thinks that I never try to understand him and that I never change.

He thinks that I have this big ego where I just won't listen to other people's opinion. I try to explain to him that a counselor is probably the more appropriate person to help work his thoughts, but then he tells me that if I truly love him, I would know what he's going through and help solve his problem.

Im stuck. A lot of times, I show him how much I love him by caring about him, like I will voluntarily buy him lunch, groceries, to make sure that he is living a healthy life (esp when he's taking drugs). I will buy him books on nutrition, offer to clean his bathroom, etc. I guess the problem may be that I tend to show him how much I love him through actions, but he's looking for more of an emotional connection that can help him solve his problem and I dont' know how to proceed. I do try to give him advice on life, but it just doesn't hit the jackpot for him, and the more I try, the more he gets pissed off at me.

Please help me out :-/ What is the best way to give emotional support? Are there books that you would recommend for me to read? Any advice is appreciated.


Response from Dr. Horwath

You are a wonderful caretaker. The problem is not in your caring and emotional support. The problem is that he is shifting the responsibility for his behavior onto you. He is saying that he would be able to change if only you understood him better and were more supportive. But this is a distortion. His use of crystal meth is self-destructive and will only change when he admits that it is a problem and seeks drug abuse treatment. You can be the most loving and supportive person in the world, but the decision to admit his problem and seek help for it has to come from him.

He is ill, which is difficult and frightening to face, but the responsibility to face it and seek help lies mainly with him.

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