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Can't deal with the anguish of HIV

Jan 26, 2011

Hi, I cannot deal with the mental anguish of having hiv. I keep waiting to get drug resistance or something else bad to happen. I just want it to be over and I am considering just not bothering anymore. I am seeing a counselor and was put on Wellbutrin but I cannot handle having hiv regardless of the advancement of HAART. I guess suicide is always an option right? Then at least it is finally over. Do you see hiv patients? How long have they been able to deal with it?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thank you for your question. I understand the anguish of living with HIV, but I want to reassure you that there are many very legitimate medical reasons to be hopeful. You have taken some great steps in seeing a therapist and getting on an antidepressant - give them time. Your concerns are mostly focused on the uncertain future, which is a real trap. Because none of us can predict what will happen, our minds often try and fill that void, endlessly creating a series of "what ifs." I have seen hundreds of patients with HIV and have had my own journey with the virus since the 1980s. I have found that staying in the present is always essential yet sometimes extremely difficult. Here are some ideas: First, practice reality testing. For example, ask yourself if your fears are realistic. Get the facts about your specific concerns. Second, speak with your therapist about some techniques to help you interrupt your thoughts and replace negative thinking patterns such as "black and white" or "catastrophic" thinking with more realistic ones. Third, be mindful of your mental space. Make a gratitude list each day (please don't dismiss this until you try it - it has great power) and try to live just one day at a time. Fourth, share your thoughts and feelings with others. Bringing fears into the light of day often reduces their power.

Finally, take suicide off the table. You convey understandable distress over the uncertainty of living with HIV and write of suicide as something definitive, which it certainly is, but it is also something that is unnecessary. There are many other ways to address fears about the future. If you begin to dwell or make any kind of plan regarding suicide, get help immediately.

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