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Still Stunned by AIDS

May 18, 2013

Okay. I think I need help. I am so worn down and tired of my (self-imposed) isolation and rather frequent visits to hospitals with a diagnosis of major depression. I spend my days indoors with the blinds pulled shut and don't answer my phone. A psychologist visits me once a week and I look forward to his coming, but we really only discuss what is happening now and never discuss what's past. Tonight on TV I am watching a couple of guys enjoying their marriage ceremony and, like so many things in my everyday life, it makes me explode into heaving sobs and need to take a lie down. I allowed myself to follow my thoughts this time and found that I am still missing the scores and scores of beloved others who perished in the AIDS pandemic. I realize I'll never have a partner because all the men I idealized and loved are dead.

Being around people causes me intense stress because I never know when I am going to lose myself and fall apart, and I haven't made any new friends since my lover died 12 years ago because it feels my generation just disappeared and the few who are left don't want to be reminded of all the horror.

I can't go on like this anymore. I don't know who to talk to or where to turn. When I am forced to travel up to West Hollywood on errands it feels like everything I see, everyone I encounter, is a stiletto being shoved in just below my rib cage. It's possible sometimes for me to maintain for awhile and put on a show of enjoying myself among others and acting like a normal person but alone I am constantly sad. Someone I knew once suggested I might have PTSD but I have read that is untreatable so what is the use of pinning it down? Lately my body has become weakened, probably from lack of activity, and I worry about the effects of HIV meds and all the others I have to take on my insides. I hate sounding so pathetic but this is real and I don't know what to do. Please, can you help?

Response from Dr. Fawcett

Thank you for writing. Your emotional (and physical) pain is so clearly expressed. There are many of us from a generation that went through a holocaust of sorts (and I don't use that word lightly). Like you, nearly all of my acquaintances died and I was left with a well of grief that sometimes seems unending.

There are, however, things you can do. Forcing yourself to break the isolation is critical. We need contact with others to survive emotionally, and in return, you bring your wisdom and connection to them. There are many resources in LA and I encourage to you get out and get connected.

I also encourage you to challenge some of your limiting beliefs. There are other people out there who understand, and who welcome your presence. There are other people out there who you can love, and who can love you in return.

Finally, there are effective treatments for PTSD. Ask your psychologist about getting a referral for a consultation. Modalities like EMDR and hypnotherapy have been shown to release trauma. I encourage you to find that spark of optimism, no matter how hard it may be. Be careful about using words like "never" or "always," or especially "should."

I think we can honor our grief and experience while still living our lives to the best of our ability. Coincidentally I just published a blog piece on the subject of the experience of our generation. You can read it here.

Be well and reach out I am certain there will be hands there to receive you.


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