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Insomnia..Anxiety..Exercise..Stress
Jun 8, 1999

I was diagnosed Hiv+ Jan. 5 '99, my partner was diagnosed Dec.15,'98..hiv & KS...he died February 26th, 1999...my dad died when I was two (car wreck)one grandfather died of cancer when I was five, the other committed suicide when I was fourteen, my step-dad divorecedmom at 15, my best friend committed suicide when I was 17, My mom suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for 10 years under my care until we found Risperdal ( a miracle drug for us ) another best friend died of Aids in 1994..a close friend and former lover was killed in a hate crime in 1995, I met my soulmate on June 2nd of 1996...and he is dead of widely disseminated KS...a pimple on the cheek in early November, a funeral in March...Tomorrow I go to the Doctor for results from my first four weeks of HAART (abacavir/d4t/nevirapine)...I need to know some tips on staying mentally healthy...I use humor frequently...am afraid to have another relationship and have onl slept good one night since my baby died...am I clinically depressed ? What are the signs? If I mt someone I was attracted to I am afraid I would literally smother them with grief and love...So Michael...is all this a normal life journey..or have I been may I say "shit upon?" I exercise regularly Im sure it is my safety net..I dnt want to be dependent on the valiums , xanax, zolofts, prozac, elavil classes of drugs...and sleeping pills dont work..the weak otc's I wake up in the supossed effective period...and prescriptions overwhelm me the following day....So in general, how much am I supposed to put up with- and what suggestions do you have for me....(To all the people who write "the body", test negative and still are a emotional mess...What is the problem??(Fear of death?)Sorry Michael I find the large numbers of confused people who have the negative test results ..and "create" symptoms regardless of the facts..VERY ANNOYING!.Oh and why am I sullen- surly- withdrawn, and a sarcastic? Is it normal to call one's self a death magnet?...lol

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I do not know if you are depressed or not, but you are certainly overwhelmed by an enormous variety of terrible things that happened to you. No, this is not a normal life journey, but then again there are no normal life journies.

There are several things that may be useful to help you in finding balance in the midst of all the tragedies and losses you have experienced. The first and foremost is to call your local AIDS service organization and sign up to join a support group. You need a place to go where there will be other people who, while probably not having had as many traumas to deal with as you, they will be struggling with some of the same issues. Tens of thousands of people with AIDS have found the tools to live wit, as well as the faith and hope for a meaningful life from peers who are also struggling to learn the terribly difficult lessons of how to live with AIDS.

I would also suggest that you ask the local AIDS organization about a grief group. You need help to mourn your losses. I am not by any menas suggesting that you will work through having been a widower twice, but you certainly can learn how to make an adaptive adjustment to surviving these horrendous losses.

Third is that you ask your primary care doctor for a referral to a psychiatrst who can evluate whether or not you are clinically depressed. Some of what you say and how you say it, the hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness and despair certainly sound like depression. From the family history that you describe, I would say it is a good bet that you are also depressed, as this runs in families and is transmitted genetically.

If this mental helath professional does diagnose depression then please do begin to take the anti-depressant medication you will be prescribed. But medication is not enough by itself. You should also commit to going into and staying in psychotherapy for as long as it takes for you to feel that you are able to create a meaningful and full life in the midst of haivng a life threatening illness and having lost the people you love.

None of this will be easy, and there will be times when you feel like giving up. It will be those times that having a group of supportive and caring people can make all the difference. Please take these actions today. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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