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Are these emotions normal?
Aug 31, 2001

As I enter into my third week of being HIV+, I seem to have less control of my emotions (uncontrollable & unexpected crying) than I did right after I learned I was positive. I don't want to be a burden to anyone now (emotionally) or later (physically)-- some of the postings that I have read on advanced AIDS cases have scared me to death. I do not ever want to place the burden of taking care of me on my family. My parents changed my diapers when I was a child, they shouldn't have to change them again a few years from now.

I love my family very much, and they know I'm gay, but I can't bear the thought of telling them and what it will do to them.

I am staying away from my friends because I am sure that my depression is probably bringing them down as well.

I thought seriously (almost constantly) about ending my life at this point, and saving my family and friends from watching me die slowly as well as saving myself a lot of pain.

Are these types of feelings normal after being told your HIV+? Because they sure as hell don't feel like it!!

It hurts so much.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

The intensity of your reactions are definitely NOT normal, they are extreme. Though learning that you have a potentially life threatening illness can certainly and understandably put a person into a state of emotional crisis, your responses are so severe that I urge you to get professional help. Please ask your doctor for a referral to a skilled mental health professional who is experienced in working both with gay men and with people with HIV. Additionally please call the nearest AIDS service organization and join a support group. You need, and deserve alot of emotional support. You are in a very needy and vulnerable period of your life now. This is not the time to withdraw from your friends and family. As difficult as it will be for them to learn that you are HIV+, if they truly love you, they will want to rally around you to help you adjust.

You are also getting hysterical in assuming that your parents will have to change your diapers again. Increasingly people with HIV are living long, productive and asymptomatic lives for many years and even decades after becoming infected.

I think that you are probably feeling somewhat guilty and ashamed for having gotten infected and these feelings are keeping you from disclosing your HIV status to friends and family members. This is not the time to blame yourself or judge yourself for having gotten infected. Just get all the help and support you need to integrate this terrible and difficult reality into your life.

Best of luck.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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