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What happens now?
Jan 4, 1999

Dear Michael,

I have been very ill with pcp, and thought certain that death was very near. A few weeks ago, I called all my friends, and told the how much they had meant to me, and 'goodbye'. They all came over and tried to visit, but mostly just stared and didn't know what to say. Now I'm on therapy for the pcp and feeling much better, and don't need my oxygen as much. Trouble is, when my friends call, I don't know what to say. Guess the shoe is on the other foot, huh? I didn't die, and don't know what to say. Thanks for any advice. Leigh

Response from Mr. Shernoff

It is understandable that when you got very sick you were confronted with the possibility that the recent bout of PCP might have been your last illness. But considering current treatments for PCP, might you have been a tad premature in declaring that you were dying? I think that many of us have a touch of the "drama queen" in us, and where you were at while seriously ill, gave you a chance to play Camille. I am by no means belittling the severity of how ill you were or the feelings you had that you might have been dying. PCP is obviously a very serious illnes that has killed tens of thousands of PWAs.

Most people do not know what to say to a loved one who is at the end of his or her life. It is understandable that your friends were akward and uncomfortable, and thus quiet. My suggestion is that you take the bull by the horns and call all of your friends to tell them that you are thrilled that you have regained your health, and feel either a bit silly or embarassed about having put all of you through the great good-bye scene. Hopefully this can provide the needed relief and also a touch of humor that is needed in order to restore normalacy to your relationships.

In the mean time I would urge you to do a very honest self-examination to ask yourself did you REALLY believe that your were dying, or had you just felt that you needed some more attention from the people in your life than you had been getting before getting PCP? No matter which answer you come up with, or any other one that becomes honest and truthful to you, be sure not to judge yourself. The purpose of this exercise is by no means to beat up on yourself, but for you to better understand your own motivations and needs that contributed to your having created the recent false alarm.

If you realize that you did need some more attention than you had been getting, then it will be very important to figure out how come perhaps you had not been directly seeking out your friends to talk with and visit with more.

Hope that 99 brings continued good health and that you and your friends move beyond this current impasse. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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