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Can I do it all by myself?
Nov 5, 1998

I am 35 , +, and tired of trying to cope with everything by myself. even though I have a great support system I can't come to terms that I finally need help with everything. I have a great medical doctor, a wonderful and suportive mental therapist, friends and the support of my family. My lover is a great support for me also. I work , go to school and try to keep up a household by myself. My psychiatrist and doctor are very worried about me because of depression and feelings of wanting to "hurt" myself. How do I cope and still keep up with taking care of myself and deal with the meds, work and life in general? I need help!

Response from Dr. Young

You begin by surrendering to the fact that you are dealing with a very complex and draining physical illness and the accompanying mental and emotional distress that makes you more needy and fragile than at any other time in your adult life. This is never easy for men in our society to accept. It means dealing with all of our issues of being vulnerable and needing to be in control. But the up side of facing these feelings is how much more intimate our relationships can become as a result.

You are doing everything correct by cultivating all the people who love you as well as a great medical team. Now you have to just accept that at this point in your life your very real needs to be taken care of and for assistance in coping with the demanding, stressful and very frightening realities of living with HIV means that you do NOT HAVE TO DO THIS BY YOURSELF and that YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE TO!! Begin by really being thankful that you have such wonderful and loving people in your life. This must obviously be an enormous change for you in the roles you have traditionaly played with your supportive and loving family, partner and friends. Talk to them about how it makes you feel. Acknowledgeing this to them and discovering just how sympathetic they are can be very healing.

Perhaps you fear burdening them with your neediness. Or you fear scaring them away if they knew how much you needed them? From what you have described so far I am almost 100% certain that they will welcome the opportunity to really hear what is going on for you and know that you need them. All of us usually relish the opportunity to be needed by a loved one in a time of crisis. This only has the potential to strengthen your relationships. Can you cope with finding out how much you are loved, accepted and supported at this time of your life?

I am sure that your psychiatrist has suggested going on anti-depressants. If you are not already on them begin immediately. If you are taking them ask him or her about increasing the dosage.

Additionally continue to honestly talk about all of your feelings with your psychaitrist. Perhaps if the conversations I have suggested above are too difficult for you to have with the people who are important in your life on your own, you can discuss having a family session or a series of family sessions with your psychatrist and the important people in your life in order to get help in facilitating these crucial discussions. If for some reason none of this helps continue to tell your psychiatirst aobut any feelings aobut wanting to hurt yourself BEFORE you may be tempted to act on them in order for him or her to be able to help you avoid doing something self-destructive.

Good luck and let me know how things progress for you. Michael Shernoff



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