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can you help me
Apr 29, 1999

hi, this is the second time i have written to you and you gave me great advice before. I was the 22 yr. old female who could not come to terms with believing i was not infected. Well, you told me alot could have to do with my marriage . I hope you remember me. Well, the reason i am back is because i am faced with the most emotional pain i have ever been in in my life and i cant face the next day anymore. My possible (i dont know if he has this or not) exposure was April of 1998. I have since had i guess probably 8 antibody tests or so, 1 p24 , i viral load which was undetectable and all other tests were negative. Well, my problem is that i am thouroughly convinced NO DOUBT that i do have this. I was almost over it until i went to Mark Holondays forum and read about several people testing positive after being negative on all the same test i took and then after a year (some even 2 years) they turn up pos.Come to find out after I dug deeper this isnt very uncommon atall. Well, this isnt going to just kill me , my husband will be positive too by now i am sure and worst of all , i am pregnant now by my husband. That means the baby will be born with this and even if i do take drugs there is still a chance that he/she will have it. See, even if i have another test next week or next month, Michael, i wont believe it even if it is neg. because i KNOW these tests arent reliable. I have symptoms such as glands that i can feel under my arms, they arent swollen but they were never there before. I just KNOW i have it. I am convinced i have given it to my little girl who was using my toothbrush the other day and she has seemed to stay sick ever since with colds, etc. I feel like i am living a complete nightmare and if it werent for my child and child to come i would commit suicide. I cannot plan for the future , i cannot function anymore. I am consumed by guilt and by fear for my family whom i feel like i may have murdered. Can you imagine murdering your entire family with a long hard death? See, my main problem is there is NOTHING i can do to end this. I could go back to a counselor (which does NO good) but the counselor will never convince me I am negative.How could a counselor tell me i am negative for a fact? They cannot do that. The only thing i had to hope for was time and negative tests but now i see that is is quite common for people to test negative for a long time and really be infected. So, tests do me no good either. I am lost. I am miserable and i cant even be happy for this baby all i can do is feel remorse. I hate myself for what i did and i feel so dirty. I cant even kiss my child anymore for fear of passing this to her if i havent already. How long did it take before you knew? Probably years if you are anything like most. How could this country use millions of dollars on this disease for all these years and still havent even developed a test that can diagnose someone before they spread it to others? That is what we call prevention and i thought we cared more about prevention than this.That is our ONLY cure right now and it looks like no one cares. I am so sorry for making this so long, i am at a deadend and i cannot see my way out of this. I feel like i am going to die of heartache. Not knowing is the hardest thing i will ever do in my life.I look at my beautiful little girl and cant help but think i have taken her life and even if i didnt take hers i feel sure she will grow up without her mom and dad and even if we make it I know I wouldent be around long enough to see her marry, help her raise her childrenand be her best freind as my mother is to me. And now here comes another baby . I am crying as I write and i praying you can help me. I have no idea where to turn anymore.How will I ever watch my husband become sick in front of me? He never deserved that.How do you say I am sorry for taking a loved ones life away? I feel like I am not able to face another day of this.I cannot locate the man i dated while my husband and I were split up for him to be tested.I have no one to turn to , my husband forbids the topic because it is too painful for him to face that i had another relationship and especially that i could have gotten this. He thinks it is insane for me to act this way. He is very mean when i bring it up.I can understand his feelings.He refuses to get tested since he hasnt done anything wrong and he WILL NOT hear of it.He was tested negative right when he and I got back together and took out insurance but he may not have shown up yet. I cant take antidepressants while I am pregnant although i have tried them before i became pregnant and they made me worse.I just wish i could have someone hold me and tell me they were 100% sure this wasnt going to happen to my family. That is the ONLY thing that will end this nightmare but it is not possible.Where do i go from here?Do i just lie down and wait to die or do I fight like hell to find out if i am infected by having MORE tests which i know i will never believe? Thanks , you are a kind man and I think you are doing an extremely remarkable job here.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

I honestly have no other advice for you than to face all the uncertainties that you are living with by returning to counseling, perhaps with another therapist who is better suited to working with you. It is not any counselor's job to try and convince you that you are or are not infected. He or she needs to be dealing with all of the feelings you currently have that are incapacitating you. Most importantly are those that have you so completely obsessed with only believing that you are infected.

What concerns me is that you are screaming that you just know that you are infected. Of ocurse it is a possibility that you may be infected. But you are so torn up by what ever you did to perhpas have exposed yourself to HIV that you are not even allowing for the possibility to exist that perhaps you are not infected and have not given this horrible illness to the people you love. This obsessive and overly negative train of thought is very dangerous and it is to get help in addresing this for which you need professional mental health services.

So all I can suggest is that you find a therapist who will work with you in order to help you understand why you are so invested in the very worst possible outcome before it is a certainty that this is in fact reality. You are torturing yourself and probably not being emotionally available to your husband or other child. I urge you to seek out therapy soon. Michael Shernoff, MSW



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