|Fear Controlling My Life
Jul 27, 1998
My first attempt at sending this message was cut off. I apologize. The reason I am writing you is because I am very frightened over a possible exposure to the HIV virus. While the prevention expert on this forum has assured me my risk was low, to me this is little assurance. The fear of contracting the disease has taken over my mind almost completely. I know that to someone who already has the disease, my seemingly irrational fear may be irritating. But there is something HIV+ people must realize: for people like me, there is a long road ahead (I am 19). I have a girl who I am truly in love with. I don't cheat on her; the idea is unimagineable. I often think of us getting married later in life. I only want the best for her and would give up anything I had to be with her. So a chance of having this virus, no matter how small, means to me that our relationship could end. This thought, most accurately, is like being in hell, especially because my exposure had little to do with my behavior. I cry myself to sleep, and it is hard to look at her picture (she is away for the summer). Doctor, I have sought counseling. What makes this all so much harder is I made a promise that if I did a certain something ever again (didn't hurt anyone else), he could give me HIV. Of course, I did it. I feel so guilty, like I let not only myself down, but my girl as well. What can I possibly do? All I want is to be a psychologist and marry this girl. How can there be such a disease that strikes down so many brilliant and goodhearted people? Please help me sir.
| Response from Mr. Shernoff
You are wracked by guilt and that is the core of your problem. I do not belittle the intensity or severity of what you are feeling. It is very real and is crippling you. Are you being totally honest with the counselor you are seeing? You need to be and confide in him or her everything you have done and all that you felt that motivated you to do what ever you did that placed you at risk. If you have unresolved feelings about being attracted to other men, HIV and a fear of contracting it will not make them go away. I am not suggesting that you are gay. I have no idea of whether or not you are or may be gay, or just conflicted about some feelings you have and behaviors you did. Intensive self examination with the help of a very skilled mental health professional may be the only thing that helps you. That is not a quick or easy answer. The kind of deep seated guilt you are expressing needs to be thoroughly explored in order to be understood. The process will be painful, but ultimately, well worth the effort, expense and time.
Michael Shernoff, MSW
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