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Emotional Mess

Nov 15, 2001

I wrote to you back in August about some pretty intense feelings I was having about testing poz. You told me that the reaction I was having was NOT normal and could be quite dangerous. You urged me to seek immediate help, and I did.

For the past two months, things seemed to be going A-OK. The world wasn't coming to an end, and I wasn't going to kick it any time soon. I started antidepressants and began going to a support group.

Late last week all that changed. I seem to have started an uncontrollable slide right back to where I was. I am having the same worries, concerns, "visions" (wasting away in a hospice somewhere), etc.

Only this time I have something I didn't before- A sadness that is so HEAVY that I cannot begin to describe it to you. Last night, after I went to bed, I started crying, and the crying turned into uncontrollable screaming and wailing. It was terrible. I cried for so long (2 hours or so) and so hard, that my body physically hurt when I was done.

Dr. Shernoff, I am terrified of that happening again. I live by myself, and last nights incident scared me to death.

Do you have any idea why after such a long "good" spell, that came on so suddenly and so powerfully?

Is THAT normal?

I hold your opinion and advice in the highest regard and I am looking forward to hearing them.

Thank you

Response from Mr. Shernoff

Since I am not familiar with what you and your counselor are discussing at this time I really can't say why your reactions have returned so suddenly. I urge you to call the mental health professional with whom you are working and ask for an extra session in order to discuss this situation with him or her. There are times in the course of psychotherapy when a person's symptoms return in direct response to either areas that are being explored during the course of counseling or due to new external events. Especially since I live and work in Manhatan, with numerous HIV positive patients, that the events of September 11 have triggered intense emotional reactions that are a return to a much more emotional fragile and vulnerable state. For some people the plane crash on Monday has reactivated all of their fears and distress. So with your not being my patient and my not having access to either your particular emotional reactions or where you are in the course of therapy it is simply impossible, and would be irresponsible for me to guess as to why you are responding now as you are. But your own therapist would be the best and most appropriate person to discuss this with and to help you move beyond your present distress.

Michael Shernoff, MSW

I finally got the truth, and I don't know what to do with it...

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