A long, twisted tale.
Apr 27, 2003
Dr. Bob, Where do I start? I was a was/might still be/am a worried well off and on for the last 9 years. About nine years ago the cycle started. I won't repeat the majority of my "reasons" for thinking I was infected. Why? Because they are some of the same non-sexual fears shared by other Worried Well folks on here. Even if the details are not, the mentality seems the same.
About 8 years ago, I accidently drank from a HIV infected person's cup. I had a ulcer in my mouth at the time, so naturally(at least in my mindset) this sent my panic mode into full force. Also I have had problems with my gums. So naturally my worried psyche saw this is as a clear, and obvious risk of infection.
When I began having loose stools and what I interpreted as swollen glands 6 months later, naturally(once again.. for my mind) this seemed clear proof to me that it had happened. The swollen glands I think came before the bowel problems started. That great fear had undoubtedly come true. However as the months went on, my doubts waned a tad. However the fear of contracting the disease still continued. It literally became a obsession. It wasn't a great leap for the "What if" scenario's to turn into instances of not trusting your memory. "Maybe there was blood I didn't see". "How long had the cup gone without being drank from before I drank from it".
Finally a couple of years later, I finally broke. Just accepting/believing fully that I had HIV was easier than the constant What if scenario's. Not to mention the worries that my own mind was failing me. And that every time I left out, I would get infected somehow.
So, what do I do? No longer did I directly worry about getting infected, but it seemed I just replaced this fear with the belief that slowly I was dying. Plans? What are those? Relationships? That would be horribly selfish of me, or at least I thought so in my mindset of the time.
Over time the loose stools continued in a chronic type way and seemed to have worsened these last few years, and eventually around three years ago I started getting what looks to be Seborric Dermatitis. Reaccuring sinusitis/post-nasal drip, headaches, chest discomfort with sore throat/sinus problems, a molluscum like outbreak or two( a few bumps under the skin and risings), headaches, gritty feeling on the top of my mouth and finally noticing sores in my mouth and some white looking patches(obviously thrush) this year seem to have just about made it obvious to me. All obvious symptoms right? Seems that way. Surely stress would never cause that many HIV type symptoms, even after off and on stress for that many years.
Around the fall of last year, I found "The Body". The expert's advice on the forum/articles just about convinced me that all that worrying over time had been for not. Until the patches in the mouth etc. Then good ole doubt came back. It's just too many symptoms not to be HIV it seems to me.
However never, have I had a HIV test.
Finally, I'm at the end of my rope. I think I'm finally going to get the test done. The truth, whatever it is, can not possibly be as bad as the hell I have inflicted on myself over the last 8 years. Not to mention if it is true, the damage I could have done to myself already. I spent the first series of years petrified of what was to come. I took it for granted that any body fluid could carry and infect someone with AIDS. It wasn't until last year I got up enough courage to actually research the disease more. You know how many years I thought AIDS came along after 5 years? Or Seven years? How many times I quickly turned off the TV when something about AIDS came on the tube. It is quite a irony to be obsessed with a disease that you cannot even bear yourself to listen about on a news special for fear of further entrenching the fear in your mind. Yet you are living your life as if you are infected. This would all make for one very long case study one day. I have even debated writing down the whole story, just to look in perspective just how screwed up my mind has been.
Will I give that great big woo-hoo at the end? I would love that to be the case. Will I find out it's been true all along? I honestly think thats almost certainly going to be the case. Regardless it's to the point now where the damage is done it seems. What I have learned is that regardless of any test done over the last 9 years, my problem has had nothing to do with HIV. HIV was just a very convenient way for it to manifest itself.
However this question/comment is not as much for myself. It's for the legions of the chronically "worried well" folks I see on the site. After eight years with at least the anxiety version of the Worried Well syndrome, folks.. please end the hell for yourself and GET HELP. I'm not saying you will be sitting here eight years from now like me. I'm not saying you will not break down and get tested. I'm certainly not saying you will take it to the extreme level I have. But what I can promise you that somewhere amongst the, "Did a stripper touching me give me HIV" or other worrying folks, there could very well be someone who will put themselves through months and years of Hell. It starts as a genuine case of worry wart behavior. However with every relief, there is the new threat that overpowers the relief.
To tell you to get tested would be rather hypocritical. Although very true. But if you are one of those folks who no amount of reassuring seems to help, please get help with this fear. It won't "go away". You won't plan when it flares up. Until you get help, this thing is going to nag at you. Odds are you will go underground with the fear. You will put up a nice front of a well-adjusted individual, while going through Hell inside. You will make lame excuses on why you haven't done anything with your life. And even more lame ways to avoid this fear. It can happen. I know this, because I have stared in the mirror at one of these folks for 9 years.
I'm sure some of you will think like myself that you are a "special" case. There may even be some who will think, "Why listen to that whacko.....9 years.. what a freak". That may be true. But if you don't get this stuff under control, nine years from now you may be in this same place. I'm sorry if I come across as mean-spirited. If this story will keep even one poor soul from inflicting even more tragedy in this disease that really isn't even a result of the physical side of the disease, it is worth it.
The Experts on here have devoted a great amount of time, effort, and lord knows compassion for folks. For you College graduating folks out there, this disease has been studied for as long as you have been alive on this earth. 20+ years of research. These folks have been in the trenches in the epidemic, and know their stuff. Trust them.
Now it's hopefully time for me to heed my own advice. I have debated for months writing. Finally I have gotten up the courage to post.
Dr. Bob and Ryan, Thank you times infinite. You two probably will never know the full extent of the great things you have done and folks you have helped. Ok.. you will have a good ideal with all of us fortunate folks continually telling you how great you folks are.
Response from Dr. Frascino
Wow, it must have taken you almost 9 years just to write all that down! All this worry because you accidentally drank from an HIV-infected persons cup when you had a mouth ulcer? Wish you had written to me at that time, because I would have told you your risk of acquiring HIV this way is nonexistent! Thats correct absolutely impossible. Instead, you went in "full force panic mode" and HIV fear became an "obsession." Yeah, the "what ifs" are amazing, arent they? They convinced you that you were HIV-infected and slowly dying, because you had some nonspecific symptoms of skin rash and loose stools. Amazing isnt it? No, the white patches are not "obviously thrush." Just what medical school did you graduate from that gives you the ability to diagnose conditions like seborrheic dermatitis, molluscum, and thrush? Id bet dollars to doughnuts (Krispy Kreme, please) that you have none of these conditions. It seemed to you "just too many symptoms not to be HIV"? What? It doesnt sound anything at all like HIV to me, and Im a Board Certified Immunologist/HIV-AIDS specialist.
So now 9 years after the fact and a whole lotta worry later, you are deciding to get an HIV test! Good for you! Will you WOO-HOO at the result? Most definitely yes, you will, and then you will kick yourself for wasting 9 years of your life on an irrational fear.
Im delighted you are advising other to "Get Help." I certainly hope you heed your own advice. The readers will "listen to that whacko . . . 9 years." when you write back with your negative test results.
Yes, experts on this forum have been in the trenches for 20+ years. Ive also witnessed this illness from both sides of the examination table, which gives me a rather unique and privileged position. I have the knowledge and experience of an HIV/AIDS specialist physician and the body and soul of an AIDS patient. Both Dr. Bob the physician and Bob the patient urge you to heed your own advice and get tested. Get psychiatric counseling as well, if you cannot free yourself from this completely irrational fear of a nonexistent illness.
Gosh, what some folks wouldnt do for 9 more healthy years. Dont waste another day. Well be waiting for that WOO-HOO. Now, go get tested. And yes, I do mean right now! Go!
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