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HELP... I don't know what's happening to me
Aug 20, 2010

Doc,

I've never been frightened of anything- extreme sports, sky diving,you name it and I've done it. I also wasn't the least bit afraid of AIDS. I'm a straight, clean,healthy jock with a gorgeous girlfriend and promising career ahead of me. Well I was until my doctor shattered my world with the news I tested HIV positive. i didn't believe him and stormed out of his office. A second doctor confirmed my death sentence. I cried non-stop for a week. I knew as soon as I told my girlfriend who was expecting me to put a ring on her finger not a noose around her neck, she would dump me. I became an anxious wreck for weeks. I just couldn't tell her I had AIDS! I was going to tell her I had cancer. She knew something was terribly wrong and eventually confronted me. I was trapped and after a bunch of lies, yelling and screaming she found out the truth. She was devastated but she's been amazing. She's tested negative so far. We've decided not to tell anyone and just live our lives like before. But when we are out now I feel like I'm acting, trying to be normal for her sake. Nothing seems right or real anymore.

Today something really horrible happened. It was the most terrifying feeling of my life. I thought I was literally dying. I was home alone in my bedroom. My heart started racing, I got sweaty and couldn't stand up. In fact I couldn't move at all and couldn't catch my breath. I might have evn blacked out for a bit I'm not sure. For the past few days I've been staring at my face in the mirror a lot, looking for signs that others might recognize as AIDS. Doc, I can't believe I have it! And now this weird episode. What's happening to me? Please help. I really don't know what to do.

Apollo

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Apollo,

What you experienced is commonly referred to as a "panic attack," the sudden onset of overwhelming and debilitating feelings of anxiety. Anxiety is a common response to extreme stress. Your recent HIV/AIDS diagnosis, disclosure issues with your girlfriend and your fears of being "recognized" as having AIDS are all contributing factors.

Apollo, there are both medical and non-medical interventions that have been very effective in treating anxiety disorders, such as panic attacks. Despite your decision "not to tell anyone," I would strongly urge you to establish a relationship with an HIV/AIDS-knowledgable and compassionate psychotherapist to provide regular and ongoing support. You need help in accepting your new reality as a virally enhanced individual. As you are discovering, "just living life like before" is not an option. Psychotherapists use a variety of techniques, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, to help resolve the emotional underpinnings of anxiety. When necessary, pharmaceutical treatments, such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, are used. Focused relaxation techniques, including yoga, have also been found to be beneficial.

Apollo, your anxiety about being positively charged has escalated into an anxiety disorder that would definitely benefit from treatment. In addition to specifically treating the panic attacks, counseling will help you cope with the mental, emotional and physical stress surrounding HIV/AIDS health. I used the term "HIV/AIDS health" intentionally. HIVers can indeed be quite healthy, both physically and emotionally. You may or may not know that I, too, cohabitate with HIV. The virus found me while I was working in January 1991. (Yes, January 1991!) I'm not implying that living with HIV/AIDS is easy; it's not. However, I don't view it as a "noose around the neck" or a "death sentence" as you mentioned in your post. I would encourage you to peruse the information and testimonials on this site, in its archives and on the related links. I'm confident it will give you a different perspective on "HIV/AIDS health." I'll reprint below a comment from the archives discussing being positive about being positive.

Apollo, I'm here if you need me. Let's get through this together, OK?

Dr. Bob

A reality you and i face everyday (BEING POSITIVE ABOUT BEING POSITIVE) Jan 2, 2009

Dr Bob,

From the forum i have found that you are a person who has taken hiv and life in the same stride and lived it to the full! I am proud of you and i am sure so are many of the readers! But i was diagnosed just recently, a week before and i am an immigrant student who just got a job in engineering industry in the midst of this terrible economy! How do i make sense of everything? I mean first of all i need to convince myself that i didnt let my parents down by spending half a grand on education and now that i have a job to start in this poor economy, i also have a disease to deal with! How do i convince myself?What do i tell myself? How do i face myself in the mirror? And ofcourse what do i do to make sure that i go on living as the rest of us do without suffering since i think thats the most fitting reply to the world, "that i can live life just like you without being hindered by a stupid disease"?

Thank you and wish you a very happy new yr, Andy(not my real name)

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

"We" are not alone. Remember there are over 33,000,000 of us currently on this planet cohabitating with this unwanted intruder. Each of us has our own unique story of how HIV screwed up our life's plans.

1. How do you make sense of everything? Well, not everything "makes sense." Remember life, love, sex and illness are all essentially unscheduled events! Using a game of cares as an analogy: You may not be able to change the hand you've been dealt; however, how you choose to play the cards is totally up to you. I'd suggest you begin by reading the information in the "Just Diagnosed" chapter that can be found on The Body's homepage under the Quick links heading. Take control of your situation. Don't let your situation control you. (See below.)

2. Regarding your parents, this is not their problem. It's yours. Certainly they will be disappointed and probably scared. You need to gain control and perspective on your new reality before you'll be able to give others a proper perspective on being "virally enhanced."

3. How do you face yourself in the mirror? I'd suggest doing so with open eyes, a clear head, and an optimistic attitude.

4. Focus on living well with HIV, not on being ill or suffering with HIV. Get informed. Work with a knowledgeable and compassionate HIV physician specialist. Build a strong support system. Read through the information on this site and in the archives of this forum. There you will find many courageous and inspiring testimonials.

I'm here if you need me, OK?

Be well! (I mean that!)

Dr. Bob

What is your secret? Jul 10, 2005

Dear Dr. Bob, Can you tell me how you keep such a positive attitude? Your upbeat attitude shows in your answers on this website. I have been positive 13 yrs. and have gone from very bad health to right now my viral load under 200 and cd4 201. These numbers are better than I have ever had, but I still feel awful and have many bad health issues going on. I cannot work which I hate and recently I have become hateful to my partner, family and everyone around me. I had unsafe sex one time 13 yrs ago due to a breakup with my partner after 7 yrs and became infected. We are together now and July will be our 22 anniversary. He does not have hiv. I was tested before we got back together. I also have the support of my entire family and all my friends. What is wrong with me? I do not want to fight this anymore. Don't worry I am not going to do anything stupid to hurt myself. I am just ready to stop treatment altogether. I have read you bio and know how you got hiv and just wondered how you are so upbeat. You should sell the secret. You were helping someone and got infected and I was upset about my break-up and got drunk and got it. I guess I have not gotten over my guilt or should I have a swift kick in the butt and be told to get over it. I have taken up enough of your time, but would appreciate your answer. You are a wonderful person for all you do for people. Thank you and bless you.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

How do I stay positive about being positive??? Hmmm . . . well, I truly believe life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away. I guess I've been lucky enough to have had (and continue to have) more than my fair share of those moments. I don't have a "secret," but rather a philosophy on life. I'll post a couple of responses from the archives in which I've addressed this question, OK? Interestingly, the first two I pulled up both use one of my favorite George Bernard Shaw quotes. I guess it bears repeating.

I wish you peace and health.

Dr. Bob

I love your smile. Apr 18, 2005

Hey Doc. I had a question to ask you about insertive oral but i have read through the archives enough to realize you have said all you need to say about this. Anyway i couldn't help but wonder how you keep such a great disposition on life. I mean come on dude you seem happy and funny all of the time. I think the main thing i have learned from you is that no matter what happens keep on keeping on and dont let life get you down until your 6 feet under.You have changed my perception of role models from athletes to people who have to face maybe the harshest disease ever. I hope you are around for a long time and continue to let that vivid personality of yours shine.PS i am not gay but you are my man. Holler at your boy>

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

I see no reason to holler. Rather, I'll just give a quote from George Bernard Shaw that reflects my positive attitude on being positively positive.

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy . . . . Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Stay well.

Dr. Bob

Dr. Bob, What about you? Sep 6, 2004

Hello Dr. Bob,

I want to start by simply saying thank you for all of the work that you do each day on this site. You bring so much comfort and knowledge to people. You are a very compassionate and caring man.

Perhaps it doesn't surprise you that we (your devote fans) are just as caring and concerned about you. Some of us can't help but wonder how you are doing with this disease. What is your status in terms of viral load and CD4? How do you find strength each day to go on? and what can we do for you to help you with this very trying time in your life?

You do not have to answer this if you do not want to. We just simply want to know about someone we love. And I mean that Dr. Bob.

Your Friend Always William

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi William,

What a pleasure to read a question that isn't self-centered and related to a lap dance from a bisexual cross-dressing transsexual Mormon midget! There were so many of those types of questions coming in from New York City last week ahhh, the fools and fanatics of the GOP Convention!!!

The best word for my viral load and CD4 count at the moment would be "stable." How am I doing with the disease? Well, according to the statistics at the time the virus found me in January of 1991, I shouldn't even be here, so I'd say I'm doing quite well. Sure, at times I feel as though I'm living on borrowed time. As I've said before, I really do believe we measure life in the wrong dimension. A life shouldn't be measured merely in length, but rather in depth. In many ways, perhaps because of HIV and the depth of my experiences, I've never felt more alive.

I won't say that cohabitating with HIV is easy. It's not. The drugs that keep me alive are science's classic double-edged sword causing not only great benefits but also some not-so-great side effects. At times I can be so exhausted I need to take a nap before going to bed. Once asleep, I can sometimes have my very own version of a "wet dream," a drenching night sweat that has, on occasion, made me wonder if I should wear a lifejacket and flippers to bed. At times I look at our linen closet and refrigerator, and see that it's now decorated in "nouveau pharmacy" style. Mack trucks deliver my medications in Godzilla-sized containers. Like so many other virally enhanced folks, I've had my fair share of HIV-related complications, but I see no point in dwelling on them. In life, as in playing cards, you can't choose the cards you are dealt, but you can definitely choose how to play these cares. Perhaps that's the real secret of living well on borrowed time. I also freely admit having Steve (Dr. Steve in The Body's Tratamientos Forum) to share life, love, sex, and other unscheduled events makes me the luckiest guy on the planet.

Here is my two-rule manifesto for living well with HIV:

1. "This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. The being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy . . . . Life is no brief candle for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." George Bernard Shaw

2. Always remember the wise advice of rule number 1.

Thanks for your concern and friendship, William. I find that compassion and generosity, when freely given to those in need, is returned a thousand fold.

Stay well, William.

Your friend,

Dr. Bob



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