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Very scared and sad, please help me
Jun 1, 2001

Hello. I'm crying as I'm writing to you, so please bear with me. I'm 27 years old and male. I always felt very lonely in my life and always played by the rules (got good grades, didn't abuse drugs, didn't have sex, etc.) Yet I was still criticized for everything and was very, very unhappy. Finally, several years ago I just flaked out and, after I realized I'm bisexual, embarked on a few relationships. A few were unsafe, but I just wanted to be loved so badly and to trust someone so badly...anyway a few years ago, I met the woman of my dreams and got married...we have a wonderful marriage...however, I was recently diagnosed with HIV. I am on medications and am very 'religious' about taking them. Everyone tells me that I am healthy and can look forward to a long life. My wife supports me and loves me (she is negative, thank God), but there's a gulf in our lives (she won't sleep in the same bed or drink from the same glass or kiss me on the lips). Everyone tells me that HIV/AIDS is no longer considered a terminal illness, but a chronic, manageable condition. I'm just so scared and feel I can't do anything right. When I played by the rules, everyone mocked me and criticized me because I wasn't perfect...I slip and get HIV. I can't talk to anyone about all this (except at therapy sessions, which I have just started). I don't want to die or get sick. I'm so paranoid about every little twitch and ache now...and I get tired easily. I believe in God and love God and pray...but I feel somewhat cheated (not by God). Just when things were looking up, I get this diagnosis. Especially when we have been planning a long life together with children. All I ever wanted was to be happy and loved. I try to trust my doctors when they say I can plan for a long, long future and not be so paranoid...but I have a hard time trusting people. And I feel so scared and so alone. Anything you could offer would be appreciated. God bless you.

Response from Rabbi Sacks-Rosen

Thank you for writing.

I am sorry and disheartened to hear of your recent diagnosis, but I am gladdened and heartened to hear that you found appropriate medical attention without delay. That is a big step, and you should feel very good about yourself that you did this.

You also managed to find a therapeutic environment for yourself. This, too, is a very positive step and one which is difficult for many people. You should feel very good about yourself for this, too.

Please stop, take a deep breath and try to take in these things, allowing yourself to feel good about the things you should feel good about.

You also seem to have a good degree of self awareness, a high degree of honesty and have a very senstive soul. You should feel good about these matters. They are no small things. And I would worry if you did not have these strengths.

I do feel that you may be a little hard on yourself and your relationship. You mentioned that the diagnosis was recent. You may not yet have fully absorbed this; life may fell slightly surreal. Give yourself time to adjust. The words of encouragement that others have been giving you are appropriate. The quality of treatments that are now available have transformed the reality of AIDS/HIV. New treatments and therapies will change that more.

Your wife needs time to adjust as well. I hope that she will seek out an appropriate therapeutic forum, whether with a licensed therapist, a trusted spiritual leader and/or a support group for spouses/partners. Another possible forum would be to find a forum that you can go as a couple.

I know that when my life companion had his first bout of PCP, an AIDS-related pneumonia, back in November of 1988, I needed some time as an individual--even as we needed some time as a couple--to reflect, meditate and gather ourselves. Each person is different in how they respond.

It sounds like you both love each other tremendously. One of your yearnings in life was to be loved by someone, one who might receive the love you have to give. That need is a deeply human need. I am happy for you that you seem to have found such a person.

I believe love always wins out. I believe the love that you and your wife share will win out. Your wife right now may have a boundary to cross and it may be that you do not feel supported by her right now, but it sounds like--and reason tells us--that love continues. I hope that you both will communicate your love to each other.

I hope that you find your faith sustaining. There are welcoming communities--whether or not they are communities of faith. You may want to seek out such a community where you will be embraced and in which you can share without a sense that people will respond negatively. Your therapist or a local AIDS/HIV organization can direct you to local support groups and communities.

I wish you and your wife well. You will remain in my prayers, as you do in my heart.

Jewish point of view
How to stop punishing ourselves?

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