The Loneliness of the Long-Distance HIVer
December 1, 2013
Did you know that in the UK, 1 in 5 people go to the doctor not because there's much physically wrong but just for someone to talk to? It's now a big enough problem to make them call for action on national news. Doctors aren't quite sure what to do about it and who to refer people to. In these days of shrinking budgets, doctors have to account for every minute spent with patients and they're not social workers like they used to have the luxury of being, although that's a role they're having to assume, especially in times of financial crisis and especially as the winter evenings draw in and the temperature drops.
It's dangerous to make generalisations about society breaking down and not caring for its vulnerable but its vulnerable are asking for more help and someone has to give it. Having to deal with a growing aging population, the doctors don't mind putting in the overtime, after all healing the mind is healing illness but they're limited in the time they can give. People with HIV are a group living further and further into old age -- something that was inconceivable a few years ago. But while longer lives are of course welcome, it brings new challenges and isolation for the person lacking the energy to keep up with the "scene" is one of them.
It's also coming up to that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting worse and if people can't get out and about, their feelings of isolation increase. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year and other celebration days are hell for the lonely -- they just close their eyes and wait for the universal bonhomie to pass because these days highlight their exclusion even more. There's also a huge stigma attached to admitting you're lonely; for everyone, not just people living with HIV. Nobody wants to be branded a "Loser" with a capital "L" but the gay man or woman living with HIV and afflicted by loneliness often feels just that and sadly, when they go out amongst their own kind, it can be as if that "L" is imprinted on their forehead.
This article is not meant to provide answers but rather to state an obvious case. As you celebrate your holidays, know that there are people in the middle of crowded dance floors, out on the streets in the cold, in care homes, even at your dinner table, whose pain hurts like hell without you knowing it. If all you can spare is a thought for these people than at least spare that thought but if you can do more please do it. You can do something; it just takes a little will-power and maybe the help of other friends.
I will say this though: The individual has got a role to play and can change someone's world substantially for the good but be gentle; don't dive in like an enthusiastic re-born "Buddy." Take your time; be subtle -- a lonely person is not your new personal project or cause. Be genuine and don't try to force your agenda on them. Suggest, encourage, offer practical help; be a good listener and know when the hell to back off. Let the lonely person know you're there, if they want you; but don't be put off by what seems ingratitude. Don't be half-assed: If you commit, commit properly and don't pull out when things get tough or you run the risk of doing more damage than good and convince them even more that the world is not to be trusted.
And please don't forget; sadly some people are lonely for too long and take their own lives as a result. You really don't want to be the person reading about, or standing at the back at their funeral, wishing you'd known sooner and been able to do something about it.
Much More Information:
I promise, if you can find the time to click on one or two of these links, your eyes will be opened to real people's stories and all the statistics you need, and you'll realize that this is a much bigger problem than maybe you thought.
Read Dave's blog HIV, Neuropathy and More: Avoiding Becoming a Nervous Wreck.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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