Suggestions for Those Diagnosed With AIDS
Surviving and Thriving with AIDS: Collected Wisdom, Volume Two. c 1988, People with AIDS Coalition, Inc. reprinted with permission
Christopher D. Sherman was diagnosed in 1981 with "GRID" [Gay-Related Immune Disorder] and then in 1984 with ARC [AIDS-Related Complex]. In March, 1987, he was diagnosed with KS.
"Since my diagnosis I have not worked other than to do volunteer work for AIDS Project Los Angeles and look for things to heal myself. I have joined a gym and religiously work out every other day, get my rest and have given up most 'vices.' I don't deny myself anything I want as long as I feel it doesn't interfere with my healing process and I pretty much do as I want. I don't know if what I do will work for anyone else (or even for myself), but I feel that one must be in control."
Well, so you have been diagnosed with AIDS! What now? AIDS is a life-threatening illness that will take control of your life if you let it. Don't! Get angry, get mad, get enraged, but whatever you do, get control of your situation as soon as possible. You don't have to do everything at once, but take control of the situation. A lot of people will be giving you advice and telling you what you should do, what doctors you should see, where and what to get for treatment. Your job is to sort it all out.
Now, for my advice: first, you must come to grips with your situation. Assess it, your life, your friends, your job, etc. Get rid of things that don't work for you. You must work on yourself, not at yourself. Don't blame yourself for your situation. Use it as an opportunity that you would not otherwise have had.
I have been lucky in some respects. I had a good job that I am currently receiving benefits from, so I have the time to heal myself. If your situation permits, your healing should become your full-time, permanent job.
Don't cut yourself off from life, your friends or relatives. These things can be an invaluable asset when things are uncertain and you may be afraid of what may happen to you. The most unfortunate tragedy of AIDS is the fear and ignorance that abound. Some people have lost their families and friends, and in some cases, their jobs and homes, when others found out about their diagnosis. I was fortunate in that most of the important people in my life stuck by me, though some at a distance. If friends and relatives offer support, don't turn them away.
When I confronted the issue of who to tell about my illness, I was scared and confused. I finally told some close friends about it, in person; others, I called; and to my family, I sent letters. The purpose of using these different methods was to retain control over each situation. Even this I did not rush out to do. I waited two or three months before I got around to telling everyone. I still haven't told everyone in my life, for it is not important, at least for me, for everyone I know to know about my illness.
You must seek treatment modalities, whether they be traditional medical intervention, holistic healing techniques, or meditation, that fit within your belief system. Choose what you feel is right for you. Remember that your doctor is a partner in your healing and if he/she won't work with you, get another one. If your doctor won't take the time to answer your questions, get another one. Your doctor can't cure you; that is up to you.
There are alternative sources of information available to you, and I suggest that you at least look into some of them. One valuable source of information would be an AIDS hotline. Other sources are newsletters.
Give yourself time to sort out your feelings and emotions. Don't panic and rush about looking for a miracle, because the only place that will come from is within yourself. Learning about your disease will give you some power over it. Don't let it control you. To the extent possible, you must control it. There is now a lot of information available about AIDS. Use it to assist you. Look into programs at universities, hospitals, and medical centers near your home. Be willing to take some risks in securing treatment for your condition.
My best piece of advice is to make contact with an AIDS service organization as quickly as possible. They will provide you with services and support that you may otherwise not be able to get. Depending on the organizations serving your area, some benefits you could obtain include transportation for medical treatments, food, clothing, shelter, emotional support, and psychological counseling.
Lastly, don't sit around feeling sorry for yourself. This would be the worst thing you could do. Sure, you're bound to be depressed and feeling sorry for yourself at first, but GET OVER IT! Don't be afraid to assert yourself. Seek out the advice of experts and others in the field of AIDS treatments and apply to entitlement programs. DON'T be afraid to ask for help. Sign up with an AIDS service organization, get counseling if you feel you need it, exercise, eat right, rest, but most important, do what feels right for you. Listen to your body; it will tell you what you need. Don't be afraid to say NO!
One additional thought: for me, signing up to do volunteer work with an AIDS organization has had a very positive and healing effect. It gets me out of my own problems and I am also doing something for someone else. Remember: there are other people out there that are in worse situations than you are in. It may not seem so, but it is true.
This article was provided by HIV Coalition (HIVCO).