A Bitter Pill
By Philip D.
September 7, 2010
I'm not going to pretend my inbox is flooded with readers' responses, but the best part of doing this blog are the connections I've made with people that take time out to read what I've written, and share something about themselves with me. Surprising as it is to those who truly know me, I'm asked how I stay so "upbeat" (the word most often used) with such a nasty little viral addition to my life. To that my man, John, might just laugh until he cried. I wish I found it quite as funny but to be truthful, depression and I go way back and HIV and the meds haven't helped matters. Or so I thought.
I've lost count just how many times I deleted this entry and then started again, each with the common goal of sharing what I've learned about fighting depression with those who visit this site and find themselves in the same boat. Disappointingly, the early versions just ended up sounding like bad magazine articles. Finally, I figured any readers I might have deserved something a bit more personal than Fish Oil, Light Therapy and aromatherapy (although I strongly believe in all three -- email directly if you'd like to know more). So I decided to put it away for a few weeks and then, out of nowhere, fate intervened
Long story short, a longtime friend that works for Neuro Science, a company that tests brain chemistry and makes supplements available to correct imbalances, made it possible for me to send my saliva/urine via UPS to a testing center in Wisconsin to measure my levels of cortisol and ten various neurotransmitters (seratonin, dopamine, etc).
After holding on to the test kit for six months I realized I needed to know if my levels were normal, or whether my suspicions would be confirmed: that the meds that were keeping me alive were also making me feel depressed and anxious sometimes.
As I waited for the results I wasn't sure if I would be happier to find that I was alarmingly low in everything possible or that I was perfectly fine in the chemistry department. The first option could be fixed with more pharmaceuticals; but the second would require looking further, and quite possibly a bit of inward work. Uh-oh; I hate that.
I was about to be given a bitter pill to swallow. The results were in; my chemistry wasn't perfect but I'm guessing that several of the lifestyle changes I've made and the pharmaceuticals/supplements that I take have done a good job at keeping me reasonably balanced. However, I was so sure that the emotional roller coaster I've been riding the past two years was being driven by the HIV meds and what they were doing to my brain, I never really gave this possible outcome much thought.
Since then, I think about it ... a lot. It has been so convenient for me to blame my status and medications for the sadness, frustration and hopelessness I sometimes feel, and the limitations I have erroneously placed on my future since testing positive. If the chemicals I put inside me every evening and the virus that requires them weren't the culprit, I knew it had to be some other "unfinished business."
After several sessions with a therapist who asked me some pretty tough questions that I didn't have the answers to, I then looked myself in the mirror and asked: What else have you been using HIV as an excuse for? Damn it. Several things instantly came to mind.
Now I suppose I could share my findings with each of you but after serious consideration, I've purposely chosen not to. Partially because I'm still drawing my own conclusions but mostly because I don't want to put any ideas into your heads.
But still, if I could be so bold: the next time you find yourself in front of something reflective, you might ask yourself the same thing. Is there something in your own life that you have wrongly accused that annoying little virus for?
I would love to hear about what you uncover.
A Positive Spin
After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.
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