Your Emotional Health
The fact that you have HIV will change your
life - forever. Only those who have received the news "You
have HIV..." know what it is like and experience the
range of emotions. Some of the emotions you may be experiencing
or might experience include:
Denial is different for each person but
the idea is the same, it is the feeling that what is happening
is not real. "There must be some mistake." "That
test must have been faulty." "This can not be happening
Anxiety is general feeling of uneasiness.
This can be intense at times, but it will get better. It usually
includes racing thoughts and powerlessness.
Anger is a normal emotion that a lot of
people living with HIV experience, and can be part of a healthy
response. Anger by itself is not a bad thing: it is what people
do with their anger that can be bad. People are sometimes
angry with God, themselves, the person who told them of their
status, at the person they think exposed them, or at the disease.
Depression is sometimes called anger turned
inwards. Someone who is depressed feels like there is no hope
and experience sadness. A lot of people with HIV go through
these feelings when they are first diagnosed. Some people
may only experience two of these feelings and get over them
quickly. Other people may have these and lots more. It is
different for everyone. It is very likely that these feelings
will come back.
Acceptance is an important part of the emotional
process of coping with HIV or any life-changing situation.
In order to move on you have to get to the point that you
can accept HIV as a part of your life, and decide that you
are going to deal with it. Just because you accept something
does not mean that you have to like it. However, for you to
live your life and be happy, you have to take care of yourself
in new ways, accepting that HIV is a part of your life is
a beginning. The more you learn about HIV the better.
Suggestions for coping with HIV
It is important that you have someone to
whom you can talk when you experience these emotions. If you
do not have someone with whom you feel you can confide you
might try a counselor or a support group. There are several
support groups in the area. A lot of people are able to get
a great deal of help from their support group. They are confidential
and it sometimes helps to talk to people who are going through
the same things and have had the same thoughts and feelings.
After receiving the news of your HIV infection,
you probably missed some of the information that you were
given. It is common for someone's mind to go "blank"
after being told that they are living with HIV. You might
have thought that you were going to die the next day or the
next week. You may need to go back to your medical provider's
office for a revisit. There are a lot of people who can help;
nurse educator, case manager, or if you prefer there is a
lot of information on the Internet and in books.
You may find that the following suggestions
are helpful to you in coping:
about someone that you love and trust that you can talk to
about HIV. Do not feel like you have to tell everyone right
away. It will happen when you are ready. But do try and find
someone to whom you can talk.
Learn as much about HIV as you can and begin your own health
care plan. Members of your HIV health care team can help you.
As you take charge of your health care and develop a plan,
use words like "I can" ... "I will" ...
"I plan to" ... "We can" ... "I know
I can". These words help develop a positive and healthy
Think of yourself as your own best advocate, and take an active
role in your health care.
Develop a strong support system or network of family and friends.
In a time of need you will need to know whom you can call.
Carefully select these people
Many people living with HIV are living productive,
happy lives. They have learned to adjust, and they have found
ways to improve their physical and emotional health. Living
well with HIV means taking care of your body and your mind.
Understanding your feelings is a big part of the process.
It may take time for you to accept HIV, but once you do, you
have taken a big step in fighting the illness. Many have found
that emotional support, meditation, prayer, and laughter have
helped them keep their bodies and minds balanced and strong.
Selected suggested reading:
Healing HIV: How to rebuild your immune
system. Jon D. Kaiser, M.D., Health First Press, 1999
HIV Plus: Research and Treatment.
POZ. Monthly Magazine
Positively Aware. Monthly Magazine
AU: Monthly Magazine
Copies of all of these and many others may
be available through USCC
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