How I'm Feeling
It's not unusual having subtle and intense feelings after being diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus. You're not the only one. Studies show more than 80 percent of HIV+ people have symptoms of depression or anxiety. Living with HIV can raise many questions and mixed feelings.
You need to talk about your feelings, regardless of how hard it can be. Not asking questions and talking about how you feel is not healthy. It can make you feel alone. Feeling alone can make you depressed and anxious, and hopeless about your condition. In addition, some HIV medications can have mental side effects.
Resource: HIV Institute from UCSF: Coping with HIV
Are you newly diagnosed?
Most people, after hearing their test result is positive, experience feelings of shock and denial. Denial can cause fear, guilt and anger. Your reaction is understandable. It is life-changing news. Just keep in mind that you are an amazing person and, with the right tools, you can get through. Support from family, friends and professionals can help you cope with your feeling.
Stress is Common in HIV
You may feel a flood of thoughts at times.
- Why me?
- I’m tired of taking pills, but I know I should.
- Going to the doctors is a reminder about more stuff to do and blood draws.
- I’m feeling lost with these insurance programs. Do I have to submit more paperwork?
- Why does housing and fuel cost so much?
- It is time for refills again?
How Do You Feel?
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It's important for you to recognize when you're under stress. In this way, you will find better ways to deal with it. But for now, this is what experts recommend:
Believe in yourself and try not to attach emotions to all the tasks that need to get done. Make a list, and treat it like doing dishes -- necessary, but not worth getting aggravated about. Remember that your thoughts affect you and it’s important to reflect good thoughts to yourself.
Set yourself free. Crying can reduce your anxiety, which might prevent physical symptoms that come along with stress. Some of the physical symptoms related to stress are headache, backache and appetite loss.
Open up and talk about it. Talking with someone you trust about it won't fix the problem, but can help you feel better. You have options; there are counselors and other health providers whom you can talk with. But, talking with family members and friends also may help you feel relieved.
Physical activities can mitigate tension. There many ways you can exercise. Walking stairs, dancing and yoga are just some activities you might try to let out tension.
Take care of yourself. Eat well and rest. Not sleeping or eating well is associated with irritability and less energy. Without 8 hours or more of sleep, it’s easy to get run down.
Most of us have felt lonely and fear it. Feeling connected to others is crucial when you are going through difficult times. Don't panic when left alone. First of all, you have yourself. Health providers work because they care about you. Do you feel you need more? Consider a support group or a spiritual guide. There is always someone who can help you. There are many different support groups. If you need help, we're here to help you. Please give us a call to make an appointment at 619-543-3995. The good news is that there are ways to overcome this feeling.
Support groups for people with HIV
Sometimes you may feel sad because it's overcast, rainy or just nothing is going right. We all have those days. When you're HIV+, you may feel sad about a lot of things and disappointed about where you are and how our world is.
Sadness can sneak up on us and suddenly we realize we might be depressed.
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling tired frequently
- Sleeping more or less than usual
- Not enjoying things you did before
- Being irritable
- Feeling worthless
- Losing or gaining weight
Many people have been inspired by other HIV+ people who have found their own way to cope with the fact that they're HIV+. The way a person deals with testing positive is unique. What works for some people doesn’t necessarily mean it's going to work for you. However, it's helpful to hear from other people how they've dealt with it.
Link to places to get involved in the community and help others. You can help by “telling your story” on a website, or contributing to a blog, etc.
I need to understand the relationship between stress and relaxation.
Sometimes when we think about relaxation, we imagine sitting on a couch or better yet in Hawaii at the poolside. But mental relaxation is a way of calming and focusing the mind. For example, a stressed mind can jump quickly from thought to thought like trying to carry a stack of 100 dishes. You know one is going to slip and crash. A relaxed mind focuses on one thing at a time like using a plate bin and just washing plate by plate, neatly arranging them for storage.
I want to be more confident and assertive.
Relating with others is very important to being healthy. Sometimes expressing ourselves or being honest with others is not easy.
Asserting yourself means:
Remaining calm when you're expressing your feeling to others and communicating clearly.
Trying to stay centered in what you want to get across without getting tangled up in an argument.
Say "yes" when you really mean it. And "no" when you mean it.
Fear of conflict can shut people off. Don’t let this keep you from talking with others about how you feel.
The model in this picture is for illustrative purposes only. This picture does not imply the attitudes, behaviors or health status of the model depicted.