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Any words of advice to a newbie?

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So how did you guys get through the first year?

Anyway, I'm a mess of course. Sooo...
Xanax for my anxiety. Thank god it was invented.
St. John's Wort for my depression....even though it's given me slight sunburnt skin which is odd since I'm olive and NEVER burn. It hasn't kicked in yet. My co-infected friend said the depression will "only get worse." I start cognitive-behavioral therapy this week. I'm being pro-active about everything and trying to learn as much as I can. However, reading everything all over the internet and in here has caused a HUGE increase in my anxiety. My metabolism is already high and I'm majoring in dance at my university so I'm already eating A LOT. It's just sooo odd to me. I eat and one hour later I'm shaking from low blood sugar. Then the following week I have NO appetite and don't want to even do laundry or cook.  It goes in waves I guess...both the anxiety and depression.  Ok tangent.

Would anti-depressants be something to try even though the depression is a mixture of the "summer blues" and all the shit that has gone down? If so, has anyone has awful awful side effects from them? Has St. John's Wort worked for anyone? How long will it be before I become addicted to my Xanax? Anyway my brain has run rampant with a gazillion questions. Feel free to answer any of them. Yes I know I should ask my doctor these questions...but he has a gazillion patients and I always feel like we never have time to discuss them any help would be great! :)

Hi Shadow,

You need to be careful with St John's wort - it can interact with other medications and cause problems. I'm not sure if it interacts with Xanax, but from everything I've read about the stuff, it's more trouble than it's worth. (SJW I mean)

Make sure you speak to your therapist about any and all meds you're taking when you have your first appointment this week, including any recreational drugs or alcohol. He or she needs this information in order to do the best work with you - they're not going to judge you or turn you in to the cops over your usage.

If you stick with the CBT and do the home-exercises you're given, you may find that you don't need antidepressants at all. CBT is a fantastic tool against anxiety and depression, so good luck with it. It can take a determined effort to stick with it in the beginning, but any effort you make will be rewarded.

If it is at all possible, try to get an appointment with a licensed nutritionist who is familiar and up-to-date with the needs of hiv positive people - especially one such as yourself who has high nutritional needs due to studying dance. You might find some of your issues improving after fine-tuning your diet. (and check out our Nutrition Forum)

Most of all Shadow, hang in there. It does get better. The first year is a crazy roller-coaster ride of emotions and we all go through it. Keep in mind that it is normal to feel this way and that feeling sad is sometimes just a part of life. Something I tell myself when I'm down - "this too shall pass". (and it does!)


Miss Philicia:
Hello Shadow and welcome to the forums.  Ann gives you very good advice.  As far as Xanax and addiction, please be mindful that there's a difference between addiction and physical dependency.  Xanax is in the benzodiazepine class and as such is VERY effective at taming one's anxiety as I'm sure you have noticed by now.  Many people only stay on it for a brief period, and perhaps once you start having some success with your CBT sessions you will be able to go off of it.  Attention should be paid not to cease a benzodiazepine at one time, but to slowly taper off of the medication.  However, I've known people to be on this class of medication for long periods with no ill effect.  Liver functions should normally be monitored when on this class of drugs initially if you are on HAART which I don't believe you are yet.

Additionally I really must add that if you find yourself being somewhat obsessive with HIV information on the internet and it's aggravating (or even causing?) your anxiety condition why won't you simply turn the thing off?  Go buy a book instead.  Frankly I often thank God that the internet as it currently is was not available to me when I was diagnosed in the early 90's or I would have gone insane.  I realize it's a mixed bag, and can be a positive source of good information as well, but there is such a thing as overload certainly during the first year.  You're asking too much of your brain.  I'm sure you will discuss this "internet" issue with your therapist, as I see that in five AIDSmeds postings you're already mentioned it twice.

Good luck

I will also say Hang in there, shadow. You're in a OMG OMG OMG!!! state for now and it is normal. Like Ann said, this will pass, and certainly faster than you expect, especially if you use this forum to get better knowledge, and do not rely on internet searches that can lead to any imaginable website. Of course there will be anxiety, and it seems like you have a good plan to work that, so you're on the right track ! And yes, no Saint John Wort. In the forum about Nutrition & Hiv that Ann references, you will find lots of information about supplements, and some good reports from people, but remember that supplements are not a cure for HIV, you should take them as they are: "supplements", to help your body fight. Once you have determined the kind of supplements that you think you want to take, show the list to your ID doctor to get his or her approval.


Howdy and welcome.

Any words of advice?     Not really.  Just experience, and like all experience, it's different for all of us.  Your life has changed and it's normal to suffer anxiety and depression.  It is a hopeful sign, however, that you have the presence of mind to seek help with a therapist.  (if only I had done the same a decade ago).  There is no roadmap to success on how to deal with a serious disease like HIV.  By reading these forums alone, you will be able to see that the experience with the disease cuts across all genders, classes, orientation and races. 

I can only relate what I have experienced, like I said.  I have come to realize that I am happier when I deal with my emotions honestly, ugly or pretty.  When I forgive myself and others for things that have happened in the past... and allowed it to stay there... I have an easier time healing.  When I stay in shape, pay attention to my health, and actively pursue doing the things I enjoy, I feel like I am alive.  And when I allow depression to smudge my horizon, then I allow it to pass through me, I allow myself to feel sad for a while, and then I let it go. 

Things might seem bleak right now.  The Xanax might help for a while.  I've only ever been able to take such things in small doses, even when I have serious anxiety attacks.  But when they do come, they are briefer and I occupy myself with distracting things.  The bleakness will fade and your life will continue.   

I hope you have many in your life who love you and that you don't attempt to go it alone.  And when you need an 'ear', we are right here.

All the best to you and good luck.



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