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A NOTE TO WORRIED WELLS AND THE EXPERTS from J_friend

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j_friend:
My friends at Aidsmeds - and epecially to the Worried Wells:

After three months of literally existing in a hell-realm, I somehow found the courage to purchase a Home Access Test. My last exposure was August 3rd, and I took the Home Access Test on Nov. 15th - enough time lapse for a VERY reliable result. I immediately sent it in, and needless to say, I had visions of calling in a matter of months or so. I figured, since the answer was there waiting for my simple phone call, I could muster up the courage, and spontaneously "dial" while experiencing a "Clint Eastwood" moment of courage (Ok ... maybe Richard Simmons).  I went to my doctor, who prescribed some Xanax; and justifiably so - life was becoming too difficult to even simply function.  After all, in the last 18 months, I had NUMEROUS unprotected vaginal sexual epsiodes (as well as anal sex with those women). Many of these were anonymous encounters with people I'd met over the internet.  I also met 5-6 transexuals over the internet - all of whom I had oral sex with, as well as brief insertive, uprotected anal (quite brief ... but unprotected). And finally, my last episode on August 3rd, involved a transexual briefly penetrating me -  unprotected.  It should be noted that my addiction to pain-killers (mixed with booze) assisted me in continuing to do this for well over a year without stopping to ask, "What the hell am I doing?"

A month after finally quitting Vicodin, my mind freaked - since a few weeks after that receptive encounter, I noticed some oral ulcers. Clusters of them - and I never had them before. Again, I went back to the internet - not to find sex - but to obsessively search for symptoms!  Wow - a classic ARS symptom (or so I thought) - two weeks after brief unprotected receptive anal. Next, my body began to ache, followed by slight headaches and nightsweats with numb hands.  For weeks this continued - every single night. In fact, months! My mouth was SO different, I'd have constant oral sores, burning mouth (sometimes the sores were so bad, I could hardly eat), and a tongue which turned to pure white (and was often full of sores) - in which I could scrape "gunk" off.  I was VERY fatigued and had light night sweats for well over two months - often leaving large damp stains on my pillow. I had scabs in my scalp, painful swollen nodes in my neck, back of the neck, underarms, and groin - and yes, they were swollen and they hurt (hmmm ... possibly from me pressing them ALL day long every day?). My throat had yellow-whitish spots, and my voice even seemed to change (possible candida in there? Yup - in my mind!).  ALL of these symptoms pointed to HIV infection ... and I was utterly convinced that I had it. I'd attempt to teach school, and only about a third of me would be actually present. In fact, a third of me was present, and the rest was dying into this fear that I was a man with HIV. I lived on the internet researching HIV, etc. Every time I walked by the bathroom mirror, I'd thoroughly examine my tongue and inner mouth - often with a flashlight.  I would go to bed at 5:30, with my wireless laptop and TV remote control - every night - shutting out the world and life. Every night, my friends!  I never answered the phone ... my relationships suffered greatly. I'd already considered ways to disclose to family and friends, medications I'd take, etc.   Naturally, my therapist, and a few close friends told me they thought this was all in my head. But heck, it was EASY for them to say; dammit - they weren't waking up in the middle of the night sweating. They weren't turning there head and having their nodes hurt, they weren't seeing white patches resembling oral thrush in the sides of their cheeks!  Their heads weren't cloudly and foggy all day!  I went through stages of taking long walks - alone  and weeping. I read Aidsmeds EVERY single damn day (hours upon hours) - I feel like I know the life story of some of the regulars here. I became angry at WW's who thought they were infected from finger-banging a girl with a hang-nail. I became "elite" in my head - I had a "right" to be concerned in my obsessive mind.  And, perhaps I did- but I overlooked the fact that all fear is relative -  regardless of one's exposure. I tell you, my friends, when you wake up sweaty at 3:00 AM every damn night and you have a white tongue, white spots in the back of your throat, swollen nodes, and bleeding scabs on your scalp (and you've read these can all fit into HIV) ... well, if you're OCD like me, there's no doubt you have it!

So, somehow, someway, I took enough Xanax today, chased it with a beer, and got my results today from Home Access in a rather numbed haze (not recommending this - but I truly couldn't have done it without being sedated). And you damn experts were right ... lol.  I am negative. Since my last exposure was on Aug 3, and my test was on Nov. 15th .... well, I'm DONE. In particular, I'd like to thank Ann, Andy, and especially Pleasewakemeup - who  seemed to somehow understand exactly where I was. I certainly hope I can be of some help to the Worried Wells on here.  And please, if ANYONE gets one thing from this post: The brain is an AMAZING organ - the mind can literally make us sick, as mine did.  I realize I dug a HUGE mental hole for myself; and although this news is unbelievably wonderful (I'm still in a dream-like haze), I still have some sincere work to do - some digging, if you will, to get on solid ground. I am committed to my therapy, and I've made a six month contract with my therapist to stay in counseling - I made this last week - regardless of what my results would be.  And I NEED to continue to get help - because this irrational fear is MUCH more than HIV - it's about something inside of me - and if not dealt with, it will continue to manifest in my life.

Those of you who are WW's, feel free to PM me - I'd be happy to give any feedback - trust me when I say I've been in "WW hell".  To the experts, thank you for your incredible patience ... you are doing a true service, and it does not go unnoticed. I sincerely wish all of you peace and health.

j

Andy Velez:
Well J, WE TOLD YA SO, WE TOLD YA SO!

Congrats on that happy test result. Celebrate by always using a condom for intercourse.

Cheers,

j_friend:
Thank you much, Andy.  And, according to my new doctor (who happens to be one of the TOP HIV Specialists in the LA/OC area), in the very next few years, we'll all see some VERY exciting and new meds coming down the pipeline (I'm sure you know this) - which may even surpass the excitement of the "new breakthroughs" from 1996. I formed a good relationshp with him, and he agreed to keep me as patient. I figured I may as well have a doctor who I can tell ANYTHING to.  I don't mean to sound presumptuous by the new drug statement, but he is quite confident there are GREAT things for the fight against HIV on the near horizon.  Nevertheless, thanks for your help Andy - your posts always demonstrate integrity and a certain "centered-ness" ...  you tend to stay away from some of the ego generated passionate bickering. I guess you practice what you preach about that "deep breathing"!  I'm going to listen to my Ram Dass tapes again and try to bring back some meditation into my life - I could use it!

Andy Velez:
Meditation is always a good thing.

And having a good doctor with whom you have an honest relationship is excellent too.

Let's hope he's right about those expectations for new and effective anti-HIV meds.

Cheers,

j_friend:
I just wanted to express my gratitude, in this time of Thanks, to all of those people who are helping with the Worried Wells on the AM I Infected forum.  It has to be tough work - especially when many of the concerns are similar in nature.  I also wanted to express my empathy with many of the concerned people on this forum who are afraid they've contracted HIV.  The FEAR you're expressing is real - I know that. But PLEASE feel free to read about my exposures in detail - I was CONVINCED I had HIV, and as I continued to obsess and read about it, my body was under a HUGE microscope ... and the symptoms came on STRONG!  I know these words will mean little to those who are DEEP in the fear, but try and listen to the experts here. Try and trust that HIV isn't a punishment - it's a virus - and a virus that is transmitted under specific conditions.  Sex and guilt often come together, and HIV is the ultimate punishment for many of us Worried Wells. But, fortunately, viruses don't have personalities - and God has better things to do than to punish us - we do that to ourselves.  Take this time as an opportunity to work on yourself - I've spent MANY years of my life punishing myself for my sexual behaviors, and it's gotten me nowhere.  I made a deal with my therapist that if I test negative, which I did, that I'd stay at least six more months in therapy. I'm glad I made that deal - now it's time to look at this guilt, shame, and for me, a HUGE fear that God is a disappointed, angry parent who's ready to kick my ass for whom I have sex with and what I do.  Anyway, enough rambling ... I'm just grateful for this forum and I'm thankful that I listened to some advice and got my ass into therapy.  Maybe, just maybe I'll begin to accept myself ... and stop beating the crap out of myself. Here's hoping ...

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