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Am I Mental?

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I don't know how to start this thread, because it is an issue that touches us all, but at the same time, seems to separate us at times.

Mental health and HIV is a subject that the medical field has tackled for us, with the sincerity of an artificial Santa Clause at Macy's.  Many of us have had depression from one time or another in our pasts, and many of us have shunned the Therapist with great care and purpose for the better part of our adult lives.  Then comes HIV and all the attendant bullshit that is loaded on the dump truck that soon follows HIVs introduction into our lives.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, then it is time for that therapist visit, because on top of feeling like shit warmed over, and smelling like it also; attending our own depression and mental health is usually far too much of a challenge for even the strongest of our peers.

That being said, we are then drawn to this site and the support that it can provide, and it is then that we find many of our cohorts here are also saddled with many of the same issues we are dealing with on a personal level.  Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing if someone is totally Psychotic, or just a little bit touched at any given point.  Last night, one of our longer term members was facing the wall of suicide and called out for help, and to my astonishment, help was provided with a quickness and a caring that was so astounding that it is shocking.  Even with all the checks and balances that are in place on this site, people went to no end to help a person who was in dire need of help and did so with an unselfishness that isn't always common anymore. 

I wanted to remind those of you who unselfishly gave of your sleep and time, that now you are committed to an open ended time of support and help.  However, it is also important that the person receiving that help be alert to the reality of how much energy was expended in their crisis.  What also is surprising is that this person seems to have sluffed off the event with more attacks on people that were there for them and tried to help when it was needed.  Also, the rouse of multiple names in use has confounded the operators of the site and caused them to scratch their heads to try and figure out if they are on the right track or once again being used for someones crisis, or drama, and nobody really has the answer.

I am not here to judge anyone, nor am I here to praise anyone in these events.  I am however, going to tell you  all to exercise caution in the amount of energy you expend here.  I know from experience that not all the people on this site are as honest as the majority, and when those of you have the empathy and the energy to give help, then that is a good thing.  Only thing is, remember that mental health is a tenuous thing, and anyone of us from time to time can do and say things that seem mental in the extreme.

All this brings me to the point of this thread and to the discussion that it might bring up.

How do you all deal with the times that come over us that make us feel so diminished that we feel like cutting to the chase and just stop taking the meds and let nature take it's course?  I remember times in the last five or six years when I just wanted to end the fight once and for all and just order that last script that my doctor has promissed.  I have dealt with the Therapist and he has told me that I was more sane than he was, therefore I also draw the conclusion that I needed to have someone else to talk to, and immediately thought of you guys.  I know the utter hopelessness of laying there on the bed, soaking the pillow with tears and sweat, legs burning with the constant pain I have lived with for the last 11 years and seeing absolutely no reason to go on.  I hear the people in my ears, from the different parts of the State HIV work that I do all telling me once again to "buck up and please don't die, we need you", and I think to myself, "fuck you, all you bastards that are only using me to pad your budgets and get more money from Washington".  Then I think of the woman who is HIV+ and raising four kids without the husband that infected her and then died. 

Mental health is not guaranteed, and since many of us are borderline psychotic, we are all in the same boat, so to speak.  We live our lives to the best of our ability, and those of us who are in relationships, kiss our partners good bye in the morning, only to sit in the chair, eating that protein rich breakfast to sustain our bodies and keep us healthy physically; meanwhile the pain from the legs, stomach, head and other places in our bodies comes in waves of "a reality" that won't let us even dream of a pain free life.  Is it any wonder that suicide is part and parcel of the HIV experience?

OK, I have made far too many keystrokes and have raised far too many questions for one thread and one day, so I will check off and let this ride and see what comes to the surface.

What I would of course like to see from this thread is an easy solution, but I also know that I can wish in one hand and shit in the other and I know for a fact which one will fill up first.  So in that light, I will take anything workable at this point.  Anything, even little tidbits will help. 

Thanks for not getting pissed off at my post and thanks for any suggestions I can place my teeth into.

Love and Kisses,

(edited for a stupid typo)

Miss Philicia:
Well, for one thing when I was first diagnosed I was, of course, on private medical insurance.  It was a good policy, so the mental health clause was as good as one was going to find.  Also, living in Manhattan I certainly had access to a wide variety of choices.  However, it was not until I had endured 7 years of HIV that I found myself in a therapist chair, and once I did I recall being limited to the amount of sessions I could have and all that kind of insurance crap.  So one thing I would suggest is they need, with private insurance, to offer something different for those of us with a chronic life-threatening situation.  As far as I'm concerned I think everyone at some point early in diagnosis should have a mental evaluation -- there's just too much of a proclivity to sweep things under the rug and them come crashing down on you.  I really thought I was dealing with everything really well those first 7 years but in fact I guess I wasn't, and what drove me to the therapist was the first sign of multiple things HIV-related going wrong at once, not that my situation was not dire previous to that as I had an AIDS diagnosis from the beginning, but things had always steadily improved overall at least from a lab numbers perspective.  Of course, I know what I'm suggesting that the private insurers do will never EVER happen so I'm not sure why I'm even suggesting it.

The sad thing is that once I went on disability and Medicare, the access to mental health is actually much better.  That said, while I've been in therapy now for 7 years I'm not always sure how much it is improving me, but then I think again and consider that perhaps it has prevented me from getting any worse.  So in that way I am at least treading water and managing to stay floating instead of sinking.  I suppose that in itself is some sort of personal achievement.

It would be of an priceless influence for both of you and for all others to expose all your  mental coping history especially to those who do not have a opportunity to be treated by an valid expert.And especially to emphasize the moments which were valuable to you .I have post a thread and suggested to a moderators to make a whole board on this topic , but with no answers.......Maybe you could with your posts her do some more

Philly, and Alex,

Well, for the first 11 years of infection, I didn't have too many issues that could be tied to HIV because I was young, and full of energy, drive and focus on my life and my accomplishments to even have time to get depressed.  Then when I became really confronted with this shit, I was too focused on survival to even contemplate the end or depression.  About two years into my incapacity, (read disability) I became overcome with the struggle and the pain, and wanted desperately to let it all end.  My partner and his constant support was the only thing that really kept me here.  I had no idea just how devastating it was for him to watch this struggle, knowing that I was only here by just a thread. 

When I first attempted to get some help, it was from the only therapist that was available to me and she didn't have a clue how to deal with someone with a terminal illness.  Fortunately, when the HAART therapy became available the next year, I was able to recover much of my physical strength and work through the pain.  As that happened, I filled my life with projects that were not terribly physical and kept me busy.  I renovated three boats, and one Airstream trailer and really had fun doing this kind of work because above all, it kept my hands and mind busy with "fixing" stuff. 

Lately, as I have become less and less capable physically, I have had great difficulty coming to a place where intellect must take over as the only real outlet for any challenges in life.  Not being able to continue the restoration of my little camping trailer (caravan) that is now more of a shed for stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else; I end up looking at it with a longing and when I think of all the work that is needed to remake it into a little camping gem, I tend to get defeated and think that I will probably never have the energy to finish things the way I used to.  I really don't know if this is just aging, or in fact HIV and aging, but I would be willing to bet that it is the combination of the two. 

I long for the energy to be able to go back to work and keep a job, but I know that with my inability to work for more than three days at a time, I am left with filling my days with stuff that is not interesting at all.  Just how many times can you clean the house before you go screaming into the fog with frustration and defeat.  Is this all that is left to do? 

I guess that last nights depressive events is having it's way with me this morning and for that, I think I know what to do and I am doing it now.   However, what about next week, month, year? 

I guess the answer is somewhere but I fail to see it at this point. 

Thanks guys for entering this conversation.


Moffie (Tim),

I'll begin my reply by trying to answer one of your questions:

"How do you all deal with the times that come over us that make us feel so diminished that we feel like cutting to the chase and just stop taking the meds and let nature take its course?"

Most of my younger life I lived with suicidal thoughts. As I grew into adulthood they were less frequent, although depression has also been a companion, sometimes a severe one. At the time of my HIV diagnosis in 1988, I did briefly consider ending it all. Then as time passed so did that notion.

About four years ago I entered an AIDS hospice house since I was beginning to be unable to care for myself properly. My mental state was failing (as was my body), probably the result of having lost white matter in my spine and brain and years of being untreated which came to a climax the year before.

When that didnít work out, I became homeless through a series of unfortunate events. During that time suicidal thoughts returned, along with an extreme case of anal warts and  ďwhatís the point of trying to stay alive with a future so bleak.Ē Then there was the humiliating onslaught of incontinence and adult diapers (which I still wear BTW), but thatís another topic for another time.

I cannot tell you I wonít decide to end my life if things get bad enough and I am so drained that I canít go on. If that choice is removed because AIDS takes my mind before my body, then I have set down conditions in my POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR PERSONAL CARE that will not keep me alive beyond my wishes. I also keep a DNR notice with me at all times and each of my doctors have one in my files.

Having those practical things gives me some odd level of comfort. Beyond that, I have my psychotherapist and friends (and hopefully these forums) to at least discuss the burdens with. I also try to think in small periods of time, especially when the big picture is too much to bear.



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