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A conversation about PTSD

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an92:
Hello everyone,

As some of you might know I have been diagnosed and under treatment since 2018. In the years since then I have frequently logged on to this forum to read various posts and sometimes made my own posts (46 in total). Everyone has been kind and patient with me on here, even though so many of my posts have been a very silly. When I see the record of what I have previously posted I get the urge to delete it all, but I know that's not possible on this site. Perhaps though that is a good thing, because when I see what I have written previously (mostly unfounded and irrational fears about my treatment) I realize how irrational and unfounded all those fears were that I was experiencing and that caused me to write all those questions, seeking reassurance more than anything from other people with my disease, that everything would be OK.

And so far, touch wood, everything really has been OK. And I hope that it will continue to be so for many year, many decades in fact. Reading all your stories fills me with hope. I am going to be turning 30 years old this year and I really want to turn over a new leaf in this new upcoming decade. The best thing that happened in the past ten years was that I met my life partner and got married. I know that many young people aren't prioritizing settling down, but for me it was quite natural. When you meet the one, you meet the one. However, I want to leave behind in my 20s the constant fear of illness, the fear of messing up my treatment, the fear of side effects, the fear of infecting my husband, my family, the constant sweating whenever I face any situation requiring fortitude be it at work or in my day to day life, the fear and inability to face any confrontation. All these are absolutely irrational fears, because thankfully the treatment does work very well, and I have been undetectable at my check ups, for which I am extremely grateful. But somehow, no matter how many times well meaning people explain it to me, it just doesn't seem to sink in, or rather settle permanently in my brain that I can't infect the ones I love, and that my treatment will continue to work no matter what I eat, or do, when I take it, how I store my pills etc. etc. etc.

I got diagnosed with "anxiety disorder" about two years ago. I was the first to admit that I had a problem. However I went through two therapists and a psychiatrist and nothing seemed to work. Talking about it doesn't help and pills help in the short term, but I can't accept mind altering/mood altering meds as a long term option. Certainly my faith has helped me, and I often berate myself for having too little of it. I identified the source of my fears being a lack of trust and faith in God's plan for me. I also studied Stoicism, the ancient philosophy, which definitely helped to put my life into perspective. I did grow up in the UK, so it's in our culture to have a "stiff upper lip" and not dwell too much on our feelings. Actually, that helped me to get through some of the worst stressful moments i have experienced.

Earlier today I watched a documentary about veterans suffering from PTSD. It was very interesting and I started doing some research about symptoms of this disorder. Now, I am in no way comparing my silly little problems with someone who has fought in combat and suffered devastating psychological effects, but I started to wonder if a diagnosis of HIV can be a big enough traumatic event to cause perhaps a light version of PTSD. Because I have the nightmares of being chased, the sweating, the inability to deal with any pressure or stress in my life. Has anyone else linked HIV and symptoms of PTSD in their lives? I would like to hear from you, and maybe talk about it together.

I think in my case the "trauma" that I experienced was the actual diagnosis, because I legitimately thought that I am going to die. That my life is over, in my early twenties, and that I would never get to do anything I wanted to do. I felt I betrayed my family, even now I haven't told any of my relatives (except obviously my husband, who was with me when I got diagnosed and supported me since). And I don't plan to tell them, because I don't think they are strong enough to deal with it, because of their own prejudices or preconceptions, so I would prefer to protect them from it if I can. However this "trauma" has triggered a much far reaching fear of illness in my life and the life of my loved ones.

CalvinC:
I'm not a therapist and so, like most people here, am not qualified to wonder if indeed you have PTSD or PTSD-light, or however your troubles are manifesting.

What I will say that in this age of "trauma" (note the scare quotes), it appears that people (including me) are searching for answers to an ailment that must fit, and fit perfectly. Thus, what used to be know as "being a little down" or "the blues" is now being refashioned as "trauma." I will state that, of course, mental illness is a serious thing and requires good diagnoses.

But I wonder that in our search for what-is-REALLY-wrong is simply that mental illnesses don't come prepackaged and don't necessarily fit one category.

When I tested, for me it wasn't about being positive (though of course it was in part, in retrospect). It was my great fear that the guy I was seeing would leave -- and sure enough, he did, in the worst possible way. After years of casual relations and casual sex, everything came to a grinding halt, and THAT was what pushed me to the edge. With support, I got through it.

Was that "trauma"? Well, perhaps. Or maybe it was all just a shitty situation and I needed to deal with it. Was it "PTSD" or something like that? Again, maybe it was just a shitty situation and I needed to deal with it. And I did.

The point I'm making, is that rather than looking for labels you continue on the path of gentle exploration, like mediation and keeping a gratitude journal or whatever. Get outside yourself and your head and think of others. Wonderfully curative. If neither of your therapists think you have PTSD, I'll wager that it's a safe bet that you don't.

Be well

Cal

harleymc:
Is the diagnosis traumatic or is it coming to the realisation that we have been gaslighted about HIV for decades before our diagnosis.

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