It's time to talk HIV and mental health

It’s time to talk HIV and mental health

I think the time is right to get some counselling now because I am in a position of strength. I am feeling much better than I have for a long time, my whole perspective has changed and I want to make sure that it continues.

man_women_counselling_280I’ve decided to get some Counselling.

For me, my HIV treatment and mental health go hand in hand; so much of one depends on the other and I am reliably informed by my consultant and nurses that emotional wellbeing and an attitude of (forgive the pun) positivity can have an impact of the function of the immune system.

The medical team and I have certainly noticed a correlation between bloods that show a lower than usual CD4 count at times of the year when I tend to be more depressed.

At any rate after everything that’s happened in the last year what with the break-up and start of the divorce, two house moves, a redundancy and a hospitalisation I think it’s wise to carry out a bit of psychological ‘housekeeping’.

We all have people we talk to; family, friends, the dog… My partner Troy had a hairdresser named Rose. She is a very chilled out character, – a haircut with Rose could last anywhere between 30 minutes and three hours. We recently arrived at one in the afternoon and sat chatting and drinking some deadly plum liquor until about half four.

I thought that was as good as it got but no, I am told that once he was there for eight hours and needed to order a takeaway.

In that time Troy could get everything off his chest and leave feeling at ease and with a new haircut. Two birds with one stone.

Over the last 28 and a bit years that I have always found it much easier to talk to strangers, someone who doesn’t know me is far more likely to get an honest answer from me about how I feel inside. Why this is I don’t know, perhaps I’m less guarded or mindful of what they will think. The inescapable truth is that I do not open up easily. I would rather be hospitalised than admit I’m not feeling my best – as happened in January.

I have to confess that I am an emotional cutter, – after my diagnosis I was so lost and so full of hurt with the way in which it had came about and being unable to pursue any form of recourse or justice that I turned my anger inwards, I began to hate myself and finally ended up believing that I had deserved it.

I felt no one would want me, so I married the first man who was nice to me and didn’t run a mile.

It took a long time to deal with my hurt, I have been positive now for over eight years and I’m almost at the eighth anniversary of my diagnosis, but finally that wound is starting to heal. Like all wounds it has scar tissue which still hurts occasionally and I will always know it is there but I am no longer feeling like a victim.

I will survive and thrive, and that is why I’m having a party. This year on the first of August it will be eight years since I was diagnosed. Usually I have preferred to spend this day alone thinking on what I lost.

This year, however, I am celebrating what I gained; a greater awareness and understanding of my health, I forged strong bonds with my family and friends, I found my strength and I found a determination that (though the man who did it didn’t think my life was worth anything) I would make it worth something and I would do everything I could to make my little life count.

Another lesson I have learned in the last year, and for which the only solution is an expensive solicitor, is that you shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t make you happy.

I still cut myself emotionally by worrying about things I can’t influence or that may never happen, I compare myself to others and beat myself up if I haven’t done as well or look as good or am as educated, I cut myself up when, in reality and on my good days I can see that I’m doing ok.

I don’t know why I torture myself emotionally and in a way I am grateful that my emotional cutting hasn’t translated into a physical manifestation. I suppose I am a natural worrier, some people just are. Troy is not, he once bought a homeless guy a cup of tea, but quickly found he didn’t enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling a good deed brings so had to balance it out by chasing a pigeon down the street.

I think the time is right to get some counselling now because I am in a position of strength. I am feeling much better than I have for a long time, my whole perspective has changed and I want to make sure that it continues.

Far be it from me to try and sell you all the benefits of counselling (and I should probably declare an interest in that I am a trustee of a counselling charity) but for me personally, I have found that if myself, you or anyone can talk with someone, whether it’s a counsellor or a partner, a friend, a relative, a dog or a hairdresser over a glass of something which could quite easily pass for jet fuel, make sure you do; because a problem shared really is a problem halved.

Steve Cummins (@SteveOfTheMarch on Twitter

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