I don’t think it comes as any surprise to those experiencing a recent diagnosis, but finding out you have HIV can take a toll on your mental health. It’s a traumatic experience – particularly if you aren’t expecting it.
My coping mechanism was to go on with life as normal; the day after I found out, I was at my desk at work, working a full day and I somehow made it through. If you ask me what I did that day, I couldn’t answer you – but it was important to me to push through. Sitting at home was not the answer for me.
From there, my mental health has been up and down. I took advantage of the free counselling offered by the Hassle Free Clinic here in Toronto, and once those sessions came to an end, I tried to carry the weight on my own. I wasn’t able to do it, and I sought out a therapist to try and help me.
You’re going to have good days – I promise. There are going to be days where you feel great, where you’re happy and things don’t weigh on you. But, like any human being, you’re going to have bad days. If you’re like me, those bad days are the days when you feel incredibly lonely. They will be the days when your diagnosis weighs heavily on your mind, and you don’t see a path forward.
Even as I write this, I’m feeling incredibly down, but I’m digging in to my inner strength because I know that things are going to be okay in the long run. I hope if you’re reading this and have been recently diagnosed that you take some comfort in knowing that you aren’t alone in feeling down.
“The idea of having to go and have a needle, with blood drawn, paralyzed me with fear."
Today, the biggest thing weighing on me is needing to go and have more blood work done. I’ve said multiple times on this blog that I hate needles. So now, having blood drawn frequently is something I have to get used to, and I haven’t. My closest friend, who I often wonder if I’ve asked far too much from, has come with me in the past for blood work. I was certain that this time, I was going to do it on my own. I was going to go today, and get it over with; I didn’t.
The idea of having to go and have a needle, with blood drawn, paralyzed me with fear. I couldn’t focus at work, and I know that I was distracted and grumpy. It’s these moments where I need to watch myself, because I can appear unprofessional and aloof.
I guess the point of this post is for you to do you. Take care of yourself. Do things that you love. Talk to friends, or if you need to, talk to a professional. HIV and depression is real. If you need help, please seek it out. Don’t let things get too far that you feel trapped and lost. Like me, and countless others who have come before me, you’re going to come through this and you’re going to be okay.
There is now a Facebook page for the blog. If you’re so inclined, please head over and give it a “like”. I hope it can become a place where discussions can happen and we can share all kinds of information.
This article previously appeared on Josh’s own bog the Plus Side of Life here.