What is normal?
There are many things you can do to increase or maintain your mental health, including many of the things listed in enjoying life section: staying active and socially connected, eating well, not smoking, and moderating consumption of alcohol or other drugs.
Life has lots of ups and downs and it is normal to feel sad or worried when things don’t go well but if you are experiencing negative or damaging feelings that are intense or last for a long time or if you are having trouble getting things done, it may be useful to talk to someone. There is nothing weak or overly dramatic about seeking support. Remember, many people who experience depression, anxiety or other mental health issues find appropriate treatment either greatly reduces their symptoms or they completely recover.
If at any time you feel you are in crisis, contact Lifeline on their 24 hour crisis and support line 13 11 14. You do not need to feel unsure or embarrassed to access their service, which answers almost 2000 calls a day.
There are many and multiple causes of depression including major stress, drug and alcohol use, and concurrent medical conditions. Women are more likely to experience depression than men. Often a combination of factors contribute to a person developing depression. Living with HIV infection may or may not be one of them.
While you may not be able to identify the cause of depression, it is important to recognise the signs and symptoms and seek help. There are many effective treatments including medical and psychological treatments. There are also many things you can do to work towards recovery and staying well. It’s important to find something that works for you. Remember depression is very common and for many people who seek help, it is a short term problem.
A combination of factors can lead to a person developing anxiety, including experiencing difficult emotional events, physical illness or long term substance use. People who tend to be ‘perfectionists’ are more likely to develop anxiety. Women are more likely to experience anxiety than men.
Anxiety is a normal emotion that affects most people from to time. However, if your anxiety is out of proportion to your situation or if it persists, it may be useful to seek professional help. For more information on anxiety and its treatment see Beyond Blue’s website or contact Beyond Blue or your local PLHIV organisation.
Grief and Loss
Grief is a natural response to loss, including loss of a loved one or relationship, loss of a career or loss of a way of life. Some people experience a sense of grief and loss after being diagnosed with HIV or dealing with the impact of HIV on their lives.
Although HIV antiretroviral treatments now offer most people a long healthy life, there may be things you can no longer do for a whole range of reasons including physical or psychological reasons, because you are time-poor managing medical appointments, etc. Different people react differently to the idea their lives have changed, and of course the amount of change will be different for everyone.
Everyone experiences grief differently. It may make you feel sad, angry, anxious, regretful, relieved, overwhelmed, irritable or numb. It may also affect your behaviour, sense of identity and your relationships with others.