Go Ahead and Ask the “Why me?” Question
HIV Diagnosis: Asking the “Why me?” question is an important part of coping
By November 20, 2012 203
Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist and educator who works primarily with individuals living with chronic medical conditions, as well as their families and caregivers. He has written extensively on health and body-mind-spirit topics, including a regular column on mental health in HIV Plus magazine. He maintains a website, JustGotDiangosed.com, with information and inspiration for newly-diagnosed patients.
Learning that you are HIV positive inevitably brings up the question of “Why me?” Sure, it’s a question without an answer. But that doesn’t mean you won’t ask it. After all, it’s only human to wonder why life is throwing you a curveball.
Asking the “Why me?” question is an important part of the process of coping with an HIV diagnosis. Along with the “Why me?” comes a lot of strong emotions – sadness, frustration, anger, fear, disappointment. Feelings that are all part of the experience of being diagnosed with HIV. Asking “Why me?” helps you to bring those feelings to the surface, so that you can deal with them, rather than pretend they don’t exist.
“Why me?” is often about having control of your life and not having control. An HIV diagnosis has a way of pushing you to look at the control you have in your life, what you thought you had control of, and what you don’t have control of. Control can be hard to think about, especially lack of control. But it’s an important part of coming to terms with your HIV diagnosis.
What to do when the “Why me?” question comes up for you
Some venting may help. Sometimes it can help to just sit down with someone who can be a non-judgmental listening ear, and ask them to just let you vent about your feelings. It can be helpful to release those pent up emotions, to let them out in the air rather than keeping them bottled up inside. You might want to let your listening ear know that you just want to talk and aren’t asking them for advice, unless you want their advice.
Ask yourself: How much control do I have? You might want to use some mindfulness here. Stand back and take a look at the situation as if you were an uninvolved observer. What’s going on with that person – you. What is in that person’s control? What isn’t? This may help you to get a perspective on what’s going on.
And then ask yourself: What can I change and what can I fix? By taking a more objective look at your life, you can begin to sort out what you can actually do something about and what may be less in your control. Acceptance is the beginning of a more peaceful attitude. Knowing what you can change is the beginning of empowerment. Understanding both will help you to find your way out of your frustration.
Show yourself some compassion and patience. Feeling out of control can result in beating up on yourself, which can, in turn, affect your self-image. Go easy on yourself, tell yourself that you are facing a lot and that you are doing the best you can under the circumstances, and that you will find a way to face his challenge, as you have faced others in the past. Turn your compassion outward. If you can stop blaming yourself you will also be less likely to blame others.
Get involved in activities you enjoy, and with people you enjoy them with. Take time for activities that give you pleasure and help to keep you calm. Keeping a journal can help. Get together with friends or family members that you enjoy being with. Basically, distract yourself from all that frustration. Reach out and celebrate what’s going well in your life.
Don’t neglect your spirit. If you have religious or spiritual practices that are part of your life, or that you want to make a part of your life, there is no time like the present.
Be patient. The world doesn’t run on our personal clock. Things take time. This includes managing medications, getting diet and lifestyle on track, and communicating with healthcare professionals and loved ones. Bumps along the road don’t have to mean that the road can’t be traveled with some work and a new strategy. In the meantime, don’t neglect your self-care – this is not a time to neglect yourself.
Strategize with someone who can help. Speaking of strategizing, it can be helpful to talk with someone who can help you to brainstorm on solutions to whatever situation is causing your frustration. This should be a person who can help you to look at things objectively, who can help you to consider things from various angles, and who might have some suggestions. It’s not this person’s job to solve your problem for you, just to help you to open up to what’s possible, to help you gain some perspective. Support groups can be helpful here.
Consult the experts. Talk to people who can offer you professional advice. This might mean a conversation with your physician or another medical professional.
Consider reaching out to a mental health professional. If you are feeling overwhelmed by your feelings, if they are affecting your attitude, causing self-doubt or conflict with loved ones or other people in your life, or interfering with your self-care in any way, this may be a good time to consult with a mental health professional. Don’t go through this alone.