Coping with Uncertainty after HIV Diagnosis
Wondering What Lies on the Road Ahead
By June 26 800 1
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.
Nobody likes uncertainty. And an HIV diagnosis can bring up all kind of questions about the future. Sure, you’ve had all the lectures about maintaining an optimistic attitude. But what do you do when that “What if” question creeps up on you?
Gather your fan club around you.
One of the lessons of uncertain times is to build a solid support system. Who are the people in your life who help you to bring out your best self, and who rely on you to do the same for them? Make sure you keep them close. Spending some time with your fans is a good way to help you keep your focus on what’s going well in your life right now.
Keep antidotes for negative self-talk handy.
When you tell yourself how scary and bleak the future looks, you are training your mind to focus on the negative side. Chances are that your view of reality will match your expectations. But like any poison, negative self-talk will shrivel away when zapped with your most powerful antidote – positive self-talk to balance out the negative.
Remind yourself how you have met challenges in the past.
Start your list of antidotes with your greatest successes. Don’t forget your key skills and personal qualities. Here’s one to add to the list: resilience. You have faced at least one life-altering challenge – your HIV diagnosis – and moved forward with your life. So you know you have what it takes to meet the next challenge.
Embrace your higher power.
Believe in something beyond the bad news and the day-to-day setbacks. Your Higher Power can be found through a spiritual or religious practice, or it may be found in simply trusting in your own inner strength for strength and guidance.
Nothing is guaranteed, except this moment in time.
Give up the struggle to be in control. You can’t go back and fix what you did or didn’t do in the past, you can’t control the future, and you certainly can’t control what anybody else is doing. But you can be certain about doing the best you can for yourself, and the people you care about, right now.
With all of these resources, how bad can things be? Take a deep breath and go with the flow.