April 19, 2019

This Veterans HIV Story

Eight weeks ago I was diagnosed as HIV positive from indiscriminate sex. While giving me clarity, it's had a profound impact on my physical, and mental health.
by Scott Lee

A year ago the rashes on my face and neck began. Gradually I started feeling hot and cold, and becoming more fatigued over the year.

Four months ago intermittent fevers began until they were daily.

Three months ago when  shingles appeared, it dawned on me two rashes at the same time was bad. So I scheduled a follow up appointment after getting treated in the ER.

Normally I give high praise to the Robley Rex Medical Center in Louisville KY.

Due to scheduling snafus with both, primary care and the infectious disease, my testing and treatment was delayed a month. If not for an insightful resident calling, I might have completely fallen through the cracks.

On my first blood test I was given two numbers. The first is the viral load at 208,000. The second is CD4 at 208 (healthy immune system averages 1500). Anything below 200 is an AIDS diagnosis.

After my diagnosis I had not seen a doctor at the VA until landing in the emergency room severely dehydrated, and running high temperatures.
Add caption
The doctor in charge of my care in the clinic will soon be fired.
Until then, I know my patients rights, and the patient advocate is familiar with my case. Let's not forget the resident on point doing a stellar job.

My diagnosis made me feel even more isolated, and created a panic around who I could, and shouldn't tell.

When I started opening up and telling a couple people, all the extraneous conflict dissolved, and began deflating my sense of imploding.

Yesterday I took my 30th $100 pill. After two weeks of taking the medicine my viral load is down to 1200, and my CD4 is 254.

The doctor said it will take a couple of months for my immune system to fully recover, and to test undetectable.

The clarity?

I want to be alive in 25-30 years, being around family, and watching my grandkids grow up. Which means leading a healthy lifestyle, on all fronts.

Words carry the ability to open, or close our spirits. I keep hearing, “At least it's not a death sentence anymore.”

While I'm grateful for the medicines, science, and knowledge, it doesn't take away the fear, or symptoms.


April 13, 2019

Importance of an Empathetic Therapist for Chronic Traumatization

Finding a compassionate and empathetic therapist is a must to heal from trauma.

Vets, if we do not develop a connection with our therapist, it’s unlikely we will keep our appointments. If missing an appointment call to cancel, and reschedule, so another vet can take your place.

There is no time frame in healing from war trauma.

We may feel an urgent need to purge, or have a sense of never being able to talk about our experiences. Similar to running distances we need to pace ourselves in therapy so we do not retraumatize ourselves, and return to our old coping habits.

It might take a couple of therapists to find the right one, so it’s important to keep appointments even if your not feeling secure in sharing. If after three or four visits, a rapport is not developed with your mental health practitioner, ask for a Change of Provider form at the counter.

To increase the likelihood of approval, write lack of rapport or connection, and do not feel they can help. It may take up to three months to see another therapist.

Remember, your mental health is important. Keep your appointments, and find the right person to guide you through the process. An empathetic therapist is paramount to healing from trauma.

Our emotional and spiritual centers are damaged, to find our way through the wreckage of our minds, we need a guiding hand. A ‘therapeutic window’ is an empathetic connection between the therapist and client, enabling a safe place for exploration of traumatic memories and events.

Traumatic events shape our lives, and alter the way we process information. Especially chronic traumatization, our symptoms mimic depression, bi-polar disorder, and personality disorders. We can be misdiagnosed by a less knowledgeable and skilled practitioner.

Veterans with chronic trauma need an empathetic practitioner, knowledgeable in the latest treatment modalities to take our emotional hand and guide us through the wreckage of our minds.
It is helpful for therapists to understand the implications of structural dissociation as an undue division of the personality, how it manifests, and how it must be treated. They should strive to understand the importance not only for psychodynamic, relational and behavioral aspects of treatment, but also become proficient in assessing and working with the mental energy and mental levels of patients. Therapists need to analyze survivors’ mental and behavioral actions for adaptively. (The Haunted Self: Structural Dissociation and the Treatment of Chronic Traumatization, van der Hart, Nijenhuis and Steele).
The dissociative features of chronic trauma have a distinct set of emotional states we cycle through distinct from the others, the common symptom such as anger and rage to the less talked about emotional numbing to the different personas that can emerge from trauma states.