My Mental Health Journey
Last updated: October 2023
Receiving a positive HIV diagnosis was among the reasons I sought treatment for my mental health. I have previously shared my diagnosis story, and it was rough. Not only did I need to work through having a positive diagnosis, but I needed to work through my hospital trauma.
My journey involves working with a psychologist and psychiatrist. It consists of both talk therapy and medication intervention.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
I have worked with a couple of therapists in cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT. One therapist and I solely worked on my post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the form of CBT. In CBT people learn that their perceptions directly influence how they respond to specific situations.1
One of the main issues we have focused on for me is overgeneralizing. This occurs when somebody believes that since something happens in one instance or case, it will occur that way every time. So, part of my issue was the hospital could not treat me in a timely fashion, therefore all hospitals will not be able to handle me now that I am such a complicated case. I am sure to most people this sounds silly, but it was how my thought process was interrupted.
For example, when I was brought into the hospital with PCP pneumonia, the hospital had no idea what was wrong with me. I almost died. After this traumatic occurrence, I had a hard time trusting hospitals. CBT helped me understand that my case was rare and most likely would never happen again.
I have also had to learn to accept my HIV diagnosis. Sometimes this is easier said than done. I want to accept my diagnosis on every level and be able to feel comfortable with it.
I also work with a psychiatrist. To help improve my mental health, I take a handful of medications. All these medications are prescribed by the same psychiatrist. My case is just extremely complicated.
Trintellix (vortioxetine) is the antidepressant that I take for my major depressive disorder. I have tried several other antidepressants, and they did not help me.
Lamotrigine is a mood stabilizer. They had me start this medication because I was getting frustrated and annoyed extremely easily. It was so bad that even the sound of my dog drinking water was enough to frustrate me. It has helped with my mood swings.
Trazadone is one of the medications I have been on the longest. This drug is intended to be an antidepressant but is used off-label to treat insomnia. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that trazodone was helpful in keeping this small group of people asleep longer compared with people who received CBT. This medication helps me fall asleep.2
Abilify® (aripiprazole) was one of the last medications added to my treatment plan. This medication is an add-on treatment for adults with major depressive disorder when an antidepressant alone is not enough.3
Therefore, I take this medication to help my Trintellix work better to control my major depressive disorder.
Remeron® (mirtazapine) is the last medication that has been added to my mental health routine. This medication is an antidepressant that is used for the treatment of major depressive disorder. My doctor just added this one recently.4
Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition?
Meds for mental health
While it may seem like a lot, the combination of talk therapy and medication therapy is working for me. It is a slow process, but if I continue to make progress I am happy about my situation. I believe that our mental health is such a large part of living our best lives.
Do you see a psychologist and psychiatrist to assist with your mental health journey? How has your mental health affected living your best life as an HIV-positive person?
Have you shared your story on our site?