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HIV INFECTION AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE EMOTIONS: ANGER AND ENERGY-IF YOU’RE A CAREGIVER

If you are taking care of someone with the virus, understand that the disease is the target and you are not. The person you’re caring for is feeling anger, not hatred; they do not blame you. Lisa said, “The anger and rage my husband felt were his issues and not in my control. I knew it was just his guilt for bringing the virus into our lives. It’s easier to deal with his annoyance over something understandable than it is to deal with the feeling of being unloved.”     Allow the person with HIV infection to express the anger, though that can be difficult when, as Lisa said, “they’re shouting at you.” Dean did a certain amount of yelling in the presence of his partner; his partner told him, “Go ahead and get it over with. Get it out of your system. It’s understandable.” Try not to judge the person or to confront him or her: judgment and confrontation will only further misdirect the anger toward you.     Acknowledge the struggle the person is having. Try saying, “I know it is hard for you. Cold oatmeal really does not taste good, and I’ll heat it up again.” This may help the angry person dissipate the anger and understand its true target.     Still, you need not try to achieve sainthood during your lifetime. No caregiver is neutral; often caregivers have long histories with the people they are caring for, and many old sources of anger get confused with the new ones. Nor is letting them talk about their anger the same as letting them take it out on you. Remind them that their anger is difficult for you to hear, and difficult to separate out from old problems. Dean’s partner not only told him to get it over with, but also said, “Thank goodness you don’t go blowing up all the time.” When Dean’s partner felt he had taken too much abuse, he would pull away. Dean said he noticed this, calmed down, and worked to recover his perspective.
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