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Man with HIV writes of his journey since 1990

26 Jul
A man diagnosed with HIV back in 1990, used guided imagery to stay strong long enough to resist the limited medical options of the day, until 1997, when some decent new drugs, docs and options came along..
Dear Ms. Naparstek,

I heard you a week ago on the radio. I am the person who called in and related my story about how I had used your Guided Imagery techniques in managing my HIV illness. I wanted to let you know a little more about my journey. I hope my story will help others see there are often several paths to a state of well-being.

I was diagnosed HIV+ in Dec. 1990, during a time when treatment options for HIV were relatively new and quite limited. The response of allopathic medicine at that time was one of fear; doctors had only a few drugs to use in treating HIV illness. My intuition at that time was that medicines were being over-prescribed, and that the treatment was worse than the disease. My experience was that the people who were getting sick and dying of HIV/AIDS were people who were on the meds. I resisted using any meds throughout the early stages of my illness, until I found a sensible doctor who put me on a manageable schedule of treatment in 1997.

There was a bad reaction from my care providers when I refused to take any medicine. In fact, I stopped going to the doctor altogether when they started to demand that I start taking meds in 1993. That''s when I ran across your tape cassette program on Guided Imagery for Persons with HIV and AIDS, and I have to tell you that I listened to that program literally hundreds of times. This helped me to focus on staying well and allowing my body''s natural healing response to take hold and not be interrupted by treatment options of the day.

Later on, in 1997, my physician demanded that I start meds. By then my T-cell counts had dropped to under 200, and I officially had AIDS. Again I refused to accept the finality of my situation. My deal with the doctor was that, in my opinion, while AIDS may be fatal, it was the drugs that were harming people and causing steady decline in health. He agreed to a simple treatment regimen of a four-drug cocktail, experimental at that time. This was just when protease inhibitors had been approved by the FDA and starting to be used. These drugs are very powerful and effective in controlling HIV but can have terrible side effects. These drugs made my viral load undetectable and thus allowed my t-cell counts to start to rise steadily. Today I have normal levels of t-cells with undetectable viral load; all this on a once-a-day treatment regimen on minimal drug use.

I truly believe that your techniques allowed me to slow the progression of my disease by giving me the strength to resist the harmful allopathic treatment of the day and postpone treatment until better drugs were available. Even more, guided imagery gave me the determination to fight this illness and survive. As the saying goes, Living well is the best revenge: for me, being alive (and thriving!) with HIV is revenge on the traditional medical community.

Thanks again for your work. I will always remember what you have done for me.

John Ellington
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award