Are You Surviving or Thriving With HIV?
By Robert Breining
August 23, 2011
My friend Michael Moniz wrote this article and I thought it would make a great conversation for my readers. Check out Michael's website for more information and to schedule private consultations. Check out the original post on Gay.com.
For many years I have been thankful for the opportunity to work with the POZ community. I have worked with individuals and groups of men who were recently diagnosed as well as members of the community who were were living with HIV for over 15 years. I was invited to speak at a recent event where I talked about the fact that people are no longer SURVIVING with HIV but THRIVING with HIV.
Here are some perspectives to keep in mind to help anyone move from merely surviving to thriving:
Borrowed Time: Whenever someone is diagnosed, there is moment when you face death. Are you really facing death? No. Just the fear we all have about dying. It is very easy in the beginning to feel your time is limited. Many men spoke to me about how they feel they are living on "borrowed time."
Reality is we are all living on borrowed time. The day you are born is one less day you will have in your lifetime. No one is guaranteed a future, we only have hope there will be a next day after the one today.
This isn't borrowed time, it is your time. Your time to live your life. Being HIV+ doesn't limit your life more than anyone else's in the amount of time. The difference is you are now aware of your health and you can do something about it. It is not time to think about death, it is time to live.
Oscar Wilde said this about everyone, "To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
Love: A guy I was coaching shared with me that he was afraid he would never find love again. Who would want to be with him? Who would want to have sex with him and his "toxic cock?" My client busted into laughter after his toxic cock comment and sighed. He sighed because he finally said it. Said what was in his head and he was afraid to share. "What if I never find love again?"
The reality is this is not an HIV issue but a people issue. After every relationship we wonder will we fall in love again. Just because you are HIV positive doesn't reduce your chances of love. Love is love. We fall in love with someone based on many different aspects of that person. We can't help it when it happens, and HIV doesn't take that away from you. You are still you.
Now, leaving the wet towels on the floor or not wiping your crumbles in the kitchen might keep you from a relationship, but not your HIV status. Sure some guys won't date you because you are POZ but some guys won't date you because you are over 21. There are TONS of jerks out there. That is just life. They were jerks before you were diagnosed and they are still jerks after-wards. The hard part, for anyone, is seeing past all the jerks to the sweethearts who are waiting for you.
You can not lose hope.
Disclosure: I have heard many, many stories of HIV+ people being so scared to share the information with their friends and families. Afraid of the judgment that can come from people who are not truly informed about the disease.
One of my clients shared with me his story about his close group of friends. They all participated in risky behaviors and he was later diagnosed. He was nervous to tell his friends but they had been close for many years. He wanted them to know not only so they can be aware their behaviors are putting them at risk but also because they are his close friends. When he told them, it was only weeks later when his group of friends went from 12 to four. Only four people remained his friends and this crushed him.
It is not easy dealing with these reactions but we focus on the negative first and the hurt. This is normal but we have to realize, as in this story, that four friends are there for you. Four friends who are your TRUE friends. Friendship and family doesn't show itself in the good times, it shows itself when you need love and support.
It is your choice if or when you tell your friends and family but I do not want you to be ashamed to tell people or try to handle this all by yourself. A lot of people hide within themselves which can lead to depression and/or anxiety. You need and deserve support. There will be people who won't turn out to be the friends you thought they were, but I think you will be more surprised with the friends that are there.
You do not have to deal with this alone.
Support: What I see as being the biggest part of moving from surviving to thriving is support. So many people at the event mentioned how the support they have has really helped them to live their lives better. I can not agree more.
I really want to talk about support beyond your friends and family. I am talking a support network. This includes professional in their fields who are there to support you. This can include your Doctor, Massage Therapist, Coach, Counselor, Nutritionist, Personal Trainer, etc. People who you employ to get you the results you want out of your life. Make sure you are comfortable with these people, have a rapport with them and trust them to be part of your life. There are too many professionals out there that can help you for you to have to settle.
I would love for you also to find support within the HIV community. There are so many different ways to be connected with people talking about, facing and dealing with the same situations. Why not lean on each other? One of my favorite communities of support is the POZIAM community. They not only have a great built in support network but have great informative radio shows. There are so many other communities I could mention but this is one I really feel has done some great support for my clients.
This information is only the start of the process in thriving with HIV. Each of your journeys will be completely different. I only wanted to show you some ways to begin. The rest is up to you!
Michael Moniz is a life coach focusing on the LGBT community. His practice helps others with self- image, communication skills, self-leadership and setting and achieving goals. Check out Michael's website.
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The Positive Pitch
I describe myself as a "positive person with purpose." My goal is to help people living with HIV/AIDS discover similarities in each other ... and form friendships. I want to ease the shock of a diagnosis and remind people that our dreams are not infected. I am also an HIV/AIDS cyber-activist, radio show host, blogger and social network guru.
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