At our last couple counseling session, "Accept and Acclimate" was the phase my partner used in reference to living with HIV/AIDS. He went on to say that as a society we are defined by our status. To him, it was just another form of oppression. Our way of life. Our fact of life.
For the last four months my partner and myself have been in couples counseling with a therapist. This experience is giving us an insight into why we do what we do to basically piss each other off. Reflecting back to those moments of discord, we realized that most of our disagreements were because of displaced anger. In the name of love, so we thought; we allowed ourselves to become each other's personal punching bag. Figuratively that is.
Being gay in the mid-'80s, body image was a priority. Working out at the gym was not just a regimen, it was a lifestyle. Looking good for Gay Pride was the ultimate goal. Back then, it was far less commercial and more of a social event for the LGBT community. A sense of belonging and emancipation from the stigma of AIDS. A safe haven for at least one weekend out of the year.
In March I got my annual flu shot and I've caught the flu several times since then. The first one I expected because for some reason I always get a mild strain soon after the shot. The second one was unprecedented and the third was alarming and concerning. It lingered on for what seemed to be forever and a day. I went to the emergency room for some much needed relief and left with a sore arm from several attempts by an intern to draw blood.
At the earliest stage of our relationship "unpredictability" was how my partner referred to my erratic behavior due to my bi-polar disorder and years of drug abuse. It's a word I'm glad is gone, but sadly regret where it went. You see, his eighty-five year old mother is on the onset of dementia. Her spells of forgetfulness are sporadic and overwhelming. The last year for my partner has been trying and unforgiving. A true test of his will, love and devotion. One he was unprepared for, yet confronts wholeheartedly.
Twelve years ago I resigned myself to the notion that I would never share the rest of my life with anyone other than my dog. Today, I'm in a committed relationship with a wonderful person. I have adopted two other emotional support animals. Not to mention my partner has three of his own. For me, my partner and our emotional support animals were a big part of my recovery from meth addiction and still are in the management of my bi-polar disorder and HIV+ status. If it wasn't for their intervention in ways that I can only refer to as a blessing, I would have been long gone and forgotten.
The year was 1987. I remember it was raining that day. I woke up to what I thought was vertigo. It turned out to be a form of toxemia. In other words, a bacterial infection. An opportunistic infection that occurs in individuals who have weakened immune systems. If the news of being HIV+ wasn't devastating enough, I contracted a staph infection during my stay in the hospital to boot.
The '80s and '90s took their toll on me physically and mentally. Within that time, I've made wrong choices and unhealthy decisions. At 42, I had a methamphetamine dependency left over from my circuit club days. Along with bi-polar disorder it was a vicious cycle of highs and lows. I accumulated emotional clutter along the way and felt worthless and invisible.