This article was written on Dec. 22, 2012.
Happy Anniversary, HIV. I Hate You.
By Philip D.
January 10, 2013
If you are an adult American, it is nearly impossible to forget where you were the morning of September 11th. If you are HIV positive, it is unlikely you can forget the moment you were first told that the deadly virus lives and replicates inside of you. I heard the news five years ago today. It changed the way I felt about myself and in some ways, how I viewed the world. Although I have already blogged here about that pivotal moment, I still wanted to post something to mark "our" anniversary.
As I look back, I am conflicted. Part of me that feels there's something to celebrate and to be proud of. I handled the whole ordeal a lot better than I thought I would and I am still standing. I took it one a bite at a time and tried not to be overwhelmed by the disappointment of getting snared by the virus I hated long before it inhabited my bloodstream. I tackled a couple fears I never thought I could and in the process discovered a resilient, inner strength. That, coupled with my trusty sense of humor, have served me well over the last 60 months.
I have gathered bits of wisdom along the way: Sharing your HIV status is an amazingly accurate litmus test for finding out who your real friends are. Having a higher CD4 percentage doesn't equate intelligence or enlightenment. Angels do walk the earth, in human form. Allowing people to help me is not a sign of weakness. Making a mistake, getting up and then falling down again, means I'm running too fast. A good cry is like a mini-vacation. Fish and olive oils are my friends for life. Meditation is unbelievably difficult but well worth any time invested. Anti-retrovirals go down easier with dark chocolate. This fucking virus still kills people that we really needed here on Earth.
I know that I have tried to make something "positive" out of one of the darkest days of my life. I have done my best to find the silver lining to a cloud I never thought I'd be living under but even now, I still feel waves of negative emotions. Frustrated that I can do nothing to get "it" out of me. Regret that I didn't do enough to keep me safe. Hurt by the person that infected me. Fears around sex. Anxiety about rapidly escalating health care cost. And even rage at the virus that always seems to have the first and last laugh.
Not this time.
I started working with a new teacher three months ago. Sort of an anniversary present to myself. He's been helping me to conjure up and stay with those negative feelings, notice the core beliefs behind them and to be curious about how they are affecting how I move through life. Simple enough? It is. Sort of. I told him, sometimes feel like I'm taming wild horses.
At our last meeting, during an intensely emotional part I experienced an ah-ha moment, and a core belief was exposed. I can't love myself with HIV if I hate HIV. Does not compute. I didn't fully realize it at the time but the days since have provided time to allow the idea to resonate. It begs the question, how has this affected the way I lived since December 22, 2007? Or more important, how I can learn to love myself more deeply, despite the stigma of having a despicable virus that I can't shake off?
Sounds like a project for 2013.
Note: While I wrote this entry and over the week that followed, I was visited dozens of times by a female hummingbird. I suspect she has made her nest nearby. Upon further research, I have discovered a few things about my garden guest. A hummingbird can symbolize resurrection or sometimes, a "wake-up call" messenger. It can fly in any direction, including backwards, but will never stay there long. It's heart is the largest, in relation to its body size, of any in the animal kingdom. They fight fearlessly; even enemies bigger than they are, and skillfully use their bill to reach the sweetest nectar, deep inside a flower. I'm going to take this little visit as a sign that I am on the right track. -- PD
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Comment by: Philip D.
(San Francisco, CA)
Thu., Feb. 21, 2013 at 4:36 pm UTC
First, I would like to thank those who took time out read my entry and were generous enough to comment here. Knowing my words touched even a few people, makes this doing this blog worthwhile.
Secondly, to those who emailed and shared their "anniversary" stories with me, I am humbled by the inner strength that many of you possess, against some pretty overwhelming odds.
Lastly, to those who inquired, it turns out my garden guest was a female. She built a nest, laid one egg and it hatched a two weeks ago. I was treated to a front row seat through the entire process, and captured on camera. I was honored that she chose my little garden to raise her young.
Comment by: Charles
Fri., Feb. 1, 2013 at 6:53 am UTC
"I can't love myself with HIV if I hate HIV. Does not compute."
Philip, reject this nonsense. You and HIV are separate entities. YOU are lovable and HIV is NOT loveable. You CAN love yourself despite the wretched virus that is in your body.
Don't start yourself off down the loony road of "My Beautiful Disease", or "I must learn to love of my long-stay friend, Harvey".
I suggest you consider finding yourself a teacher who doesn't peddle such nonsense to you, at your expense, emotional and financial.
From someone who has a healthy regard for himself,
and who rightly sees HIV for what it is: a killer.
Comment by: patricia
Thu., Jan. 31, 2013 at 1:42 pm UTC
I was found positive in Sep 2012. I recently checked my CD4 count and it was 173 with a viral load of 1500. I live sub saharan Africa and is worried about starting Meds I hAve not been sick At All except the limphnodes I had under my arms with a lot of pass and have since cLeared. I hAve a friend who has been positive for about 20yrs and has not started the meds. I worry to start meds due to the Meds we get in 3rd world countries have lots of side effects.... I need lots of encouragement pls help!!
Comment by: nice guy
Sat., Jan. 26, 2013 at 9:06 am UTC
Thanks for sharing your experience on this blog post. I was diagnosed about a year and half ago and it has been kind of an emotional roller coaster ride as well. I too took it a lot better than i thought I probably would before I got it. Everyday I learn a little more about myself and it.
It is a big life adjustment and a lot of the concerns you talked about fill my head too. I appreciate the motivation to keep living and making the most of life.Keep writing:-]
Comment by: Shauna
Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm UTC
Philip, bravo for sharing your feelings and story. It does get easier as time goes on or it has for myself. I will be celebrating my 10 year journey with HIV in February. I have had the joy of having a wonderful son, who is negative. I remember when I was first diagnosed I thought that I would never have a healthy child but here he is, just turned 7. He is my therapy. Also I find that I discover my ah ha moments when writing. I can put whatever I want to on paper. :-)
Comment by: Pete
Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 8:32 pm UTC
Thanks for sharing how you feel about "our" virus Philip. Like you, I hated HIV for a long time & blamed it for so many things that was going wrong with my life. Fortunately, after a lot of soul-searching, counselling and many tears over the nearly 27 years (over half my life) I have lived with HIV, I can honestly say, "meh" to it. I'm more at peace about my life more than ever before because it doesn't define me anymore. Like anyone, I have my moments, but so does everyone on the planet & that's just a part of living in this crazy world! "Live life, rather than view it..." :-)
Comment by: John-Manuel Andriote
Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 4:12 pm UTC
Thank you for sharing your experience, strength and hope (as they say in 12-step programs). It sounds like you have worked through the first four of the five classic stages of grief--the denial, anger, bargaining--to the fifth stage, acceptance.
It's a powerful thing to discover the kind of resilience within yourself that you have found. In my own experience (diagnosed October 27, 2005), an important key to finding the acceptance is in not defining HIV as "meaning" anything more than that it is a microbe and that we are fragile physical beings in a dangerous physical world. We get in trouble when we take to heart the stigmatizing meanings too many others attach to this microbe.
I also loved the beautiful image of the hummingbird. I have become fascinated by the hummingbirds that in the summer come to feed at the hummingbird feeder outside the kitchen window. After my own diagnosis, as that first winter turned into spring, I had a bird build a nest outside my kitchen window. Through snow and ice and rain, I watched that mother bird sit on her eggs. Then there were two hatchlings. One day I was devastated to see that one of them, the smaller one (the "runt") was no longer there. Nature can be cruel. I used to weep with joy at witnessing the birth and renewal of life in that nest. It gave me so much hope when I needed it.
Comment by: Alex
Thu., Jan. 24, 2013 at 2:53 pm UTC
Inspiring and touching post, I feel alot from what you do. Also been pos for 5+ years. Thanks for the words! Lets hope you'll be always visited by hummingbirds in moments like this :)
Comment by: james f barry
(setauket, new york)
Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 8:01 pm UTC
I do.....I woke-up the morning of Dec 31, 1997 not feeling well within 48 hrs. I was clearly in the middle of an acute sero-conversion illness (I am in health care)......So New Year’s Eve is always a downer for me.....Now after my 15 yr. anniversary I'm finally coming to relies that I'm going to live.......Now what am I going to do?????
Comment by: Brooke Davidoff
Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm UTC
I was also going to write my HIV-aversary blog but heard someone else was so I did not. Mine is 01/08/2011. A day I will also NEVER forget. Yours is a LOT less sarcastic than mine would have been.
Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Philip D.
(San Francisco, CA)
Wed., Feb. 27, 2013 at 1:00 pm UTC
I LOVE a good story, with a strong, sarcastic tone.
Comment by: Kenn Chaplin
Wed., Jan. 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm UTC
Thanks for writing this and best wishes from the Class of 1989!
Comment by: james
Sun., Jan. 13, 2013 at 9:47 am UTC
It must be hard for you to deal with what you have and I really wish you the best of luck. It's going to be a life long battle but just like this website and std dating websites. You can find people like you and still be happy and enjoy life.
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A Positive Spin
After testing HIV positive in 2007, I promised myself that I would make something "good" from all that I was handed. From the very beginning, each time I was presented with an obstacle or challenge, I also received some help. Usually in the form of a person, sometimes an opportunity; but I have grown so much, it has made it impossible for me to call the past few years "bad." Although I've never written much of anything before, I have been so incredibly fortunate, I feel like I must pay it forward somehow. Maybe by sharing my experience, it will help those starting later in the game, on the fast track to HAART, or anyone that's feeling a bit isolated or "stuck" with their diagnosis.
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