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
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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