I Have Arrived on the Other Side Stronger in Spirit...
As I approach this holiday season I am very aware of how different my life is today. For a decade and a half, I made choices as a result of my fears. For years I was afraid of getting sick, afraid of my T-cell count falling, afraid of the medications, afraid of living in the moment. I spent so much of my time educating myself about HIV disease. I also spent quite a bit of my time waiting for the bomb to drop. I watched my friends, one after another, lose their lives to HIV and AIDS. This was a constant burden. Every time I made a personal choice about my life, the choice was made in response to fear. For many years this served me well.
As I watched other people walk though the challenges of living with this illness, I began to recognize that my greatest fear was that I would one day be faced with similar difficulties. I watched my friends lose their physical well-being, then their jobs, their homes, their families and their loved ones. I observed their heartache as their bodies physically deteriorated and their life force became hopeless. I have seen so many people die with HIV disease without hope and filled with anger. I have also seen moments of compassion expressed in the most unexpected places.
My greatest fear has always been that my body would deteriorate and I would no longer be capable of doing things in life that bring me joy. My fear has always been that there would be tubes coming out of my body, and machines keeping me alive. My fear has also been that I would become so discouraged that I would give up on living. Another fear has been that it would be so physically apparent that I have AIDS that the people in my life that I love would be afraid of me. As a result of these fears and many more, I always reacted by making choices as a result of the information that was available to me.
I took advantage of every opportunity of therapeutic options. I allowed myself to be used as a guinea pig, in the hope that I would miraculously experience immune restoration. I pumped my body with so many toxic medications that I cannot even remember the dozens of treatments I have tried. I have experienced every side effect imaginable. It is amazing to me that my body still thrives. Every treatment I pursued, I did perfectly. After several years of putting all these toxic medications into my body without missing a dose, I experienced my greatest fear.
I became homebound and was kept alive as a of result of twelve-hour intravenous feedings daily. I lost the ability to pursue my career, lost control of my financial responsibilities, watched my friends become distant out of fear and pushed those I loved away as a result of my own fear. I also became very aware of the deterioration of my thought processes. This became apparent with my inability to express myself in words. All of my self-worth that I had found in my being was stripped away as a result of my physical limitations.
This was the second time that I experienced a closeness to death that most people only experience once in a lifetime. I have learned so much because HIV has been living in my body for twenty years. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons I have learned now is to not live in fear. I no longer make health choices in response to information which may motivate fear. I have finally come to a place where the choices I make are in direct response to my physical and spiritual needs. When a medical professional takes a look at my history and current physical status there is no logical explanation as to why I am in such good health. My doctor is always telling me that I am a walking enigma. Especially now, when I no longer pursue my medical care perfectly.
It is so gratifying to have walked through my greatest fear and emerged on the other side. Today, I am truly fearless. I believe this is because I have already experienced the absolute devastation of having AIDS. I have arrived on the other side stronger in sprit as a result of my experience. Everything that life has to offer me today and in my future is a gift beyond measure. Why have I survived? Because I choose to laugh, love and live. My hope is that you are doing the same.
As a foot note, please write to me at Survival News, c/o AIDS Survival Project, 828 West Peachtree Street, N.W., Suite 206, Atlanta, GA 30308, and share with me your stories of courage, hope and survival, so I will know that I am not alone on this journey as person living with AIDS.
This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News.