March 2, 2010
After spending a month travelling around Thailand, without a map, guidebook, plan or clue, not thinking about anything yet pondering everything at the same time, I have now arrived in Sydney, Australia, and am ready to re-join the (virtual) world.
Since my first blog post went out a few weeks ago lots of people have got in touch with me and within the space of 48 hours I literally went from feeling isolated and alone to feeling like one of many who potentially felt the same way. It was such a relief!
Before flying to Bangkok, I passed a week in London, where I met with some other magnets for the first time ever. The first one I met was Pete (all names changed), the negative pole in his marriage, who told me he had never spoken to anyone openly about his and his wife's situation. I think for both of us it was so empowering to realise that another shared similar experiences, fears and frustrations throughout the journey that comes with being confronted with HIV in this way. For example, following my husband's diagnosis I went into research-overdrive, trying to find out as much as I could and passing the info on to my husband. Unfortunately my husband's needs were different to mine and, understandably, he got quite fed up with me trying to 'force-feed' the info. Pete had been doing a similar thing with his wife who didn't appreciate it either.
I think we both realised in our discussion that we were trying to cope with our feelings of utter helplessness by arming ourselves with as much information as we could possibly gather. For me it was as if the more I could know about HIV, the more I could feel in control of it. Of course, since I was still an 'outsider' in this experience, this wasn't really enough and so, by sharing it (which seems like the logical thing to do), I attempted to make it a shared experience. But I was often frustrated to realise that my husband did not concur with this sentiment. In fact, he got quite irritated after some time, which baffled me.
Rachel, the second person I met in London and who is the positive partner in her relationship, made it very clear that she didn't appreciate her husband's efforts in this regard either. She made it very clear to me and her husband that she needed to deal with things in her own way, even if it meant not talking about it, not reading about it or discussing it. In fact, she looked me straight in the eye and said: "This whole mothering thing with constantly providing information and reminding about taking meds -- NOT COOL! Stop it!" So there. Duly noted.
As I am writing this I am in Sydney, Australia. Earlier today I met with someone from an NGO [nongovernmental organization] that also has a focus on families and serodiscordant couples as well. It was a very stimulating and interesting discussion, and it was good to hear how things are similar and different in Australia (plus I got some fab travel tips for South America as an added bonus).
This trip is bringing me into contact with lots of fascinating people and I am learning lots about them (and even more about me) every day.
Next up: One week Auckland, New Zealand, then a month in Argentina (feel free to get in touch!).
Greetings from down-under,