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Cry Me an Ocean (in the Desert)

By Philip D.

May 5, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park

When I say that I've cried more in the past two and a half years than I have in the rest of my life combined, I'm not really exaggerating. Since my diagnosis, it seems almost anything can get me going. Though a funny thing happened on the way to the Kleenex box; I discovered that I'd actually been missing out on something that can be as relaxing as a massage, uplifting as Confession and doesn't cost a dime. I'm Philip D. and I love a good cry.

Lucky for me, my man is no stranger to criers. As a cognitive therapist, John has met his fair share but I have to admit, even he is amazed sometimes at what moves me to tears. Oh sure, lots of people let loose when they watch "Terms of Endearment" or "Beaches" and it's not so unusual to get misty at a lovely wedding, but how many people find themselves sobbing while watching "Extreme Home Makeovers" on a Sunday night? Okay, so maybe I did shed a tear or 2,000 at "The Blind Side," but just as often I'm moved because I'm overwhelmed by seeing something beautiful or witnessing a random act of kindness.

The first year there was so much "stuff" that required my immediate attention. Between finding a doctor/wingman, starting meds and becoming educated about my new life with HIV, I didn't have much time or energy to fully "feel" what was happening to me. So last May, I treated myself to five days of camping and yoga, with my friend Darren Main, surrounded by the serene beauty and harsh terrain of Joshua Tree National Park. It was my fourth time on this annual retreat so I was already looking forward to the healing power of the desert. For almost a week, I decided to forgo all the distractions and trappings of civilization (a phone, electricity, my bed, running water, etc.) and trade it for plenty of yoga, warm drinking water, healthy food, hiking and hanging out with some very chill yogis from all over.

Joshua Tree National Park
Late in the afternoon on our last day, we looked forward to clear night skies and a big, full moon. After several 100+ degree days and as many cool, not so quiet nights sleeping on the ground to relax/exhaust us, Darren led us away from our campsite and suggested we find shade, scatter our mats and lay down on our backs. We were encouraged to begin breathing with very large, full inhales and loud, audible exhales, just this side of hyperventilation. After several minutes of breathing this way, I began to lose track of time and space due to the dramatic increase of oxygen in my bloodstream. I could feel the gentle hot wind and could hear the breathing of the others going on around me but I also could feel myself slipping into a state that is difficult to describe.

One by one, every single inner wall that held all the anger, resentment, fear and shame that I had been accumulating, began to melt away and I started to cry like I have never cried before. In waves that varied greatly in intensity and in volume, all my emotions were being released through my eyes, running down my cheeks, and then dried away by the desert wind. Normally I would have backed off something so intense but instinctively I knew these toxic feelings had to be dispelled if I were ever to heal. Thankfully, I left all that "bad" in the desert that hot afternoon.

Joshua Tree National Park
There are countless opportunities to get teary; listening to a beautiful piece of music, a good/sad book, or even while going for a run just to name a few. But I've taken crying to a whole new level since contracting HIV. Maybe it's the meds, maybe it's the virus itself affecting my brain -- or maybe, just maybe, I've become more evolved. Weeping is seen as weak by some but I think it's the most enlightened members of the human race that "let it out" on a regular basis. Besides, next to an orgasm, what else feels as good alone as it does with a "friend"?

Sure, there are times when I think, "not this too, Philip" but then I figure, why not? It has no calories, no instructions, needs no assembly and you can't help but get better at it just through practice. You can do it in the morning or the evening, alone or with friends, at 30,000 feet or in the middle of the desert. It's completely legal, never becomes outdated and aside from the potential danger of dehydration, I can't come up with one single reason why I shouldn't.

Kleenex, anyone?

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See Also
More Personal Stories of Gay Men With HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Simon (London, UK) Thu., Aug. 12, 2010 at 10:07 am UTC
I envy you Phil. I managed to cry the day after my diagnosis, two years ago. Since then, my eyes feel like the Hoover dam: holding back mountains of water.
I wonder if - and when - the deluge of tears will happen, as the reservoir keeps swelling.
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Comment by: Randy (San Bernardino, CA) Thu., May. 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm UTC
Wow! I read this article at the right time. I was just talkn to a friend about holding back my tears since my mother died and I became +. I'm going to let myself open up and feel again. Maybe a good cry or 2,000 could help.
Thank you. :)
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Comment by: mom (ar) Wed., May. 12, 2010 at 8:55 pm UTC
I have to tell you my son and his love were given
the hiv news. I still cry. I love both of them so much. John is not the other half. He is my son too.
Your first thought is "I am going to loose both my beloved children". That was four years ago.
My sons has always been able to cry with the emotions they feel.
When I read your article, I feel a slight view into your life and thiers. Thank you for sharing. My two young men do not let me see that part. They want to be strong for my husband and I.
Being strong is for us to be. Feel free to let your selves feel what you need. I would give each
one of you a big hug and say "let go Live"
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Comment by: mom (ar) Wed., May. 12, 2010 at 8:30 pm UTC
How many times have we heard" What are you crying
for?" in an unkind tone. Men and women should feel free to express these feelings. To be human is to laugh and cry. These are gifts from our maker.
For years I thought something was wrong because of this gift. Having a soul is not shamefull but not sharing it is. By shedding tears you are sharing your soul with all that love you. You are
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Comment by: Eddie (Houston, Tx) Tue., May. 11, 2010 at 8:09 pm UTC
I think that once you pass the hurdle of accepting the fact that you may live on the edge on a daily basis for the rest of you life, and can survive for as long as we know, you are not afraid of anything.
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Comment by: Kirk (Dallas) Tue., May. 11, 2010 at 12:37 pm UTC
Thank you for the refreshing outlook. Yes, I am a guy that regularly cries. It is therapy for me and I am so glad that you have affirmed my practice. I don't know you personally, but in some ways I do because of your intimate writings.
Thanks for letting us in your heart.
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Comment by: Philip D. (San Francisco, CA) Fri., May. 7, 2010 at 5:39 pm UTC
Thank you, heal. You're comment has rendered me speechless. (which happens about as often as an appearance by Halley's comet)
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Comment by: heal (georgia) Fri., May. 7, 2010 at 9:01 am UTC
I want to tell you that you are beautiful.
Not to inspire you but just because you are.
Tears purge us of our doubts and fears and those are the things that steal our lives.
You are more alive then me and im HIV negative.
You have the disposition of one of my clients who i treat with natural medicine.
He is HIV positive on paper and so alive in the flesh.
He has never taken meds from the docter and he has not gotten sick since he contracted it.
It is not just the natural medicine it is his point of view.
I dont know who you are but i cry with you from many miles away not because of despair but because your courage is the first step to healing
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Comment by: ndungu (Nairobi, Kenya) Fri., May. 7, 2010 at 2:07 am UTC
Great article. When one has been diagnosed with a life threatening disease such as HIV/AIDS one goes through different phases which can be heart-rending. I think it is alright to let out one's feelings or to vent. It's okey to be emotional/sentimental at times when one lives with a chronic ailment such as HIV/AIDS. Crying has a therapeutic and a redeeming effect to the soul. Real men do cry and this indicates they are not stifling their feelings and this is healthy for their growth.
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Comment by: Philip D. (San Francisco, CA) Thu., May. 6, 2010 at 4:16 pm UTC
Scott, just curious....have you read any of my other posts?
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Comment by: Scott (New Jersey) Thu., May. 6, 2010 at 1:27 pm UTC
Does anybody give any thought to first time readers? Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has just been diagnosed. The Doctor is telling you all that crap about how this is a manageable disease and BAM, here's a blog titled "Cry me an Ocean" about how it took two years to let it out. WTF? People, what's to cry about? I'm poz forever and it hasn't changed my life in the least. STOP Scaring people!
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Comment by: GreenTrees (Atlanta) Wed., May. 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm UTC
You know, every now and then, I have what I call "cry therapy." Its helped me get through many bad times. I always feel infinitely better when its over. Sure, it doesn't change the situation, but it sure does feel good. "Cry therapy" for everyone, please!
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A Positive Spin

Philip D.

Philip D.

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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