Sunday, December 18, 2011

Different, Not Deficient

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a dear friend, someone I have come to admire.  We had been having conversations about my writing; therefore, I shared my blog link with him.  After doing so I was a little apprehensive because there was a very personal blog that I had written earlier regarding my HIV status, one that I had only shared with probably 3 people.  After giving it to him I just said “oh well” the genie is out of the bottle now so whatever happens I will embrace it.   Well, while he and I were on the phone one evening I had the courage to ask him if he had read this particular blog.  He noted that he had read the blog.  One question that he posed was “So how is your life different since learning your HIV status?  I found the question very interesting which lead me to this writing.
Okay, so here I sit ten (10) years later of dealing with my HIV status.  To be more accurate, from the date of diagnosis (October 25, 2001) until today (December 13, 2011) it has been:
10 years, 1 month, 19 days or;
            528 weeks or;
3,702 days or;
88,824 hours or;
5,329,400 minutes or;
319,766,400 seconds 

I have had to take my medication on a daily basis (currently 2 pills daily; one upon waking up and one before going to bed) which would be approximately 7,404 pills.   These pills are my lifeline to continued physical existence.    This also includes seeing my physician every three months to ensure that my health is intact.  
Since learning of my status, I have gone through a myriad of emotions.  I will say that I have evolved into this relatively outspoken and passionate activist about the lack of compassion when it comes to those of us that are impacted by HIV.  Now some 30 years later many still attach stigma to a positive diagnosis most of which is based on the assumption that promiscuity lead to infection.   However, for most of us that was/is not the case.  Better yet, so what if it was.  Is that person’s life and humanity less valuable because he was infected differently?    I think that I am at this place in my life for a reason and that is to become a voice and support in some way for those that are without voice or access.    The part that I am doing in the community or attempting to do is in direct correlation to my health status.  I cannot say that I would be as involved with this cause if I was still married and living my good ole comfortable suburban life with my spouse. 
Initially, when I was diagnosed I began to devalue my existence for I believed that I was not worthy of being loved or better yet that no one would love me.  Of course that was my own ignorance that had the loudest voice in my head at the time.  With that thought in mind I imposed my own relationship exile where I did not date anyone for about 3-4 years.    However, I realized that this feeling was one that many of those that are HIV positive encounter.  Fortunately, I was blessed enough to turn down the volume on that part of my fear and eventually move past it.  Truly I should have been on someone’s couch getting some sessions in for internally I was a wreck, however, outwardly I appeared very happy and well adjusted. 

Dating for me has been interesting for I dated men that were positive and those that were negative all of whom accepted all of who I was; HIV included.  It has been my policy to divulge my status to the person I was dating at the time and allow him decide if he wanted to remain on the dating path.  Not everyone is going to be able to accept dating an HIV positive individual.  You have to meet people where they are and accept that about then.  Their lack of acceptance of your status is fear on their part as well. Just know that this person is just not ready at this point and it does not make him a bad person; just human.  Telling someone is NEVER easy for we all want to be wanted especially by someone with whom you have a romantic interest.   Just like many of us I have been on this quest to find a partner that was loving, kind, able to communicate openly and honestly, authentic in his living, etc. and hopefully I will one day soon.    However, I am a better today at embracing this part of me which can only make me a better partner/spouse. 
While I have lived an authentic life regarding the romantic side of me, I have not done so when it comes to the HIV part of my life.  I know and realize that the fear of rejection and judgment I felt after being diagnosed in 2001 still lingers.  However, several months ago, I have decided to not allow that fear to control my life anymore.  I am slowly taking back that part of me for living in fear is no way to exist as a whole and happy human being. 

It is really hard to gauge how my life is different other than that medication, doctor’s visits and general fears.  This is all I have known for the past 10 years.   I will say that the one bold thing I have noticed is that I CHERISH life daily and embrace what God has blessed me with;  a very supportive family as well as a few close friends and a lot of material stuff (I am truly a consumer…smile).    I think of that shy “spoiled” boy growing up in public housing and the man I have become today and I know that my life even with the news of received on October 25, 2001 I am blessed.
The Ronald of October 24, 2001and the one today has evolved and that evolution was in part due to my HIV status.  It has been an interesting journey and I look forward to the rest that life has before me.