Sometimes I don't hate having HIV. Clutch the pearls
The human immunodeficiency virus is life altering, scary and confusing. And yet, I can't honestly say I hate it all the time.
A lot of times—a lot—it's the bane of my existence. There are times I think that if HIV had a physical body, I'd punch it in the damn esophagus. Every now and then, though, I look around at all the things HIV has brought to me and think, Okay, life, I see what you did there. There are valuable, sometimes painful lessons I have learned living with HIV. Lessons about adulting, even though I was a full-grown adult when I acquired it. Lessons on expressing and regulating emotions. I've learned that to navigate the emotional tidal waves that come with a diagnosis is a journey, and I still haven't reached the end of it. Indications are I never will, and I believe that's what they call continued growth. I have also developed mentally and feel somehow more full and complete because of this HIV. How? Who would have thought?
Emotional responses have a hierarchy in my head, and I doubt I'm alone. Laughter and joy are at the top. While laughter is technically an auditory expression of happiness or joy, it feels like an emotion when you get caught up in it. Finding laughter again, remembering to laugh again after diagnosis was a reminder that laughter is also an expression of hope, and hope is sustaining. Same with tears. They are a physical manifestation of pain or sadness; tell me you don't feel those salty water drops in your soul when they leak from your eyes? I've cried about all the changes this disease has brought to me, but some of the tears were cleansing. My least favorite emotions of all time are pettiness and passive aggressiveness. I've faced both from people in response to my HIV. Which is always a little wild to me. I mean, I'm the one with the diagnosis, so how do people work it up in their heads and hearts to feel so strongly negative about it that they need to be mean or petty, or sometimes even venomous in their emotional response to it? My own responses to HIV have run from fear to resignation, from feeling weak to courageous, to being soul tired and then having my soul feel filled to the brim with support and love.
Those moments are tied to what I don't hate about my HIV. Those times and spaces I feel the support and love from an expansive community of people linked by a virus. The fullness that edges out the hurt a little at a time. There are people I would never have met or interacted with if not for HIV and when I think about the richness and love they have brought into my life, how do I hate the circumstance that brought us together? As a nurse, I touch people as best I can to heal and help promote physical and emotional wellbeing. I wouldn't be a nurse if not for HIV. I voluntarily (gasp) get on planes and travel to talk to people and educate about HIV, when 10 years ago you couldn't get me near one. That's because of HIV. Humans are stubborn and exhausting, and often, no matter how logical, no matter how much evidence and science there is about the evolution of HIV—there's no convincing them that it is not deadly and something to be feared. But sometimes… the lightbulb comes on and you can see the shift in thinking and attitude. Each one, teach one. How can you not like that? I certainly wouldn't be here writing to you and sharing the journey with you if not for a simple circumstance of acquisition.
Hate HIV? Nah.
Don't get me wrong, I am not a fool. If the tiny black baby Jesus came down from heaven and said "Bridgette, that's enough, I'll take that," you best believe I'm giving Him this HIV quick fast and in a hurry. I'll be in line for Cure 2.0 just like the rest of you. But in the meantime—rather than dwell on the negative, I choose to be full-on positive. Pun intended.
Be well. You matter.
This blog was originally posted on Positively Aware