Testing positive was almost surreal. It just seemed like I was on camera or something and I was waiting for someone to say, 'Cut!' but no one did.
I shut off. I went numb and although my thoughts were fairly clear, my main focus was to move very quickly on to a new topic. Of course, when you're talking to a therapist who just told you that you are HIV positive, it's kind of hard to talk about anything else.
My heart was racing the entire time and every beat resonated through my body. My temperature flushed and my eyes raced to find something to look at.
You know the, 'My life flashed right before my eyes!' bit that you hear all the time? My life didn't flash by, instead, I imagined myself lying in a hospital bed, tubes and hoses coming out of everywhere. I had dark circles under my eyes and skin lesions all over my body. I was alone and scared, wishing for a great release but frightened of letting it all go.
I'm afraid of ending up alone and HIV has played off that fear from the beginning. It's funny though; I find that now, there are more times that I prefer to be alone than around people. For a while, I thought about 'The End.' About how it was all going to end and that I might as well make everything worth it while I still can. Live life to the fullest because in a couple years, I was going to die.
Since then, I've realized that as apocalyptic as it felt to test HIV-positive, my life wasn't over. And all those newly acquired motivational elements of living for the fullest and all that; I should have known that already. HIV just put things in perspective. I regret getting infected by HIV, but I don't know where I would be right now without it. HIV is by no means a motivator or an inspiring thing to get. If you want that, go on a retreat or go for a walk through the desert. I can say, though, it helped me find myself.
Since testing positive, I've put pieces of my puzzle in place that I never thought I would. It's given me new insights and the opportunity to meet wonderful people that I would probably never have met otherwise. Unfortunately, it also makes me tired. It makes it hard for me to want to get up in the morning and smile all the time. I get paranoid about certain things; what I eat, how much sleep I get, if my food is really clean.
HIV is not a blessing, unless you make it worth it. I get up now and I know that I'm worth it all. I know that everything is worth it and if it's not, I need to make it worth it. So I do.
Learning that you are HIV-positive has probably, at times, caused you to feel a lot older than you are. Just getting the test back from your doctor or clinic, you may have felt like you aged right there on the spot. However, you are still young. You are learning about the world and your place in it. Who you are is still taking shape. Chances are, you have a lot of questions. It can be difficult to get all the answers, especially if it means you have to spend a lot of energy seeking them out. Your life may be impacted by your HIV status, but it is not ruled by it. You have a lot of other things going on.
Well, in this book, we've gathered some of what we think is the most important stuff for you to know, and we've put it together in a way that we hope will be easy for you to read and relate to. You have the option of browsing, peeking, or reading in-depth, about the information that may be most important to you as you take steps to cope with things like your health, your emotions, and your relationships. And what makes the Thrive Guide unique is the fact that it is designed just for you, and it includes stories and thoughts by other young people.
Does this mean you shouldn't do your own research, read up on HIV, or get expert advice from as many sources as possible? Of course not. We hope you can use this as a diving board from which you should feel comfortable diving into all the info that's out there.
Is information all you need? Absolutely not! There is a lot more to taking care of yourself than knowing how to. This stage in your life requires follow-through. Living with HIV can be overwhelming and difficult, but that's definitely not all it can be. There are quite a few people, services, and organizations that will help you take steps toward health and well-being and that is why we've included an in-depth resource listing at the end of this book. Use it, and the rest of the book, to think about and examine and understand the role that HIV now plays in your life. Because once you do, we hope you will begin taking giant steps towards living, flourishing, and thriving!
Next section: In the beginning