"The way I interact with people has changed too. I find myself so much less judgemental, so much more accommodating and less prejudiced. Somehow I have become far more empathic."
So when you have finally come to terms with it, sorted out your life goals and assimilated HIV into the you that’s you, what’s left is really…well… just you again. Life goes on but with a few tweaks. You can see the self-destructive path you could go down because of it, but really you do choose life. In fact, it becomes so naturally you that you really do forget how shiny and solid-metal looking that HIV dial was.
You could, in fact, forget you had it at all but are reminded from time to time by uncharacteristic choices you make. You are also reminded in the weirdest of situations, made so much weirder because you wonder, almost happily, how you could have forgotten and let yourself in a tiny situation that thrust the whole thing in your face.
A friend (who knew) had something in their eye. She was rubbing and rubbing and I asked her what the matter was. We explored various “Is it a fly?” “Dust?” and then I finally said “Look, let me have a look and see if I can help. Come here and open your eye wide…”. Let me be clear, what happened next was all me and all not her. She came to me and opened her eye. I unwittingly held her face and then absolutely froze. I was holding my HIV hands on her un-HIV face knowing (somehow this was worse? Why?) she knew I was HIV+. I immediately threw my hands back and told her she should go and check in the mirror herself. She charitably didn’t say a word and we never spoke of it again. It was a shock to remember what I have but was she at risk? No, of course not! The problem was my own psychological one and only that, psychological. I have countless memories of little moments that would be so unimportant to anyone else but that are all stored away, little reminders of HIV.
But you see, that’s the thing isn’t it? They are reminders of HIV, so clearly life really has moved on. Its clearly not all I think or worry about. Whether I like it or not, the HIV dial did not, has not, and will not take over my life.
For me, what’s happened in my character has been a really positive reminder of HIV. I was really quite a scared-of-change kind of guy. Anything new was always traditionally met with unease, more so than the next man. HIV has added a strange extra string to my bow. Since diagnosis, definitely since that point, and so definitely somehow because of HIV, I am reminded of HIV by unusually bold moves in my life.
Today I live on a canal boat, me… little scared me… living the bohemian life of a canal-boater. Sailing every other week around the canals and mooring up in a new village. Working out the new route to work, endlessly checking out where the new shops are and constantly meeting new people. I’m really enjoying getting knowledgeable in the engine room, honed my driving skills from nothing to being quite (if I say so myself!) accomplished! I’m not saying that the only reason for the life change is HIV but I’m definitely saying that having HIV played its part in changing bits of my character. You only live once and don’t I know it?
The way I interact with people has changed too. I find myself so much less judgemental, so much more accommodating and less prejudiced. Somehow I have become far more empathic. Maybe I would have developed into that sort of person anyway but I like to attribute these subtly different character traits in some part to HIV.
For me, while my catalogue of awkward incidents can be a seen as a lifetime of little HIV reminders, how I am reminded of HIV most is how much I have changed as a person for the better. I’m sure that I will again have a nose bleed and shoo everyone 100 miles around me away but that hasn’t been the making of me, I’ve made myself despite this.