I didn’t have much weight to lose and I even overheard someone mutter to their friend “god, look at him, he’s so thin!”
I have to admit during my early 20’s (that distant time before HIV), my diet was really bad. I’ve never really had issues with my weight but also I never really focused on me like that. That did mean I ate anything at any time but usually not very healthy. Weeks would go by without a proper home-cooked hot meal but I ran everywhere – really, I ran everywhere for everything all the time and wondered why people walked everywhere when they could run. So I was pretty slim, perhaps too thin..
As I mentioned in the first blog, one noticeable thing that told me something was wrong was a spell of really losing weight fast. I didn’t have much weight to lose and I even overheard someone mutter to their friend “god, look at him, he’s so thin!” I honestly hadn’t looked at me objectively as someone who was thin, too thin, fat or too fat, or anything but that moment I really looked at me and saw, weirdly for me, what they saw. It was only then that I assessed my recent eatings, runnings, sleepings.. anything that might more “normally” explain that I was definitely, definitely thinner than I was before.
HIV contraction and untreated individuals with HIV can suffer weight loss. At the time, I wasn’t thinking HIV, I was thinking I’d randomly lost weight whilst seemingly (as far as I could vaguely remember) keeping the same sort of routine going.
After diagnosis, wrongly or rightly, and really quite likely to be wrongly, I have associated this fact: thinner = iller = HIVer. You know, I really know its not the right thought process but because of being somehow shocked into looking at me and my thinness where I really hadn’t before right at the point of HIV has somehow associated the two things together. So for the period after I was acutely aware of me and what I looked like and I learned the word dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy can be a symptom of HIV progression but my knowledge past the idea of “losing muscle”? or “losing mass” was light, to say the least. I checked me all over a lot, really – lots of times and having never really checked me over before, it was all quite weird and self-indulgent and overly “checky”, if that makes sense?
As with everything I’ve dealt with, even this somehow normalised itself. The checking become less, the information gathering about what my body could or couldn’t be doing became less and I realised that ultimately checking myself over and over isn’t actually doing anything positive for myself. I was clearly just waiting for something to be wrong and I could, like a victim, say “See? Its happening, HIV is happening – look here!!! And here !! “
So after this, one thing became clear to me: my eating regime had to change. I needed to eat food, proper food and regularly. Now really, why it needed HIV to get me to that I don’t know and maybe I would have got there anywhere but really, I rolled through 20,21,22,23 absolutely without a care for what I ate, when I ate it and any health impact my diet could have. I wonder if, right now, I’d be exactly the same?
In amongst the statistics I lap up when I go through my traumatic blood tests, yes still traumatic with the same needle dread that I dread days and days before the actual test (and can I just say here, the last one was done and the nurse forgot to fill up one of the bottles! I actually heard myself say “Erm, do we really need that one? Honestly I have filled enough up haven’t I?” to which she replied, “Yes, this one is your viral load, you really need this one” and had to do it twice! How pathetic am I? I should be so lucky to be tested and managed in the first place?), is a test on cholesterol.
My cholesterol was high. Like “6” high. Of course “6” meant nothing to me before HIV. In fact, I never had a test so wouldn’t know what I was? Its actually made up of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and my first few tests back then were overall high with high LDL cholesterol.
Nowadays, through not overly panicky focus but focus nevertheless on eating well, my tests show cholesterol around 4 to 5 made up at least half of HDL cholesterol. It’s a shame that, for me, it needed HIV to wake me up on the health front but I really have HIV to thank for that to happen. If I could talk to my 20-year-old self I’d tell him to wake up and eat well!