Finding My Positive State of Mind
As a young gay man, one of the hardest things you can do is to come out. You fear whether or not your family and friends will accept this “new” you and you face the possibility of losing the people that are important to you in your life. After I did come out as gay, the one thing I never thought I would have to do is come out again… but this time, as an HIV positive man.
When I was 19 years old, I went in for routine blood work. I wanted to get checked because I had just started a new relationship. I wasn’t worried though. Being that young, I felt like I was invincible, the epitome of health. I went to the gym multiple times a week and I ate healthily so I figured I had nothing to worry about.
A little less than a week later, I was talking with a good friend from work about my pending test results and she reassured me that everything would be fine. At that moment, as if fate itself was watching me, I received a phone call from my doctor.
He asked if I were in a place that I could talk privately, so I walked to the back kitchen of the restaurant where I worked. My heartbeat began to race.
“Nick, you’re HIV positive.”
I heard his words, but I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. It wasn’t possible, not me. No, please not me. I fell to the floor and began to wail. Emotions took over and I sat there crying and letting the tears wash over my face. My doctor remained on the phone, trying to reassure me, but I couldn’t hear a word. My manager came over to see what all of the commotion was.
That is when my doctor said, “You’re going to be fine, but I need you to come into the office now.”
I told him I was on my way.
I stumbled to my car and somehow managed to pull myself together. I pulled my phone out and dialed my boyfriend. He answered faster than I expected. I wasn’t ready, but he could hear me crying.
“Nick, what’s going on?”
“I’m so sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
“Stop. Tell me what’s happening. You’re scaring me.”
“My doctor just called me. I’m positive.”
“Where are you Nick?”
“I’m headed to my doctors office.”
“I’m coming with you. Come over and I’ll drive you.”
Tears poured down my face. My heart would not stop racing.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Just come over.”
When I finally arrived after one of the longest drives of my life, he was outside waiting for me by his car. He came over to me, pulled me out up to my feet, and hugged me.
“It’s going to be fine. Let’s go.”
The drive was completely silent. My mind was in another place. I finally calmed down, slowly shutting out the world for some peace. My boyfriend walked me into the office and my doctor was waiting for me in the lobby. He sat us down in the back office and he began to speak.
He talked CD4 numbers and t-cell counts. He used words like, “low count,” “lucky,” “healthy,” and “next steps.” I just shook my head yes and kept my boyfriend’s hand in mine. I asked how I should tell my parents and my doctor said that either he can tell them for me if I wished. For some reason, I opted for the more difficult choice of going home and telling them myself.
I came out to my parents when I was 15, but they had just recently started to accept me as a gay man. I couldn’t help but think about what this new information would do to them now. Flashbacks of memories of when I came out played over and over in my head. The tears, the anger, and how all of that would now be magnified ten-fold. After the long drive home I sat outside of my house, the darkness of the evening seemed to flow into me. I made the short walk up the sidewalk and went inside.
Both of my parents were watching TV in the living room when I arrived. My mom looked up, saw my red eyes and I could see her tense up in fear. I told them that I was HIV positive and I can’t say they handled it well. But then again, how many parents would react to hearing that their youngest son now has a life-threatening disease?
I don’t remember much from that night. I have blocked most of it out. There were too many tears, too many screams of horror. My parents didn’t know anything about HIV. It scared them and rightfully so. Without the facts on HIV, it can seem like a life-ending diagnosis. But I do remember the days that followed.
We were in and out of an HIV specialist’s office. My parents and I learned facts about the virus and were educated on the situation. My viral load was low. So low, in fact, that my doctor told me it would be years before I would need to go on medication. I still felt dirty and I did for quite some time.
To this day, my CD4 count is still high and my viral load is still low. My boyfriend and I are still together, and he is still negative. He was my rock through it all and still is. I no longer consider myself dirty, because I realize that I am not. I simply have a “chronic condition” as my doctors put it, and with proper care I will, and do, live a normal, healthy and happy life.
I still go in for my routine blood work every three or so months and that’s about the only thing that has really changed in my life. My friends still look at me the same and my partner loves me unconditionally and supports me wholeheartedly. He is not ashamed of my status, and neither am I. I’ve learned that I am not my “status”, but the man I make myself into every day. I am not just HIV positive… I am Nick.