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Help From My Friends

| 38 Comments

I am a 24-year-old, white, female graduate student living in New York City. I am HIV positive. I was diagnosed in June, just about five months ago, after going to the doctor for a routine check-up.


Approximately three weeks before I was diagnosed, I broke up with my boyfriend of two years, who I loved desperately, and who broke my heart when he cheated on me, and then begged me to stay. I thought the heartache of tearing myself away from my first love was one of the hardest challenges life would bring...Boy, was I wrong.

 

Recently, I was lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to be an anonymous blogger at POZ.com, so that I can share my experience as a young, newly diagnosed woman. The staff at POZ (who promote disclosure of HIV status to fight against the stigma) are graciously allowing me to withhold my identity.


I hope that readers will understand that my anonymity is not indicative of shame, but rather the desire to personally deal with my own diagnosis before I publicly disclose my status.


While I genuinely hope to help others get through the emotional roller-coaster that inevitably follows diagnosis, the reality is that I myself am still coping. I hope and sincerely believe that one day soon I will feel strong enough to disclose my identity, but for now (as my amazing friends and family have been incessantly reminding me), I need to do what will best allow me to heal.

 

So, for my first blog entry, I'll start at the beginning of my story...

 

The doctor (who I had only ever seen once before) asks me after bringing me into a private room, "Has anyone ever talked to you about HIV before?" A knot began to grow in my stomach, and hoping I was wrong about what was coming next, I looked at him and said, "Well, yes...why?" He responded, "Your blood work came back HIV positive...but this might be a mistake. You don't look like someone with HIV."


In disbelief, fear, anger and shock, I began to cry as the doctor continued to ask me questions about my personal life to try to figure out how this happened to someone like me, who didn't quite "look the part." After he left me alone to sob some more, I called my roommate and best friend who I knew would make me feel better.


femalehands.jpgShe told me not to worry, assured me that it could be a mistake, and that there was no need to freak out until I knew it was real. Well, in the next few days it all became very real. I had additional blood drawn, and found out that I was in fact HIV positive, despite the doctor's ignorant inference that I didn't "look" like I had HIV.

 

Once the second round of blood work came back HIV positive, somehow, my survival instincts kicked in. I WILL BEAT THIS. I told myself over and over again that there was no other way but to fight off this virus. I called my ex-boyfriend, who I had instructed to get tested a few days earlier, and unsurprisingly, he was also positive.


He apologized over and over for exposing me to HIV with his infidelities. What do you say to someone who you loved so deeply, but who betrayed you, abused your trust, and consequently inflicted you with a life-long disease? I never thought I'd have to answer that question...

 

Despite the huge range of emotions I've felt about my ex-boyfriend since that day (fury, pain, heartache, to name a few), for some reason the only emotion I could conjure up at the time was deep sadness and empathy. Although I believed my friends when they told me he didn't deserve my kindness and support, it felt right at the time. After all, he was going through this too, and just three weeks before this man was my best friend, lover and partner.


For the last two years he was my entire world. And now he was alone. I knew his guilt (and his stubborn pride) wouldn't allow him to reach out to his friends the same way I did later that day. So, after talking him down from contemplations of suicide, convincing him to see a therapist immediately, and trying to impose some of my newly found survivor strength onto him, I hung up the phone and began to wrap my head around what was happening.

 

I knew I couldn't handle the reality of the situation alone, so I called one of my friends (who was largely responsible for my new-found survivor mentality) and he talked me through it. He told me that I would deal with this and I would survive, because that's what we do when life throws obstacles our way - we adapt and keep on living as best as we can.


He told me that there would be some good to come of this situation, and that life just has a funny way of working itself out. He sent me some messages later that night to check in on me. One of his messages read: "We used to have Michael Jordan, now we have LeBron James. There was Magic Johnson, and now there is you." His faith that I would overcome and not let the virus take over my life, helped me believe my mantra even more: I WILL BEAT THIS.

 

I was alone in my apartment for the next few hours (before my roommate came home from work) and felt I needed to talk about it more. So I called one of my best friends from college who lives in Washington, D.C. Within minutes she was on a bus, and within a few hours she was at my door ready to spend the night by my side. My roommate came home and I told her the news. Collectively, my friends helped me get through that first night.


They assured me that I didn't do anything wrong, despite haunting feelings of shame and regret. They reminded me that all I did was love and trust someone completely, and just because that trust was abused does not mean I acted stupidly or irrationally. After the three of us shared some tears, hugs and words of support, I was feeling ready to take the next step...telling my family. 

 

In the next entry I will write about my experience informing my family, something I was terrified to do. Before that, however, I do want to encourage any newly diagnosed people to reach out to trustworthy friends and share with them what you are going through. No one should have to go through this alone.


I can't imagine getting through those first few days, or even hours, after I was diagnosed without the support and love I received from the three friends I chose to tell on that difficult day. I did not tell my friends who I've known the longest, or even my friends who I see the most. In fact, some of my oldest, most loyal friends still do not know about my status.


On that first day, I told my friends who I knew would be fully supportive and empathetic, who I knew would not judge me, who I knew were rational and optimistic, and who would give me the positive energy and strength I needed to get myself on a train to New Jersey and tell my family the news...

38 Comments

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Comments on Anonymous's blog entry "Help From My Friends"

Welcome to the POZ Blogs! I look forward to learning more about your HIV journey...

Hey there. Your story mirrors mine in many ways. I was diagnosed two years ago and went thru the same "it's probably a mistake, you don't fit the mold" scenario from the doctors. Apparently, they don't realize that the "mold" is being human. Anyhow, I am a 43yr old single NYer and if ever you need to talk, feel free to email me.
:)
M

Welcome to the Poz blogs! As a formerly anonymous columnist for Poz, and now its editor, I applaud your bravery and look forward to being part of your journey as you move forward on your path. The Poz family is behind you all the way!

Sitting here with tears in my eyes and my heart just wanting to reach out and hug you.
Your story reflects mine too - I was only diagnosed in August 2010.
I felt exactly the way you did, but I didn't have anyone to turn to. I spent the first night phoning my previous partners girlfriend (he was away working) and 6 yrs of sexual partners (not many) and taking responsibility for the grief I was going to cause.
Since then I have come to realise that my life is blessed - I know I have HIV and I'm getting stronger and healthier. I'm safe again. The part that I was griving for is a miniscule part of my life. I can live without it.
3 months later I have booked ice skating lessons and have various other activies organised. My life starts here.
HIV is not going to rule my life, I'm going to rule it. You will find a way through this and I send you the biggest hugs you could imagine.

From one Anon to another. Hello.
You have a great attitude and you WILL deal with this. It´s not the end of the world for you and thankfully not for a lot of us.
I infected my wife and in turn our first child was poz. The past two years have been the most difficult one could ever imagine for our little family.
I like you wanted to reach out to people, but unfortunately the guilt and stigma attached to our particular situation has prevented us from doing so. So in away I envy you....you are the victim while I am the culprit.
Keep your chin up. I promise you, slowly but surely things get better.
Anon.

Hi annonymous,

even to write with no name takes a huge strength, because in writting it you are facing yourself and being honest with who you are. only when you are good and ready should you come out to others in your world and then the wider world if you choose to.

it took me a long time to come out about my diagnosis. for a year only one of my best friends and my older brother knew and for me that was enough.

i also started attending a support group of other hiv+ people and that was when i began to change and grow stronger. it was an amazing experience to realise that i was a strong and powerful person and i ended up becoming a support worker for people who were living with hiv. its the best job i ever had both for them and for me.

i am now at the stage where i dont care who knows about the virus that calls me home, but it has taken 5 years for me to get to this stage.

you sound like you are a stong woman and you should be proud of yourself for the journey you have taken so far. from what you have written ive no doubt that you are going to surprise yourself again and again with what you are able to achieve. be kind to yourself and allow your tears to come when you need to and trust the good friends you have already told, they will be your rock when you need them.

with love and good wishes, from Andy in Birmingham, UK xxx

This is not the end of the world, fight it to the end! Think positive, listen to medical advice you will live on ever to tell the story and make a difference in the world.

I am so surprised at your bravery.I am also positive .I was diagnosed in June this year and on drugs.My boyfriend broke up with me.I only have my family o help comfort me.I am willing to talk about my life experiences too.give me a guide.

Hello I have been positive for 20 years and you would never know I'm positive until It tell them my family helped me through this. I will be getting married next month to a man who is not positive. My life has been wonderful I don't let HIV rule my life I also put God first in everything I do

I was diagnosed five years ago with full blown Aids at a hospital three thousand miles from home. In fact, I was told that the opportunistic disease I acquired would have killed me in just a few days if I hadn't been admitted.

For the first four months or so I lost the ability to really walk or talk. Sentences were fragmented and my ability to wrap my mind around complex thoughts nearly disappeared.

The fear, the confusion the helplessness and yes anger I felt, and to be honest still feel at times, duplicates what you expressed so eloquently. And being a straight male, never having been with a man or having a history of intravenous drug use ... my fears of alienation, not belonging to any community were compounded.

Fast forward to November 2010. My diagnoses form still reads Aids/toxoplasmosis - it always will. But through the miracle of modern medicine, meditation, the help of great Dr's at the Aids Healthcare Foundation here in Los Angeles, some great friends and the deep seeded desire to live ... I have cultivated a renewed strength and purpose in life.

And here I am today. Feeling better then ever - walking, talking living my life. I even look 10 or so years younger then my 52 years. So that's good.

Anon, I won't lie and tell you it's all good and it's going to be a breeze just because Hiv is considered a chronic illness. There are somethings medication can't fix. And those are buried deep. But it's the ability to heal that part, push forward, heal again then move forward with purpose that our success is measured.

Look forward to your next entry.

Dori Keller

I also remember when I knew...the world painfully crumbled...but soon after, I saw it as one of the bad things which the bag of life carries with, and that there is a positive side in everything; I took it as an opportunity to meet and solidarize with other people I'd never come across otherwise: like my lovely girlfriend...would I ever have met her, were I not hiv+?

You are a strong woman for even share being new to the community. i know that it feels like you are on a roll a coaster and truly you are right now. it will get better trust and believe. you seem to be strong so use it to rest for a period, give yourself a chance to accept your illness and then make it a part of your life. living with HIV is better than trying to fight it. HIV can control your life it you let but i know that you won't. please still enjoy your life, you have so much life left. we are sister now in this war going on in our bodies. i have been HIV postive since 1992 so i can understand what you are going even though everyone walk is diffrent. i was told that god does not give us more than we can bare. be bless because god has a strong and powerfull plan in store for you. be bless. peace my sister.

I applaud your bravery I was diagnosed in 1999 and up to now sometimes I cry alot and alot of my closest friends and family still don't know at least you have a good support group.

I only have myself right now, but still keeping the faith and holding on my husband was the one who infected me as I had trusted him too much and as usual he was unfaithful, but as you say we have to fight this thing. Don't give up we still have our whole lives ahead of us.

Your should go out do things that you have always wanted to do, go back to school etc whatever makes you happy girl.

I, a straight male, was diagnosed in Feb of 03. I cantracted the virus approx 10 yrs earlier from my now ex wife. She was using IV Drugs (Meth) unknown to me as I was an over the road truck driver and was away from home sometimes for up to 5 weeks at a time.

I think the worst part is that, in literally the blink of an eye, your entire life changes!

This Blog entry however is not about me, it's about you :) I'm not going to begin to tell you "I know how you feel" I only know how I felt. The best advice I can give to you is deal with this in your own way. If you don't want to "come out" then don't! The only time you have a duty to disclose is if you intend to be intimate with someone. Share with those you trust and who you know will support you and be non-judgemental. Most importantly wrap your head around the fact that this is a personal thing that does not belong to the enire world but to you. Make the changes in your life that are required, take good care of yourself, be med adherant, you have a virus; so what? Your still the same person you were. Your not a Monster or walking poison. If you find someone you can love and disclose to him and he rejects you or runs frightened then trust me girl, he's not worth the effort. If he'll run from this then he'll run from somthing else. As far as the Empathy you feel towards your ex, good for you but remember he was unfaithful and most likely will be again once he comes to terms with the situation, be his friend and support him but leave it at that and move on.

My biggest mistake was thinking that no one would want me and I would have to settle for somthing I really didn't want. I was very wrong. Don't make this mistake. You appear to be very level headed and intelligent, take a deep breath, hold your head up and dismiss the negative crap; embrace life and ride the wheels off of it :) Be the person you have always been because, well, you are! You just have a virus, so what :)

Some have offered their support in telling you to contact them if you want to talk and the offer stands with me as well. You have friends you never knew you had! Ain't that a twist, lol.

Kirk.

There are so many things I want to say. However, as one of the bloggers on this site (I am the HIV positive HIV clinician) first of all let me say "welcome", and I hope you will find this experience as wonderful as I have over the years.

The other thing I want to assure is things get better. This was said to me several decades ago (before HAART was a "reality"). Remember, when I tested positive I was already a well known AIDS clinician, author, and advocate. However, when I heard the words: "Your test came back positive" my life went belly up. I thought I was so knowledgeable about HIV (I was in some ways), and could handle anything (I couldn't). However, a kind man told me to take a deep breath, not to put too pressure on myself, and live with the emotional chaos. Somehow I was able to do it and things did come into focus after awhile.

You will laugh again, have sex again, have bad hair days, get frustrated at work, and actually goes days on end without even thinking about your status. Life goes on. Remember, it is just a virus. It is not you.

You are increible woman and so bravery thanks you so very much for sharing ur amesing journey and looking foward to read what happen with the family because im HIV POSITIVE SINCE 1998 ITS NOT EASY TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS BUT NOW YOU HAVE GIME ME HOPE TO SAY SOMETHING TO MY CLOSE FAMILY THANK YOU AND GOD BLESS YOU

I think you and the annomous one are very brave and strong knowing that life goes on(been pos. for 21yrs.)I like you

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I was diagnosed on April 26th around the same time you were and I can identify with a lot of your story. I really appreciate you being so brave to share and I wish you the best.

Aloha I wish you the best . Your kindness will save you from years of frustration. I never have been able to say my status out loud. My family would disown me for less. But I am happy to hear someone strong enough to do what you did. Keep blogging ii will keep reading in hope to find more strength through. Your words.
aloha
goa

I am sorry you have to go through this process in being who you are in your journy. I think you are fooling yourself to think that not coming out is not about shame. I do not think you should be in shame at all, however HIV is full of shame in the direction of stima that we face daily. The fear to adress this shame in my life has alway been taking my shames to Jesus who will always send love and peace to ones heart, for I learned that this is the only person that has help me in dealing with the voices of shame daily that try to steal my peace and joy in life. I will pray for you to be strong in the loving grace of our Lord Jesus in your walk and journy. I hope your boyfriend also mans up to his love for the truth in our Lord.

Peace and Healing to you, I pray for you and yours

we must be strong and fight I'm Diagnosed in 1998 my health is perfect, but my emotions are not good but i need to be strong because I have children and need to fight for them
history remembers only mine that I was pregnant when she gave Diagnosed
My life changed a lot I feel I am another person cry a lot and I can not understand why I spend
sorry for my language...luck

I just want to tell you as I'm sure many has things will mellow out, the shock and the fears and anger does subside and life is still out there to live

my story follows yours i went in to the hospital for a simple boil and 3 days later i was being told i was hiv+ , the day i got the call i went stright up to the hospital and took my wife for testing (shes clear) , that was a friday and my wife went on a bender untill her results came back clear , i feel so bloody lonley cos she has washed her has to a fair dregree and i sllep on my own in the spare room like a bloody lodger , i have struggled to keep my feeling in check as i blurt out in tears at the slightist thing (not good when your in asda or tesco shopping) , i could do with more support , only 3 people know that i am + and i told another one today who has been the best support but i found more answers on this site including this story

such a releif to have an outlet and answers
Thank you (i am drying my tears now)
wish we had a site in the uk like this one

tony

Sorry that this virus caught you. You must know that most adult on this planet have done at least once what you have done to let this virus catch you, that is to say, having unprotected sex. Some got lucky and some did not like you. Therefore do not blame yourself so hard though those lucky ones might ask you where did your common sense go by having unprotected sex in this day and age. I myself have had unprotected sex but got lucky and decided never to live in fool's paradise again. Just know that you got unlucky and that you did not do something so bad that none of us have ever done to get this virus. You just had sex and human is made to have sex. Now I want you to start accepting your HIV status. I always say to my friends in regard to their life troubles that if they are able to accept their losses and move on, they can see the light. They will see that there are plenty plenty of good things in life to the extent that their losses won't count anymore. I hope this advice helps.

I am going to get tested. I am a female, a little bit older than you and no, I certainly don't appear to be someone who "needs" the test because I am a young urban professional with an advanced degree and I rarely date. However, I am thankful for your blog and I hope that you will find some encouraging friends in your city who will affirm you and support you. I imagine that a city like NYC has a lot of places where you can receive assistance.

Hi,

about four weeks ago I was diagnosed HIV positive. I felt and still feeling devasted but like you I know I can beat it at least to the extend of making the best for my life now. I am hoping to find my smile again...

all the best to you!

Wow I have been looking for a venue like this since I found out on December 2010. I didn;t freak out initially and actually told the tech he must have made a mistake with the swab. Later I went to Aid Atlanta for verification and when my results came back I was speechless. Not me, it couldn't be me. Who? When? Why? Today I still have moments of disbelief, but I am a soldier and will not surrender. I may have HIV but it certainly does not have me. I am a nursing student and about to get very active in my community especially where young people are concerned. This is a wipe wave, but we can surf it together.

I know what you are going thru, it happened to me 19 years ago, I also was told by a very ignorant, incompassionate doctor that I was affected or should I say infected...I decided not to believe him I refused so I tore up the results and ran to a different clinic to have another test done hoping it would come back with a different result...NOT...

I was also at the time 5 months pregnant with my son...I left the clinic in the company of my girlfriend she was very supportive thank god she was with me...Later that day I went to get my husband from work I told him what happened at the doctors...he refused to believe it, kept saying it must be a misstake...

He decided to get drunk and passed out on the couch that night, I took my keys and left in my car I decided I needed some time to think and clear my thoughts, a big thing huge challenge for me especially at 5 months of pregnancy, I was also worried for my son's future what is he was affected as well?...

I could handle it but I would not want to put this on my son, he was born four months later he tested positive at first then at age of two he had another test done which came back negative...Thank God...

I finally convinced my husband to get tested a year later, he just refused to go...of course he as well tested positive...He died 2 years later
I believe he had lived with this condition for years prior to meeting me...

I hold no harsh feeling towards him, the only regret I have is that my son never got to know his dad!!

Today 20 years later I am healthy, have a healthy son and just got engaged to my honey which by the way is negative...I have never had a symptom from this condition...I been blessed in many ways even though I had to take on this challenge 20 years ago...they say life works in mysterious ways, there is a reason for everything...

Hopefully my story will be of help,
keep smiling, enjoy life as well as and as much as you can...

God Bless you all

Hello today is a new day I'm 38 years old live in Washington, D.C. and I was diagnosed with HIV in 2011, unfortunately I was diagnosed at Motor Vehicles at the time if you took a HIV test they would pay for your service, there after i was shocked and in disbelief and to realize that my boyfriend who I was in love with gave this disease to me and he was aware that he had it, unfortunately he became sick and was hospitalized for about two months and I was still was unaware of who I might have got the disease from because he misled me to think that it wasn't him, he told his family that I was diagnosed with HIV and that I gave it to him,but reality kicked in when he was in the hospital and died from Full Blown Aids, I was devastated to think how could a person say they love you and do something like this to you love is not suppose to hurt he died March 22, 2010, I was bitter and full of resentment I stopped going to the hospital to see him, but I did go to his funeral, I had to forgive him so that I could continue to live, I never would have thought that could happen to me, I have a 4 year old daughter and I thought what if it was too late for me , my daughter would have been left in this world alone, but I'm taking my medication and doing well get a little depressed sometimes because i get tired of taking medication everyday but I got to keep on keeping on I've learned that life is not over God has given us another chance to maybe help others to live so I look at it as God using us as a vessel to maybe help someone else it's a honor to be chosen by God to do his will God Bless You my Sista and keep your head up don't look back look forward it's get's better everyday trust me

On March 1st, 2011, I gave blood in a Blood Drive for the very first time. I was so excited, I even had pictures taken of me donating....(so ridiculous). Anyway, 7 days later, I received a cryptic letter from the Blood Bank, suggesting I make an appointment with a counselor. I geared myself up for bad news. I expected to hear lupus, diabetes...shoot, maybe they found mosquito pee in my blood...But, I NEVER expected to hear HIV. The counselor was so cold & unfeeling. She simply said, "Well, you know it's HIV??" My heart stopped. I got up- walked out and got in my truck & started screaming. It felt like God didnt Love me anymore, like he was punishing because I stopped going to church back in November. I got re-tested annonymously & it was definite. Thank God I had my Awesome, Super-Sister to support, Love & console me. It's been a week now. I'll be taking my boyfriend to get tested in a few days. I'm praying hard for him to be negative. I was celibate for so many years, simply because, I had a crazy menstrual issue and couldn't stop bleeding for years. I eventually had a total hysterectomy in 2009 along with 3 transfusions. In almost 7 years, I only dated 2 guys. I applaud all these Brave people. I don't feel so alone anymore. There is hope & life after the diagnosis. I'm looking for the best places to get treated in NY. Stay Well All :)

Wow, you've been so brave in the face of adversity. Please keep going, loud and proud. You've reminded me how precious our intimate relationships are and why we need to honor each other everyday by giving and showing respect. Thank you for sharing your story.

You are very brave and I commend you for writing about life as an HIV+ person. I am HIV- but I have friends who are HIV+ and they have been living with HIV for decades. Whatever you do see your ID/HIV doctor and take your meds.

I have just been pronounced + too but I have lots of experience about this because I have some family members living positively and some even friends who supposedly died by it. The first rule is: restrict your information,limit the number of persons you will tell.You can tell one or two persons you really trust but that should be it, its your business, you can handle it because I believe in God and I know that He will not bring any burden heavier than you can handle to you.

Besides,once you divulge any thing or confide in anyone other than God over an issue, it is no longer a secrete. That person will also confide in someone else and so on and so forth. So unless you want your affairs public, please keep them private.

The second rule is, hold your head up high! Yes, + so what? Why is HIV such an issue? how about those Herpertitise this and that? How about cancer which is painful? How about diabetes that changes your style of living, food and all? Be thankfull that its just HIV and move on living with a positive attitude after all you are positive.

Your post is very encouraging, will have to forward to my sister as she just found out three days ago, she's poz, plus she is 4 months pregnant. Thanks for sharing x

im a 23 male and i just find out im hiv+ and it 9weeks in to it need help

I had the same experience. Now I have realised that HIV is just a life condition to be managed and not a disease.

I am terribly sorry this has also happened to you, but that which tests us will make us stronger. I was diagnosed in June of this year with full blown AIDS. Talk about a shock to the system... Here I am, a 35 yr old graduate student and now pretty screwed. However, I dealt with it and moved on. Other than taking a pill a day ( less than I take to control my blood pressure) not too much has changed outside my sex life.

I just found out today. Gosh I'm thankful for my best friend since he came with me. I'm still processing it all. These stories are helping me a lot and making me want to go out and help others.

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