Today, I passed a significant milestone in my journey to
find acceptance in my small part of the world.
I had recently accepted a new job nearly three months ago, one that I
accepted with significant apprehension.
This was not because I did not want the job. Indeed, I desperately wanted and needed the
job because it was the first step through the door toward working in the
psychology field. Granted, the job is an
entry level one and the only place to move from an entry level position is
forward or upward. The impetus for my
trepidation for accepting any new job was the terrifying prospect of history
repeating itself. I am referring to my
past experience with discrimination and harassment.
As an advocate
for people living with HIV my status is public.
One simply need only type my name into a search engine and BAM.....Daniel
Angelis is HIV positive appears like a big flashing neon sign. I noticed that
one of my new coworkers had sent me a friend invite on facebook. I was extremely hesitant to accept the
request and was mindful of my past experiences.
In fact, I may have even had a minor flashback to the terrible
experiences I had with discrimination.
I also remembered something from my psychology class, which is that
every person will use past experiences with similar situations to dictate their
responses to future experiences. Being
mindful of this I decided to accept the friend request.
For the next
month I watched the interactions on facebook with extreme anxiety and
fear. In fact, this bled over into my
physical interactions with my coworkers as well. These awkward interactions continued until yesterday,
October 11th, 2013, National HIV Coming Out Day. I decided to share a post from http://www.healthline.com with a status
that said "I am HIV+". I was terrified because I now had four coworkers as
facebook friends.....who now also knew my HIV status with absolute certainty.
A flight of ideas
What will they think? Will I get fired again? Will I face harassment? Will someone slash my
tires? Will they tell me I'm worthless, disgusting, or worse?
A manager from my
new employer liked my facebook status. I
was elated and so happy to see such supportive words from someone who was
virtually a stranger. This was a person
who I had only developed an acquaintanceship with by saying hello while passing
in a hallway. It made me realize that everything
I had done and worked so hard for since my terrible experiences with HIV
related discrimination at two of my past employers may have finally paid
off. I went from being afraid of the
world and everyone in it to person pursuing a degree with a future ahead of
him. It also made me realize that I
would not be here today if it were not for my own case managers and
professional relationships that helped me along the way. Many times, when things look darkest it is
difficult to see the light, which can cause you to lose sight of the people
that really do care about you.
If it were not
for my close friends, family, my physician Dr. David Stein of Primary Care
Associates, everyone at AIDSNET, Rob Pompa of Lehigh Valley Hospital, Elizabeth Bryant of Lehigh Valley
Hospital, and the supportive professors at Northampton Community College I
would not be sitting here today. They
work hard, not just for me, but for any person living with HIV in Lehigh
Valley, PA. I thank you with all my
heart, you gave me my life back...you give all of us a safe space, a friend,
warmth, kindness, and hope.
Not only have I succeeded in reaching the milestone I set out for myself, I went farther than I thought I could ever go.