My Story

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    Dec 23, 2010 9:14 AM GMT
    Disclaimer: I apologize if this is considered spamming. I wasn't sure where I could post this. Also, I know that this is obnoxiously long. My apologies, to quote Mean Girls, "I just have a lot of feelings." I really wanted to get it out of my system. I hope it gives some of you hope and educates others that you can never be too safe.

    Without further due, my story:

    It's surreal to be sitting here writing this to you all. I remember when I was suspicious about possibly being positive three months ago and how I thought I would quickly browse the RJ HIV/AIDS forum. I immediately closed my browser after I read the first sentence of the topic I clicked on because I couldn't confront the thought of being HIV + . Lo and behold, here I am. It was been three weeks since I received my preliminary results which said that I was HIV +. Ironically enough, I found out on December 1st which is World HIV/AIDS day.

    I would appreciate some anonymity which is why I will not reveal my real name nor display a picture of myself. I will say that I am a 20 year old drama major . I am an aspiring actor who longs to work in Musical Theatre, straight theatre, film, & tv. When I'm not being neurotic about my career or taking dance class, you can find me attending local power vinyasa and bikram Yoga classes. I believe in quality as opposed to quantity in regards to friends. I'm pretty darn cute if I may say so myself and I'm probably one of the most genuine, sweet, and optimistic people you will ever meet.

    When I was getting tested, I was told by my HIV counselor that I was considered low risk for infection. The two events that had me a little worried were considered "low risk" for infection. The guy who I fooled around with in the more risky of the two events, came back preliminarily negative. His Western Blot also said that he was negative. This was according to him, of course. He is 28 and is fairly well adjusted. The second fellow is 19, and well, immature. He's fairly acquainted with many of my colleagues and friends. When I told him it might be a good idea to get tested, he immediately asked why and suggested that he would not get tested unless he knew there was a reason why. Being that he is a social climber and likes to gossip, I knew that if I were to tell him my status, he would make it his business to inform the world. My counselor, friends, and I all feel that I did my part in informing him the best I could and it's in his hands from here on out.

    I do know that I haven't been infected for more than 6 months. I'm pretty sure that the 28 year old guy who insists he is negative is the reason why I'm positive, which means I've only been infected for three months.

    It's been quite the difficult, surreal month. Not only did I have to struggle with my newly found HIV status but I also had final exams and everything else that makes the end of the semester difficult when you're a college student. The first weekend after my preliminary test I had my first major graded performance which many of my family and friends attended. After that, I managed to finish all of my final evaluations for my performance classes, and on a strong note too!

    I'm taking one less class next semester so that I can finish up the work for my two academic courses which I did not bother to do for the last three weeks of this semester. I told my professors that I had some extenuating medical circumstances which have been causing some mental duress, which is why I was unable to attend some classes and complete the assignments. Luckily they were very supportive and are letting me turn in my work at the end of the upcoming Spring 11' semester.

    I just had my first doctor's appointment with my HIV specialist this past Monday. I've also been seeing a school counselor just to check in emotionally the last two weeks of the semester. I'm planning on joining a support group next week after Christmas.

    On a personal level, it's certainly been quite the struggle. I'm a very strong, assertive and optimistic person. At first of course, I couldn't help but feel like I was on borrowed time and that I had an expiration date. Being a theatre major, when I think HIV, I think RENT and Angels in America. Luckily, my closest friend is a nursing major and reassured me that HIV is no longer a death sentence and is chronic, like diabetes. Those who are diabetic and HIV + might go a little earlier but there's no reason we shouldn't be able to live long, fulfilling lives in the mean time. Being that it is 2010 and not the Reagan era, treatment is better than ever and can only improve from here on out. I knew that regardless of what the result of my Western Blot was (which came back poz on 12/7), I would be leaving the office as the same fellow--who is awkward, corky, loves to spend time with his friends, travel, and do the splits--that went in.

    For better or worse, I had a close family member go through quite the traumatic accident last spring semester 10' , which really prepared me emotionally to accept something as difficult and life changing as an HIV positive status. Despite the fact I'm a sensitive soul, I really didn't cry it out of my system as much as I'd expect myself to when I first found out. Whenever I couldn't focus in class or felt a little overwhelmed emotionally, I would go to the bathroom and cry it out for a little until I felt that I was ready to wash my face and go back to class. I feel like there was a lot of shock at first and I had so much going on with the end of the semester that I really didn't have as much opportunities as I should have/should have made to let what I was feeling out.

    I decided to tell my four closest friends whom I know I could trust and use for support. At first it was a little difficult because I was too scared to intrude on their lives which were already plagued with farewells to boyfriends and finishing up final exams and papers. I didn't want to overwhelm them with my emotional baggage. After a couple of days, I knew that I couldn't do it on my own and felt safe enough to open up to my friends and spend time with them. My friends have been amazing, supportive, and loving.

    Unfortunately, as much as having a strong, optimistic mindset from the get go helps, it also hurt me in the respect that I felt my friends thought that I was dealing with it relatively well where they didn't have to worry about me. I know I'll have to confront this when we return next semester and make them aware of the fact that as courageous and optimistic I may appear to be, I still feel rather vulnerable and just a little bit terrified of the long, challenging journey that lies ahead.

    The semester ended this past Friday and I've been home since Monday. After meeting with my HIV specialist and having lots of my blood taken for tests this past Monday, the shock has substantially worn off and the reality and gravity of the situation has settled in. As soon as I left the doctor's office Monday, I completely lost it and cried on my brother's shoulder for ten minutes outside. On my way to Philadelphia yesterday to meet some high school friends, I had to pull over on the highway and let out a wailing wall sob kind of episode for a good five to ten minutes. I also found myself crying a little again today.

    One of my friends checked in on me today to see how I felt. I told her that I was in the most curious melancholy but hopeful state. It has pretty much characterized my life for the past three weeks. Recently, I've just been trying to take it a day at a time and do what makes me happy. I've also been trying to be careful not to overwhelm myself.

    If there's anything I've got out of this, I now know:

    A.) No matter how impossible wanting to be an actor/singer/dancer may be, I know it's what I really want most in life. It's what truly brings me bliss and I can't imagine doing anything else, for the time being, with my life. You have to want it more than anything in
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    Dec 23, 2010 9:20 AM GMT
    Whoops. the post is too long. Here's the rest of it:


    If there's anything I've got out of this, I now know:

    A.) No matter how impossible wanting to be an actor/singer/dancer may be, I know it's what I really want most in life. It's what truly brings me bliss and I can't imagine doing anything else, for the time being, with my life. You have to want it more than anything in the world and be willing to sacrifice many years of financial security, which I am. It would be naive to assume that I would be the only entertainment professional who is coping with this. After all, why would Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights Aids exist if it's sole purpose wasn't to provide financial resources to professionals in the entertainment industry who are coping with HIV or AIDS?

    B.) I now have an excuse to not only take in life slowly and live one day at a time, but to live each day fuller than the last and do what truly brings me bliss.

    C.) I like to believe that God only let this happened to me because he knew I could handle it. I know it's going to be quite the emotional roller coaster ride, but some good will come of it. If anything, I know it'll make me a stronger, better person.

    D.) I now have a new purpose and goal in life, which is to bring awareness. From here on out I'm going to keep my status under wraps because my dream is to achieve a successful career as an actor and show that with something as scary, daunting, and emotionally taxing as being HIV +, life can and will go on. You can achieve your goals and live a blissful, fulfilling life. HIV doesn't define who you are. It's just one of the many parts that makes up who you are/what you have to live with. It may take away the life from you, but it most certainly can not take away the life from within you.

    AND IM DONE

    Thank you guys for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share any thoughts or ask questions. I can't guarantee that I'll be able to answer them.

    It means the world to me that you took the time to read my story. Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year's and I'm sure I'll be taking to some of you soon. Take Care!
  • RSportsguy

    Posts: 1925

    Dec 23, 2010 1:50 PM GMT
    The best to you Styngposabtbe! Please take time now and read all or the HIV t threads that are here for advice and encouragement. Good luck and please keep us updated with how things are going for you! Good luck in your classes too!! Try to have a great Holiday season.
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    Dec 23, 2010 2:13 PM GMT
    styngposabtbeingpoz said It means the world to me that you took the time to read my story.

    This post will be hard to forget. What a contrast to the more usual narcissistic drivel (the guy-above-you threads) and silly whining (the why-can't-I-find-a-bf threads). Here we have someone who is confronting a life-changing event and showing strength and depth of character.
    To the OP, heartfelt best wishes.
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    Dec 23, 2010 2:28 PM GMT
    I just want to say, "Thank you," for sharing your story. It takes courage, even if you want to remain anonymous.

    My thoughts are with you, and with your attitude, this will be only a temporary setback as you realize it is just a chronic situation and not a death sentence as you stated.

    With your positive attitude, goals, and objectives, you will be just fine.

    Thank you again for sharing something so meaningful, especially at this time of year.
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    Dec 23, 2010 2:31 PM GMT
    jprichva said
    TexDef07 said
    styngposabtbeingpoz said It means the world to me that you took the time to read my story.

    This post will be hard to forget. What a contrast to the more usual narcissistic drivel (the guy-above-you threads) and silly whining (the why-can't-I-find-a-bf threads). Here we have someone who is confronting a life-changing event and showing strength and depth of character.
    To the OP, heartfelt best wishes.

    Wow! A post from you that doesn't take a swipe at liberals or Nancy Pelosi!

    Well, in my list of inane thread topics I forgot to include the reflexive one-upmanship of the political threads, but there it is. BTW, season's greetings to you, JP.
    But in support of the OP and his courage, for once the left, the right, and center unite!
  • MuscleComeBac...

    Posts: 2376

    Dec 23, 2010 2:34 PM GMT
    The great American stage director, and founder of the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, BIll Ball, said that 'actors are always in a state of becoming - longing for something to be, someone to become, a new life to live. Unique, precious, rare and complicated people who are at their very best when they find a character to inhabit, and at their most vulnerable when seeking something to become. Canvases waiting for paint.'

    You, my rare, precious, complicated friend have become a model for masculine strength and vitality. You are alive, so much more alive than most men here will ever be, even in their dreams. Sexual and sensual and powerful. You are vital, valuable and magnificent and the first real light shining hope into a New Year.

    You are defined not by your sero-status, or your relationship to it as you absorb the understanding of a new set of rules. You are defined by your desire - both as an artist and as a man - and you will triumph first and foremost as that artist, that man.

    May you never stop working, may you bring life to words and song, energy to dance, and endless wonder and delight to audiences for the rest of your plentiful, long and ultimately ancient days. And may you find love and passion, tenderness and ferocity in the arms of a man who deserves and is devoted to everything you are - both being, and becoming - soon, and for forever.

    xo
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    Dec 23, 2010 2:38 PM GMT
    Thank you for sharing!
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    Dec 23, 2010 2:41 PM GMT
    Thank you for sharing the story! Keep strong, my thoughts and prayers are with you.
  • billy321

    Posts: 137

    Dec 23, 2010 2:46 PM GMT
    Thanks for sharing your story. Best of luck to you in the New Year.
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    Dec 23, 2010 3:27 PM GMT
    You are a brave man, friend. There's a special place for you in this world, your courage is enlightening. You wanted to raise awareness, well, you started right here. We encourage you, we salute you and we are your friends. We're here for you and wish you all the good that life has to offer. I believe that you are blessed with a gift and that gift is to spread the word of hope to all who need it. Use it and do well. I wish you Joy and peace this Holiday season. Take care, Tony
  • Karnage

    Posts: 704

    Dec 23, 2010 3:46 PM GMT
    Wow, thank you for sharing that. That was really courageous for you to put that out there.

    Do you mind if I ask what "low risk" activity got you infected? I ask in the interest of staying safe and asking others to stay safe.
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    Dec 23, 2010 3:47 PM GMT
    My thoughts and prayers are with you as you adjust to the new status. Your strength and resolve seem to be the escape from the yoke. Thanks for sharing your story and having the courage to put pen to paper (or in this case fingers to keys). Best wishes!
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    Dec 23, 2010 3:52 PM GMT
    I wouldn't recommend reading the HIV threads... They can contain lots of judgment/negativity and incorrect information. Trust in your clinician. I will be happy to answer specific questions off thread... We have a practice treating over 1000 HIV+ patients, so without giving medical advice, I'd be happy to demystify any issues for you if I can.

    You will do well! Average additional life expectancy in newly-diagnosed '20-somethings' is an estimated 43 years according to the most recent statistics I saw.... And increasing every day. Just take care, eat well, plenty of rest and avoid infection exposures as possible. You can begin meds at an appropriate time, to be decided in cooperation with your provider.

    Keep pursuing your dreams!
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    Dec 23, 2010 4:13 PM GMT
    Thanks for sharing your story, I enjoyed reading it and I'm glad you've found the strength to go on.
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    Dec 23, 2010 4:25 PM GMT
    styngposabtbeingpoz saidOne of my friends checked in on me today to see how I felt. I told her that I was in the most curious melancholy but hopeful state. It has pretty much characterized my life for the past three weeks. Recently, I've just been trying to take it a day at a time and do what makes me happy. I've also been trying to be careful not to overwhelm myself.

    Your first challenge right now will be dealing with your emotions. Your health care providers will see to your physical health, if you visit them regularly and do what they advise. A danger is that some guys go into "denial mode" at this point and shun their providers. Don't do that.

    A little story of my own: I was staffing the desk of our local gay & lesbian center 2 years ago (I no longer do), when I answered a phone call. It was from a mother from out of state, who didn't know who else to call, had found us through an Internet search.

    Her 20-year-old son, now living in Miami, had just told her he was diagnosed HIV+, and she wanted to know what that meant, what she could do, what would happen to him, was he going to die. And she's crying, and I'm no counselor, nor was one available at that late hour.

    But I gave her a ton of contacts to pass on to her son, and for herself. And I gave her this analogy:

    The time period in which a person had contracted HIV is like a "class" in college. There was the Class of '85, and the Class of '95, and the class of 2005. And each class does better than the last, living better and longer, today perhaps indefinitely. The Class of 1985 didn't do so well, and that's one we hear a lot about. Her son in the Class of 2008 would likely do pretty well now, I told her, with the proper care.

    You're the Class of 2010. Your outlook is quite good. HIV is practically nothing more than a chronic disease now, though of course it will need constant attention, and risks remain. But it is NOT an automatic death sentence!

    Not good news, but not the end of the world, either. And gay men will still be interested in you, because I myself, though negative, partnered with a poz man without fear or hesitation. You're still young, with lots of time to find him.

    I personally know men from the very first "classes" in the 1980s who are still going strong, upwards of 25 years. You appear to have gotten an early diagnosis, and that's a very big plus for you. You're gonna have to deal with doctors and meds a lot for the foreseeable future, until something better comes along as well it might, but your prospects are excellent if you stick with it.

    E-mail me directly if you wish.
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    Dec 23, 2010 4:30 PM GMT
    Thanks for sharing your honest journey. You have the maturity of someone years older and the right perspective and attitude. I have every confidence that with your level of authenticity, self-reflection, and optimism you will achieve everything you want in life, and probably even more! icon_biggrin.gif

    All the best for a New Year of possibilities and greatness!
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    Dec 23, 2010 4:42 PM GMT
    To the OP ....
    You have already shown great courage , determination and maturity .....
    Continue this route , follow your physician advices , and enjoy life at his fullest ....
    My best to you ,icon_smile.gif
    Affen
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    Dec 23, 2010 5:38 PM GMT
    You know you screwed up. Nothing you can do about it. You can choose to lead, and, to help to keep others from doing the same thing, or you can be all self involved and miserable. That's all your choice.

    You need to view this all as an opportunity to tell others how they should not behave, and, just because you made bad choices, they shouldn't, too. Lead, rather than follow. Use your condition as an opportunity to help others, and quit feeling sorry for yourself.

    You dug your hole; now you get to lie in it; how you accept that is all up to you.
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    Dec 23, 2010 6:15 PM GMT
    HUGS!
    Sounds like you have a strong head on your shoulders. Just like you I have a chronic disease, diabetes. and just as you're saying it's important to live a meaningful life...one that has purpose and you found it! =). You're a great guy to come to this realization.
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    Dec 23, 2010 6:43 PM GMT
    Hey man! You have the right attitude - thinking positive is so important. It's definitely a hit for you, but from now on things will just get better. On the other hand, don't feel guilty about crying. I'm someone who tends to play the 'strong' one all the time as well, but really, crying is essential - you have to let those feelings go. All the best young man, you have a life full of opportunities ahead of you. Good luck with your studies!
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    Dec 23, 2010 9:21 PM GMT
    Thanks for sharing your story. I admire your courage. Stay strong, healthy and maintain a positive outlook on life. Happy Holidays.
  • joxguy

    Posts: 236

    Dec 23, 2010 9:51 PM GMT
    I read your story and felt what a mature young man. You will do fine in your career choice and I look forward to reading this story again when you have made in big in movies and share it again. God Bless buddy
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    Dec 23, 2010 10:28 PM GMT
    chuckystud saidYou know you screwed up. Nothing you can do about it. You can choose to lead, and, to help to keep others from doing the same thing, or you can be all self involved and miserable. That's all your choice.

    You need to view this all as an opportunity to tell others how they should not behave, and, just because you made bad choices, they shouldn't, too. Lead, rather than follow. Use your condition as an opportunity to help others, and quit feeling sorry for yourself.

    You dug your hole; now you get to lie in it; how you accept that is all up to you.



    Er, chucky, you're doing that thing again, putting the cart in front of the horse.

    Read his posts entirely, all parts. There's a simple eloquence and magnificence in the direct manner he writes, and it demonstrates the unfolding of his acceptance without viciously casting blame. In his posts he is already doing all you are claiming he should do.

    -Doug


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    Dec 24, 2010 3:08 PM GMT
    Wow, thank you everyone for all the encouraging messages. This is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with thus far. I've been on such an emotional roller coaster ride. Yesterday I was feeling optimistic and confident and this morning I woke up feeling terribly overwrought. My life really has been characterized by the weirdest, hopeful yet melancholia-ridden state for the past three weeks. Not cute.

    I just wanted to let you all know that I am by no means over-simplifying my HIV status. Yes, treatment today is better than ever but as you'd imagine, this just downright sucks. I know I was born with an old soul which has helped me deal with this quite well, but I am only 20 years old and it kind of blows knowing that I won't be able to dick around as much as my peers. Oh well, at least I'll be busting my ass to work towards my goals which is awesome because I'm all for productivity.

    I have many things to look forward over the next couple of months including my NYC cabaret debut, receiving my teacher certification to teach vinyasa flow yoga, and summer stock auditions. Oy. At least the aforementioned will keep me on my toes and distracted as my HIV specialist and I try and figure what's going to be best for me over the next year or so. I get my blood work results this Monday so please say a prayer. In the meantime everyone have a splendiferous Christmas and New Year!

    Oh, and also, for any of you in or around the city, if you know of a support group for newly diagnosed HIV folks that is highly suggested. By all means, please send it my way! I'm planning on going to Friends in Need next week but I'm pretty open for other suggestions.