Overcoming and Living with HIV: Matt Freeman talks about his second anniversary of living with HIV.
That’s exactly 2 years ago.
The end of March 2017.
Where I was seated in the waiting room at one of the London clinic.
Lucky and proud of myself; I got there on time. Usually, I’m late everywhere.
There wasn’t a moment of boredom; as there’s always someone around to…
Hot and tall – just next to me on my right
Handsome – opposite me
Cute muscular – on the left side
Daddy – in the corner.
After a while I got called,
“Hi Matt, could you follow me, please.”
I believe, that on that day, I met the most caring and love sharing woman with the biggest heart, for the work and passion she has, I adore her!
The woman, that I’m talking about was my health adviser on this day,
I had an appointment for a simple -(should be) blood test.
The same as the one I’ve got just a month before.
And nothing different, (that’s was my expectation at least) from the test that I’ve got 2 months back either…
Straight behind her, I walked into the room and I sit down in a chair by the window, facing down Dean Street, which is all the time full of Soho lovers, regulars and tourists.
I’ve only managed to take my jacket off, she already logged in to the computer and started questioning me;
“Can you please just confirm for me your date of birth and postcode?”
A few more questions were asked. At the same time, she was preparing to do my tests.
“How are you doing?”
“Did you enjoy your day off?…”
The stress-free atmosphere that she been able to create with her voice, she made me feel like the ‘calm’ was just right there.
I just can’t forget how incomparable that day was and the views that surrounded me on my journey there. The weather back then for March was just perfect, beautiful blooming flowers in parks, trees covered under millions of mini flowers in light creamy white colour.
Coming back… as she carried on with the test, She made everything look so smooth and easy, she kept me feeling calm.
On the desk, was one bottle with some liquid and big number 1 on it, the second one and a 3rd bottle right next to it.
She was ready to start, so was I.
I held out my left hand, leaning it on the edge of the desk, with my pointing finger to the front, ready for the finger prick test.
At that point in my life, I’ve never had a problem when a nurse collects my blood. When she told me that I would only feel a small twinge, – It was already done, the blood was drawn into the pipette.
She mixed up the “cocktail” and poured into the hole in the middle of the tray.
Now, just a few minutes more, and I would be able to get my result. This test was to check the occurrence of HIV antibodies in my blood.
I think we all have the same issue, that when things seem to be affecting us, we start worrying ourselves. Time seems to stand still. To the rhythm which is played by the clock hanging over the door, nervously I just play with my hands, tapping my fingers on the desk.
The time is ticking…
About 7:19 pm
She lifted the tray up and looked a little closer,
She put hands back down on the desk.
She lifts her head up and her eyes meet mine.
I won’t forget her look – the sadness which appears around her face in this one moment, just froze me.
I’ve been sitting opposite her, shaking from the unknown, one reoccurring thought – ‘tell me finally, I need to know, quicker, what’re the results’!
The time was ticking over, and over my head, everything felt in slow-motion mode,
Where, the tension kept increasing, where in my head I already had a storm of thoughts, like the army hitting in me one by one and by another.
Drops of sweat already been running down my forehead, making me wet.
I felt like I was about to melt away from the heat that was flowing through me at that time.
The clock was ticking,
- annoying me…
At 7:20 pm
This was my time, finally;
She spread the words with her sadly sounding voice;
“Matt I’m really sorry to say that, but your test shows two dots, that means that you are HIV positive. I will do one more blood test, which is more accurate, to confirm the results.”
Exactly 730 days ago…
The clock was ticking,
- but It felt like something stop my life.
And the feeling as if someone has locked me in a cage without an exit door, just me and my mind fighting. Everything spinning around my head, everything starts to gain speed.
The clock was ticking, different than usual.
My heartbeat increased immediately.
On the 30th of March 2017 the words that have entered my ears, -“unexpected” have changed me and my life radically forever.
My reaction to it was probably similar to every other person being just newly diagnosed;
I was just simply denying and feeling disgusted with myself. I was so irritated her words. Questioning myself “What I’m going to do now?; Between rejecting this situation, as far away as I could just dream of. Disbelieving, “What? This is not true! Are you just kidding me? Are you sure? Can this be a mistake? No, that’s definitely not me!”
The chair I was sitting on, felt like an emotional roller coaster – without a safety belt.
Like someone removed the hand brake, and everything within my body and mind, started to free fall, crashing into particles, – together with me.
I fell apart, I felt so awful.
In pieces of hatred emotion and those broken feelings, I felt like my time reached to the end.
With these broken parts, there was horrible guilt and a deep shame. I felt like crying forever. I couldn’t imagine myself living with HIV. I was scared of life and the way people would now see me/accept me.
I was constantly worried about being rejected by close friends and loved ones.
This river of unstoppable tears was flowing down my face, my health adviser was still opposite me, trying to explain me, show me helpful things.
She was trying to help me overcome the anger I felt with myself, I wasn’t and I’m not, and I won’t be able to blame someone for this. Each of us has our own way to “interpret” and our own ways to cope with those unexpected moments in life. It all depends on our personality, how vulnerable we are.
How do I respond to all of those new challenges on my way with daily life?
How can I deal with this hate, rejection and stigma when I don’t have the choice and need to face them? How can I use the kindness, which is spread with joy by those people surrounding me?
This was the wake-up call for me, the stage to grow up and be responsible for myself, to take care of my health. Sometimes we make wrong choices and make the worse decisions. But we have to stand up, learn and take the possible positive sides of it and move on with it. We can’t give up.
The health adviser spent two hours with me; caring, explaining and cheering me up. And she is in my life now throughout the past 2 years.
Those tears stayed with me for about 3 months after I was diagnosed. In the beginning, I was waking up every morning, sitting on my bed and praying to my High Power to make this just a dream, facing the mirror and reminding myself why I had to swallow those pills. Then there were those ruined dates, caused by people’s lack of interest in learning about HIV. The way people think of HIV is changing slowly, but lots of people still think that HIV doesn’t apply to them because they are playing safe. This is not true, no matter how safe are you are playing, you still should have check-ups regularly (you never know when that condom can break).
From my diagnosis day, I had mood changes, disturbed feelings, hard times, behavioural and emotional changes. It’s taken me about three months to rebuild the strength, seeing the worth of living, hope and willingness for new changes, to bring all those emotional, behavioural, mental related changes, back to where I was before getting tested positive.
Then there was the daily routine with an alarm – not to forget to take medication. Then there were other questions like – should I tell this guy the truth about my status before going with him to bed?
Starting this journey as an HIV positive person was really emotionally exhausting and full of mood swings journey.
But HIV is the lesson that helped me make changes in my life forever. The lesson made me stronger than ever before. Those first three months in tears was the time to come to terms with the +.
Those first months were a time for me to learn. With help and support from those people with hearts, I’ve managed to gain a better understanding of the virus, learn how to live a healthier life as an HIV + person. Now I can share this knowledge with those people and friends who are in need.
The most important thought in fighting this battle is being able to carry on a happy, long and normal life like everyone around you does.
You have to ACCEPT yourself the way you are, the way you always want to be and be proud of who you are, no matter what others may whisper around you. You have the power to make changes happen.
Acceptance and ability to Love yourself. Those are the two magic keys to our happiness.
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