In the blink of an eye, everything can change

When I got sick in the middle of December 2012, it hit me so hard I was a bit scared by the intensity of it. It started like all colds typically start in my body, with a sore throat, moving into congestion and then coughing. Only this time I could feel from the beginning that it was a big one, the cold shivers came very quickly and they were so intense I didn’t feel warm even under three thick blankets. And then the body aches came, my muscles and my back started hurting so much I felt like I couldn’t handle it anymore. I had already been bound to bed for almost a week when I also started to get a fever, which I hadn’t had since my teenage time. I got worried and called a doctor to come see me. He told me it was just a virus going around and that he was seeing it a lot these days. And so I didn’t suspect anything more than that either.

It wasn’t until four months later that I came to know what this intense infection had been. Until then I was feeling fine, I even remember having lots of energy around the time when spring started. There were a few little things though that were out of the ordinary: I developed a rash on my eyelids that wouldn’t go away and I had a constant cramp in a small part of my left foot.

At the end of April I went for a routine STD check at a local health department where you can get tested anonymously for free. Due to being on holidays after getting the blood taken I didn’t pick up the result until a month later. I will always remember this date, May 23rd 2013. The way I planned to pick up the result was casual, just before a shift at work, just one of those things to do that day, one thing to cross off of my list. It was probably a way to deal with the fear of facing the result. An unwillingness to consider a negative outcome and the resulting consequences it would have. At the clinic I even asked at the reception if my available time window of 30 minutes was enough to get the result, otherwise I would come back another day. The lady told me to follow her upstairs, where I waited in front of a doctor’s office. A few minutes later the doctor called me in and while greeting me she asked “Are you the person that needs to be somewhere in half an hour?”. I said yes and as I was sitting down on the chair she had offered me she continued “Well that’s not going to happen, because unfortunately your HIV test returned positive”… I felt like someone had punched me in face.

My first reaction was denial. I said to her it can’t be right, said they needed to check it again, a second time, which they had already done she showed me. I said it must be a mixup of the blood samples, it can’t be true… She told me it’s extremely unlikely that there was a mixup. After the denial a feeling of shock came over me, I felt a totality, a finality of the situation. That’s it, I thought, I fucked it up, it’s over. You’re done. The doctor started to say things to me, but I couldn’t hear them. I just stared out of the window, seeing all my life that I had imagined going to waste. My dreams of living a beautiful, healthy, enlightened life someday with a man and a family, that all burst like a bubble in front of my eyes and instead I was looking at death and disease. I felt in that moment like I had received a death sentence. Tears were running down my face when I looked at the doctor and realized that she had been talking to me. She tried to comfort me and give me information about where I could go to for support.

When I left the clinic I was still in so much shock that I didn’t know where I was walking or where I was headed. I called some of my close friends to tell them what happened and to tell me what to do because I felt totally lost. Getting this message was one of the biggest shocks in my life. I just didn’t expect it. If I had been hanging out in dark rooms every weekend doing risky things I wouldn’t have been surprised. So how could it be me? The next days were totally out of order, my whole world was upside down. I had to be surrounded by people or I would fall into a deep dark pit. Luckily I received great support from my loved ones and I was dating a guy at the time that really supported me emotionally as well, which was a tremendous help in such a difficult time.

On one side, I started to deal with the situation very quickly and immediatly called the two people I had sex with since my last test half a year earlier and also made a doctors appointment after a few days. On the other side, I couldn’t rid myself of the overshadowing feeling of ultimacy of the situation. The fact that this was something that I could never change back again. The fact that this would effect and change my life forever and without return to what it was before. It was just but a moment in that doctor’s room, but it changed everything.

All of my life I had been interested in a healthy lifestyle, treating the body with what nature has to offer, buying organic products, doing yoga and mediation, becoming a better version of myself. I had an idea of my future self, a vision of a time when I would have fully accomplished and lived those ideas. How could I possibly now, with this virus inside of me slowly destroying my body, come any close to what I thought my life would be like? It all seemed lost and gone for good. Luckily today, nine months later, I don’t see things that irreconciliable anymore. But for the next weeks and months after the diagnosis I went through a lot of darkness.

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