How HIV made me look at dating differently
From FS Magazine, Ruaidhri O’Baoill on dealing with dating and stigma in the wake of his diagnosis.
I recently met up with a friend of mine who laughed when I mentioned that I was writing my next article on relationships. I can’t blame him. I’m single. I’ve been consistently single for the past nine years. My relationship with relationships isn’t great.
When I was younger I couldn’t wait until I was older so I could find ‘the one’. I was such a romantic. I would obsess over how we would meet. How he would propose. Where we would live and what our lives would be like. Even though there weren’t many chances for me to meet with guys back in Ireland, I didn’t let it deter me.
My first boyfriend and I met just six months before I left for Liverpool. I really liked him. Everything was incredibly easy with him and we just clicked. The timing sucked though and we split up because we weren’t keen on doing long distance.
There was an element also that I wanted to go and explore. I was not only moving away from home but was going to meet so many new people that I didn’t necessarily want to be in a relationship. I wanted to see what else was out there. I’m pretty sure that is a normal feeling for many people that age, however somehow I have seemed to have brought it with me as I have gotten older.
After my student years, I had moved to London which in itself exacerbated the problem. Throughout my early 20s I was always single. This played on my mind 24/7. I had become obsessed with the fact I wasn’t able to find anyone.
"I felt ashamed and dirty. Even when I finally did get myself back out there I was subconsciously making myself inferior to the other person just because of my status."
All of my friends were in couples but I couldn’t seem to hold anything down. Every time I went out I would make it my mission to meet someone. When I didn’t I felt awful. This happened repeatedly. This then started to play into my insecurities. It was ruining my confidence.
Then the one-night-stands and the Grindr hook-ups increased. They were my way of making myself feel better. This then became an obsession. The more sex I was having the more attractive I must be. By the time I had turned 25, I was an emotional mess.
Not long after, I found out I was HIV-positive. I took the news considerably well but deep down I was completely devastated. I thought there and then that my chances of finding anyone was now over.
My confidence was probably at its lowest it had ever been. Seeing and hearing the stigma that was out there, especially from the gay community, I shut down emotionally. I felt ashamed and dirty. Even when I finally did get myself back out there I was subconsciously making myself inferior to the other person just because of my status.
The ball was in their court in terms of how this panned out. If we saw each other again I felt lucky. If we didn’t it was my fault. The times I was rejected it hurt. It upset me that I was now only being seen as this disease rather than a person.
I went after sex again as a quick fix confidence boost, however this was just as detrimental as it was first time around. I knew that this was going to keep being my life unless I did something, so I said enough was enough. I gave myself some time to breathe. I took myself out of the dating game completely. I deleted all dating and hook-up apps from my phone.
For probably the first time in my life I took time out to work on what I wanted from life. I had to start working on changing my whole mindset when it came to relationships and dating. It was kind of a revelation for me. Instead of trying to match myself to what I thought other guys would want me to be, I started defining who I was and owning that. I’m still single but for first time it doesn’t bother me. I enjoy it.