I thought coming out as a 14-year-old boy growing up in Ireland was one of the hardest and bravest things I would ever have to do. However having come out publicly as HIV-positive topped it. Being open about my status was something I never thought I could or would even want to do, but it has somehow made me who I am today.
I vividly remember the exact second when I noticed the second dot that appeared in the rapid test when I went to 56 Dean Street for a check-up. I also vividly remember the next second when I looked directly at the doctor, who was looking down at the result, knowing 100% what he was about to say. Life-changing moments don’t happen often but when they do they feel surreal.
In that one moment, my world fell apart but at the same time everything felt calm. Looking back I took the news considerably well,l so much so that I decided very quickly that I was going to use this to help others.
Not long after my diagnosis I contacted FS to see what I could do. When my first article went online I was a nervous wreck. I realised there was no going back. I invested my energy into writing these articles to the point where they became therapeutic. They allowed me to put down in words how I felt, how I coped and the experiences in my new life as an HIV-positive man. It was a wonderful distraction and somehow made sense of something I couldn’t at first comprehend.
With being so publically open it meant I had to be honest not just with those who read the articles but also with myself. I had never written anything like this before and was surprised that I would want to try. Every new article meant allowing time for me. Time to sit down and explore emotions I honestly would have pushed aside otherwise. Emotions that left in the dark would have manifested themselves into something destructive. It was my way of handling the situation.
And with ups there have to be downs. My biggest down with being so open about my status was at times I felt trapped. By trapped I mean that I felt the need to portray this image of doing well even when I wasn’t.
I remember getting very upset because all I wanted to do was scream ‘I am not coping with this’ but felt that I couldn’t because I wanted to be that positive role model that people could look up to. I didn’t want to let anyone down.
At other times I felt that perhaps I rushed into wanting to help others and I actually forgot to help myself out. I didn’t allow myself the time to deal with such a life-changing event and later on it would come back to haunt to me. Then there was the subject of when I met guys. Did they read the magazine? Would they know about me already? Is that why they weren’t interested? All these thoughts would play on my mind constantly that I felt I had over exposed myself.
Something happened not so long ago though that made me certain I was doing the right thing. I met up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. Out of the blue he told me that he thought my articles were great. He then told me he was newly diagnosed. I was heartbroken for him but I was so glad that even though I wasn’t there for him in person I was kind of there for him through the magazine. It helped him realise that what he is feeling is pretty normal and to be honest that was what I set out to do from the start.
There’s no manual to follow when you are diagnosed with HIV. We all act and react differently, however we all go through the same emotions and struggles at one point or another. My aim was, and is, to talk about these openly so more people can understand what it’s like. It has by no means been easy but I am pretty proud that I am part of a new generation that is breaking the viral closet. Openly talking about it leads to educating more people which can end stigma.
If you decide that you want to do what I have done, I have the utmost respect for you. The best piece of advice I have would be this: Make peace with yourself and what has happened, tell it how it is and be extremely proud that what you want to do will make a difference.
About the author: Ruaidhri is 26-years-old and originally from Ireland. He’s been living in London for over five years. Ruaidhri was diagnosed HIV-positive in August 2014. In his spare time he likes to stalk Victoria Beckham and run after plastic bags on a windy day.