Over the weekend, I had a bit of a battle with food poisoning. While it mostly left me by this afternoon, it was one of the few times I’ve got something outside of a cold since my HIV diagnosis. While food poisoning can make anybody feel weak, miserable and grumpy, I almost felt defeated. I almost felt defeated because I felt like it was taking more of my strength to fight it off than it would have before this all happened. I think some of that is definitely in my head, but I think there’s some truth to it too.
The whole ordeal had me thinking about the person I’ve become since my HIV diagnosis.
In some ways, it has made me a more difficult person: I have a hard time trusting people, and I very easily get angry. When I’m upset, I let those feelings show; but when I’m happy, I don’t let that show as easily. I’m not happy that those traits are part of me, but I’m aware of them and I’m working through it.
On the other hand, though, I think HIV has had a positive impact on my worldview (which may sound bizarre, but stick with me). I have a job that provides a service to some of the most vulnerable people in Toronto. Since I started that job, I’ve certainly become more aware of issues facing people in poverty, or with mental illness to name just two. It has made me more compassionate. But it wasn’t really “real” for me: yes, I could see it through my work, but it wasn’t my lived experience. I would go home to my nice apartment, eat whatever I wanted and go to sleep knowing everything was fine.
Since I have been diagnosed with HIV, I am more understanding of the people around me: be it at work, out at the store or wherever.
Looking at me, you would have no idea that I am HIV-positive. And while I understand that about myself, I also understand that there are people we encounter every day who are also facing issues we have no idea about: it could be financial pressure, problems at home, a lack of food, the list is endless,
While before this happened, I lived in the bubble where, frankly, I was selfish and focused on my own needs, now, I think I am more open and understanding towards others. I think that’s an understanding of the world that, frankly, would not have happened without a huge change like this diagnosis.
Now, obviously I am not saying that the only way to come to this sort of world view is to have a major illness; of course not. But without something significant shifting, I wouldn’t have this perspective. So I guess, if I can see one glimmer of hope in all of this, it’s that it has made me a better, kinder, more understanding person. And the world certainly needs more of that.
This article previously appeared in Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.