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Gay Men

Aug04

What’s next? / I skipped Pride

Tuesday, 04 August 2015 Written by // Josh Categories // Gay Men, Josh, Newly Diagnosed, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

Still healing, Toronto’s Josh is chronicling the early months of living and coping with an HIV diagnosis

What’s next? / I skipped Pride

What’s next?

The question of what’s next has been on my mind for the past few days. It’s on my mind because, despite a few bad days here and there, as a whole, I’m feeling ready and able to move on. 

I feel like it’s time for the next chapter to finally begin. I’m just not sure what to write in that chapter. I’d love to write a book about the first year of living with HIV, but my memory of that year is not great and I certainly couldn’t find enough words to make it worthwhile.

The uncertainty of what’s next doesn’t bother me. After my diagnosis, there was a different type of uncertainty. I had no clue about how to handle the diagnosis, no clue about how to navigate the healthcare system, no idea how I was going to afford my pills (granted, this was before I researched my benefits program at work), the list went on.

This uncertainty is good. I feel like I can do whatever I want, and succeed. With my background in public and media relations, I’d love to help an HIV/AIDS organization with their communications. I’d love to join a board of directors with a group that supports people with mental health concerns. I’d love to learn a new language. There’s so many things that I want to do, and I’m excited about it all.

If this post has an underlying message, it is this: you’re going to come through the darkness. If you’re reading this and have recently been diagnosed with HIV, I want to tell you one thing: you’re going to be okay. If you’re one of the many who came before me and have fought this disease for a long time, I thank you and point to you as examples for all of us who have followed. I look to you as mentors and examples of the many things that could come next for me.

To answer my own question, what’s next? I don’t know. And for the first time in a long time, that isn’t scary.

I skipped Pride

This past weekend was the Pride parade in Toronto. I skipped it.

I skipped it last year too, which was WorldPride. Granted, last year’s circumstances were a little different — I was three weeks or so out from my diagnosis, and not in the mood to celebrate.

Part of me feels a little bit guilty for skipping Pride. A few people wished me a happy Pride, and not once did I return the sentiment. Perhaps that was a bit rude of me, but I just don’t think I am ready yet to celebrate. Not because I feel shame, not because I am not part of the community, but the past year has been difficult. Last year it was the diagnosis; this year, I’m finally able to grieve over the end of my relationship with Alex, and it is hitting me harder than I really expected.

Canada Day will mark three years since Alex and I first met. So with that day coming up, I just don’t feel like being in a boisterous party. I just need some introspection, some quiet time and a rest.

I’m tired a lot these days. It’s not a result of my HIV. It’s the mental state of dealing with everything on the grief side. In talking with my therapist, this grief is actually a good thing. It’s something I needed to experience, and I guess in that sense I am grateful. That sounds weird, doesn’t it — to be grateful for grief? Here’s how I’m looking at it, though: the grief is a sign that I am moving forward. I’m grieving the end of the relationship, and in time, I will be stronger and able to move on with my life.

Chronic illness is difficult. I’ve learned that from reading many blogs that I’ve come across since starting this site. I am also realizing the particular challenges presented by HIV. Admittedly (and prematurely) I’ve looked in to online dating — haven’t joined, but gave it a thought. The more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am with it — and indeed, uncomfortable with dating in general right now. A huge part of that comes from the fact that I’m not done working through my issues and I need to do that on my own. But another chunk of the misgiving comes from the fact that, should I become involved with someone, there’s the matter of disclosure.

Rejection is not a fear; if you reject me for who I am, then you’re missing out (because, let’s face it, I am pretty awesome). It’s just not an easy thing to think about talking about with someone. But, because I value honesty (and some archaic laws that criminalize non-disclosure), I would never ever consider non-disclosure.

To get back to the point of this post, yes I skipped Pride. I skipped it because I am still healing, and I wrote this because I needed to get some of the concerns I feel out of my brain. I just need to keep reminding myself that I am going to be okay, and that this grief is the next step in the journey to happiness.

These articles first appeared on Josh’s own blog The Plus Side of Life here.

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