I thought I was strong. I thought I was dealing, coping, coming to terms with it. Maybe I was; maybe I wasn’t. I feel like I’ve lived the last two years in a waiting room. Waiting for my name to be called, secretly dreading it whilst maintaining a façade of bravado – courage almost, in the face of adversity.

I’ve known it was coming, from the very first day I knew I’d soon reach this point. I must sound so silly to those who have gone before me. To those who have no idea, a sense of empathy for a situation they cannot fully comprehend. For a while I had forgotten about it. I’ve learnt to live with it. I can go for days without the need to remember it, but then, every once in a while, something will happen and it brings it all home. You really don’t get away from it; no matter how hard you try.

I have known all year it was coming. No matter how hard I’ve tried to forget, it has always been there, at the back of my mind waiting for me to let my guard down. Like a hunter stalks its prey – silently waiting with patience – for a time when it can consume my thoughts. Like a dark spot on a bright horizon. With each day it grows, consuming the light. You can hide, try to run, but there is no escape.

I think my greatest fear was facing it alone. I’m not as strong as I like people to believe I am. The unknown scares me – the uncertainty of a situation I find myself powerless within. There are so many tales, both good and bad. I’m forever presented with statistics. My mind feels like it’s going to explode. This waiting room in my mind is a personal hell. I hate uncertainty. I prefer the normality of a world that is black and white; anything that falls into grey leaves me weary and frustrates me, but that is exactly where I have been living these past two years, in a shade of perpetual grey.

I know my friends will support me, as best they can. I know I am not totally alone. But my friends aren’t there at the end of the day when I can’t sleep, or in the morning when I’m too weak to function and move. They will be at the other end of a phone call whenever I need them and the comfort that will bring me is unimaginable, but I know when I put the phone down it is just me again.

Over the last few months as I prepared myself in the knowledge my counts have been on a steady decline, I have had someone special with me. Suddenly the prospect of the onset of medication and various outcomes didn’t seem so bad. He’d been there already. He’s stronger than me with things like this. Least he never showed his fears, not all of the time. I don’t doubt he has them, we all do. But being with him gave me the strength to deal with this. I took comfort in knowing when the good was good I would have him there and if the bad went bad he’d be next to me supporting me. It helped me build walls on the foundations of my own uncertainty. I guess losing that person and then so soon after receiving this news just brought those walls crashing down around me.

Much like the day I was diagnosed, I knew the minute I took the phone call. I was asked to come into the clinic. Again, no reason for the request was given and I was too scared to ask, but I knew. The same work colleague who tried to comfort me with a number of possible explanations previously could only offer the same explanations again. But I could tell she knew, as I knew. My counts had now dropped below the threshold and medication was now more inevitable than ever before. Given recent events it was agreed I would undergo another set of blood work before deciding on what course of action to take next.

It was like being diagnosed all over again. I felt numb, alone and very scared. Weird given how I’ve known my status for just over two years. I felt like I was reliving that day all over again. The memories of a day that now feels like years ago were as clear in my mind as if it took place only yesterday. I left the clinic and just drove around for an hour. I eventually returned to work and parked up. I just sat there and cried for a time. I wanted to call him and tell him but something stopped me. He was the only person I wanted, but he isn’t mine anymore, no matter how much I may want him. I just wanted him to tell me it was going to be ok, to be held, comforted. My own fault really. For so long before him I had pretended to be strong, that when I realised I no longer needed to pretend, I let the guards I had long built up down. Left myself vulnerable. But I don’t blame him. It isn’t his fault. I did eventually speak to him, he rang me and suddenly everything felt good again. The black mark on the horizon didn’t feel so daunting. But much like with my friends, this feeling was short lived. The phone call soon ended and with it, the realisation I will face this, for the most part, alone.

And that’s where I find myself right now. I’m back in the waiting room dealing with uncertainty in a mind that doesn’t stop. My bloods have been taken again and I find myself on a painful wait for a further phone call. I don’t know when that call will come, but I know it is coming. And even if I don’t get the phone call this time, I know it is only a matter of time before it does. Maybe now it is time to prepare myself and look inside for the strength I need rather than to others. I’ve had reassurances from both friends and professionals. I know the facts and I know I’m probably letting myself get carried away by the fear of uncertainty. I know I’m stronger than this, stronger than the virus and that the medication in the long run is what will help my body when it can’t help itself anymore. It’s not only the side effects both short term and long term that worry me, but the realisation that every day for the rest of my life at some point during the day I will remind myself I’m stuck with this and there is nothing I can do. I’ve spent the last two years in blissful ignorance because the onset of medication was not imminent, without a care or a second thought that time does fly-by and that your tomorrows soon become your todays. There are days when I actually forget I am HIV positive, but that will change, no matter how hard I try I will soon have a daily reminder that I’m stuck with this; there is no getting away from it anymore. I think this is what I’m scared of the most. This probably all sounds silly to some, but not silly to me. I’m scared.

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