I have often been asked what my initial response was to being diagnosed with HIV. I have tried to reflect back and recall my emotional response on that afternoon in January 1997. All I can remember was having an overwhelming sense of numbness and a feeling of guilt and shame. Who do I blame for this? All I could think at the time was what an idiot I was; did I really think this would not happen to me?
I guess it would be easy to accept that an HIV+ diagnosis would initially result in feelings of shock and disbelief. When this initial emotion subsides one is left with a feeling of complete numbness. Especially back in 1997, for me at that time, I had nobody to fall back on, no institution or counsellor to talk to. I could not tell my loved ones as I was totally overwhelmed with a sense of guilt and shame.
The doctor had not even told me she was doing an HIV test when she took my blood for as part of a routine health check. Let’s do a full blood count she had said, not mentioning that she was including an HIV test. When I got the call to make an appointment to receive the result of the “full blood count” I had not given any thought to what the test would be for and hence bounced into the doctor’s rooms as cheerful as always. Without any counselling or warning she pronounced the verdict “your HIV results came back positive” she said, and then proceeded to hand me a slip of paper on which she had written the details of an HIV specialist whom she recommended I make an appointment with. And that was that, nothing more and nothing less. No counselling, information from the medical doctor I had come to trust and called my home doctor.
Many years have past since that day and now I find myself in the fortunate position of being able to provide counselling and support to newly diagnosed individuals. One of the biggest stumbling blocks that continues to limits or hinders the person from breaking through to acceptance and forgiveness is the issue of unresolved anger and a desire to seek out who to blame.
FORGIVE; you might say… what for? Why forgive the person that infected me! If I see him/her on the street I will …..! I can see the feeling of anger well up like a volcano about to erupt! One needs to embrace the reality that these feeling of anger, resentment and loss are all normal and they must be expressed. However, to remain in anger would be to deny oneself the freedom of forgiveness. It was only when I could honestly say that my HIV status was my fault, that I had loaded the pistol and pulled the trigger, that I was able to start a process of forgiveness.
By forgiving you do not condone the actions of others nor do you validate the right that the HI virus has to be in your body. Forgiveness is only fully achieved when one understands that to forgive in itself is a selfish act. I do not forgive the person who infected me for their sake, I do so to release myself and set myself free. I do not accept the virus and forgive it for entering my body, for I did not invite it in, I do so because through forgiveness I take back the power to control my future.
Forgiveness does nothing to the person that it is delivered towards, but it does bring about the miracle of healing in the heart of the forgiver. So feel your anger and express your loss but do not tally there too long as the long you remain in the dark pit of anger, the longer you will sink into despair and the only person who will suffer will be you.
Rather be selfish and start the journey of forgiveness, forgive yourself, forgive the virus, forgive the person that infected you and on and on the path of forgiveness will lead you. Without forgiveness you are bound to the dark and unresolved feelings of anger and hatred that will consume you. Anger will do nothing but harm you.
Through forgiveness release the past and all past experiences.
Continue into the light with love.
Employee Wellness Consultant
Alan is also the site administrator of the support network for HIV+ gay, bisexual and transgender men (MSM) in South Africa -Positively Alive for more details visit www.Positively-Alive.com