This is less of a question and more of a personal observation and statement about fear, particularly the fear of HIV and death. I'm hoping it can provide some of you a sense of perspective and maybe even relief. Like all of you, I have a tendency to give HIV a lot of power. There was a point in my life where my obsessive compulsive behavior and fear of sexual intimacy down right terrified me. I jumped into monogamy as my only line of defense because I knew I couldn't abstain forever. As the years went by, I would have liked to tell you that monogamy was all I needed...but as we mature and hit midlife I discovered that by never exploring my sexual self I failed to really grow up. Now granted, I haven't turned into some sex crazed maniac, but I have given myself permission to explore. This has proved to be rather challenging especially in today's sexual climate.
I've discovered that the fear of HIV is actually a combination of fears, combined into one large super terror. See how many you can check off:
1. The fear of death.
2. The fear of rejection. (Society, family, friends, church)
3. Being stigmatized.
4. The fear of being alone, dying alone, or never being loved.
5. The fear of unknowing what's happening in your body.
6. Spiritual ramifications along with guilt and shame.
7. Money issues.
8. Inability to work or to provide for self or family.
9. Being dependent.
10. Potentially spreading the disease.
Now all of these fears have one thing in common. They all deal with issues of the ego and our sense of survival. Many of us think that the ego is our consciousness, when in reality its only a part of it. However, as our primary survival mechanism, the ego can sometimes take unusual, even harmful steps to ensure that we continue to exist. The ego's biggest fear is the fear of death and nonexistence. The moment we become aware as being "I", we start to separate ourselves from parents, the world, and all that's around us because that's what we're taught. The ego ensures the "I" is safe, and it moderates between the two other portions of our consciousness, the superego (morality) and the id (desires).
In order to mentally juggle the mental stress of things like HIV, sickness and death the ego will attempt to lure our mental energies into living outside of the present moment. The past and the future become mental constructs of "safe" places to hide because we can have complete control of these mental realms. The present, however, is seen as frightening, filled with danger, and contains forces out there to destroy the self. In addition to living in the past or future, the ego may also take other routes of distraction to keep ourselves "busy". Compulsion, competition, rage, narcissism and superiority complexes all feed the ego and makes it feel more in control. Yet control is an illusion.. especially when we think we can live forever.
Everyday we take risks. We ride in cars, we fly in our airplanes, we hang glide, parachute, or drive over the speed limit. Each one of these, statistically, is more risky to our health than the odds of contracting HIV and further yet dying from it. Yet we choose to focus on HIV. Why? Because we've been conditioned, by society, to believe that dying from HIV is disrespectful, shameful, a pity, wrongful, preventable, pathetic, and so forth. Our society loves an accidental death, and abhors the old, the chronically ill, and those who are a drain on society. I'm here to tell you that you are none of these things.
Death is frightening there is no doubt, but we have absolutely NO control over when and how we will die. All we do know is that ALL will die. Like it or not. As clear as that knowledge is to each of us, none of us wants to acknowledge it. This, I believe, is a failure of our society to teach us that death is not a bad thing. It also shows that we've lost touch of what it means to really live in the present moment and cherish what we have right hear and right now.
Dysfunction occurs when the ego determines it must continue to separate and remove its self from reality, others, and the present to survive...yet its not separation from these things that can truly help us. If you're suffering from excessive anxiety, you must begin to understand that despite a positive or negative antibody test, you could still die tomorrow or 50 years from now. What proclaims your character is what you do with the present moment...the here and now. Will you spend it cowering in a corner obsessing over what if scenarios or clinging to the "good ole days before I was positive"...or will you grab a hold of yourself and wake up. Right now you are alive and you have the capacity to get involved, to change your circumstances, to love others, and to become something more than a vessel for a viral particle. The greatest tragedy is if HIV kills the soul before the body.
Start living....stop obsessing. Cherish today as the gift its intended to be...cause whether negative or positive, you don't know how many more you have left.