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Living the HIV Life

Through this blog I will be telling stories from my life. These stories will be about everything from my HIV status: what came before I was diagnosed and what came after. My sex life and the freedom and confidence in it that I now feel….and anything else I feel like writing about in-between.

I’m doing this because I’ve been told on more than one occasion that my life is like a soap opera, I thought might as well find some therapy in writing about it.

Along the way I hope to entertain, educate and inform you about what it is like contracting and living with HIV in 2018. From a point of view that you probably won’t have heard before.

I hope you find my stories helpful, educational and entertaining. Please comment if you liked a post or have a similar experience to share.

Follow me @poz_woman87

 

 

 

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Friends

I’ve not written for a while as I found out that my ex and his girlfriend have been reading my twitter and blog. I know that this blog is not completely anonymous, its linked to my public twitter and I sort of knew he had heard about it but its made me question whether I want to continue writing openly like I do about my personal life, feelings and the sex that I have. I’ve been wondering if I should delete it, or move the content to an different anonymous name. Then I thought fuck it, if they want to spend their free time reading this then that’s their problem. Writing this helps me and the positive feedback I get from it informing and helping others is all the encouragement I need to carry on.

Anyway to the theme of this post. Recently I told a friend of mine that I need to stop hanging out with gay men as I fear its hurting my love life. However if I stop hanging out with gay man it would severely hurt my social life. Since my split from D I’ve noticed that I have a small amount of friends. I love my friends and my closest ones are my family and what keep me going day to day. However they are also mostly mums and married or attached. I don’t have a female friend locally who is single and no one who is a single mum. I find it hard to find someone to talk to who I can relate to.

The only people who have offered me their friendship since my  divorce are gay men and to those I have become friends with they have given me something I desperately needed, friends who wanted to know me and me alone, which I was never sure of before with my husband. I’m very grateful for them. Through my volunteering work and online I’ve met a lot of people, some who I’ve become friends with but not many. My friendship circle before my ex-husband and I split up was almost exclusively friends we had together, with whom I’m mostly not in touch with anymore. The thing is you know who gay men tend to hang out with, more gay men. The more I expand my social circle the more gay men I meet. I don’t expect every interaction I have to be a way to meet a eligible men, but my opportunities are generally thin on the ground and not getting any thicker!

When I go out and am in LGBT+ friendly spaces I generally feel like an outsider, I went to a queer party recently and felt very un-welcomed by the people around me. When I’m in “straight” spaces I don’t feel I fit in, like I have to hide a big part of me and my interests. Like I’m not gay enough for the gay spaces but not straight enough for the straight. I wish that the two sides of my life could merge a bit more.

This is all creating a bit of unrest within me. Now I’ve made it no secret on here that I’m generally more attracted to Bi men, if I’m in a room full of people more often than not I’ll annoyingly find the only gay man and fancy him and plan our imaginary life together before I realise that he’s gay. I’m starting to think this attraction is more than just a product of circumstances.  I fancy gay men because they are unattainable because if they are unattainable from the start then I can never be properly hurt by them. Sure it sucks pining over someone who will never want you, but that’s easier to deal with than someone not wanting you.

I don’t want to limit myself and not put myself out there to make friends or seek romance because I’m scared of being hurt again. But its hard to know where to begin. Maybe I should join a club of some kind. I work away from home so often now and when I’m not working away, I have my daughter. I feel I need to be more proactive and make better plans, get out of my comfort zone.

You know when people say “I have plans with the girls tonight” I want that, I want lots of fun plans with the girls.

Ghost Town

“This town (town) is coming like a ghost town….”

The more I reveal my HIV status to people who I’m interested in dating the more isolated I feel.

I’ve talked often in other posts that I haven’t faced any stigma once I’ve revealed my HIV status to someone but the longer I’m single, the more I face. When I look at it realistically I wasn’t open about it at all when I started dating again. I can only talk about online dating as it’s the only kind I do, I never really meet new single people to ask out in any other circumstances. Let me paint you a picture of how it usually goes. We have a few flirty introductions followed by some typical getting to know each other questions. This is when the conversation takes one of three paths 1) it fizzles into nothing as there was not actually any real connection there. 2) They ask me if I want to fuck. 3) We get on and continue to chat and flirt and exchange numbers.

To be honest its right at the start of a spark with someone I start to think about when I might bring up my HIV. I wholeheartedly wish it didn’t play on my mind like that, because I believe that it shouldn’t matter. I believe that it shouldn’t matter when I tell someone about it, I should do it when I’m damn well fucking ready to. But my experience tells me otherwise. Anyway I digress…

Scenario number two I’d have to say is the most common occurrence, followed by number 1 and very rarely number 3. I’ve been trying something new recently, once numbers have been exchanged and we have arranged a date I’ve been steering the conversation towards my status. It’s not that difficult, I usually bring up work or ask what they like to do in their spare time. In both circumstances so far they’ve always then asked me back and I bring up my HIV work or my volunteering. That’s when I usually tell them. In the one message I say my status, that I’m on medication and undetectable and that being undetectable means I cannot pass it on. I say that I’m telling them because I want them to know about my life and not because I feel under any obligation to. I send a link to an article I did which tells my story and that if they have any questions to please ask me.

So far I’ve always been met with silence. We’d have been having a flowing conversation with almost instant replies then nothing. I leave it for a while then later on or the next day I ask them about it. I still haven’t had anyone be openly rude, I’ve had a few passive-aggressive comments such as “well I’ve always been really really careful” but nothing worse. A few have asked questions, a few just avoid the subject all together, but they all have something in common. They all seem to become incredibly busy after finding out my status. No longer do I get instant replies, I get the double blue tick but no response that or a cursory “yeah” or “lol”.

I have been careful to tell this information after we’ve established we’re looking for more than a hook up and have arranged a date, so I know that they’re actually interested. The date never happens. Like I said, they get really busy. I’ve never actually met up with anyone I’ve told about my HIV when it has been in a dating situation. I usually ask if they still want to meet up and they say yes, but they can’t do the original date we planned, and they’ll let me know when they’re free again. I attempt conversation again over the next week or so but it never goes anywhere. A couple have arranged a date then ghosted me on the evening it it was supposed to take place. Like the title of this post suggests, ghosting is what I receive after I tell someone about my status.

I’m well aware that people get ghosted all the time, I’m not the only one it happens to nor do I think my HIV status should offer me some kind of special treatment. But I suppose my little experiment was testing the waters to see what kind of reaction I’d get. I know I don’t have to tell people about my status but I want to, I want to normalise it, I want to have those conversations with people, to quell some fears maybe lessen some stigma. It’s not in me to hide that part of me to a potential partner. But telling people is so isolating a part of me just wants to keep it quiet for longer so at least I’d get to enjoy a date or two before they ghost me. To be honest I don’t know which is worse, all I know that its pretty shit the way I’ve been doing it currently.

Friends and acquaintances  like to offer their opinions of “better off without them” when I talk about this. I know deep down that it is a good filter, to find out who’s decent. But so far no one is, no one I’ve spoken to is willing to see past it. People who once said things like “you’re lovely”, “I can’t wait to meet” and “We’re going to have a lot of fun”. People who have read the articles and researched what U=U is. People who are smart and educated, people who describe themselves as “open-minded” and “liberal” won’t see past my status.

And I still get so angry. Angry because its not ignorance, its a choice. I’m angry because people are choosing to hold onto their stigmas. Choosing to not accept facts. Choosing to not meet me after revealing my status because they believe that by having HIV somehow makes me not worthy of their time anymore and I’m sick of it. Just sick of explaining myself over and over to only to be rejected as a result of being open.

There’s no nice conclusion here. I’ll let you know when I come to one.

Fodder

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines fodder animal feed such as straw, the second definition is this:  1.1 A person or thing regarded only as material for a specific use.

I’m letting myself be used as fodder. I have I think in the past I’ve even encouraged it with some.

I talk to some men, on various messaging apps, on almost a daily basis, that I don’t really have any other connection to than sex. Either the sex we’re currently having or the sex that we once engaged in. But with a few its gone beyond that and the conversations go far beyond sex. We talk about all sorts. I tell them about my life, when things are going well and when they’re not going well you know, like friends do.

But these people are not friends.

I recently saw one of them ‘irl’. This is someone that I’ve been chatting to for over a year. I got talking to him very soon after me and the ex split. I was generally an emotional wreck back then because of my complete non-coping with work/break-up/single-mum-hood. I ignored that he was married and met him for sex. I won’t meet married or attached people now, I’m quite a stickler for that actually, I find it odd that I even did it in the first place, but I’m getting off topic now. Anyway I saw him in real life with his kids and wife at a big open event in our city. I knew that we wouldn’t be engaging in any conversation, we’d both chatted about our weekend plans and discovered that we were going to the same thing. He looked pretty much the same as I remember. I wanted to talk to him but I didn’t, I definitely don’t want to be a part in anyone’s family drama. But seeing him again made me think about the relationships and attachments  I form with people more closely.

I’ve been let down by people I thought were friends recently. Its left me questioning myself and my choices. I often get told (as I’m sure most people who have good friends) by friends and work colleagues that I’m a wonderful person, a catch some people say. But when it comes down to it, the conversations I have with men always come to the same conclusions. I’m good enough to have sex with or hang with out one on one, inside the house. But I’m not good enough to be seen out in public with, go on a date with or meet their friends etc. I remember there was a Sex in the City episode about it once.

I have some intelligence about me, I know that it says more about their faults than mine that they chose to put me in that box. But that doesn’t change how much it actually hurts. When you’ve had both long term exes tell you in one way or another that they’re ashamed to be seen with you it makes me really wonder why I keep on investing a whole lot more emotion into these relationships than they do.

I’m reminded of my past long term relationships where a lot of problems stemmed from me putting in a lot of effort in the start and being disappointed when that effort was not reciprocated. I thought I was out of that habit, but I’ve continued to do it, but on a more micro scale. Turns out old habits do indeed die hard!

I’ve tried to make a change, I told married guy I wan’t going to be chatting to him anymore, as it was a damaging relationship to me. He said he sees me as a friend, I told him he wasn’t we don’t do anything friends do and he said I had a point. I’ve been chatting to him about everything for over a year. We know a lot about each other on a personal and emotional level, yet he doesn’t trust me enough to tell me his name. Something I used to joke about and now I just find offensive. Please don’t misunderstand this, I have not at all fallen for a married man. I was relying on his company in the form of messaging for companionship.

That’s the main reason I talk to these people, companionship. I have lots of friends, but the majority have partners and children and full time jobs, so when I’m alone in the day because I’ve got no work, or alone in the evening when my daughters in bed, I turn to these men, to make the world seem like a less lonely place. I didn’t think it was doing me any harm, but I’m guilty or relying on them. If i’m not chatting to someone in the evening I tend to get very down. I feel like my time has been wasted.

I decided to cool it with messaging people with both sex and non sex friends with some mixed results. Some I’ve barely spoken to, me not sending out that first conversation starter has effectively ended all conversation between us. Some I’ve spoken to about the same amount but I feel a lot more secure in our relationship now because I’ve discovered that if I do leave it, they will get in touch and that’s a good feeling! I did a similar thing with the friends I used to have from my married days. A few years ago I felt like I was the only one trying to make plans, so I stopped sending that first message. I’m not friends with any of the group I was a a part of when I was married, in the end, non of them reached out to me, I’m just grateful I had made some wonderful friends who are still there and want be around me.

I do feel a sense of loss, I actually miss talking to these people. I also feel frustrated at some (the ones who aren’t married) as to why they’re not contacting me, or if they’re missing me at all, but I guess that’s why I’m doing it, I don’t want to be fodder. Forming these online relationships with people where I have no idea if I mean anything more to them than a distraction is just something I can’t deal with anymore.

I’ve been sat writing this (on and off with other browsing) for just over 2 hours and I’ve not received a single message in that time, not since this afternoon actually! Old me would be sad and searching for someone to chat to by now. The new me won’t be bothered…..current me is somewhere in the middle.

Fighting the good fight.

Does anyone else get the feeling that they’re always second string, the other option, the one someone calls when the actual person/plans that they had have fallen through? I’ve been feeling this lately.

I think that my sudden bouts of insecurity have been fulled by a few different things going on in my life but the main reason is because I’ve getting into arguments about HIV online and facing the overwhelming and massive stigma that still surrounds it.

I’m aware that I live in a bubble full of positive people who own their status and who are up to date with the latest HIV science. However  I didn’t realise just how ignorant and unwilling the rest of the world is to change. Over the past few weeks, taking about HIV with people who are only there the demonise those living with it has opened my eyes. It has made me angry and has made me seek out more stories and discussions to find the discussions to hopefully interject some knowledge into peoples lives. Its been like slamming my head against a brick wall.

The discussions usually follow the same pattern, I start fairly open and basic, usually explaining U=U, can’t pass it on, regular testing, treatment, very few and minor side effects bla bla bla. These are always argued and disputed, very negatively asking me what do I know and how do I prove that. I follow up with a few links to websites, I say I’m living with HIV and work in the sector. At best the responses I get are “well that may be true, but you never know, so I wouldn’t trust anyone who’s got HIV” to being called a slut, that I should “stop taking loads in my ass” (redundant advice at this stage!) and finally by someone who claimed to be a doctor said to me “I can’t believe they let you see HIV patients to spread these lies”. The first time the negative comments came I responded……..boy did I learn my lesson…….I had to stop checking my notifications and actively delete any comments/messages before reading. For every positive comment from someone there were 20 negative ones.

This is damaging. These opinions are harmful. I sought the discussion out but these ignorant people managed to turn someone who was living confidently into someone who was ashamed again, into someone who felt cheated by life and dirty.  People say to me, you shouldn’t let it get to you, they’re ignorant, more fool them. I have great support from my friends and family and from the people I’ve met through my mentoring work,  I have that system in place. So when I have been turned from someone who was happy to speak out to someone who feels like shes not worthy enough to bring herself into the discussion anymore I have them to help bring me back. To help life me up again.

But what about the people who don’t have that? The people who are alone, the people who get lost in the online world of hate and stigma because there own experiences have taught them to hate themselves for whats happened? Where do they go? Many people living with HIV live below the poverty line. I generally only ever hear “positive” positive voices from people who don’t live around here and from people who work in the sector.

I attend a local support group. When I’m there I just want to smile and cheer the room up. I tell them funny and sassy stories and about me I tell them about the interviews I do. I think I’m the loud one that always tries to question everything and put a positive spin on things. I do this because out of the attenders I am one of a number I can count on one hand that is open about their status. Most live in shame, isolation and fear. Their families don’t know they’re attending a HIV group, most make up other excuses as to where they are. Some of these have been living with HIV for decades and only told partners or one or two close friends. The stigma and negativity they have received over the years is massive, they feel it can’t be undone. I’m doing everything I possibly can to help, even if its just for an hour, once a week.

Its not enough though. Empowerment through peer support is vital. Public education about HIV needs to happen. Millions of peoples lives could be vastly improved the world over if it was done right.

I have nothing but admiration, great respect and awe for the long term diagnosed who have lived through times when the stigma was far worse, who are still fighting for change, fighting for improvements and for better lives for those living with HIV. I don’t know how you do it, I hope that I find a similar strength to keep going on with it all.

3 years

It doesn’t matter how or when or with whom. I am a strong believer of that. I believe that down to my core. But I do know who and when and how…..

3 years since the first incident of unprotected sex with the person who gave it to me. Literally the day my life changed, for more than one reason. I remember the date quite significantly. It affects me more than my diagnosis date. I’m coping better than last year. I’ve only been close to tears on a couple of occasions. I learnt today that if you’re 100% completely determined to get pissed and not think about what happened then your good friends will support you and stand by you whatever.

This time three years ago I was on cloud nine (see teenage dream), it was a mini heat wave then as well. I can’t really put into words the emotions I’m feeling about it all. I hope that someday in the future this day just passes me by without another thought. But for now I’m glad there is only an hour left of it. I can move on again just like I have every other day.

Time heals all………eventually.

Mixed Up.

Emotionally, I’ve had a mixed weekend. I’ve felt very alone and have been pining for a connection with someone.

I don’t usually play the blame game concerning HIV and my ex boyfriend but this weekend thoughts of “how could he do that to me” have gone around and round. He left me with several medical and personal issues that I have to deal with daily. I’ve been cursing my status, my weight, my depression, my high sex drive. Basically everything, everything that makes up me. I’ve had a lot of anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t usually effect me much overall so I’ve been searching my mind for reasons why I’m feeling like that.

I was in church for a friends baby’s christening. I’ve never been a member of a church but from my point of view I would call this one modern. It’s casual, they’re happy for children to run around and play during songs, they have modern themes and references in their preaching etc. I like singing in public and rarely got the opportunity to do so, so I was singing along to the new modern songs (no ‘all things bright and beautiful’ there!) and generally having a good time.

But me being me I spotted an attractive young man sat on the opposite side of the church, alone, singing and then praying. My mind wondered, as it does. But this time not to all the naughty places it usually does but to what it would be like to spend time with this man, talking to him, getting to know him, cuddling up to him. It’s been a reoccurring theme with me this week since Bi Guy.

I masturbated  the other day with no porn, no filthy scenarios played out in my head but instead thinking about making love to someone, have them over me in missionary position (one I never really do much because of its intimacy) having them looking at my face as they cum and shudder above me. Feeling a proper connection with someone is something I’ve shied away from feeling in my sexual encounters. Because my track record has shown me that when you start to connect, you start to get feelings and that’s when I get hurt, right? I mean its happened every other time I’ve had feelings for someone. My brain is protecting my heart based on the lessons I’ve learnt from past relationships, because when I connect I can’t control my emotions as much.

This all bubbled to the surface in church after the children had left to go and play. It was during one of the worship songs my heart beat increased and I started to cry, overwhelmed with emotion. My friend tried to explain that through my singing and worship, God was speaking back to me. When I don’t believe in any God I find that a hard concept to accept, but if not that then what? What made me react like that?

I think it was singing about love, unchanging, no matter what happens, love. Something that I’m yearning to receive from a partner. I experience love everyday, through my daughter, my friends and family. But I want that different kind of love a love shared in mutual attraction and from wanting them to be present in my life and me in theirs, always. Love where I can be open, share things about myself and have them still be there.

So far I haven’t been able to share my status and interest in sex with anyone and have them want a relationship with me. I stand by that I’ve never had a upfront negative response to me sharing my status. But neither have I had acceptance into a new relationship. Now I know that healthy relationships take time and it’s very possible that I haven’t met anyone simply because I’ve not met anyone compatible. 18 months is not that long being single. But will this fear ever go? The fear that if I reveal all of myself to someone they will simply run away? The difference between me now and me 3 years ago is that 3 years ago, before I met my ex boyfriend I was willing to change myself and hide bits of myself to suit someone else, because I needed someone else to function properly, to not be lonely. Whereas now I’m not willing to, I want someone to take me as I am. But it seems impossible, it seems like an impossible task when every man I meet/ talk to manages to mention their dicks or how horny they’ve been within the first hour of conversation. Sorry, I didn’t mean this to turn into a man bashing post!

Anyway I digress, the attractive man left as soon as the service finished and I doubt I’ll see him again. But I must say it was nice to see a man who was an obvious gym bunny (he had all the muscles!) interested and passionate about something other than himself. I’m trying not to over generalise, of course people who love the gym have other interests and are not all self absorbed but unfortunately not many I’ve met to or what is portrayed in the media.

I’ve had a hard week both physically and mentally. I’m hoping for a brighter week, in all areas, next week.

My Weekend.

This weekend was quite a big one for me. For the first time I was the lead in delivering a peer mentoring training session in another city. It was my daughters birthday and I didn’t see her on it. I also met up with both the gay man and the bi man….with mixed results. I also had an amazing Thai dish that the main ingredient was a vegetable called morning glory, who knew it wouldn’t be me only encounter with morning glory that weekend!

Firstly in regards to my daughters birthday. I chose to do the work out of town because A) I desperately need the money. Every time my darling husband halts our divorce and my solicitor has to write another letter it costs me more money. Also I will soon have 6 weeks empty from work and earning no money. I’m in no position to turn down work. B) The ex and I were having issues around our daughters birthday. He wanted to arrange the party, I wanted to attend. He didn’t want me there as it’s uncomfortable with his girlfriend. I figured by taking myself out of the equation it would cause less arguments. What I didn’t expect was the guilt placed upon me by him, even though he didn’t want me there in the first place. He accused me of not caring and dumping our daughter on him while I have another long weekend away (working!). My ex works away from home over night semi regularly, sometimes this means he cannot have our daughter on his scheduled nights. If it’s for work I don’t usually mind the inconvenience but when I do it, I’m neglecting my responsibilities as a mother! I’ve noticed that I tend to use (or want to use) the rolling eyes emoji a little too much when writing about him!

Anyway, my first night I met up with the gay man. We haven’t been speaking as much recently, I’ve been a bit sad about it but I understand that we’re in very different places in life. However we had a really fun night drinking and dancing. He stayed with me in the hotel we were chatting and decided to have sex. Having sex with him is different than with other men. It’s more intimate. I think I allow myself to be more intimate with him because I know what our relationship is, I’m confident in our relationship status, we are friends first and foremost and if the occasion allows it we enjoy some sex. I liked it because it felt natural, nothing felt rushed and it was fun. Even though it’s been nearly a year since we’ve had any sexual contact and it was the first time since telling him about my diagnosis, thankfully nothing really had changed. He was still very skilful at pleasuring me and I still loved the moans he made while I was pleasuring him. He’s becoming more vers with men and that showed in his sexual performance. Overall a great experience and we’ve been chatting more afterwards as well.

In contrast the next night I chose to make a bad decision. I’d been chatting about having a night out with the bi guy for some time. He knew I was going to be in the city alone and we decided we’d go out. Now I didn’t believe this would actually happen, the bi guy doesn’t tend to make solid plans with me. So until he said he had arrived in the city I didn’t believe him. We went out with my co-trainer who is a gay man so we ended up going to the gay bars. I’ve said before how sexy the bi guy is and all night he was approached by men chatting to him and asking him if he was straight. He’d reply that he’s gay. Bi guy has corrected me before when I’ve referred to him as gay in conversation saying “I’m bisexual”. It’s seems he, like most of the other bisexual men I’ve met, decides on what to refer to himself as depending on the company around him. It was like a little stab each time he said it, like he didn’t want anyone to think he was with me or associated with me in that way. Bi man is a little shy around new people and was so with my colleague but I predictably found it adorable! We had a fun night out anyway. Drinking and dancing, telling stories and laughing. Upon our return to the hotel we got in bed and chatted, I was uncomfortable because I wanted to fool around, but it was off the table. I thought that because I didn’t really think about Bi guy that way anymore it wouldn’t bother me sharing a bed with him. Turns out it did. It was like torture. Sleeping and cuddling (yes we mutually decided to cuddle) with someone you’re so attracted to is hard. It’s hard when you wake up and in his sleep while spooning you his hand has fallen on and is now holding your boob. It’s even harder when you can feel his morning glory pressing against your lower back. You’re lay awake thinking “is this a move, is he doing this on purpose…..?”. Then he rolls over and starts snoring and you know without a shadow of a doubt it all was an accident as he is clearly fast asleep.

I loved his big strong arms around me and the way he smelled and this is why I know it can’t happen again. The next day I was back to 8 months ago, thinking “Why doesn’t he want me!?!” When I told my co-worker my thoughts he just chuckled and said “because he’s gay love”.

I like the Bi guy a lot. We can be friends but we can’t be friends with benefits, I’ll always want more. I’m not going to put myself into the situation where I’m left longing like that again. But I will happily put myself in the same situation with the gay man again as so far it only seems to make us closer.

A busy weekend which marked the middle of 12 days straight working without a break. The next week I was left exhausted both physically and emotionally. I’m very much looking forward to my next weekend working away which won’t be as emotionally trying!

Sexy Bi guy begone from my thoughts!!