The other day, I was asked by someone I mentor:
“How do you cope with it when someone rejects you because of your status?”
I find this very easy to answer now – I’d cope with this very well. More than that, I’d be happy that this knowledge had come out. Because if someone doesn’t want a relationship with me (any kind of relationship whether that’s working, friendship or sexual) because of my HIV status, then I really couldn’t care less. If that’s the only reason they’re rejecting me, then they are obviously someone that I wouldn’t want in my life in the first place. When I was first diagnosed, I may have found this truth a little harder to deal with, but I think ultimately I would’ve drawn the same conclusions. I was confident relaying that information to my mentee, but it did get me thinking.
Rejection for reasons outside of my HIV status I have always had a much harder time dealing with. I’m the sort of person that wants people to like me. I thrive off it. I like knowing that someone wants to be in my company because they like me. I know that that might sound odd, or like something that everyone wants. I’m the sort of person that will offer someone else a lift home, even when it’s not really in my direction. Yes, I may have to drive for 15 minutes longer, but it will make their journey significantly easier and that is why I like doing it. I’m happy being nice. Some people don’t like that word, but it suits me well.
So when someone rejects me, I don’t just shrug it off. I spend hours, days, weeks, sometimes even months pondering the reasons why, thinking how I might have done things differently, how I could’ve played things to make the outcome different. Even over people or things that I didn’t really want in the first place. As soon as I’m faced with their rejection they suddenly seem much more appealing.
I’ve felt a lot of judgement and rejection from my workplaces. Unfortunately for me, since I became a teacher I’ve never had the luxury of a secure job. Instead, I’ve had a string of temporary contracts, and the one permanent job I did secure I had to leave after coming back from maternity leave as the commute was too much. For seven years in a row, I’ve had to attend interviews, roughly around four each year. The rejection I’ve felt as a result of my chosen career is massive. To be told consistently that you’re not what they want, that they cannot extend your contract, is soul destroying. Each rejection makes me feel less and less needed or valued. The majority of my lesson observations have been good or outstanding. I try hard for the kids. I have my faults (I’ve always been terrible at keeping up with marking), but also every time I go to a new school I have a new standard to get used to and, when the summer term comes and they tell me again that they don’t want me, I give up. Unlike some, for me, rejection doesn’t seem to make me stronger, it makes me lose hope.
Recently, I had an interview at a school which I loved working at, for a non-teaching position. They had hired me twice on different temporary contracts, but despite this didn’t get it. They told me in my feedback that I didn’t seem to want it enough. To be walked around the school, to see old friends and colleagues who all asked me why I was there, to be interviewed by my old line manager who had hired me twice before and then to not be offered the job was utterly humiliating.
Before this, I had been doing well on a new diet. I’ve never stuck to an actual eating plan at all for more than two-three days at a time, tops. I had been at it for 3 weeks and I was happy and beginning to see results. After this interview, I became very low, my eating became a little out of control, and my depression reared its ugly head again.
This particular post doesn’t really have a nice conclusion. I haven’t yet figured out a way to deal with rejection. I wonder if it’s this hard for everyone. Even as I wrote this post, I got a message from the bi guy saying that he’s on a date. That flirtation has been done for a while now, but that still stung.
While mentioning the Bi Guy, I told him about my HIV status. I hadn’t planned to, it just sort of slipped out in conversation when he asked me why I’d been at a conference, and I answered honestly. He didn’t reject me. We haven’t slept together since, but I honestly don’t think me telling him my status had any influence over that. I told him in November, way after our last sexual encounter. We’re “friends” now, we go for coffee. I do wonder if our friendship will stand the test of time if not it serves a purpose for both of us right now.
I also told the Gay man about my HIV status as planned. He was awesome about it, as predicted. Our friendship is as good as ever and, in many ways, it made me feel closer to him, as I know I can be open about everything I want to with him now.
So I still am yet to experience rejection because of my status. I hope this trend continues, but if it doesn’t, I know I’ll be able to deal with that type of rejection at least. Because being diagnosed gave me a reason to acknowledge that not all rejection is my fault. Most of the time it is other people’s point of view that we let shape our opinions of ourselves and we shouldn’t do that. During my counselling sessions after my diagnosis I found reasons to be strong, ways of coping with rejection relating to my status. I’m secure in the knowledge that having HIV doesn’t make me any less of a person. I hope to find the courage to apply that strength in other areas of my life and I encourage every one of you to do it to.
~If you have any questions about this post or any post I’ve written please don’t hesitate to comment or ask.