Six months ago, I abandoned this story. It wasn’t because it was complete, it was because it started creating visibility in my life. It was revealing parts of me that were tender and raw, that were vulnerable and sensitive when touched. It opened Pandora’s box to my past and pouring out of it was an authentic expression of the self, something I’ve been hiding from for years. All of the memories and painful experiences began pouring out and breaking down the filters I’ve set for myself and others on how I want to be seen. I panicked and I slammed the lid shut before any more of my self and my past could escape. I put away the box before any more of my truth could be brought into my awareness or worse, into yours.

For some reason, I didn’t really consider this as a result of my sharing. I didn’t realize the how powerful of a modality a story when it comes to helping us understand the deepest parts of ourselves.

I wasn’t ready for it. I wasn’t ready for the changes in my life and the friendships that it would end and I wasn’t ready to look any closer at the parts that I hid away and turned away from. The parts that the prettiness of poise and rationality and manufactured properness work to keep pleasant and polite and disconnect us from feeling what’s beyond the edges of our conditioned comfort zones and essentially from each other. I wasn’t ready to face myself as I am and I certainly wasn’t ready to face you.

I was pushing on my pain points and in my share and in the way I told my story, I in turn pushed on the pain points of others. I pushed on my fears and on the fears of others. I left in cliff-hangers as I slowly processed through my experiences and thus created an audience who connected emotionally to my story. In my new visibility I was exposing truths and building on a emotions that people I love didn’t want to look at and while creating fear and hurt was never my intention, it turned out to be a by product of my experience.

Yes, it did bring me closer to some friends and even helped to create new friendships but it also destroyed connections. This loss tore at me. I watched as friends I’ve known with great affection for years suddenly put up walls between us. They were afraid to touch me. Where a warm hug was once the standard form of greeting, a nod of cordial acknowledgment from across a 10ft canyon took it’s place.

What was happening?! I was afraid of what I was creating. Was I really hurting people? Some say yes. I was driving wedges into my reality and into the reality of others, especially my family’s. A final breaking point came when my mother called me one day in tears of pain and anger. She told me that my grandfather was crying because he heard what I’ve been through and thought that I was dying. She told me it was wrong for me to tell my story the way I did. She told me that it wasn’t right to piecemeal my story and that it was wrong for me to affect people in this way. It was wrong for me to make people feel unpleasant emotions and to consider unimaginable fears and hurt that weren’t necessary. This was more than enough for me to sink back into shame and throw my story away.

Where although I’m sad for loss, and of course I don’t want anyone to hurt, some stories need to be told. I’m a sucker for affection and I like to be liked but being liked as the person people think I am holds no value in my life or in yours. This story is one of the best and worst things that has ever happened to me. I won’t apologize for your reaction but I will always respect your choices because stories have a unique way of bringing us closer to ourselves and to each other whether we are aware of this or not.

“Your test results came back positive for HIV.”
The words spilling past the nurse’s lips were said so casually with nonchalant, she may as well have been listing off recent events at the local geriatrics’ knitting club.

In a flash too quickly to even acknowledge, I was gone. What happened? Where did I go? The room slipped away and gravity ceased to exist. I was weightless and floating like pure and infinite ether. A sensation devoid of sensation engulfed my entire being. And why was there no sound?! Even the inner voice you hear as a thought managed to escaped the present moment. Within that one moment, there was nothing. How impossible! I lived for a century in this void of solitude and silence only to die and be reborn back into the sterile, white room.
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I came back to a stoic face staring back at me. Her mouth began to move and words seeped out into thick, dead air. “Does this surprise you?”

*Are you fucking. Kidding. Me.* (Oh hey there, inner voice. Nice to see that you’ve rejoined the conversation. Whoa, you sound so angry.)

I searched for the pauses in between the offended and wounded thoughts that were flooding through my mind because there existed the clear moments of calm. It wasn’t really a determination of mine to remain calm. If there was a time to be reactive this was it and no one would fault me for it but I don’t know where the energy to restrain myself, my thoughts or emotions came from. I guess that’s what you call being in shock. My mind was on the brink of complete panic! I could feel it. Any moment the thin string holding me together could snap and I was sure a wildfire of fear would consume me. Yet despite the eager chaos fighting for it’s entrance into the room, instead an innate state of being grounded took over my body. My eyes closed with lightness and my lungs drew in a deep breath. Letting the experience happen was surreal. It was as if I was watching myself from the corner of the room, quietly observing my physical body being engulfed and held down by a heavy, invisible sensation. I was aware of what was happening but was somehow detached from the experience. I desperately needed this moment to just sit here and breath. To find the strength and courage to focus and to figure out what to do with the news no one ever expects to hear.
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I let the breath fill my body and in weighted relaxation. I felt myself merge with the chair I was sitting on and then the solid floor beneath it. The frenzied energies of overwhelming chaos melted away into the ground. I’m not sure how long this lasted. It could have only been a few seconds but in this place, those seconds stretched out and stole time from eternity. I had the peace I needed and as sudden as it’s onsite, a disrupting pull back into reality brought me back by the sound of my own voice. A quiet whisper, like a sad child escaped me. “I’m sorry. I don’t understand. This doesn’t feel right.”

Consistent with flopping nature between apathetic and abrasive of our interaction, the nurse shrugged her shoulder as an almost automatic response and casually fingered the papers in my folder with a glance. “Well, this is your result. It’s not like a pregnancy test that can be wrong. Do you have access to information where you can educate yourself?

I’m not sure what it was. A straight-forward, matter of fact approach was not what I needed in this moment. I needed answers. I needed to understand what this was, what it meant and I scanned my thoughts for the questions I needed to ask but I couldn’t. I devoted every ounce of energy to not loosing my mind but all the while it was screaming *Stop woman! You need to stop. I don’t believe you. You’re wrong and I don’t want to hear this.* 
But maybe it was something that I had to accept. Maybe this was the time for a matter of fact approach. She has information that says this is true. She is the authority here. She had confidence in what she was saying and I was desperately trying to deny it simply on a feeling. Quietly with defeat and sadness, my eyes dropped to the floor. A whisper escaped me. “So what does this mean? I wanted a family…”

The nurse perked up with clinical authority. I remember feeling really uncomfortable by this. What an odd thing to witness given that I was in a place of clawing to go backwards and she was eagerly moving forward into a reality I didn’t want to exist or be apart of. “Health has really made a lot of advancements! People with HIV live mostly normal lives. There are medications you can take to reduce the levels of the virus to maybe have kids born without it.”

*Thanks…I feel so much better…*

I watched my soul sink down into defeat. There was no moving backwards. There was no taking anything back. There was no “just-kidding”, we got it all wrong. There was only a hallow space where a thriving life and possibility once existed. A thousand razor blades were cutting their way through my heart bleeding out all of hopes and dreams I’ve built and loved over the span of my life. It’s over. Everything I wanted and how I thought my life would be, how I wanted my life to be was over.
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“We’ll need to draw your blood again to send into the labs. You’ll wait one week for confirmatory results.”

Wait. This is real. Just moments before, the acceptance of new reality was a consideration of my own volition but now, it was taking action in it’s unfolding, driving it’s nails into me, pinning me to a new fate. I wasn’t dreaming. For productivity sake, if I wanted the least amount of pain, I had to let go of hope that a mistake was made. The process was moving forward with or without me. This was happening and I couldn’t make it stop. For my own sake, for my own sanity, I shouldn’t make it stop.

The nurse got up and left, closing the door. I can’t exactly remember if she slammed it shut but it sure felt like it. A proverbial slamming shut of the door to my former life.

As I was being ushered into the next room, each step forward was taken slowly with caution. I couldn’t feel the floor beneath me. I couldn’t feel my legs. Being brought to another chair, my body was shaking violently with the buzzing sensation of shock and fear and loss and my mind couldn’t comprehend how my hand appeared to be completely still when another nurse grabbed for it to find and clean an indigo vein. Within the few seconds it took to draw my blood, I once again lost time. Eternity must have taken it back from when I stole it just before. Similar to that dull, inebriated-like state between dreaming and waking, awareness escaped from me and a black hole stood in the place where the memory of small talk, a short, cordial smile and casual pleasantries should have been. One moment I was sitting down into a chair, the next I saw a needle propped up in the crease of my arm while a flow of vibrant red traveled away from me into a semi-opaque plastic tube. 
It was tainted blood. Disgusting blood. An impure viral viscosity running through my veins, adulterating my awareness and coursing through my heart.

The vibrant red sucked away the color from my vision and a thick filter of grey had settled in over the world. That was the moment I realized that I had given up. That was the moment, this experience became real. I watched it happen like a fade to black at the end of a movie. I watched as my heart and soul gave up, surrendering to the inevitable. The closing credits began to appear: Kristen Lai. Apatheic Nurse. Former Love Affair. Recent One Night Stand. Fuck. How am I going to tell him…
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The news of having HIV was something that I didn’t want to deal with. It completely terrified me. But there was something greater that drove me deeper into my fears. How many others will be hurt by this? Will someone else joining me in this painful experience? There were definitely two but only one could know about it for the time. We were all innocent. Good people in our own right but consequences of actions are inevitable. Let me explain.

This wasn’t the first time in my life where felt as if I just wanted to run. To hide. To disappear. But it was the first time where I really believed I would act upon it. I lost my value in the world. It simply vanished and I truly thought that from this point moving forward, I could only bring destruction to myself and anyone I loved and ever will love. It really was all over. It was an empty, hopeless place of solitude and isolation that was infiltrating my reality, yet I found full contentment and acceptance of it, knowing that if I hid from the world I would never hurt another person ever again. Imagine this place for a moment if you will. It truly is an easy and tempting escape! It was easy to think of myself fading from the world and from everything and everyone I once knew.

For some reason, good or bad, I’ve never been able to feel sorry for myself for very long. It was incredibly frustrating to not be able to simply run away from the sterilized, Lysol smelling clinic populated by strangers with their sterile, ironed, pastel scrubs. I just wanted to be ok with not being ok. I wanted yell. I wanted to cry. I wanted to break shit and not have to worry about what is socially acceptable. Fuck. Everything. I romanticized over the possibility of total breakdown considering it to be a very human expression and personally intimate reaction. I felt entitled to it and in not being able to have it, not having my own permission, I felt very robbed.

I was pinned to my default nature, conditioned with detachment from true expression and the experience of raw emotion. I was forced back into the present moment, where my body as if pulled by puppet strings moved from the lab where my blood was drawn back into the dull patient consultation room. The egg-white walls made me sick. I was angry because the thought of throwing a fit here would be doing this place a favor but I was a prisoner to composure. Interior designers who have the calling for charitable contribution to clinics, I implore you to please share your creative talents…Few things are worse than being made to feel sick by the aesthetic environment of a health clinic.

Once again found myself in the chair where my unexpected nightmare was served to me. I have a man in front of me. My file with a new red tab is in his hand. But this man was different. He was quite eclectic with tattoos and ear plugs. He wasn’t what I’d expect in the health care field and I was grateful for it. It gave me something else to focus on. He had a comforting energy and spoke to me in a way that was what I needed to be able to pay attention to whatever was coming next.

“What you had was a preliminary blood test. It is incredibly rare that they are wrong, less than 1%, but we still need to send in your blood work for confirmatory results. We test for HIV antibodies created by the virus, it’s a highly sensitive test and yours reacted positive. We’ll be sure to rush the confirmatory test but I just want you to be prepared.” *Whaaaaaa?! Hope, why do you torture me!* I felt a wave of new clarity saturate me. This wasn’t final! And although I didn’t give into the 1% chance that this was false positive, not being able to avoid that the chance having HIV was still very real and plausible, I found gratitude in the fact that I couldn’t make permanent decisions on what was not 100% known. I had a week to look at options and gather the information I needed. I had time to prepare myself, to figure out what to tell people and how to move forward. But there was one thing that I absolutely had to do in the event that the 1% chance of hope was not in my favor. This was serious and it couldn’t be avoided no matter how much I feared it.

I told the male nurse the details of my relations. I previously had been seeing for a man in a casual, non-committed but monogamous relationship, I was married before and this relationship was my first following my divorce. It was past but given that I got tested regularly and had checked out clear before being in the new relationship and given the nature of the virus in anit-bodies only showing up 6–8 weeks after being infected, he was the only person I could have been infected by.

I followed the logic of the situation. If the results where true, both him and I were already fucked. We had a new way of life. A new way of being that neither him nor I could change, escape from or avoid in the present moment. Exploring this was scary but the true panic hit when I told the nurse that I had been with one other person only one day prior.

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I recalled a memory that I needed more information about. A good friend had a relative who was a nurse as well. She had a patient infected with HIV and her patient’s blood somehow got into her eye. She was given an anti-virus. I asked my male nurse about this anti-virus and he told me that it does exist and it is only effective for up to 72 hours after being exposed to the virus, after that, your chances decline significantly.

Suddenly there was no concern for myself, for my own life or the person I had once been seeing. But him, for my crazy spontaneous fling, he had a chance. It was only his life, his prosperity, his happiness that mattered. He had a chance to escape this. To come out clean. If there’s one thing, one last truly good thing I could do in this situation, it was to tell him. To get him help while he still had time.

Here’s that cliff-hanger. I’m still processing how I feel about this moment. I hope you understand and hold space for me. More to come…

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