Diseased, But Not Plagued… with Nicholas H

Journal Entry #1,

2015 was a rough one, but I sure came out on top of it all now that the new year has begun and everything in my life seems to be moving forward with a super positive outcome. Never would I have thought that what happened to me last year would ever happen to me, let alone that I’d make it through all of the negativity. So, where do I begin?

I guess I should let you know a little bit about me first. I’m 24, from Texas, USA. I’ve been in a steady career for 6 years. I enjoy country dancing, bowling, photography, wine and my 9 month old puppy, Paddington. I hang out with friends and do the normal things like shop and see movies. But, most of all, I love to travel and meet new people. My “get away” spot has become New York City. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by millions of people but still be secluded. I love the juxtaposition. But, like I said, 2015 was rough for me for lots of reasons. Health being the biggest one.

I’m 24, gay, single, dating and…the occasional weekend hookup. Which, is what caused the biggest life struggle I’ll ever encounter. March 12th, 2015 I was sitting at work and this stomach bug hit me out of nowhere. I talked to my superviser into letting me go home early so long as I made an appointment to see my doctor the next day. I woke up on the 13th (which was a Friday) and felt 10 times worse than when I left work. I made it to the doctor and all the symptoms screamed flu, so I was treated accordingly and sent on my way. Over the weekend I got worse and worse. Vomiting, dizzy, both hot and cold, sweating constantly and a very high fever. So, I went back on Monday to the doctor. Had to have a friend literally carry me to and from the car because I was so dizzy. The doctor ran some more tests changed my medication and told me to come back if I didn’t get any better. As the week continued I got more and more sick. Couldn’t even keep crackers and chicken broth down. Dizzy constantly, couldn’t sleep, throwing up stomach acid and losing so much weight. I went from 135 pounds to 105 pounds in a week. Obviously I went back to see my doctor. She couldn’t figure out why I was so sick. Her and I discussed a lot of possibilities and we both agreed that because I was so sick coupled with the fact that I’m a sexually active gay man, that I should be tested for HIV. As soon as the suggestion was said I couldn’t breath and my stomach jumped into my chest.

​Come Monday the 23rd I was strong enough to finally get back to work. Pale, sunken in eyes, still lethargic from being sick. Then, I got a phone call on April 1st, 2015 at 3pm. My doctor wanted me to come in the next day and discuss my lab results. Short story, friend went with me and the doctor gave me my diagnosis. I had been diagnosed with HIV. My viral load was 538,000 and my CD4 count was 517. I immediately started antiretrovirals. I remember sitting my car with friend outside the hospital and crying for about an hour. Just sobbing uncontrollably into her shoulders. After I regained my wits we parted ways I went to go grab some fast food. There’s no way I should have been driving. I was no way capable of paying attention. Crash! I had cut across the road and been hit by oncoming traffic. Spun my car around. Banged my head. My car was totalled.

This was a blessing in disguise. I could now focus on getting the insurance claim done and getting a new car over the next couple of weeks. It was nice to have something that I could control the outcome of. Over the coming months I developed severe anxiety and panic attacks. I was having vivid dreams due to the medication and couldn’t focus for anything at work. I broke down on an almost daily basis. Sometimes crying at work and sometimes crying when I got home. I began spiralling into a deep depression. October 2nd 2015, I tried to take my own life by overdosing on pills. I was admitted to the emergency room and then put in Inpatient Care in the psych ward where I spent a week getting help and talking to therapists. I was discharged on the following Friday and began seeing a therapist twice a week.

I bet you’re sitting there reading this feeling some emotions, I know I am as I write this. It hasn’t even been a year yet since my diagnosis and I still have no clue how I feel about being HIV positive. I know that it’s hard to date. People think I’m tainted and a splotch of dirt on humanity. I do my best and try to educate people. You’ll be happy to know that as of November 16th 2015 I am undetectable and have a CD4 count of 1064, well above the average person. I’m gaining my weight back (145 pounds last time I checked). Work is going well, I’m going to school and volunteering within the LGBT community and the HIV community to help break the stigma that comes with HIV. I have friends that love and support me. I’m hoping to get promoted at work this year and really focus on doing the things that I want to do and do them for me. Like I said, 2015 was rough in the worst kind of way, but 2016 will bow down to me. I’m healthy, loved, financially stable with job security and I have unconditional love from my puppy. I’d say that I’m doing pretty well. I was once asked, “If you could tell one thing to someone that was newly diagnosed with HIV, what would you say?” My response, “Fight. HIV is not a death sentence. Use your diagnosis as a catalyst to motivate you to be the best version of yourself that there is, don’t let anyone or anything stop you.”

Love Always and Forever,

Nicholas “Skittles” Hall

Originally published at www.elskamagazine.com.

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