Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How a friend is affected by HIV.

A friend emailed me this story asking that share it for World AIDS Day.  Please share your story and the strength and courage behind sharing this story encourage you to share yours.  

PART I – November 18, 2000 and the days that followed

In those next days, I went back to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, but this time I had to go to the Infectious Disease clinic - I almost couldn’t do it!  I felt so alone.  Dr Leobowitz told me he was sorry when I met him - I hadn’t remembered that until right now, but I wonder what exactly he was sorry about.  Then he explained the HIV drug regimen and testing schedule I would have to undertake for the next 6 months - I threw up in his office.  I threw up the blue pills I had taken that morning – and that would not be the last time.  I began taking HIV meds – I could never have imagined that I would need to take HIV meds.  I took blue pills and white pills around the clock – I was sick around the clock.  My sister took me to Boston Area Rape Crisis Center and I was alone and I was scared - I wanted to die.  I can’t look back now and find the point at which I no longer wanted to die, but even now I sometimes wonder how I chose to live.

I really tried to get on with my life!  But I felt like I was going at it all alone – and it didn’t feel like my life anymore.  The woman I knew died in a car on the streets of Boston and a different woman fell out of the car.  I couldn’t pray – I was too ashamed to tell God what I had done – I am afraid that maybe this is too much and that this is as good as it gets for me.  My friendships were getting weirder by the day.  It was almost as if we needed a script, some words that would keep our friendships moving forward – keep us all safe from the rape.  But there was no script, no customary way of living with rape - so we just kept moving along and even I began to think that maybe it was all over.  I have thought a lot about this over the last few months and I believe if any of us knew what to say we would have, but instead we just said nothing.  I hate to admit that I questioned my friends and their reactions.  There was only reality of the rape – and at the time I think I was too afraid to really remember it – to speak out loud the words that would have made sense. There seems to be a lack of social conventions to ease the awkwardness that always seems to follow rape – kind of like an emotional illiteracy.  We seem to have words and actions for so many of life’s other tragedies – why not for rape?   Maybe because rape, to most people is inconceivable, it also almost always makes it unspeakable.  I guess there is more of a taboo about talking openly about trauma, about violence and about sex.  The conversational gridlock is so painful!  To have lived the joys and sorrows together with my friends has been a gift, albeit a difficult one.

PART II – Birthdays and Anniversaries
Written on my 3rd Anniversary: November 18, 2003
            It’s been over six months since I wrote and read this story – and what a time it has been.  I walked out of my therapist’s office for the last time in May and I was afraid to think it - but I felt good!  Three years ago today I thought my life was inextricably changed and for quite some time no matter what I attempted to do I believed that to be so.  And until not too long ago I wondered if I would ever really be at peace with how one night had changed me, but then something happened a few weeks ago - almost like a light switch going on.  And once again I have quiet in my mind and heart!
            But what a journey it was to get here - just short of unbearable, but worth the travel ten times over. I remember when this change happened - I wanted to call everyone.  I wanted to scream and laugh and cry all at once – but, I thought I would wait and share it with my friends on this anniversary, because this indescribable sense of peace is theirs as well.  It’s autumn - the leaves have turned and are just about gone, and winter is trying to break through.  It has actually been nice this year to see the changing of the seasons – it has been such a good reminder of how some things must leave so that other things can come.
            I don't really know how my rape changed my friends’ lives, but something like this doesn't come into the world and leave without having some effect and for that, I will be eternally sorry.  But what I do know is how my friends changed my life - how each of them were part of the reason rape did not destroy me, and there were definitely days when I felt destroyed and couldn't imagine a day like today.
               But here I am on November 18, 2003 - and I wanted not just to remember this day, but to celebrate it.  It will be part of me forever, an anniversary I have to bear.  But I think now, I would rather concentrate on celebrating the day I was really born – August 12, 1974.

PART III – Case Closed
Written on September 14, 2006
               Right after the rape, my fundamental assumptions about the world were shattered, and for a while it severed the sustaining connections I have with other people – with any sense of being human.  But I had to make a wager one day – that even in a world in which nothing was certain and the odds changed every day, I had to believe that life, for all its unfathomable horror, still held some undiscovered pleasures.  I think looking back on it – that was the day I got justice.  I got a life back – an imperfect life, but one full of potential.  That is the strange beauty about being broken – the rare opportunity to truly rebuild one’s life – the opportunity to leave behind the pieces of yourself you know can be so much better.  But that also requires that new pieces be added and sometimes I forget that there are pieces of me I am only still getting to know.
               I don’t think I need to see a face anymore – in some way it doesn’t matter who raped me.  It mattered for too long, it made me angry for too long and I know I lost part of my soul to that anger.  I can honestly say now, that I got justice the day I forgave him.  Case closed.

1 comment:

  1. My friends gets tested regularly and she is negative. Please use her strength and courage as inspiration to share your story.