HIV and ME.
When the initial shock of being diagnosed as HIV positive passes and you realise that the world didn’t immediately end at that point, you are left with the reality that at some point you are going to have to address those 3 words…HIV and ME. HIV and ME is never going to be the same as HIV and YOU. Just as everyone’s life is totally unique to them. Even if our shared experiences are similar, our emotional reactions will never be identical due to so many factors ranging from our upbringing, faith, ethnicity, culture, place of birth, age etc and each of our past’s have made us total individuals. So everyone’s HIV journey will be equally unique. That isn’t to say that there isn’t common ground, of course there is. And it can be amazingly comforting common ground and practical too.
When you speak with other HIV positive people who are a bit further along in their journey than you, you can learn so much about things that you maybe haven’t even considered yet or things that are too overwhelming for you to think about on your own. Like sharing experiences and knowledge of HIV meds (ART) with each other from a personal perspective. What it’s like ‘coming out’ as positive to your friends and family. What it’s like the first time you have sex again after you find out you’re positive. How ignorant and uneducated some people can be and how sometimes random little things that you didn’t expect can trigger huge emotional swellings in you. It’s that last point that I want to expand a bit further. Coming to terms with your HIV status is totally yours to own. There is no right or wrong way. The only right thing to do is to make the choices that allow you to own your status, for you. No one else – you. It’s great to have buddies around for this support. But what happens if you don’t have buddies that you can turn to? Or you are just not OK enough with yourself yet to start talking about it? This is all totally normal.
Most of us live in a little bit of healthy denial, it’s a survival technique. It becomes less of a survival technique and more of a risk if we allow it to snowball and suffer in silence, alone. Even in a relationship you can still be very much alone with your true internalised emotions and reconciliation with your situation.
So my point is this, cut yourself some slack. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You will be OK. Better than OK… Try not to deal in guilt or what if’s – they will feast on your energy and happiness.
There are options out there for you too. Know this. If and when you are ready, check them out. For anyone based in London, 56 Dean Street runs a Wellbeing Programme with a diverse and varied range of topics and settings. They are predominantly free sessions and open to all. All you need to do to register your interest is check out the link below.
As part of the Wellbeing Program, 56 Dean Street have enlisted Simon Marks to facilitate a 10 week dramatherapy course for HIV positive gay and bi men, all welcome. This is a free course and the full details and criteria to qualify for a place are all on the flyer below. Check it out. If it looks like something you’d like to be involved with then contact them at the specified email address. They do require you to be available for each of the 10 weekly sessions.
Simon Marks gave me a brief overview of Dramatherapy.
What is Dramatherapy?
Dramatherapy is a form of psychotherapy, which uses drama and theatre techniques to bring about healing. The focus is on the process rather than producing a piece of performance. The aim is to offer a space for expression and reflection in a safe environment.
Dramatherapy has as its main focus the intentional use of healing aspects of drama and theatre as the therapeutic process. It is a method of working that uses action methods to facilitate creativity, imagination, learning, insight and growth.
- It can ease communication by finding alternatives to simply talking
- It can offer an insight into the meaning of behaviour and relationships
- It can reduce levels of trauma and anxiety
- It can assist recovery from addiction dependency
- It can increase levels of self-confidence
- It can help to manage and understand feelings
- It can help to unpick and make sense of the past
- It can help develop positive parts of the self
- It can increase personal autonomy and motivation
- It can help find practical coping mechanisms for day-to-day existence
Ways of engaging with these activities are facilitated by the dramatherapist, who will introduce appropriate mediums depending on the amount of emotional or psychological distance required and the material present in the check in at the beginning of each session. An emphasis on personal choice is promoted, to establish a sense of power and control for each person with their work. As well as the commonality of experience, which is gained through sharing a creative space.
General Aims are to:
- Build confidence and enhance self-esteem
- Promote self-knowledge
- Provide new perspectives
- Facilitate a positive group experience
- Reduce feelings of isolation and dependency
- Stimulate relaxation by releasing tension
- Encourage a sense of wholeness
Stay healthy, stay happy guys.