22 - SO YOU HAVE AIDS ?
The holidays have been over for me for a few weeks now. I can tell you that they have flown by very quickly and already seem very far away.
I didn't write for two months. Well, almost not, but I can't tell you anything about the reasons for that yet. In short, I haven't written THE BLOG for two months.
The holidays were a chance to spend time with my family, to see my friends (a lot) and to focus on one thing: myself.
I'm not sure if I mentioned it in the last story, but I started seeing a psychiatrist/psychoanalyst in early July. I had made an appointment a month and a half before after having a sort of flash. After thirty-four years of brooding alone or with my friends, I was finally allowing myself to talk to someone else. But to do that I had to get over the shame. The shame of needing help... Yes, in my head, "shrink" meant "weakness", unconsciously of course. But it seems that I finally don't see it that way anymore.
I was very apprehensive about this first appointment, which finally went rather naturally. My GP had left a note for the practitioner, which I passed on to her as soon as I arrived.
"So you have AIDS."
I didn't let it go, of course, and immediately corrected it with: "No, I am HIV positive", telling myself that it was a vocabulary error and that naturally, as I had taken care to correct it, she would take it into account.
On the other hand, when I think about it, what was the need to specify my serological status in the letter, knowing that the reasons that led me to consult a shrink are quite different? I still wonder.
At the very end of that first session, a punch line was dropped, and since then this sentence still resonates: "What I understand in what you are telling me is that you are always worried about whether you will please, whether you will satisfy others, colleagues, family, friends sometimes, your partner (when there is one). So rather than worrying about pleasing others, ask yourself if others are pleasing you.
That's awfully simple, isn't it? And not so easy to put into practice, since this sentence struck me as if it was the first time I had considered the fact of having a choice. Inevitably, it immediately echoed with my love life and it is clear, very clear, that if I had asked myself about the subject I would not have been in a relationship very often.
I tell myself that I am privileged and that my quest to "live better with me" is very self-centred. But at the same time I feel that I have no other choice than to go through this stage. Other people, other people's eyes, at all levels, do not fill the gaping holes I feel I have in myself. If the answer is not others, it can only be me.
For the second session, a week later in the shrinks office, a small incident hit me hard. As she inserted my health insurance card, the little ALD (Affection Longue Durée) window opened.
"Do you have an ALD?"
I was silent, with the feeling that I had to explain again a fact that I took for granted.
"Ah yes, that's right, you have AIDS.
I instantly reply, "No, I'm HIV positive."
No follow-up to my comment. But the session was very painful for me. Twenty minutes of emptiness. Twenty minutes to fill. Clearly the climate was not right for me and I think my therapist felt this and ended the session relatively quickly.
On the way home I ruminated, texted and tweeted. I was not at all happy about this vocabulary mistake, probably due to a lack of knowledge.
With a bit of hindsight (and some advice) I had two options: change my shrink and try to find one who might be more knowledgeable on the subject in order to avoid the use of stigmatising terms, clearly unwelcome in what one would like to be a safe space.
Or talk to her at my next session to explain why the word AIDS is not appropriate and why it is important for me to say it.
A lot of people advised me to run away but I didn't want to. With a bit of courage I managed to talk to her about it very simply and a long exchange on the whole subject ensued. I am very proud to have dared to say that I had been offended by her 'clumsiness'.
A not-so-ancient me would have sat back and said nothing, thinking that it would pass in time. I didn't want that. I wanted a real relationship of trust and above all to get rid of it as quickly as possible. What was the point of starting work with a shrink otherwise?
What's interesting afterwards is that I wondered if she hadn't done it on purpose to provoke me, to see how I would react and if I would dare to talk to her about it. It may not have been the case, but she still gave me the opportunity to speak and I came out very happy with the choice I had made.
I don't intend to detail all the steps of my therapy here, but I thought it would be interesting to share this anecdote because if I had followed my first feeling, I would never have gone back to her and I would probably have experienced it all as a failure. I guess sometimes taking the time to "educate" others makes sense. But these others have to be receptive. Which is not always the case...
There is a real difference between being HIV positive and having AIDS.