Since I brought up cognitive issues during a comment of mine, I thought I might delve more into this subject, and relate it back to stigma.
In many ways the struggles of living with HIV are invisible. So invisible that gay guys have no clue why it is obnoxious and insensitive to pat someone’s belly and make a comment. Our struggles are so far off their radar, they simply are clueless. We have it easy, don’t you know.
Back in 2003, I began translation studies. It was upon the initial translations I wrote I realized I needed some help. I hired a former English professor to help explain grammar etc. Even with his help, it was impossible for me to hand in an assignment without having missed some really stupid and obvious mistakes.
Now everyone says, “Yes it’s hard to edit your own work.” For me it was impossible. Determined to get an A on my final research and documentation class, I literally printed it out 30 to 50 times, each pass finding a another missed little mistake.
Then things got worse, I had increasingly more trouble spelling, and it continues to go downhill today. It feels like a learning disability combined with dyslexia From time to time I’d type a completely different word than I was thinking, or leave words out all together. When I was taking Sustiva I was unable to write comprehensible emails. Today, I can no long see the mental images and shapes of words that I used to be able to spell.
Now, during workshops I’m terrified to write on flip charts always asking someone else to do it. I hate writing in collective birthday cards or some other kind of congratulatory card as I always write “congratulations” wrong.
Yet, despite this, I continue on because I enjoy writing, as I have no problems with the message, just the mechanics.
This kind of issue I think is one of the most difficult. I’m afraid to look stupid, or that guy, “He’s such a flake.”
Spatially and directions are getting worse as well. My recent trip to Montreal and being constantly lost with my equally as directionless friend really showed me how bad that’s getting. At one point, I could not conceptually figure out on the map if we took a right or a left, it was like that word I couldn’t see, just blocked.
Finally, on another common topic, as one person touched upon, there is depression. Its hit me ever since I had my diagnosis, maybe earlier. The prospect of dying in the 80s in my early 20s was not as much fun as you might think it would be.
I feel with the change of the season, as I write the depression heading back. Mental health issues are more cloaked than HIV. So the layers of stigma pile on. HIV, and living with it is complex.
HIV stigma not a simple case of disclosure. We live with it constantly, from being asked to justify why I’m disability to being pat on the stomach.
It’s lying to your boss as to why you need to go to a medical appointment. It’s hiding your medications at work so people do not see, or even sneaking away to take them. It’s having to decide when is a good time to tell someone. It’s wondering if these people knew the truth about me, would they still like me, would they see me as being different as they see me now. It’s being depressed and not being able to explain why.
Even though that bitchy comment about grammar doesn’t have anything to do with my cognitive issues, other than had I written in Word I may have caught it, it still is stigma. It makes me feel bad about myself regarding issues that I have no control, and that I try to manage the best I can. Fortunately I have a wonderful editor at Fab Magazine, who never gives me the feeling I’m in any way deficient.
When positive guys feel shitty about themselves many, like myself, isolate, while others might act out sexually and not disclose to avoid the rejection. Others, like I have as well, have gotten into drugs, with or without implications of sex.
Like a drop eroding a rock over time, all of these things add up. Peoples unawareness and actions each constitutes a drop that wears us away.
We are all interconnected like the movie “Crash.” There is cause and these is effect. One single stigma-inducing act of behaviour can come back at you in ways that may never be seen.