Grass is always greener on the other side…

And by the look of it, that’s where I’m standing.

Which side of the fence are you on?

Which side of the fence are you on?

For some, the glass is half full. For some, half empty. Others are just happy to have a glass and something to pour in it.

Of course, it has been years since I stopped believing that telling people to « Think of the children » (you know, the ones in Africa) made any difference.

And rightly so: why compare the incomparable. This is England –cue Shane Meadows’ backdrop- and, despite all the efforts of current leaders, it is a land where freedom of speech, education and free medical care still exists.

Being diagnosed in such a country is obviously a much more enviable position than being diagnosed in a developing country. I’m stating the obvious, I know. My beef, however, is what comes with living in the western world: people complaining.

On and on and on.

Pretty much like I am doing now, incidentally.

I filled in an online survey this week, one about living with HIV. A question asked was about how I get information about the disease. Friends? Family? Charities? Medias? Social networks?

For me, the answer was clear: the latter. Twitter, Facebook, you name it, someone has a page there to discuss HIV and whatnots. People join and discuss the virus, the stigma and their everyday life; whatever comes to mind. In the aftermaths of the diagnosis, even years down the line, it is a safe haven. Social networks are a place of refuge, where everyone can ask anything to anyone. People can be comforted, vent their frustration, let their hair down, rejoice, complain.

And then some. 

I have left Twitter a bit alone of late. Why? Because I couldn’t handle the moaning anymore. The lingering, low-level whispers and groans. It is human nature to do so. It is human nature to want to understand why things go wrong, to be able to blame something in order to fix it. And whilst I had noticed it a while ago, it’s only when someone else told me the other day “(Twitter) is all doom and gloom sometimes” that I realised it wasn’t just me thinking it.

So what do people with HIV blame? The virus, regularly. Others, often. Meds, frequently.

Yes, meds have side effects. No, you can’t blame everything on your meds.

Now then, I’m no expert. But there is one thing I do know about the human body: it is, mostly, bloody resilient. Think Nokia 3310, not iPhone 5. Of course, everyone is different. I, for one, was raised on homemade food and the once-every-5-year visit to the doc. Some things are out of control, HIV is one of them, you can’t simply ignore it and hope it gets better, it just won’t. Some other things, however, you can deal with. It’s just life, you get sick, you rest, you feel better.

What I wished people would do less is run to the GP every time they start sneezing (you know who you are!). Cue the endless moaning when the GP then tells them to get some rest and drink lemon tea.

“If we want people to not waste our antibiotics, we need to apply pressure to make people not waste antibiotics. It is so easy to use an antibiotic. The cost to the individual is so low. We need to begin to apply policies that recognize that these are a shared public resource and should not be wasted at a whim.”

Dr Brad Spellberg – Antibiotic resistance is “Everyone’s fault”

« MY GP IS BLOODY USELESS, I’M DYING HERE », they’ll say then, on Twitter and elsewhere.

That’s true, GP only study for, what, 6 or 7 years with the sole purpose of making people miserable. Well-known fact, that.

I offer 3 simple cures to the most moaned-about health issues I’ve noticed from people with HIV. (Disclaimer: I’m no doctor. But then, neither are you and you still think you know better than your GP, so hey.)

EUPHOOOR…insomnia.

Yeah, that’s a famous one. I will sometimes check my Twitter in the morning, only to notice people’s timeline reporting insomnia at ungodly hours.

“I can’t sleep, AGAIN.”
“Bloody meds, sleepless night.”

You get the idea. Out of curiosity, I might end up checking their timeline for the evening. EUREKA: they were drinking Coke until 2 am whilst playing video games and updating their progress on Twitter. They went to bed phone in hand to wish us all a good night.

To these, I redirect to this article from the Chicago tribune.

No screens before bedtime, they say? I know, I know, it’ll be hard, but yes, it CAN be done.

Whilst on the subject, you may want to exercise a bit more too. It’s not me saying it, it’s the Guardian (so it must to true, right?!).

Pot-belly HIV.

As seen on TV Twitter:

“Nom nom nom, take-away curry.” 26 January.
“Nom nom nom, beer and pizza.” 27 January.
“Nom nom nom, all the foodz!” 28 January.

“OMG, my belly is swelling up because of my news meds!” 5 February.

Say no more Sherlock, I think I have a theory.

I’ll leave this one at that. I’m sure the penny will drop eventually. Like a ton of bricks. On your hips!

Mood-swings and roundabouts. 

When you can’t sleep and have a bout of body dysmorphia, you’re likely to feel a bit down, or angry, or else.

Whilst some of these are most certainly down to the meds indeed or something more serious (and I sure won’t open the whole mental health can of worms here), sometimes it can just be helped by environmental factors.

Eat better. Move more. Feel happier.

Fully aware that I start sounding like a Dailymail journali… err, employee, I shall try to ease the tone. Yet, I’m amazed. Amazed at how many people will eat junk food all day, barely exercise all week, won’t take time to sit back and relax, then complain that their body is messed up.

Chances are, we are all guilty of it. My body is not a temple, more like a child’s pet. Sometimes it’s fed, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s played with, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s taken care of, sometimes it’s ignored for ages.

The trick is not to be oblivious to the fact that this pet might come back and bite you in the arse, and to do what it takes to avoid pissing it off in the first place. Food, drink, and taking it out for a walk once in a while.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this series… 

Time for a point to this rant: I’m happy with my meds.

As we’re all going on about fighting stigma and so on, it’s not something we hear often. Because it is not said often, duh.

It’s fairly understandable: if all is fine, no reason to moan about it. When things work, we keep it quiet (Don’t believe me? You clearly have never checked reviews on TripAdvisor.)

But why not change this trend? So that people who are considering medication would not be scared by it. Yes, there are side-effects, but most of them are very mild, if affecting anyone at all. The truth is that the 1 in 1000 suffering from them will always be much more vocal than the 999 left put together. And it might be putting people off.

As I read that condoms are more of a liability than I ever thought, it is time to think of other ways to deal with HIV. Prep is one of them, for HIV negative people. Combination therapy, for HIV positive ones. But what’s the point of advocating their use only to put them down a second later because, guess what, they’re not perfect. Well, nothing is, really.

I wish I had read earlier about how people cope well with medications. How people cope well with HIV. How it is NOT the end of the (/our) world. How, even, it can be the kick up the backside needed to improve one’s life and make better choices from the diagnosis onwards. Because that is a reality for many people, the quiet ones, those who will not let a virus take over their entire life.

Maybe it’s time to share more happy thoughts about HIV, to let the world know we are not just a bunch of demoralised “victims”. Time to take the old dog out for a walk and see life in a better light.

So that one day we can stop, think and finally answer an iconic question: WE let the dog out!

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