Forbidden Fruit-Day

On the 2nd of January, 2014, an old Dutch woman summoned me to her posh glass cubicle to tell me I was HIV positive. At the end of our conversation, she glanced at me in pity – trying to console me with the words; “Some people manage to change their lives to the better after such news…”.

Through my eyes, I told her to go fuck herself.

That moment, my life had fallen to into chaos.

The days, the weeks, the months and years that followed would send me on a journey. An unknown world of pure fear, of exhaustion and of emotional suffering would unravel before me.

Until that day I had travelled the world. From the ancient Tibetan city of Lhasa, to war-torn Kabul, to deserted beaches on the Uruguayan coast – the world was my playground to be explored. My adventure.

And then it stopped. On that day I stopped travelling the world. I would start a different journey. One I was completely unprepared for. A journey I didn’t even want to go on. Ill-equipped, with no bearing and no sense of where this would take me, I would descend on my greatest adventure so far – into the darkest corner of myself.

(In retrospect, it sort of reminds me of the time I nearly killed myself when trying to summit Stok Kangri (6,153m) in ill equipped Birkenstock sandals – overly ambitious and utterly unprepared. But that’s a different story.)

Now, 5 years later, I look back at that long and arduous trail behind me and the choices I was forced to make.

To continue suffering, or take on the challenge.

The crevices I had crawled through, the peaks I had summited, the lost paths I treaded, the seemingly never-ending darkness, the demons and angels I had encountered – and I am grateful. Grateful for the opportunity, for the friends and family that had been walking with me. That had provided me with their support. Grateful to have had the challenges I had to face – Grateful to be able to stare into the abyss – and lose my fear of it. To grow from it. To use it as a source of strength and inspiration. To tell fate and fear to go fuck themselves too.

Because – fuck – what a ride.

And I made it – That stupid Dutch woman was right. My HIV diagnosis had given me the challenge of introspection, which I had now survived. It had confronted me with my fears, my shadows, my choices in life, my really, really, really annoying traits (of which some of you can probably remind me of).

Isn’t it ironic? 2019 would be the year of my AIDS. Would there not be medication, this would be my last year. It might sound strange – but to me this is a beautiful thought. Knowing that I have time. That I can use this time. That I can cherish it, with wine and family and friends and sex and happiness and love and travels and sharing.

And I hope to be able to share this. To offer the insights I have gained with others as pieces of advice, to others that are at the beginning of this journey. To give them a compass, a map, a push in the right direction or a slap in the face – as scary, dark and uncomfortable as it may be. 

To infect them with my optimism. To spread it like a virus. (too soon?;))

In humility, in gratefulness – Thank you. All of you.

Challenge your fears.

P.S. Grapefruits and my medication don’t go together very well – I am not really supposed to eat them. And yet once a year, I make a feast of it. For my anniversary I always take the day off – I do something new, something never done before, and I reward myself with a grapefruit. As a reminder.

P.P.S. A shout out! I will be working on a training program. I want to start offering my services in support of other HIV-Positive people. If anyone has experience with setting this up, especially of finding sponsors for such endeavours, please drop me a line!