The following is a heartfelt testimonial from one of our BAI Care HIV+ clients who recently took part in one of our psychotherapy programs. Sharing their experience was a way to say "thank you" as well as helping others going through the same life-changing experience.
We are not birds, but we have wings.
For a long time scientists have speculated that the northern bald ibis adopt a "V" formation for aerodynamic reasons. When a bird flies it leaves a slipstream in its wake. The idea is that other birds will receive an updraft by flying slightly behind and to the side of the one flying in front. When many birds do this they form a V, benefiting all of them. It seems they also synchronize the precise timing of flapping their wings to take advantage of the air current, and by following the exact same trajectory as the bird in front, they demonstrate the benefit of working together for the common good.
When we began the self-help group each of us came along with feelings of worry, disappointment, sadness and anger. We arrived with tired wings, and some even with their wings "broken" having just received the news that no one ever expects. It is not easy to accept something so shocking as being told you are HIV positive. At first, just hearing the words "HIV" and "AIDS" made us shudder, our chests tightened and some of us literally felt horrified. You think it's the end of the world. However, some keep calm; they are like the bird flying at the front of that "V" - flying alone, but helping lead the others forward.
Eventually we realized that our wings were not totally broken, but in fact we could still fly, and, furthermore, we could learn from the experiences of each member of the group. We also confronted and overcame our fear: someone repeatedly shared the example that the fear of water can only be overcome by immersing yourself in it – there is no other way. We understood we had to re-evaluate ourselves, knowing it is only human to make mistakes, that we have our strengths and talents, and that we are much more than just sexual beings; we are intelligent, hardworking and cheerful people. We are eager to live and enjoy life to the fullest, but now with different perspectives and goals, searching for, and taking hold of new opportunities.
Someone also said it is ok to use whatever means necessary because we are not superheroes. Some of us searched for individual psychological help, others turned toward the spiritual realm, and there were those who drew strength from within themselves. Any and everything is valid, so long as it helps you to survive.
We have learned many things together; we are now confident that the bird at the front will always be there, and the one behind has that same guarantee. We also know that today we are less selfish, and are willing to share our experiences, in order to make a larger "V". We also know that the unthinkable can become a reality. Someone actually said that we have to give ourselves the opportunity to forgive ourselves. The word "forgiveness" is somewhat difficult to deal with, because it is associated with "transgression", and we do not believe that we transgressed. Nobody is perfect, but rather it is about giving ourselves new opportunities and being aware that we cannot blame anyone for the situation we find ourselves in today. We have to be mature enough to deal with the consequences responsibly.
Today, those terms that we didn't like before - CD4 count, viral load, and adherence, etc. - are part of our everyday language. What we are now most aware of is that we all have a responsibility to keep on flying. Of course, although we fly in a group, each one flaps in their own particular way. It is inevitable. We can say we are better. We look after each other more, we follow up on each other, we are more involved, we are there for each other, and that, when all is said and done, means we are better...we are in the best possible place.
Within each of us live many hopes and scientific advances, without a doubt, help keep them alive. Compared with just a few decades ago, we can see that enormous advances in medicine have taken place, and we know more are on the way. While waiting for them to arrive, we will continue flying. When we feel our wings are tired, we will land next to a stream, river or lake to gather our strength. Sitting on the branches of a tree, with a breeze in our face, we will look towards the distant horizon and remember those great moments we enjoyed together; the laughter, the jokes and the warm hugs we shared. And then, refreshed, we will resume our journey.
The destination is infinite. It is as big as the sky. Getting there depends on each of us, and our determination to move forward...together.