ADRIENNE'S HIV BLOG – Hivine's Weblog

HIVINE is written by HIV positive women but still with a sense of humour

Archive for April, 2008

What’s in Your Closet?

Spring is busting out all over or maybe that’s June (sorry June) but at long last things are starting to come out and that’s not only in the garden. Out come last year’s summer clothes and that means poking around in your drawers, if you’ll pardon the expression, and foraging around in your closet, unearthing things that once fit a body, which after being kept under wraps during a long winter of enforced hibernation, has now changed beyond all recognition.

Coming out in its various forms is therefore the subject of today’s blog and is at the foremost of my mind for obvious reasons. Coming out of the closet about your HIV status is not something you would do just because spring is here or you’re preparing to go off on your holls. Although in my case, it’s exactly that, because I finally decided to come out of the ‘Ibiza closet’ by informing some of my oldest (literally) and dearest friends, who up until now have been blissfully unaware of my positive status. This was a big decision for me and needed lengthy consideration and careful thought, although in reality, it would only have been a matter of time before some old hippy cyber hacker had found me by accident on the worldwide web – and once it’s out, it’s out forever, as the actress said to the bishop.

And talking of bishops, I have been asked to tell my story at an Anne Frank event to be held in May at Blackburn Cathedral, so once again I will be speaking out behind those hallowed doors, which seems to be becoming quite a habit, although I definitely won’t be wearing one, even though thanks to HIV I am forced to live a nun like existence.

This reminds me of a song I once heard on Radio One many years ago called, ‘I am a cathedral,’ and Tony Blackburn made one of his stupid jokes by responding, ‘No, it’s just your pointed hat,’ which tickled me back then and still does to this day. So I will be donning my pointed hat and braving the public yet again, only this time it will be the general public as opposed to those only attending for World AIDS day.

I am getting accustomed by now to speaking out, or as the Queen would say accustomed as I am to public speaking, but initially it was a difficult decision and the question for me, as it probably was for the actress and the bishop, was always how, when and where to do it. One of my counselling clients told me that her young son had blurted out the fact that he was gay in the Car Phone warehouse so he must have had sex rather than texting on his mind.

How to disclose to people that you are HIV positive?

The first question of course is should you? Only you can decide about that because there are host of reasons why you shouldn’t. I found that not coming out was actually harder than staying in and once I’d started, I couldn’t stop. Coming out is not just opening the door, stepping over the threshold and that’s the end of it, because you can never step back in. It’s more a case of one door shuts and then another opens – and then another and another. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, not knowing which door to open first. The hardest door to squeeze myself through and that was without a magic potion, was telling my son, who despite my fears, turned out to be totally supportive and accepting. This in turn helped me to accept him with all his faults of which over the years, especially during his adolescence, there have been many. Coming out therefore is an ongoing process and more like a revolving door because it never stops, you can come out and go back in and every time it’s to a completely different audience.

There are various reasons for coming out and not all are commendable. For example, timing of such a shocking disclosure is of the essence and it is important to choose an opportune moment and not like I did with my dear friend Erik the Great Oracle, who happened to be at deaths door at the time. The reason I hadn’t told him before was I knew he wouldn’t have been able to keep the news to himself, so I’d deliberately kept my distance. But when I got the phone call informing me he was intensive care and might not survive the night, I wouldn’t have been able to live with the thought that he might go to his maker without knowing the reason why I’d been avoiding him. So I rushed up to the hospital forthwith to find him on his alleged death bed with a mask tightly strapped to his face and two bloodshot eyes bulging over the top.

“Get me out of here darling,” he raged, “Tell nurse Ratchet over there,” he poked his finger wildly in the air nearly dislodging his drip, “That I’d rather die than remain in her sadistic hands. She won’t even let me have a pee and I desperately need one. Why won’t they just let me die or at least have a pee?

I could see his point; it was horrendous in there, hunched people isolated in plastic bubbles hooked up to their breathing apparatus, no television, no radio, only the sound of wheezing and the huge clock ticking the last hours or even seconds away. But I wasn’t about to let that happen to my dearest friend Erik.

“Erik, I’ve got something to tell you,” I took his familiar hand, covetously looking at my moonstone ring on his little finger that we’d allegedly swapped many years ago (although I couldn’t actually remember taking part in the deal) and trying not to think that I might soon get it back, “The reason I have been withholding my distance from you,” I stared into his bulging eyes, “Is because I am HIV positive.”

Well, his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets and he frantically tried without success to relieve himself of the claustrophobic mask so he could speak to me. Nurse Ratchet immediately stormed over and tightened the strap.

Anyway, my words were enough to bring Erik round and gave him back the will to live, if only for the reason he could survive in order to tell everyone else. That’s not strictly true, but I like to think that was part of the process in his sudden and miraculous recovery.

Back to closets and there are all kinds of references to having a ‘closet’ mentality, as in leading a secret life, living in hiding or pretending to be one person whilst secretly being, or wanting to be, another. The most common of course is ‘closet queen’ and that is not having a surreptitious desire to wear the Queen’s hats or even a Busby, although I suppose it could be part of the process. If you are a gay man you can also be a ‘closet Tommy’, which according to the Urban Dictionary is a gay man who has sex with men but pretends he’s hetero. There’s a ‘closet flogger’, someone who likes to play with themselves in a closet, although no reference here to Narnia. However, if your wardrobe is as small and as crammed as mine, there wouldn’t be much room.

There’s even a ‘closet librarian’, which is someone who displays librarian tendencies, although they didn’t make entirely clear what those exact tendencies were. Maybe they were really referring to Librans. I’m a Libran and renowned for never being able to make up my mind, but I also have a huge interest in books, so maybe I’m one of those.

Of course we mustn’t forget to mention the water closet, where would we be without one of those and apparently you can be a ‘closet pooper’, in other words, a person who cannot perform their bodily ablutions in a public washroom whilst other people are in it. I think I can definitely be classed as one of those, although I hope that isn’t the same as being a party pooper, as I’ve been called one of those often enough in my time.

On the subject of ablutions and water closets, I’ve just come back from Aldi where they had some garden plants on offer. Whilst crouching down on my haunches at an uncomfortable angle trying to locate the healthiest looking blooms, I shouted up to my friend Willo, “Maybe I’ll get cystitis,” and received a look from the man standing next to me as though I already had it. I do hope I’m not temping providence here, although since I gave up on sex or sex gave up on me, I haven’t had the added accompanying thrill of sitting on the loo all night trying to pee in vain.

Plants can have very bizarre names which often sound as though they could be related to health conditions, such as hairy lupine, beard tongue and blue phlox, which all sound like they could be associated conditions of HIV. There is also the bastard toadflax and cut-leafed-toothwort, which sound more like characters out of Harry Potter. Then there is ‘lady of the night’ and ‘go to bed at noon’, names which I can easily relate to and in particular ‘touch me not’. I think however I’ll stick to the ‘scouring brush’, which allegedly is a cure for gonorreah, so maybe it can do something for HIV. It also contains a small amount of nicotine, so that would suite me. But in that case I would be better off foraging in waste places and by roadsides for ‘cudweed’ or ‘rabbit tobacco’, which would be a far cheaper option than buying a packet of camel lights these days.

The word of the day on Urban Dictionary is ‘freak flag’ – a characteristic, mannerism or appearance of a person which implies eccentric, creative adventurous or unconventional thinking. I think that definitely sums me up, so I will go ahead and speak out at the Cathedral with my freak flag flying, making sure beforehand of course that I’ve completed my ablutions at home, so I won’t become a closet pooper.

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The Mandala Project

Believe it or not, the centre of this poster, which is a mandala in itself, is the HIV virus. Seeing it in this form, where it looks almost beautiful and not at all how you would imagine it to be, might make a difference, if you are unlucky enough like me to be carrying the virus within you, as to how you feel about it. They say that visualisation has the power to heal; therefore using mandalas, which are usually coloured images, painted or inscribed within a circle, is the perfect way to do this.

With this aim in mind we have started an ongoing project at Body Positive North West in the form of a Mandala Workshop. This will be taking place on a monthly basis facilitated by Jan Mojsa who has studied the healing properties of the mandala with Judith Cornell in America and the eventual outcome will be a huge mandala executed by me on the walls of BP with contributions by the other positive participants taking part in the workshop. The idea is that the BP mandala will be a living work of art, as it will continue to do its work by helping those who look at it see the HIV virus in another light.

Mandalas have been around for centuries and are often used for healing purposes as they can help to lead us to the luminous core within ourselves thereby enabling us to get in touch with our higher self so that we may fully express our potential.

Creating a mandala or simply looking at one somehow creates a harmonic vibration with healing power. Mandalas are everywhere in nature, in the universe itself, in our body cells where each one of our cells vibrates with the mandala of its own DNA.

When sound is passed through water mandalas result in the ripples.

There is a Japanese geneticist Dr Susomo Ohno who with the help of his wife, who is a musician, assigned a musical note to each of the four nucleotides that make up DNA to make a musical score. These DNA compositions are like sound mandalas and are said to be inspiring and melodic and can move people to tears. A bit like during our workshop at BP where after a meditation session when we were being ‘thankful for the moment’ we spontaneously started to sing ABBA’s ‘thank you for the music, the song I’m singing,’ which also moved people to tears, but tears of hysterical laughter – although humour also has big part to play in the healing process and should never be left out and never is in our workshops, so don’t be put off signing up thinking it will all be too heavy.

The idea of a work of art that would do something positive for positive people as well as offering an insight of HIV to non positive people, appeals to my new activist ethics of raising awareness about HIV in any way I can. The BP Mandala is yet another way to do this as each mandala has a uniquely transformative energy which lives on in the person who has created it or is touched by it. A mandala can bring us to the very heart of healing by creating a harmonic vibration with healing power.

If you are a positive person who lives in the Manchester area and want to take part in the project, call Emma on 0161 882 2200 or visit the BP website to find out more.

MARY POPPINS AND THE MAGIC FLUME


I finally bit the bullet and went to the colposcopy clinic yesterday for my six monthly check up, after first being on the receiving end of a bit of tapping and zapping from my lovely health advisor. EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique as its otherwise known, is a form of acupuncture involving the tapping of specific acupuncture points with the fingers and can allegedly reduce physical and emotional problems such as trauma and recurrent bad memories of an unpleasant experience, which unfortunately, going to the colposcopy clinic, by anyone’s standards and by its very nature, is exactly that.

The tapping and zapping, as I prefer to call it, did the job by actually getting me there, as I’d bottled out of my previous appointment using some weak excuse, but the truth of the matter being, I am and always have been a total wimp, or as Kenny Rogers the country and western singer might describe me, ‘The coward of the county.’ Well, I may be the coward of the county, but unlike that poor hillbilly ‘Lucille’ he also sings about, I don’t have four hungry children to feed (at least the last time I looked, although with that bottomless pit of a son of mine it sometimes feels like it) and neither do I have a crop that won’t yield, or was it in the field? Whatever, I’m hoping my tomatoes will yield, if nothing else. I’m growing them from seed in my conservatory. I suppose I could be likened to ‘Ruby’ that frustrated old woman with the painted lips and dyed hair he wrote another song about, in the fact that I can no longer take my love to town – or anywhere else for that matter.

As it turned out, no amount of tapping and zapping could counteract the physical pain and discomfort, not to mention the indignity of the internal examination. The nice nurse who helped me into the ‘electric’ chair and whose job it is to talk to and engage us poor women in polite conversation whilst this torturous procedure is taking place, must have one of the most difficult jobs in the world.
“Oooh, your poor eye looks sore,” she said sympathetically, staring into my terrified red eye. For some reason, I’d woken up that morning with a very bloodshot eye, or maybe I should say a ‘shot of red eye’ seeing as this blog has started to take on a decided country and western, cowboy like feel.
“Been doing any painting lately?” she asked me, trying to take my mind off the fact that I was being branded, or at least that’s what it felt like, as something equivalent to a red hot poker was inserted inside me.
“Yes,” I mouthed wordlessly, my shot of red eye probably standing out on a stalk.
“Anything interesting?” she tried to hold me in intellectual debate.
I shook my cowardly head and emitted a strange, high pitched, primeval noise.
“I’m sorry,” she apologized as if the pain I was enduring was her fault, then realising we were getting no where with this particular topic of conversation, shook her head, “It’s not working is it?”
“Try shopping,” I gasped.
“Have you been to the new Boundary Mill yet?” she valiantly offered.
But that didn’t work either. Now I know Kenny professed that it doesn’t mean you’re weak if you turn the other cheek, but when you’re being ‘rogered’ with a red hot poker, you can’t help but turn away.
“That’s not working either is it?” the kindly nurse admitted as I turned every cheek I owned away from her.
“I need a bigger brush,” the head between my legs, which fortunately wasn’t wearing a cowboy hat, mumbled indistinctively, a bit like those undecipherable cowboys in ‘Brokeback Mountain’, who caused me to constantly enquire throughout the entire film, “What did they say?”
What was he doing up there all this time and why did he need a brush? Had he suddenly got confused about his profession, or been watching Mary Poppins and was now suffering from delusions that he was a chimney sweep? In view of what he was doing to me, the comparison seemed quite apt and caused a relevant verse of song to trill annoyingly in a cockney accent in my head.

“Oh I choose me bristles with pride yes I do
A broom for the shaft and a broom for the flume.”

What’s a flume I wondered to myself and did I have one? It sounded like another one of those rude words to me. I knew that shaft was, so maybe that Mary Poppins wasn’t quite as innocent as she tried to make out. Come to think of it, I’ve heard Football supporters singing that very same song, although with different lyrics of course.

chim chimenee chim chimenee chim chim cheroo
we hate the b******s in claret and blue

Well I’ve just changed the lyrics myself

Chim chimenee chim chimenee chim chim chereeeee
Watch out for your flume when having col pos co peeee

Having a newly acquired interest flumes, as soon as I got home I googled ‘chimney sweeps’ and came up with a site called, ‘The Worst Jobs in History,’ of which justifiably, chimney sweeping was one, along with the other highly undesirable profession of rat catcher. If you ask me, they should have added colposcopy to the list, because just imagine doing that all day for a living. The profession of chimney sweeping produced the first known industrial disease apparently, called ‘chimney sweep’s cancer’, caused by the irritation of soot attacking in the testicles. At least for once, HIV which can be responsible for most horrible ailments can’t be held accountable for that. Oh dear, what those poor young boys had to go through and the sad fact of the matter was, it was a complete waste of time being an apprentice to the trade, because after years of training, aside from having very sooty testicles, you would be too big to fit up chimneys. To encourage these often understandably reluctant lads to go clamouring up chimneys, lighted straw was often held beneath their feet or pins stuck into them. Maybe someone could try that on me the next time I renege on going for my colposcopy appointment. It might prove more effective than tap tap tapping or Frank zappering.

“Oh, chim chimenee, chim chimenee, chim chim chereee
Good luck will rub off if you shake hands with me”

No offence mate, but you can keep your mucky hands and your sooty balls to yourself – who knows what else might rub off and I’ve already been unlucky enough in that particular department.

My further research into EFT, led me to a Wayne’s website, although not as in John of course, who was the first singing cowboy of the silver screen, but because he couldn’t sing his voice had to be dubbed. Wayne informs us that EFT has its basis in Chinese acupuncture and psychology, but instead of using needles, you simply tap on well established meridian points on the upper body. What about the lower body I say, although Wayne probably has a website for that too as he professes he can also do EFT over the phone, but I wouldn’t recommend searching for it on google, you never know what you might come up with.

Still on a western theme, there’s a little known ditty called, ‘Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys,’ which embarrassingly, my sister and I once performed at a karaoke event.

For those interested in increasing their vocabulary, for crosswords, trivial pursuits and the like, a flume is an artificial water channel that leads water from a dam or weir – so not that different then to the procedure I had to undergo at the colposcopy clinic, especially in regard to the weir – which I very nearly did, all over the floor!

Flumes are also used for gold mining – could that have been what he was searching for up there? They are also used to transport logs and apparently, you can take a ride on a log flume and there is a ride for thrill seekers called, ‘Dare to shoot the flume’ – no thanks! Colposcopy was enough of a hair raising experience for me – as in bodily.

Anyway, at least that’s it over with for another six months. It’s yet another thing as a positive woman that I am forced to endure, because with HIV there is a heightened danger of cervical cancer. So it’s well worth it I suppose. But needless to say, this lone cowgirl won’t be doing any line dancing tonight. I’ll be sitting at home nursing my ‘achy breaky heart’ and definitely not painting my lips and rolling up my tinted hair. I might be lighting up a Marlborough or two though.

This particular coward of the county has also finally come to the decision not to change her medication regime and switch to another unknown commodity, working on the premise of the devil you know, and if it works, why fix it, or change it, as the case may be? So I’m off to take my familiar toxic poison, but as Mary Poppins would have us believe, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. All very well for her to say that, but she didn’t have to take antiviral meds, did she?

Nut Bush City Limits

Oh dear, I failed to take my own advice and foolishly cast a clout before May was out, resulting in my catching a cold and being the voiceless guardian of a very sore throat. Therefore, today, I’ve been confined to the dubious zone of my new memory foam mattress, which I’m sorry to say, seems to have developed the early signs of alziemhers in that it seems to think there are several other people inhabiting my bed, (I wish!) judging by the hollows and dents which mysteriously form in my absence. Huh! Chance would be a fine thing in regard to anyone inhabiting my bed with me. I lay speechless and alone, dismally watching the progression of the Olympic Torch from my solitary dent, feeling decidedly sorry for myself. There is also the element of fear to contend with for anyone living with HIV in regard to whatever current ailment one is experiencing, however slight, in case it turns, as it so often does, into something much more sinister.

To ease my sore throat as well as my paranoia, which is usually his prerogative; my son has been providing me with various fruit juices and regular infusions of herbal tea. Up to now I’ve downed apple and ginger, blackberry and blueberry, mixed fruits of the forest and other quite tasty brews, but then he brought me a cup of Red Bush tea, as seen in that advert on the telly. Well, no wonder that poor woman was reduced to shouting at wildebeests and enormous elephants, then had to rapidly take to her bed. It was disgusting and after inspecting the contents of the tea bag, the tea leaves really are red, which is not I have to say as a Lancashire lass accustomed to a good cup of tanning, psychologically appealing. Apparently, Red Bush tea is left to ferment and dry in heaps with the help of the South African wind. Say no more.

The name of this website and blog, which you will know if you’ve been with me from the start, came about after talking about HIV on the Jeremy Vine show, hence the name hivine. I particularly liked the symbolism of the vine and hoped, which it obviously has, that it would help to link positive people together by uniting us, acting as a resource and provide a helping network, especially for all the ‘invisible’ women out there, as well as those caring for someone with HIV or those who just happen to have an interest in the subject. As some of you probably already know, in Israel the vine symbolised the fertility of the land and the people of Israel were likened to a vine planted by God. The grapes symbolized happiness and eternal life, but as grapes can become vinegar, we have to be careful that we don’t let our ‘grapes’ of happiness ferment, especially if we are contending with the daily horrors of coping with HIV. According to the ancient Bush medicine of Belize, there is a vine called the ‘Love Vine’ which is an aphrodisiac and can be found attached not so lovingly to other plants, which it eventually kills and then the vine leaves are made into tea – I don’t suppose that happens in Yorkshire, so you can continue to enjoy your Yorkshire tea bags without trepidation and I suppose the same goes for Tetley. In Yorkshire, they mainly grow rhubarb I believe; in fact, I’m surprised some enterprising Yorkshire man hasn’t come up with rhubarb tea.

If you are having trouble sleeping, especially if you are the owner of a memory foam mattress, there is a sleep inducing brew called Tick Tock. However, take care, as this innocent sounding potion is a relative of the dreaded Red Bush family. The name Red Bush sounds a bit rude to me, but perhaps I just have a schoolgirl sense of humour. It sounds more like something that could be found on offer at your local beauty parlour as an alternative to the Brazilian. A Brazilian would be no earthly use to me however, aside from the fact that nobody but me and my memory foam mattress would ever witness it and even that is debatable due to my lipidostrophy causing my body fats to congregate around the area of my stomach. For people like me, they should offer the Bermuda triangle instead, as that particular zone of my body has become redundant and a bit like the Bermuda triangle in the fact that it keeps disappearing and for all I know, no longer exists. There could also be a vague connection to that song by Tina Turner, ‘Nut Bush City Limits’ as due to HIV, my particular nut bush has become strictly out of bounds.

Some helpful advice when choosing herbal teas – catnip is particularly useful for keeping colds at bay, alas too late for me. Hop tea is to be avoided if you are suffering from depression and sage tea is good for labour pains, although as far as I can remember, no tea in the world would have helped with mine.