Paris, France

Positive since 2013

I feel like the clown in that joke from Watchmen about the clown: Man goes to doctor. Says he’s depressed. Says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. Doctor says, “Treatment is simple. Great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him. That should pick you up.” Man bursts into tears. Says, “But doctor...I am Pagliacci.”

I am stuck, depressed, scared and hopeless.

I also feel like that one Joker quote, “All it takes is one day to drive the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far away I am from the world. One day.”

I was diagnosed in May 2013. The only reason I didn’t jump out of the hospital window was because it didn’t open wide enough. I haven’t complained about narrow windows since. I also had a job interview the next day, so I had to get it together. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.

When the simplest things happen, like a cold, or I just don’t feel well, I literally think, Oh, for f*ck’s sake, I’m dying. What’s the point in doing anything. Then, I recover, look back in hindsight and think, You’re not dying, but you still have HIV so what’s the point? One way or another, my outlook on life isn’t that great.

Currently, I live in France with my husband. I work in a club, and I get to drink and dance throughout the night while I work. The only time I don’t think about my status is when the music is blasting and I’m dancing my arse off. It’s one of two times I still feel something.

The other is when I’m at home watching videos of people dancing (specifically voguing) and dancing along to these videos and their music.

The rest of the time, I feel alone and disconnected. I can count the number of people on one hand that know my status. All of them are still in London, my previous place of residence. Here, I feel as though nobody knows me, and I know nobody. I don’t like getting too close to people. It’s less people to worry about turning on me if they find out about my status. Less people to lie to about why I’m going back to London every three months. These people also include my family, who I fear worrying and letting down.

I don’t feel hopeful about life in general. I don’t know which way to turn. After the whole window situation and trying to overdose on anxiety tablets two years before, I realized that I am here for a reason and suicide is not (and never is) the way out. I know that I have to come out again, but it was hard the first time. It feels like it’s going to be a gazillion times harder.

Outside of work, I play my Xbox. That’s all. It’s the one time I know that I’ll make it to where I need to be regardless of how many times I mess up, especially if I use cheats for infinite health (I rarely use them, so don’t judge). Plus, exploiting glitches is easier. I like to think life has cheats for telling people about my status or finding the confidence in myself to go along my path with no worries, but I haven’t found them yet.

I’m stuck. I want to go to dance classes and try to meet new people, but I don’t have the energy to give to life anymore. It all feels trapped behind a barrier of “not coming out.” And until I do, or least talk to someone about it, I’m stuck. I feel like I’m growing more and more numb, to the point where I will feel no happiness. Eventually, it will be game over for me with no more lives left.

But it isn’t game over yet.

What three adjectives best describe you?

Quiet. Strange. Loving.

What is your greatest achievement?

Getting over my anxiety. After all the years of being bullied, I had anxiety so bad that even the thought of going outside would make me panic. I made it through the rain, but now I’m stuck in drizzle.

What is your greatest regret?

Not finding strength in myself sooner. If I had, I wouldn’t have ended up in the two unhealthy relationships that gave me HIV in the first place. But lesson learned and stronger strength gained.

What keeps you up at night?

Contemplating life, thinking about HIV and how it affects a lot of my life and my Xbox 360.

If you could change one thing about living with HIV, what would it be?

It would be the stigma. That’s my main worry because it’s like being in the closet again. I think it would be a lot easier without the stigma attached.

What is the best advice you ever received?

“Never dull your shine.” My older sister always saw something amazing in me that I never did, and she always wanted me to shine.

What person in the HIV/AIDS community do you most admire?

Jack Mackenroth. I first saw him on Project Runway. When I was diagnosed, I thought about him and how he was still healthy with HIV. I wish I could stand up for our community like he does. Heroic stuff.

What drives you to do what you do?

I work in a club for just over minimum wage and play video games. So I guess budget, fantasy, fun and escape.

What is your motto?

“No matter how dark the night, morning always comes, and our journey begins anew.” —Lulu from Final Fantasy X

“If it isn’t fun, I ain’t doing it.”

If you had to evacuate your house immediately, what is the one thing you would grab on the way out?

My husband. But assuming he is already evacuated and there is a fire (why else would you need to evacuate?), my phone. I need to get my insurance money.

If you could be any animal, what would you be? And why?

A Slowpoke. It belongs to an animal-type classification known as Pokémon. They sit at ponds all day and fish with their tails. They’re Zen-inspired creatures, and they’re the psychic type.