• Remi

18 - STUNNED

Updated: Sep 11, 2021


Illustration @mehdi_ange_r (INSTAGRAM)

Guilt?

I feel guilty, often, about many things.

I didn't realise that this feeling was part of me and I only realised it quite recently.

As you know, a few days after the launch of the blog, I had the opportunity to do an interview for TÊTU. I had never had to do this exercise before.

I remember the kindness of the journalist, the freedom she gave me to express myself and a question she asked me: "How did you feel at the very beginning when you learned you were HIV positive?

I answered her with banalities such as: "Upset, sad...".

She said, "Guilty?".

I think I lost track at that point because I had never thought about whether I felt guilty or not. The only guilt I had felt at the time was that I was hurting people around me and making them worry.

But his question was directed in a different way. Did I feel guilty about contracting HIV through supposedly unprotected sex, and thus taking a risk?

What I'm about to write now will probably upset some important people, who don't know about it, but before I go on I would like those people not to judge me for my silence, nor for writing all this here today, and not having spoken up at the time.

At the end of 2017, I revealed to my close friends, one by one, how I had contracted HIV.

I had talked about it many times, changing my versions with almost every person because I guess I wasn't necessarily ready to burden them with the truth.

Nine years without opening my mouth.

I did it once with a fellow friend, but her reaction was so dramatically emotional that I thought, "Okay, so you can't tell anyone. It's too much to take in."

And since then nothing. But clearly part of me wanted the truth to come out, as my close friends could have discussed it amongst themselves and would have seen the discrepancies between what I had told one or the other.

But no.

What made me talk about it?

Quite simply because the after-effects of these nine years of silence have been built up.

Aggression towards the people I loved, anxiety about taking public transport, and anxiety about simply living.

I was lucky enough to meet people who knew how to channel these neuroses, without even knowing the reasons, and this helped me enormously. But when in 2016 I found myself single, with no N to lean on, it all came back to bite me in the ass.

I took the bus for a year and a half to go to work, which meant tripling my travel time compared to when I used to take the metro (I was living in Paris at the time), all because I couldn't stand the people, the aggressiveness, the proximity, the various interactions. For me the bus was freedom and at the same time it required a lot of organisation in my daily life.

One evening in September 2008, I came home completely drunk.

I was living in the Voltaire metro station at the time, in a shabby maid's room with a toilet on the landing that I shared with three other people. I arrived at my front door and I remember having such a hard time putting the key in the lock. My neighbour had come out to tax me for a cigarette but I didn't have one on me. From memory I think I had some in the flat so I asked him to wait for me and I was going to bring him one.

He came into the flat uninvited and I couldn't help what happened afterwards.

I have very few memories.

I just know that I was scared when all this happened, that I could hardly defend myself and that I don't even think I managed to get a word out. From the moment the intruder broke into my flat, I knew it wasn't going to go well. With a bit of hindsight, I think that if I didn't do anything to defend myself, it's because I was physically incapable of doing so, and above all because I wanted to avoid it being too violent and therefore too "traumatic".

On the other hand, a black hole during the forced intercourse. It was as if my mind had jumped out of my body so that I had no memory or "physical" memory of the act. Too bad for me because if my mind was no longer in my body, it was outside and observed everything.

I remember hearing the door slam when he finished, and I think he even thanked me for the cigarette and said "See you later".

I was left in a state of shock and the next day I forgot everything. It was better to forget everything anyway.


Two weeks later, I became seriously ill without being diagnosed with HIV on my blood test. "Mononucleosis symptoms", I was told. I thought I was going to die during that period.

Then I got my strength back and met D. The rest you know.

At the time, I didn't feel the need to file a complaint. I don't even think I ever legitimised this anecdote as being the subject of a complaint.

Even talking to my friends in 2017, it wasn't that obvious to me. I did research on this type of aggression and I heard many testimonies of boys who dared to deliver their story.

I preferred to avoid further humiliation.

As for the guilt, I have indeed had it since that famous evening. The guilt of having been unable to push him away, to defend myself or to ask for help. My mind completely robbed me that night without me knowing why it happened. So yes, I feel guilty about this weakness.

For the future, for my parents, for my sisters, for my friends, for the boys I loved: I'm sorry if you're feeling sorry as you read this, but it was much easier for me to take full responsibility for my HIV status and finally tell you: "I had unprotected sex", and in my opinion that was much more intelligible for you.

I'm healing myself, I'm healing my soul, I still need to move forward and I knew it was important that it was expressed in this way at some point.

There was a lot of collateral damage, friendships could have been lost, loves fled, simply because my silence had made me different. I found myself again when I talked to my best friends. I hope you have forgiven me since.

Thanks to you I have understood that I should not feel guilty, but it will take me some time to be convinced. I don't feel like a victim either. I was just there at the wrong time, in the wrong place.

I decided to look after the future. I knew right away that what could heal me would be to visualise tomorrow and not to feel sorry for yesterday.

This may sound very arrogant, but right now I'm proud of myself.


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