“Behind every beautiful thing, there's some kind of pain.”

     Pain.  That is a word I live with every day.  Physical, mental and emotional pain.  At times making me feel like a little old man, crippling me and causing me to want to crawl into a warm bath and stay there until pain medications (or alcohol)  take hold.  At times causing me to feel like parts of my brain no longer exist and then there are the times when I just want to sit and cry.
     The physical pain is all day every day.  My body aches as from a flu, total body aches and pains.  Muscles and joints sometimes scream with pain but mostly, there is just a dull ache.  I can take strong medications to ease the pain but then they have side effects too numerous to mention.  I can drink until I no longer feel but that causes problems too.  I was having acupuncture done and that really did help ease the pain and relax the old muscles but my health plan in it's infinite wisdom said I wasn't progressing enough and stopped paying for the treatments.  So, since my pain is not bad enough to give up, I stay strong and carry on.
     The mental pain I suffer from is much deeper and this is not easily fixed.  I constantly think about what my life would be like if I hadn't been exposed to a virus (HIV) that was easily preventable.  Also, if only I had been tested much earlier and my body was not allowed to be damaged by the HIV and AIDS.  What would my life be like if I had started HIV treatment when it was first available?  Would the physical pain be less?  Would I still be able to work full time and have a rewarding career?  At times my head spins with "what if" scenarios until my brain wants to burst.  And yet, no answers, I will never know "what if".  
     Then there is the emotional pain.  I look at Jim and feel so terribly awful that I have caused him to suffer along with me.  I know that when I am hurting, he is hurting. I see the pain in his eyes that look at me when I am in pain.  I remember the pain I caused him when I was first diagnosed and was close to death.  Then I look at my family and wonder if I didn't have AIDS, how would they feel about me.  Would they have less pain if I did?  And I look at where I might be and wonder what my life would be like and feel sad that I will never know. 
     All of these things, plus many others, cause me pain of every sort.
     Still, having AIDS has changed me.  The pain I endure has made me stronger that I ever thought possible.  Before my diagnosis I used to be amazed at the people who took a horrible situation and made something positive with it.  People who suffered a tragedy but instead of feeling sorry for themselves, people who were able to rise up and fight back.  I admired those kinds of people.  Now, the pain I have suffered because of HIV has caused me to become exactly that type of person.  I work hard to educate the young so that they will never have to feel the pain that I do.  I speak to my elected officials so that they know what HIV and AIDS does to cause pain and how they can help.   
     And so behind me, beautiful me, there is pain.  And behind the new me, what I have become because of AIDS, there is pain.




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