03 Oct Living With HIV Since Birth – Wes Donaldson’s Story
Is it Possible To Live a Normal Life With HIV?
Yes, I basically forget I have it unless I’m chomping down on my meds, when I get a wound, or if I think about how I can’t join the military.
Otherwise my life is as normal as life is around where I’m from. I have a wife and son without them being infected because of modern medicine which is a huge medical blessing.
Long Answer with details of my life living with HIV:
I was born with HIV in 1988. My parents got it while doing drugs and because of the limited treatment back then they succomed to AIDs and died years after I was born.
My dad died when I was four years old and my mom when I was seven. My last memories of them are similar.
My dad rolled over in his death bed and said “I love you”. I remember I was visiting him.
My mom was in care and the last time I went to visit her she gave me a stuffed animal. She cried and said “I ruined it I’m so sorry”. It was all she had to give me and she said that because she dropped her cigarette on it and it burned a hole in it.
It hurt to see my mom hurting like that, and that stuffed animal I cherished for many many years. I grew up with my grandparents afterwards.
Doctors didn’t think I had a chance of living many years because treatment was limited. I even got to make a wish with the make a wish foundation and go fishing with Paul Newman at The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp!
But new medicines continued to come out that held AIDs at bay and kept the HIV virus from multiplying-as long as I took the medicine. If I missed a dose or two the risk of the HIV virus becoming resisitent to the medicine greatly increased.
I was told I had HIV when I was six years old. The first thing I thought was that I wouldn’t have a wife or kids. That thought however didn’t affect me too much. But slowly, throughout the years, mental effects of being born with HIV started to set in.
First, I was annoyed at having to take so many pills every night. Then, I started to like girls but I forced myself to never attach or pursue them because in my mind I wasn’t allowed and they’d reject me anyway. Without parents and with HIV I started to feel not normal and didn’t see where I fit in with anyone. With this secret I started feeling like a weird freak.
Then began the depression and hidden thoughts of suicide. I went through middle school and high school feeling more and more alone and misunderstood. It only got worse but I hid it well. I distracted myself by pursuing things that made me happy.
I dated a few girls I liked a few times but it only hurt to know/think I would just be immediately rejected by them once they knew. I pretty much was torturing myself as I believed I wasn’t ever meant to have someone that loved me back because of what I had. I couldn’t and wouldn’t live like a normal teenage boy because of being born with HIV, I couldn’t risk giving what I had to some girl I really liked. So, I focused on being around friends who I could live through their happiness and normal-ness. It was a blast.
But the depression and suicidal thoughts never went away. I had a huge void within. Once I discovered drugs it helped to fill the void temporarily. But only made life without being high much much worse (in my head).
The first time I really tried killing myself was after i told my first real ‘serious’ girlfriend what I had. Of course we had already been having mostly protected sex. It was a devastatingly HUGE mistake but thankfully she didn’t get what I had. And she and her parents where very supportive and open and understanding….I told her over the phone (like a coward) and she was very upset and hung up. I thought that was it and believed I had truly ruined the life of the girl I loved at the time. I couldn’t face my consequences so I took all my medicine at once and drank a lot of bleach. I threw up shortly afterwords and was sick all night. Needless to say I couldn’t smell bleach without gagging for over a year. Surprisingly We stayed together, she loved me back (something I thought was never in the cards) and she told me she was upset because she thought I was going to die.
Flash forward a couple years and she broke up with me over normal reasons. But at the time this really devasted me. I was in college and my emotions effected my grades and self worth. So began my second brilliant attempt at suicide.
I decided that if I could convince myself everyday to not drink water I would die and not regret the decision. But after 2 days I said screw it, drank out of a water fountain for five minutes and worked out my feelings through the gym and music. It was a refreshing day. Unfortunately, my grades were too far gone and I dropped out of college. So I worked and pursued experiences that made me happy.
This led to a few years partying with friends, marijuana, ecstasy, shrooms, cigarettes, and alcohol. It was fricking awesome. But because I wasn’t wise I let it lead to unemployment, repossessions, debt, and ultimately the loss of so-called friends.
Looking back it was unfair to think of them as ‘so-called’ friends, they had no idea what I was going through and they had their own fun to pursue yo. But it still hurt to feel alone and like I lost my friends. Especially ones who were cool as hell to hang with and always have a good time. In reality I just didn’t have money to chill with them and I was way to quiet and in my head. I was a idiot. Still kind of am.
But, I was back to feeing worthless and a failure. So came the third and final time I tried killing myself. I parked my GSXR 600 with a full tank in my studio apartment (Basement of a empty house) and turned it on hoping the fumes would let me sleep forever. But I woke up the next day with my motorcycle out of gas. I came to the conclusion I was meant to live, there was no way I could’ve with the bike being right next to my bed.
I was scrambled though. I figured I was meant to live but had no idea why and I hated it. After talking to a long lost child hood friend, (not about my suicide attempt) I felt called to God.
I went to church that following weekend and God showed hisself to me and he filled that void I had all my life. He reminded me of when I was a child and I first repeated the sinners prayer and was overcome with tears and peace that it was Him. He showed me that it was Him that I was seeking Him all along and that He never left me even though I forgot about that moment of accepting Him into my heart.
It was Him that gave me peace when I was down, and it was in Him that I found a true purpose and meaning. Despite my circumstances He made me happy and content with everything.
I met my wife a year later and I did the right thing by telling her what I had before getting serious. She wasn’t concerned at all with me being born with and having HIV. I was so panicked when I sat her down to tell her. I imagined her screaming in shrill terror and running for her life, hands waving in the air. But it was very anticlimactic because of how unconcerned she was. Turns out she was more weird than I was, so I married her.
With Gods grace and modern medicine we were able to have a child naturally without her or my son I getting HIV. He is almost a year old now and such a awesome blessing.
So in short, it is very possible to have a normal life. what wasn’t normal about my life was the depression-which surprise surprise can be a side effect of taking HIV meds….Thank you for letting me know that having/being born with HIV and taking meds might cause a bit of depression.
Anyway, as long as you keep taking your medicine to remain undetectable your life is as normal as can be. The only downsides to it are the mental/social stigmas. And Despite still struggling with depression every now and then, life is pretty normal and fulfilling.
I hope that one day modern knowledge and education about HIV will allow for the stigmas to be wiped out so that people living with this won’t feel the way I did.