From a young age, we learn very quickly that no one likes bad news, especially our parents.
We don’t want to have to admit fault to something that could make the ones we love made or, worse, hurt. It is in our nature to want to forgo pain or displeasure. We do more to avoid immediate pain than we do to gain pleasure. Our mind wants to make assumptions and judgments because the future is unknown and that downright shakes us to our core at times.
I’ve talked with so many who are living with HIV that would never even step close to disclosing their status to their parents. Many factors influence one’s decision to disclose. Many things hold people back — including relationships with their parents and other family members, their upbringing, their families religious and philosophical ideology, issues with sex, and, of course, fear.
Disclosing one’s HIV status is a very personal decision, especially to one’s parents. But I’ll tell you why disclosing my status to my parents turned out to be one of the best things I ever did when diagnosed. Before I do that, it’s important to understand my upbringing.
I will always be and have always been a mama’s boy; there I said it. The truth of the matter is I’ve always had a good relationship with both of my parents. They loved me and supported me through five years of crystal meth addiction, near death from necrotizing fasciitis/septic shock, and dozens of hospitalizations. When I was in the hospital so many times you figure they would have a VIP suite for me, my parents slept in the same room with me and took turns staying with me just to make sure someone was there.
When I woke up from my surgeries and was coming out of the clouds of anesthesia, they were by my side. While I cried out for pain when the depression hit me hard due to so many medical issues at a young age, they held out their hands to comfort me.
They were the type of parents that would encourage me always to aim for my goals and accomplish the impossible. My dad has always been a hard working man that instilled a rock solid work ethic in me that continues to this day. My mom’s nurturing personality molded me into the caring person I am. They both played a big part into the man I have become today, and I am forever grateful for that.
For the first part of my life, religion was nothing more than a word for me. Both my parents had conflicting beliefs as one was Mormon and the other Catholic. Due to this, it was decided that when it came to us kids, we would just settle, no religion at all. Well, that changed in my early teens as we all decided to become born-again Christians and I was old enough to understand my new found belief system. Needless to say, all my life it was a fairly conservative home and when I hit my hormonal teens, it remained that way.
Sex just wasn’t one of those issues we talked about. It seemed like if the subject was ignored, it wasn’t happening. From a Christian perspective, it wasn’t supposed to be happening until after marriage.
Driving home after my diagnosis was difficult and I knew I needed some support. All I had was what felt like a void in my life and a paper given to me by a doctor in a white lab coat that essentially said, my life had changed forever. I’d put my parents through enough through my teenage years of addiction and certainly with a mountain of unexpected medical issues, now this?
You think it would be an easy call to make: tell or don’t tell. They had always supported me through thick and thin. Being so close to my parents along with the type of household I grew up in, made it difficult. My mind feared the unknown and how they would react. Sex wasn’t exactly at the forefront of our discussions, so HIV seemed like a foreign subject.
As I thought things over at work that day, I struggled inside. I decided at that time to not tell them, that was until I got home. Seeing the one’s who raised me and loved me since day one after one of the most emotional days of my life made me shake at the knees. A parent knows their child, and I knew deep down inside they could see the hurt I was feeling. It was like they sensed something was seriously wrong even before a word came out of my mouth.
They’d seen me go through so much, but I knew if I were going to make it through this diagnosis, I would need their support. Yes it was very emotional, and many tears were shed, but when it was all said and done, they loved me just the same. They had asked me if I was gay, an all too common stereotype surrounding this virus. They promised me that we would get through this together, they would stick by my side.
It was so hard because I felt as if I had transferred the burden and pain of this diagnosis from myself unto them, it was my issue to deal with. I’ve always been someone that has cared so much about others, and the last thing I wanted to do was to see them hurting, it tore me inside.
Through the following weeks of my diagnosis, it was an up and down of emotions as my parents struggled to process my new life as well. Together we all educated ourselves and the once taboo subject became the subject at dinner table discussions.
It was the beginning of a conversation that needed to take place long before my diagnosis but now things were finally out in the open, sex was ok to talk about and so was HIV because it was now a part of me. My diagnosis not only grew me but our family as a whole.
I understand it’s hard to tell the your parents, but I can honestly say so much of it is in our heads. Yes, I realize that my upbringing is not the same as the next persons nor do I have the same parents. It was a split second decision I made after seeing them and one I haven’t regretted since.
They are my biggest “cheerleaders” so to speak and support me through this journey including my decision to be open about my status. The point is one’s parents can be the biggest resource for support, and many are missing out on it because they want to avoid that pain. Well as we see with my story it doesn’t always end up how our minds like to tell us.
A parent’s love knows no bounds, and that includes HIV, but you will never know until you take that chance.