I was on my fourth day on Nevirapine when the rashes came out and my temperature shot up to 41°C. I was alone in my room in my aunt’s place and I could barely turn off the electric fan. I was already starving and couldn’t remember the last time I ate but I couldn’t stand up, and I couldn’t bear anyone seeing me like that, as no one in my family knows. Then I started to get chills and thought my head was going to crack open. I closed my eyes and wished it would end.
That was the first time I wished I would die.
I was staring at the railroad tracks of the LRT and my boyfriend’s words when he told me that there was no more future for him and me kept echoing in my head. My feet were just outside the yellow line and just a few inches near the platform’s edge. I closed my eyes and could hear the LRT closing in. I could have just leaned a bit forward and let gravity take care of the rest, and then this pain could have been gone for good.
I was already three weeks on Efavirenz and my dreams have become way weirder than a Lady Gaga or Juno Reactor music video. The dreams were so vivid that I remembered feeling, tasting, and even smelling everything. A few times, I knew it was a dream and thought that I have woken up, but I was just in another one.
There were nights when memories I thought I have long forgotten become real again.
That cloudy day, my mother has just gone to work. My older cousin was beside my small naked body in a small folding bed. He covered both of us, and under the sheets, after he closed all the windows and locked the doors, he told me to be quiet.
I couldn’t count anymore how many times this vivid dream was on nocturnal replay.
Mornings lingered with that familiar pain and horror as a six year old boy.
My waking tears couldn’t quell this growing weariness.
One day, my friend asked me to buy some lunch at a food stall along the national highway. The lady was heating up the food I ordered while I was watching the speeding trucks before me. I walked to the highway’s edge and basked in that hot noon sun. The sky was clear and blue, and I thought that this day may be a good day to die.
The traffic light was on the 30-second countdown before the trucks would speed by again. I took four steps forward. I stared blankly at the black asphalt and felt again that creeping numbness from the hollow of my chest. But then the lady called me out as my food was ready.
When I got a rejection email for an international scholarship (which I think is because of my HIV status), I did wish that I shouldn’t have turned back to get that food.
I was at one of The Well‘s meetings and we were all asked by the facilitator on how we felt that day. Did we feel happy, mad, or sad? When it was my turn, it felt like a dam broke inside. My tears and pain flowed like flood.
I thought hope was gone after testing positive. I thought everything was heading downhill.
Deep inside, I cursed anyone who told me it was going to be OK. At that time, OK seemed impossible.
My friends at The Well helped me embrace this darkness.
It is through making peace with our darkness that we can find our own light.
It was in The Well meetings that I started to realize that I wasn’t alone. A support group friend once shared the same exact feeling of reaching that dead end.
The ARVs may contribute some of it. Some researches do show how Efavirenz can contribute to suicidal ideations. I know there are so many other factors that contribute to it. At The Well, as a barkada, we go through all of them together gently.
I am grateful for the support group I am in. It may be providential how The Well opened at the time of my life when I needed so much help.
If you clicked and read this article because you felt or is feeling the same, please do know that you don’t have to go through this alone.
Message us at The Well and I hope to see you in one of our meetings.
There is life after HIV.