I was inspired by the other blog poster who posted today.   I'd written this one last year for Aids Awareness month.   It includes letters from my entire family about my HIV Diagnosis and the impact the news had on them.  All were all written within a month of me finding out in March 06.  If if anyone is having struggles telling family members I think this may help them get some insight from my own family.   I posted the letter in full unedited from my mom, dad, brother and sister.   Since that time 2 years ago I've even disclosed to old family friends, coworkers, cousins and other relatives with no bad experience to date.   Many of you on here are my friends on Myspace as well and are familiar with the groups I've started there and hope others may benefit as well.   That said, here is the original blog  and the complete letters. It's now 2 1/2 years since my diagnosis and my life couldn't be better and my family is truly amazing.   I hope this helps others!

Peace,

 

Wesley 

 

October 2007

My Family's View on HIV, Then and Now! A New Attitude and Outlook!

 

Hey Everyone,

Well, I've been rather busy lately and working on some new projects, but I still speak with newly diagnosed people all the time, more than you could believe.   A big question I get from not only newly diagnosed people, but many HIV+ people is on disclosure to family.   I generally give them my thoughts and opinions after I have as much information and detail to go by.

I was diagnosed as being HIV+ in March of 2006.   I knew absolutely no one who was positive, and had no one to talk to who understood what that was like at the time so I set out to change that.   On the day of my diagnosis my parents were out of state, but my mom knew that I'd been called into my doctors office for some news from a routine physical.  I was sure they were going to tell me I was diabetic or had cancer from all the years of smoking.   Well, I was in for the shock of my life.

My brother happened to be staying at my house at the time and I came home from the doctors office in shock and broke down into tears and told him.   I then got a phone call from my mom to ask what had happened at the doctors office so I told her and both my parents were on the phone as I recall.   At this point I knew my sister would hear the news from them so I called her and let her hear it from me first.   I'm an Uncle of 3 young adults and I just couldn't see letting them take the same foolish risks I had.   Not that they were, but I wanted to make some kind of positive impact.

Immediately, within days I was on the internet frantically searching for contacts and information.   I came across many websites and other groups which seemed completely unhelpful and clearly many were written by people who had no clue what I was dealing with.

After some initial research I read that writing in a journal or diary was recommended for people dealing with traumatic news or events.   Well, I took that quite literally and started.   I made some posts here and there and started making contacts immediately who knew what I was going through.

It occured to me that my family was facing the same frustration with such poor resources available and a plethora of misinformation on the internet.   I had previously been given and opportunity to do an article locally prior to my HIV diagnosis.   I spoke to the editors and people that ran the publication and decided to use that opportunity to inform others and overnight I ended up with more support, emails, offers, and friends than I could have imagined.   Anyways, prior to the one article being published I decided to inform everyone close to me so they didn't hear this news from another source.   I did this by phone, email and a few letters. 

In retrospect, I would not recommend this method of disclosure to everyone because it became a stress nightmare as my phone rang off the hook and I had more email than you could imagine in a month.

I started thinking of solutions to handle this mass influx of communication and so I launched my own HIV discussion group to funnel some of that correspondence into so that I didn't have to rehash the same information over and over.   It worked really well.  

With all of the attention I was recieving I decided to ask my family for help.   It was my opinion that it would be therapeudic for them as well to write and express their emotions on paper rationally.   Well, I wasn't sure that they'd all do it, but immediately my sister and my mother wrote their letters in hopes that it would benefit others.   Soon after my brother and father wrote their letters.   When I asked them to write those letters I figured I'd ask them to discuss their feelings on how my being gay had impacted them years before and then the recent news of my HIV diagnoses had impacted them.

Well, it's now 18 months later and I'm happy to say that my family who supported me 100% back then still stands by me 1000% now.   My parents have done more research than I could imagine.   My sister continues to support me and she even makes jewelry for AIDS awareness and breast cancer causes.  My brother always shows up when I host parties for HIV+ people and is not only friendly to people, but very well liked.  Now, after much discussion my 71 year old mother has agreed to launch her own website and HIV group as a support and information network for other families afflicted and affected with HIV with full support from my entire immediate family, some extended family and some truly great friends I've made along the way.

I wanted to spend a lot of time perfecting this blog, but I've been busy with a lot of projects and life so I just wanted to get this done and give everyone a little bit of an update on my family and me.   I've got a lot of work ahead and I'm very lucky to have such amazing friends and family on my side.   I decided to include those letters from 18 months ago for reference and in hopes they might benefit others and now the links are in one blog I can refer others to.

Well, as typical I've rambled on and I imagine I will be making a few corrections and updates to this blog as I see mistakes.   My goal is to help everyone afflicted and affected with HIV and make a difference.   Soon, I will be annoucing my mom's new group as well so I recommend you check back periodically and I'll have a lot more information and resources to come.  

A big thank you to all of the incredible people I've met since that bleak day in March of 2006 is in order!  ; )   

Sincerely,

Wesley

My families letters:

 

My mom's letter she wrote shortly after my HIV diagnosis last year:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

My Mom's Real World After Hearing I'm HIV+!
Current mood: drained
Category: Life

The following are words from my mother.   I have to tell you reading this letter really doesn't do it justice.  My mom wanted to make sure it sounded ok and read it to me over the phone.  I listened intently as she read this to me pausing with each sentence choking back tears.   I could hear the anger, confusion, anxiety, and desperation in her voice.

These are my mom's words:

 

I never dreamed I would be on a computer typing a
message written about Gay's. It broke my heart when our
son told us he was Gay.  Just couldn't believe it.  I
was beginning to think something is strange as he
didn't date, but had girls he ran around with.  Shed
buckets of tears over it, but it was awhile before he
told us and must have been scared to death.

My selfish thoughts were he will never have a wedding
or children.  After our daughter had such a nice
wedding and all the fun of planning.  Then our other
son was married.

Well life has gone on and Wesley moved to California
had a beautiful apartment and sold it and moved to
Austin.

Just about three weeks ago he called and told my
husband & I that he was HIV positive.  I couldn't
believe it, I'm not over it yet.  Yes I wish this had
never happened and of course our hearts are out to him
and we want him to take care of himself and not worry
about us.  But the tears still come and I hate this
Virus and hope we get some people in the White House
who will work on Stem Cell Research and many other
diseases.

Never in a child's life would they ask to be born Gay
or Lesbian.  But they are and our son is one of them.
I'm not going to give him up or tell him he is no
longer in the family.  He's our son and we love him
dearly.

He has many friends that are straight and they have a
wonderful time together.  I was included in a party
one night when I was in California with a mixed group
and we went to a gay bar.  I and others were treated
very nice, no swearing or dirty talk.

Meet a young man who was going to Medical School and
he told me it was his last year in school and that he
was afraid to tell his parents that he was gay as they
might cut his money off for school.  Imagine what
stress he was under and trying to study.  Yes, some of
you will say "how dishonest", well maybe so , but I
would do the same.  A little white lie doesn't hurt
sometimes if someone is going to get hurt, and imagine
how proud his folks are of him when he becomes a Dr.

There are lawyers and many young men who have their
education or talents in many fields and they have a
right to life just like anyone else.

I guess what bothers me most is the way some of the so
called Religious people are very quick, not all, to
condemn the Gays and Lesbians.  Why? What makes you
such a angel or authority in the subject.  I'm
neither, but until you have walked a mile in their
shoes maybe you should think twice and read some
books on the subject.  Or maybe you can come out of
your upright families and talk with them, not condemn.
I thought you were religious.

No parent would want their child to live through hell
like some of you upright religious people treat them
and your children.  Even at the work place many of
them are not fair with raises and promotions.

Life must go on and there are tears at times and you
wish you could do more.  It just takes one mistake and
you may pay for it for a longtime.

Remember don't believe anyone you are going to have
sex with unless you both have been tested.

                              Wesley's Mom

My dad's letter:

Monday, April 24, 2006

 

My Dad Speaks Out about Me Being Gay & Now HIV+!
Current mood: happy
Category: Life

As many of you know about a month and a half ago I was diagnosed as being HIV .   Rather than hiding in a shell or dealing with that devasting news alone I chose to share my story immediately with my family and the world.  My hope is that I can make a difference in the lives of other people affected or at risk of HIV which basically includes everyone in the world now straight or gay.   For years, I lived in fear of letting anyone know I was gay for fear of the obvious ramifications our society places on gay and lesbian people.   However, when I learned I was HIV positive I decided immediately that I'd be damned if I was going to put myself in another "closet" again.   I have been posting my story as it unfolds and I asked my immediate family to write letters about how me being gay (which they've known for years) and now how me being HIV has personally impacted my family.   The following is my father's letter to 73 Million people on Myspace sharing a bit of our family history and his views on me being gay and now HIV :

 

Following is the most difficult composition I have ever labored to prepare:

 

I grew up in another era on the Great Plains of the American West in a family quite isolated, and therefore, perhaps insulated, from the rest of the world.  Our nearest neighbor was an old bachelor rancher who lived 1 mile away.  Our family tended to be a family of relatively few words.  All relatives lived at least 2 states or farther away from us.  Of course I grew up before television had invaded homes (an extremely positive condition), and can you believe, there was no telephone in our house, even up to the time I graduated from High School and moved on.  Normally emotions were not expressed freely in that atmosphere; they were what everyone tended to keep to him-or herself.  Complaining was not allowed.  Life on the farm was always very busy and everyone had their assigned tasks and chores.  It was a healthy life and we really ate well.  Somehow, from this background I developed a powerful spirit of optimism, probably partly from observing my own fathers optimism.  Another trait that seemed to be fostered by life on the farm was a certain tenacity or toughness.  If you fell off a horse, it was not good to cry you were expected to get right back on and continue.  You were never allowed to quit in the middle of a job, no matter how hot, dirty or miserable you stuck with it until it was finished, and in the end you had pride in what you had accomplished.

 

When my wife and I had children I always felt it would be good if they could live in the country  on a working farm and have experiences growing up similar to my own.  However this wasnt possible as I was not cut out to pursue a life as a farmer.  The closest we seemed to get to that was an acre or two a short ways out of town, with a few animals from time to time.

 

When my son, Wesley was a child he always appeared to be a bright, happy kid, often seemingly more mature than others his age. There was no hint that he might somehow be different than the mainstream majority of boys.  As the years progressed I did notice that he never seemed to develop an interest in competitive sports which I have always thought are very worthwhile, in moderation.  However, we never tried to push him into athletics.  He did well in school for years but somewhere around the 8th grade he became very unhappy with school.  We happened to live in an area that was heavily populated with a high percentage of one religious group and the local schools were dominated by that group.  We were not a religious family and I have to say that I even sensed a level of uncomfortability living in a community where the small town newspaper published the attendance records of the numerous churches every week, something like publishing baseball scores, indicating a competition for boosting memberships. 

 

In those days I had no clue that Wesley might be gay.  We did not fully comprehend Wesleys unhappiness with his school environment but in looking back perhaps his condition was a significant part of his unhappiness at that time.   We decided to try to find a school that he would enjoy attending.  After a strenuous application process he was finally accepted into a magnet school which had a limited number of openings, in the adjacent city.  This proved to be an excellent move and soon he appeared to return to his more cheerful disposition.

 

During Wesleys high school years I gradually became aware that he got along extremely well with girls but he didnt seem to have what I would classify as a normal interest in them.  I gradually became almost sure that he was gay, and now and then discussed it with my wife.   Several years actually transpired during which I was too polite, and he was probably too scared, to bring up the subject.  Ive forgotten the exact time, but at some point after Wesley had moved to California he traumatically informed us in a telephone call that he was gay and could no longer hide that fact from us.  Up to that time it was probably the most difficult phone call he had ever made.  We tried to console him and told him that this was not really a surprise that we had been sure for years.  We also expressed that he would always be a valued and loved member of our family, in no way diminished by this news.  We assured him that we would fully support him in whatever endeavors he chose to follow.

 

 Obviously I was not thrilled to have a son who turned out to be gay.  Not because it should be a problem for me but I understand that life has to be tougher for him because I know he and others in this group are not automatically fully accepted by everyone in the country. I know of no one who would wish to have a child born with this unfair condition.   I am not an authority on the subject but it is obvious that this is a condition that one is born with; it is not a lifestyle that individuals suddenly decide one day to adopt.   To me it is very appalling to hear idiotic religious and political leaders, and others, make statements that people chose that lifestyle.

 

Throughout the many years since Wesleys gay status was confirmed I have lived with the fear that one day we would get the phone call that he had contracted HIV or Aids.  I have been painfully aware of the statistics through this long period that the incidence of these afflictions is vastly greater in the gay community than in the community at large in this country.  Nevertheless I always suppressed this fear much in the way I do every day when I climb into my automobile.  On the highway one always thinks, I am a pretty good driver so Im not going to be involved in any bad auto accidents.  Such things always happen to someone else.  Unfortunately, accidents sometime happen to the best of drivers (many times caused by others), and unfortunately sometimes HIV accidents (caused by others) happen to normally very cautious people.

 

When we recently received the news from Wesley that he had been diagnosed as HIV Positive I was shocked, but not totally surprised, as it had always seemed to me like a statistical possibility.  Yes, my first reaction was probably denial as I recommended the obvious, that he needed to be retested to confirm this finding.  Confirmation of the results brought on anger and sadness.  Yes, I have shed plenty of tears, thinking about this situation.

 

A few days ago, following additional testing, Wesley learned that his current numbers for the significant blood components fall with favorable brackets, indicating that at this time is not necessary for him to take any medicine for his condition.  This encouraging news has greatly buoyed my spirits and boosted my general optimism.  My optimism for Wesleys future is fueled by the following facts:

 

         Wesley is a battler who will relentlessly dig out the best medical knowledge available.

     

          He is already in the process of contacting others hit by the virus to learn what practices work best to prohibit any worsening of the condition.

 

          Medical science has obviously made great strides in the treatment of HIV in the last decade or two and I am confident that additional improvements lie ahead.

 

Rather than suffering in the dark Wesley has decided to go public with his situation, to confront this illness head-on and to rattle the cages of the complacent.  By relating his story he hopes to be able to prevent others from making dangerous mistakes of judgment.  I am proud of him and fully support his fight.

 

                                                                                                                                    Wesley's Dad

My brother's letter:

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

 

My Big Brother Speaks Out, HIV+ Affects Everyone!
Current mood: hopeful
Category: Life

Well this letter is to my little brother, and for the rest of the rest of the world to read, and to take what good you can out of this letter, that I write and say, and to use this information to help a loved one in your family or life, and educate them on the dangers of unprotected sex.

I guess I should tell you why I call Wesley my little brother; well he is ten years younger than I am and I have just always referred to him that way.

Wesley asked me if I would write something to post on his site, and I told him that I might, but that if I did that it would just bring up so many emotions for me, which is very hard for me, because I love him so much and care about his well being. So having said that I should give you some background history on Wesley and myself.

I would like to think that Wesley looks up to me as his big brother, and you should know he does. Because ill give you a quick example why he does! Well I had a conversation with a lady friend of his that he met in Houston and she told me how much that Wesley cared for me, and all the nice things he said about me, and when she told me that, I felt so proud. Anyway as it goes with any brothers, Wesley and I have had our differences in the past, as you might guess. Also you should know that when Wesley decided to as they say; come out of the closet about being gay, he decided to tell me before ever telling my folks or my sister. I am and have always been open minded, so I never had a problem with that. The hard part was keeping it from the rest of the family, which I did for approximately three years.

So now here comes the hardest part of this letter for me to talk about, and that my friends is the look on my little brothers face when he told me that he was HIV+. Wesley and I where in the kitchen and I was sitting down and he was standing close to the refrigerator, when he spoke up and said we need to go somewhere to talk and he just started to breakdown and cry, and I said whats the matter Wes and thats when he said he tested positive for HIV. All I could do was grab him and hug him and hold him and cry with him. Well as I am writing this it is five AM and Wesley is upstairs asleep, and I am glad he is up there because this is making me cry even more just to think about this and writing about this, because I dont want to think about it anymore I just want to forget about it I want it to go away I want it to be just a bad dream I want the test to be wrong, I dont want to feel like this, and I dont want the rest of my family to feel like this. But I know that this is a real reality check and things like this just dont go away like that.

Well having talked about all this was very emotional for me as it has been for the rest of my family and will continue to be, but we have to be strong and keep up the spirit.

Also I would like to thank all of you out there for your support for my brother in his time of need, as he has a long uphill battle and I know he enjoys all of the nice comments and e-mails. I love you little brother, keep your head up.

 

P.S. For those that know me, no question is due.

For those that dont know me, no question will do.

 Patrick

My sister's letter:

Sunday, April 02, 2006

 

A Wonderful Analogy from My Sister About Me Being HIV+!
Current mood: contemplative
Category: Life

 

I was driving my husbands company car in the rain, to the airport to pick him up. So, already Im on high alert because I am nervous driving the company car, should I be in a wreck! I noticed a small grey car in front of me; his left rear wheel was wobbling strangely. It was strange enough to cause alarm. But, if you knew all the near misses Ive had on the highway, youd realize, Im very paranoid and pretty much ANYTHING that seems the slightest bit amiss on the highway will send up red flags for me. If you have ever read the book BLINK you know what Im talking about, it is like a sixth sense, not entirely psychic, but a combination of innate self preservation mixed with experience and a bit of luck.

So, back to the car. I had a conversation with myself, about that car, which probably saved me a lot of pain and misery. I asked, Should I speed up and gesture the person to pull over and let him know it seemed weird or should I slow down and back off or should I call 911 and explain what I felt was a dangerous situation? Self-preservation won out. I slowed way down and didnt even have time to think about what to do next. Just as I slowed down, a large green SUV whizzed past me, annoyed by my slowing down I presume, and pulled into my lane between me and the suspicious grey car. I slowed down a bit more because now I was thinking, if something happens to the grey car, the green car is going to have a problem and Ill run into it. As that thought occurred to me and I slowed down more, life became surrealistic. The grey car came to a dead stop on the highway, and the green SUV rammed into the rear of it, barely having time to hit their breaks. I have no idea how I had time to even think of what to do, but I saw a blue car baring down on me from behind, barely swerve to the left to avoid me, I saw a black car to my right pull over which gave me room half in his lane and half in my lane to go around the two smashed cars in front of me. Meanwhile, debris is flying all over and I notice the strangest thing. The grey car still has all his wheels. A massive piece of some sort of insulation like junk is on the road which I think may have been what stopped the grey car. It wasnt even the wheel that caused all the problems. 

Im sure everyone can relate to the level of denial, panic, fear, sorrow, guilt, anxiety, relief, anger, and surrealism I felt in that moment. It is not unlike what Ive felt the last couple weeks since you called me and told me that you tested positive for HIV. I felt all those things in that moment too, denial in the hope that your recent bout of Stephen Johnsons Disorder could have cause a false positive, panic that you would become despondent and kill yourself, fear that there would be financial and social implications, sorrow that this has happened to you and our family, guilt that there isnt anything I can do to change any of this, anxiety about the future, relief that you wont die in a week or a month, but that you have time left in this world to find happiness and purpose, anger that someone would knowingly give you this disease and that it even exists and of course all those emotions are enveloped by surrealism. 

Just as I saw the car accident coming, I think Ive always seen that this was a very real possibility too. I didnt feel shocked when you told me. It isnt that I thought you are particularly careless or stupid or deserved it at all, it is just that you are in very high risk category and the odds arent in your favor. Of course, pretty much anyone who has intimate contact is at risk. I cried for a couple days, but I still have to go to work and pay the bills and be with my family. I feel sad at times but I tend to be more optimistic than wallow in misery and negativity. Just as I managed to get around the disastrous car wreck with some sense of gratefulness and insight and ability to get back on the highway inspite of whatever other bizarre incidents are out there waiting to happen to me,  I know you too will find ways to circumvent disaster and find gratefulness and insight and have the ability to move on to better things in spite of whatever else comes your way.

I know there are rough days and good days ahead, but I feel hopeful and optomistic for now that you will use this wake up call to improve your health and life. I am hopeful that you will learn to let others deal with life and be who they are and accept them as they are, just as they have done for you. Many are not capable of emoting their feelings or saying just the right thing or living up to any one elses expectations, nor should they have to, but it doesnt mean they dont support you or care about you. I love you,   Holly

1 Comment
  1. AustinWesley 13 years ago

    When I was copying this into the format on here it didn't allow the hyperlinks so I just posted the entire letters.   I do hope this insight helps others.   These were among my public blogs on Myspace.  I had no idea at the time it put me into the Top Blooger on Myspace and recieved over 4000 emails from people the 1st month alone. 

    Anyways, keep in mind I was diagnosed less than 1 month at the time all these were written and emotions were running high.   Things couldn't be better now!

    I'm lucky to have a terrific family and I realize I underestimated them before and will never take them for granted again and appreciate every day I have with them.

    I am leaving this blog open to comments, but I will delete any derogatory or inflamatory remarks cause who needs that crap right? ; )

    Wesley

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