It is true that these last few weeks we have been facing a global challenge, the coronavirus (Covid-19).
As anything else from a spiritual point of view, it is not only the external event but also what we make of it;
what meaning does it have for us and what we learn from it.
It is interesting to notice how people respond to this challenge; some people are being wrapped up in fear and they stock their homes preparing for the worst, some people get indifferent, some people feel untouchable and continue living as they would normally do, some people are looking to make money from it and so on.
One thing is unquestionable: something threatening is happening and we all deal with it in out own ways.
Thinking about this virus took me inevitably back to the challenge I faced on this very day six years ago. I felt this was a good opportunity to share this important part of my journey, not because I feel intimate and safe to do so with the wider public, but because I can tell it in a way that might provide some food for thought on what dealing with a threat might mean to someone.
Having to deal with a threat means that our status, a part of ourselves is shaken and might collapse. A threat can be a life threatening illness, a war, an abuse, a loss, a divorce and other serious events.
In March of 2014 after receiving a warning text from an acquaintance, I went to get tested for STDs and since I have always taken precautions I was not very worried. I was found to be positive of HIV.
That very moment my whole world collapsed in front of my eyes. Everything that I thought of myself was destroyed, I was destroyed and all of a sudden I became part of what was in my mind as the 'doomed' category of people; those people who are completely careless, doing chemsex and engage in dangerous sexual activities. I was none of that, I was a well educated 'good boy' who was having the occasional 'fun' with different partners. I never had serious health problems and was not consistently exposing myself in high risk situations and, yet, I contracted the virus.
Luckily, in these very difficult first days I had some good friends, a partner and my family who were very supportive. I took the risk to start disclosing to them as it felt unbearable to deal with it by myself and I was even thinking to take my life. The pain was enormous and I was blessed for my therapist at the time that helped me to process my feelings and to try to make sense of what was happening.
I cried buckets grieving for the permanent loss of my good health, for the shame and guilt that I was feeling that I have done something wrong to myself and now I was paying the price, for all the future rejections that I would experience from potential partners who would not accept me for being positive, for all the hurtful comments from people.
At the same time, things surprisingly started making sense. I was indeed doing something 'wrong' before that but that was not having unprotected sex- that self accusation passed quickly as many straight and gay friends subsequently disclosed to me that they themselves have been having unprotected sex and, luckily, they had not contracted the virus-.
Each person attributes their own meaning of the events (including the cause of an illness) that happen to them and to the world. There is no specific medical explanation of the causes of the cancer and, yet, people do not change eating and emotional, for example, patterns during and after their treatment for the disease; they miss the opportunity to truly look at what might be off balance in their emotional, mental and spiritual health. I did not want to miss that opportunity.
I knew that there was a reason why I contracted the virus given that so many people I knew could have also contracted it but they did not. That reason for me was a chronic self hatred; the virus was a manifestation of my death wish. I still remember praying to die before the virus because I was not feeling worthy of living. Simultaneously, in order to feel safe in the world, I had created a distant and arrogant facade that was cold, often mean and needless of others.
Hell I was vulnerable and I started realising it only when death was looking me in the eyes telling me: 'now you have got two options, either you surrender to me as you wanted or you start now taking care of yourself'. I chose the latter. Humiliated and deeply wounded for my arrogance I had to go back and build a new life. That life included a big responsibility and commitment to change my lifestyle and start loving myself more.
Surely, in order to love him, I had to start seeing him from a different angle and start appreciating for who he was, not for more or less than that.
This process made me and continues to make me today a kinder person, a better and more efficient therapist, a richer human being because now I feel I can understand, be with and embrace mine and other people's wounds better, now I feel more whole and I am not wrapped up in fear, now I can be more vulnerable and ask for help, now I know that, at least, on a physical level I am not untouchable and humans are not untouchable. now I am stronger to protect myself and others, now I know better what is and what is not that important for me, now I can forgive myself and others more easily, now I have learned not to blame other people for their illnesses and the list of lessons gets longer and longer.
Now that humanity is having another diagnosis threatening its children, I would suggest from my own journey, to turn inwards and look at our personal and collective meaning. Things do not happen by accident.
This virus is here to teach us something, only if we choose to listen to it.
Now that we are going to have plenty of time inside our houses, lets use it to look at ourselves in the eyes and ask: 'Are you happy?' 'What makes you happy?, 'From all the things around you, what is it that really matters to you?', 'Is there something missing in your life?', 'What is it that you truly care about?', 'Do you feel you love yourself and others around you enough?', 'Do you really show your feelings, yourself and all your colours to the world?'.
Sometimes there is no easy way of acquiring a lesson and some of these questions might have painful but truthful answers.
Physical death is not the end of the journey, but soul captivation might feel like a dead end.