A photograph of rob goldstein rehearsing a performance piece

Yet, I am still alive

A friend and collaborator took this picture as I got
into character to rehearse a theatrical piece.

My friend snapped this shot as I danced and spoke
my lines.

In fact, I was switching into character, though no one
in my circle of friends knew what that was.

It was a dark time in America, but one goes on with life.

This is a journal entry from the day of that shot:

July 16, 1987

It is July and I am still alive.

The AIDS epidemic is in its sixth year and those six years have passed slowly and cruelly. I had hoped that AIDS would fade like a fad, but it is still around and killing, and the fact that a reactionary movement has gained momentum by openly discussing it as a form of divine retribution sickens me to my core.

Thank God for Joni Mitchell.

I’ve lived so long without a future that the thought of having one terrifies me.

Yet, I am still alive.

And I intend to stay alive.

(c) Rob Goldstein 1987-2017

40 thoughts on “Yet, I am still alive

    1. By 1990 almost everyone in my circle of writers and activists were dead. I took the test
      for HIV and learned I was HIV Negative. It was shattering news. I had spent most of a decade
      living with my face pressed to a wall and suddenly it was gone. I had a future.

      The loss of the network of writers and artists with whom I worked had a profound effect on my
      ability to write. I stopped writing because my audience was dead.

      It felt like war.

      Psychologists do note similarities between holocaust survivors and the survivors of the AIDS epidemic.

      Thank you for your comment Diana.

      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/21st-century-aging/201103/beyond-the-aids-epidemic

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I lived in the Bay Area during the AIDS epidemic. Devastating losing so many friends. Losing a friend I went to high school with in Manhattan Beach was one trigger to my breakdown at 30. He was all about being alive, so his death hit hard.

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    1. Thanks Kitt. For the first six years of the epidemic there was no reliable test and no viable treatment. One symptomatic, death was certain. I watched healthy men shrivel up and die in less than a month. We didn’t know who was next. That’s what I mean by ‘living without a future’. I spent my time writing and stuffing my head with great literature. I also joined Act Up. The reason I believe in American Democracy is because I know it works. My government was content to let the men of the gay community die yet despite that I believe democracy is the best form of government we have. It was up to the gay community to push back and say no.

      People do terrible things to each other out of fear and ignorance which is why education and open debate is so important.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I still haven’t completely sorted it out. My childhood was traumatic enough to cause Complex PTSD and so were the first eight years of the AIDS epidemic. In my therapy, I’ve learned that discovering I was HIV Negative triggered the evolution of a new alternate who had the job of securing the future. I’m under the impression that most people with DID don’t have as many adult alternates.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I learned how to build and configure computer systems and networks got jobs in IT and eventually went on to work in Mental Health, so you’re right. In 92, I met my partner and now my little family is learning how to collaborate on creative projects.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m more stable than I’ve been in years and have fantasies of returning to work. I have to say that had I not had access to traditional long term psychotherapy I would not be this healthy or productive. No other else works. Five to seven years of twice weekly intensive psychotherapy is an expensive treatment to cover; hence the army of paid skeptics who troll the twitter account of the international society for the study of trauma and dissociation which the gold standard when it comes to factual information about the treatment of DID.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. This may interest you as an advocate; insurance companies (at least in 2013) could not turn down an airtight case of medical necessity. I worked as the director of a psychiatric treatment facility before I ‘got sick’ and had to write a case of medical necessity for almost every patient we had.

        When my treatment provider said I needed to see a psychoanalyst, and that my insurance didn’t cover it, I wrote my own case of medical necessity and submitted it directly to the director of the department of psychiatry, and won. The only evidence-based treatment for Dissociative Identity Disorder is long-term psychoanalyses with a dash of DBT tossed in to help with distress tolerance.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes, which leads me to wonder about how to connect with people who run workshops. I can train caregivers and other advocates. I used to give training to the staff. I’m beginning to feel well enough to want to re-engage with the system in some way. I am going to have to start doing some research…

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Erika. I’m still sorting through the events of that time. Some of the writing is so painful I can’t tolerate reading it. We were warriors and in the 80’s we were fighting for our lives. There is so much about our current political situation that reminds me of that period.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It makes me sad to read your reply, Robert, but I appreciate it even more that you are sharing your experiences. Yes, in some way, history seems to repeat. And I think it will until we finally learned. Even more important that you are sharing the events. Thank you for that, Robert!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m the silver lining sort, so I’m compelled to point out why this isn’t entirely bad.

        For me writing is a political act and indistinct from the personal. I am always gay.
        I am always Jewish. I will always have witnessed certain historic moments in the
        political life of my country.

        What changes is my perception of those fragments of identity and memory.

        My writing is inspired by feminism and the great human rights movements of the 201th Century and is relevant again as those movements re-emerge in 21st Century America.

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I, too, lived knowing that my future had a good chance of not being there. Later, my dr told me I came as close to death as possible without dying. That made me really think. I needed a liver transplant because of hep C that also caused liver cancer and a whole host of other things. I had little time left when one became available. Not everyone is that lucky. But here I am, 2 1/2 years later, still here. After the surgery, which had a very long recovery, I understood things about my life that I didn’t realize before. The reason for me being here took on new meaning. The phrase is ‘Turning poison into medicine’ But no one else understands that, or why I have the passions I do. So it became something very personal. You, too, have gone through tremendous challenges and have had a seeking spirit to find out how they all work for you. It’s your journey. I find, like I think you do, that expressing what is in my mind, finding a way to put it in writing helps me to make sense of myself. Every moment of pain I still have to go through – like writing this to you gives that pain a purpose.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad that you were able to get a transplant. Every voice is important. When I start to feel cynical I remind myself that I belong to an amazing species, one that can teach itself to repair the body in miraculous ways. There are many reasons for hope and you are one of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. To find that reason and use to benefit yourself and others gives purpose to your being alive. I have written these next words many times and bear repeating.

        ” The only legacy one can truly leave behind when they die is the effect they have on other people” If that effect is positive then they will carry your legacy forward.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you…I have been reading about epigentics and epigenetic reproduction. We are the only species on this planet that can share information across
        generations….we can read Walt Whitman hear the speeches of Kennedy and Roosevelt. I will always be in awe of life and the human mind.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. hmm . . .I think that very often, people lack appreciation for their life. We use so little of our minds. I try to stretch mine, to understand things that don’t make sense. For example – someone does something to you. You don’t think you deserve it and are a victim of someone else’s intentions. It is done “to” you for no reason. Today, that is my quest for understanding. There is something greater going on. We can call it several things depending on what you believe. 1. You reap what you sow. 2. What goes around comes around. 3. You get back what you dish out. 4. the law of cause and effect. If you have ever uttered any of those words, then why is it that things are done “to” you and it isn’t your fault in any way? Whatever you sowed, you reaped. whatever went around came back around and smacked you. If you dished out something negative – or positive – you get it back. If you made a cause, you will get an effect. If you jump off a building you will smack the ground. You can’t choose when you want cause and effect too work.

        I am also in total awe of life. If people spent more time accepting responsibility for everything that happens to them in their life, they would feel less like a victim. They would be more considerate about the way they treated not only their own life – but other’s lives. This is why you can “feel” the power of the words people spoke or wrote. But if you only listened and said “that’s nice” and it didn’t affect you in any way to apply what you learned to your own life, we would have exactly what we already have now. So much hate. People not caring who they hurt. Using religion as a weapon. But even if we change one small thing inside ourselves it will show on the outside. The microcosm and the macrocosm.

        Liked by 3 people

      4. I believe that what you say is true. You reap what you knowingly sow. You are not responsible for what you don’t know…you are not responsible for decisions that were and are made for you. If you are knowingly cruel to others then you should not be surprised when you are left alone…

        I would not have chosen to have a mental illness. I am not responsible for
        making myself sick, but I am responsible for using all of the resources I can find to make myself better, and I am accountable for the condition of my soul…which is why I seek meaning from my pain….and try
        to use it to create change.

        Children do not sow, they are property until they reach adulthood.

        Adults who were abused as children have difficult roads to travel…

        There are times when it is appropriate to feel like a victim, especially if you have been victimized. That is simple grounding in reality…

        What is not appropriate is wallowing in it.

        “Victim” is a perfectly good word. Perhaps if people were less afraid of the truth of the hells we create for each other we would have fewer victims.

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