Home > Emotional Impact of HIV, Employment, Friends and Family, Living With HIV > March 5, 2012: Paranoia at work…

March 5, 2012: Paranoia at work…

Quite Positive - This is my life after the test came back.

Today started out pretty good — I will give it that. I got a full 8 hours of sleep last night and woke up feeling refreshed. I took my vitamins and ate breakfast about 6:00 A.M., and set off on my journey back to western Oklahoma for work.

I was feeling energetic, happy, and refreshed.

… until I walked into my office.

They Know

I forgot to mention in earlier posts that I actually did end up telling two of my coworkers about my HIV status. One was a 35-year-old female production supervisor, and the other is a male (straight) writer about my age.

I’m not stupid. I knew that at least one of them would go running their mouth to others in the office about what was wrong with me.

That’s how office gossip works, right? In a way, it was actually sort-of the plan for these two to disseminate the information to others so that I didn’t have to.

Part of me wanted everyone in my close-knit office to know what was going on, just so they would understand why I have decided to leave the company at the end of this month. I didn’t want them to think I was being ungrateful or disloyal.

Long story short, I am almost 100% certain that the production supervisor told at least two other girls in my office that I have HIV.

I’m pretty much assuming at this point that my entire office knows.


Anyway, I walked into work this morning and immediately gave my standard ‘hello’ to everyone in the office. Everyone replied, except the production supervisor. This was completely out of character for her based on the friendly dealings we’ve enjoyed in the past.

I wouldn’t have thought much about it at the time except for the fact that her attitude has changed significantly over the past week or so. She has talked to me less, complained more about my work, and made snide comments about my way of doing certain things.

As the day progressed, she made it very clear that she was out-and-out refusing to talk to me.

We literally exchanged two or three words all day long….. and we sit right next to each other.

Paranoia Sets In

If I made some off-color joke (which wouldn’t be a shocker) that offended her, or if she is unhappy with a certain aspect of my job performance… that’s fine. I can address that. All she has to do is tell me what’s going on.

Part of me, though, wonders if she is in fact shunning me because of my HIV status.

Facts: She’s conservative, Republican, has a family, lives in rural Oklahoma, and is somewhat uncultured and sheltered.

Fact: Our working relationship was fine until after she learned of my HIV status.

Could it be a coincidence? Sure. Is it a coincidence? Probably. Am I paranoid? Definitely.

The question here isn’t whether she’s actually mad at me for legitimate reasons or just shunning me due to my HIV status. The point of this post is to address something that I find myself dealing with a lot since I’ve started telling various people that I have HIV: paranoia and over-analysis.

I’m paranoid that people are treating me differently because they know I am positive. I over-analyze their words and actions, and assume that any negativity coming from them has to do with some fear or judgment about my HIV status.

I know I will be dealing with this to some extent for the rest of my life. And I also know that there may be times when people actually are treating me differently because of my HIV.

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, however. I think society, in general, is a lot better than media — or the gay community — gives it credit for. I know that not everyone is ‘out to get me’.

My current goal is to stop assuming that everyone is interacting with me differently than they would a normal person.

It’s going to be hard.

Lessons Re-learned

I’ve worked in offices my entire life. I know office politics, and I know that I should — ideally — keep my personal and professional lives separate.

I failed miserably in this respect at this particular job basically from Day 1.

When I went to work for this company, the staff was small and we all worked in close quarters. We all had similar interests and communicated very, very well with one another. Truth is, in the beginning everyone seemed more like family than coworkers.

I told them that I was gay, they knew every time I went on a date or had drama with a man, and they knew all about my family and off-the-clock activities.

As time has passed, however, the company has changed, the staff has grown, and we’ve all changed job duties. It’s not the same fun, ‘honeymoon environment’ that it used to be.

Yet — for some reason — I never let go of the closeness that I once had with my coworkers. When I was diagnosed with HIV, I was conflicted as to whether or not I should tell my ‘work friends’. Ultimately, as you now know, I opted to let them in on this knowledge.

In retrospect, I realize that this was a bad decision.

Honestly, I doubt I am being shunned at all. I’m pretty sure that most — if not all — of my coworkers are truly sympathetic to my situation, care about my health, and would never judge me based on the fact that I have HIV.

If I had just kept this a secret, however, I would have a little less paranoia to deal with right now.

And did they need to know? No… not really.

I could have lied, said that I was leaving because I didn’t like western Oklahoma and wanted to be back in Oklahoma City, and just left it at that. They might have thought less of me for it, but it would have saved me some paranoia. Truth is, I have an entire list of glowing references outside of my current employer. If everyone had got pissed at me, I wouldn’t have really been missing out on much.

People say don’t make friends at work. People tell you to keep your personal and professional lives separated. I knew that, and I was always the first person to spout it out when a friend came to me with a social problem involving a coworker.

I don’t know why I didn’t taken my own advice with this particular job, but I wish I had.

Lesson learned… er, RE-learned.

I could do with a little less paranoia right now.

Quite Positive - This is my life after the test came back.

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