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I had eaten too much.

By F Cade SwansonPublished 3 months ago Updated 3 months ago 1 min read
Top Story - December 2023
Photo by Odin Aerni on Unsplash

For years after I came out

my mother would ask me if I was sick.

"You're too skinny," she would say.

It was an accusation more than an observation.

But my gaunt appearance

was not due to the sickness she imagined.

And while my gay drove me to be lean,

as if my self-doubt consumed all of the nourishment my body needed,

it would be years before the virus she feared I had contracted

would appear


in my no-longer gaunt body.

Self-doubt had been replaced by comfort.

Fullness of parenting

Fullness of relationship.

Comfort opened up new vulnerabilities.


I let HIV in,

delivered in a package of kindness and warmth,

an extra ingredient in a meal of validation.

I had eaten too much.

First step: confession.

I bring my husband to get tested.


I tell no one else.

Unsure if I could deal with their reaction.

Shame. Pity. Shock. Disgust.


Next step: acknowledgement.

It takes me more than a year to go on meds.

I was not ready to accept my new reality.

I was not ready to have my kids find my pills

and ask what's wrong.

Afraid of

"you look sick,"

the words my mom used to say to me.

Afraid of dying.

Final step: acceptance.

And so now I lift weights

And eat lots

And take my meds with meals as prescribed

And worry about bone density and kidney function

And cholesterol levels.

And worry about my kids.

And while the meds keep the virus in check


I secretly work to keep my illness


Still afraid perhaps of being too comfortable

Or too full

Because that didn't work out so well last time.

heartbreaksad poetry

About the Creator

F Cade Swanson

Queer dad from Virginia now living and writing in the Pacific Northwest. Dad poems, sad poems, stories about life. Read more at fcadeswanson.com

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

  2. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  3. Excellent storytelling

    Original narrative & well developed characters

  1. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  2. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (18)

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  • Rachel Deeming7 days ago

    I don't know how to respond to reading this. Raw, honest, all that vulnerability exposed for us to view. I just hope you don't punish yourself. Dealing is punishment enough. But what do I know?

  • L.C. Schäfer2 months ago

    This is humblingly raw.

  • wow.

  • Nicole Poston3 months ago

    Thanks for sharing your expirences. Real and raw. I write that was too about my issues. Not everyone can handle it but for those that can it’s very liberating and refreshing.

  • Caroline Jane3 months ago

    You write so matter-of-factly and I cant even compute that level of bravery. Wow.

  • Kendall Defoe 3 months ago

    Perception, rejection, and exception... All that matters sometimes. This is an excellent piece and I am glad you got the TS!

  • Ace Melee3 months ago

    Congratulations on reaching the top story! We never understand the shame when someone contracts HIV because the person doesn't want it, their lover didn't inform them of anything, and they have to make sure it doesn't rampage inside the body. Some people shamed the individual for being a you know what without knowing the context. This poem shows the emotions of living with HIV. Sad and great poem at the same time.

  • River Joy3 months ago

    Wow this was so raw and beautiful and mourning. Well done. And a well deserved top story

  • The Dani Writer3 months ago

    Vulnerability levels: Broken. Emotional connection: Off the charts. Writer's voice: Beyond relatable. Creativity: Mastery levels. Authenticity: Surpasses known instruments of measurement. You are a breath of fresh air after breaching the surface from ocean depths. I wish I could heart this twice 💕 Never stop writing.

  • Natasha Collazo3 months ago

    This kind of vulnerability earned that TS. Well done.

  • Tressa Rose3 months ago

    I found out my ex of 5 years was cheating on me with men because I ended up in the E.R. with IBS, they did some tests and I found out he gave me an sti. I asked him to get checked out after that, it turned out he had contracted HIV and two other sti's as well. I was so grateful when I found out I was negative for HIV. That's a scary situation to be in. Hope things stay positive for you!

  • Hannah Moore3 months ago

    This is a fantastic piece of work, it reads as if it remains a secret even as you are telling it.

  • Naveed 3 months ago

    Excellent work! Keep up the fantastic effort—congrats!

  • Margaret Brennan3 months ago

    First, I want to congratulate you on TS. This is more than deserving. I'm so sorry you are forced to go through this and hope that you have many friends standing by your side. I wish you and your family all the best.

  • Cathy holmes3 months ago

    That was powerful. I admire your courage in sharing and wish you nothing but good health and happiness. Congrats on the TS.

  • Heather Hubler3 months ago

    Oh that was raw and beautiful. What a journey you've been on...I hope it only leads to happiness and acceptance, and you're able to continue to manage your health so that it leads to a long life. Thank you for sharing this part of you :)

  • Celia in Underland3 months ago

    So powerful and brilliantly written! Brave also x Congratulations on Top Story!

  • Andie Emerson3 months ago

    Damn that was... wow! Beautifully written, you got this 💛

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