Oct. 11, 2022

Bill Brochinsky has survived 42 years with HIV, while caring for other HIV+ men

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My guest, Bill Brochinsky, shares inside stories of the health care system and AIDS that I have never been exposed to before.  He speaks of taking a stand with the hospital where he worked, making efforts to implement more compassionate care of patients with AIDS.  With every patient he cared for, he could see himself reflected back to him.  He made a deal with the Universe and the Universe granted his wish.  If you ever feel like you are in darkness, with no light at the end of a very long tunnel, this episode is for you.

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Coach Maddox  0:03  
Hello, Bill Brochinsky. And welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast.

Bill Brochinsky  0:10  
Hello, and well, thanks for having me.

Coach Maddox  0:13  
Well, and thanks for being willing to give me some of your time to do this, I have been excited to have a conversation with you get to know you and hear your story. And I know that the listeners will feel the same way.

Bill Brochinsky  0:26  
Well, fortunately, I'm blessed to be retired. Finally. And I think this is the time in your life when you shouldn't be having conversations with people and giving your time.

Coach Maddox  0:38  
I agree completely, I'm in the same boat. Well, just to let the listeners know how we know each other, we actually don't know each other. This is our first time to speak, we've maybe had a brief email exchange to set this up. Somebody in Bill's life, told him about the podcast and suggested that he might be a good guest. And so he listened to an episode or two and then reached out and put his name in the hat as a guest. And, and here we are. So this is our first time to talk. And I know only what the topic of his story is about, but I don't know the story itself yet, because we haven't gotten to that part. So before we jump in, Bill, I would love to know what it means to you to be an authentic gay man.

Bill Brochinsky  1:32  
Wow, that's a big one. We could talk about that for an hour. Geez. Good. Wow. That is a an on going. thing. I think. Authenticity in general, is something I strive to achieve. But it changes daily weekly, changes who you're with. It's just a constant thing. And I just mentioned earlier, I'm fortunate enough to be retired. I'm also fortunate enough to be retired and, and being aware that as a person who now has a lot less external pressures, to be some standard, whatever that is, and to interfere a little bit with my authenticity, like your job and family and parents and etc, etc. I'm in a beautiful position to really work on my authenticity and not apologize for it and not have as many external pressures to behave in a certain way. That is acceptable. Authenticity, whatever the adage, the hope that was a good answer.

Coach Maddox  3:07  
No, no, I get it completely. And I hadn't really thought of it. But yes. You know, as some of those external pressures leave our life when family passes away, or when the job comes to an end. Yeah. It does free us up to express who we are. More genuinely. And yes, authentically, beautifully stated. I love it. Thank you for that contribution. You know, it's amazing. I've gotten a gazillion different answers. And they've all been correct. That's the beautiful, they've all been different. And they've all been correct. There's someday there's going to be a book out of that perhaps

Bill Brochinsky  3:50  
We are all uniquely authentic. Yes. Just let us be it, please.

Coach Maddox  3:56  
Exactly. So to get down to our big topic, what we're here for what has been the biggest challenge in your life, the hardest thing that you've gotten through or are still continuing to make your way through?

Bill Brochinsky  4:16  
Well, fortunately, or unfortunately, I have had a life full of challenges. limitation, limitations restrictions. Not one trauma, but multiple traumas. I guess you can view it, I could view it as tragic or annoying, whatever way I want to go with that. But yeah, all of them collectively have made me who I am today. And so it talks to my stream into my character is a person who is a survivor. But the biggest one, and it's the one I chose to be the topic that maybe you'll have me back to talk about some of the others. But it would be being a long term survivor of HIV for more than 42 years as a young gay man in his early 20s, who was just like in the honeymoon phase of coming out and saying, Yes, I'm a gay person and being authentically gay. Within a very short time, the door was slammed in my face, or in the face of, of all game and, and on that door was a sign that said, danger, danger, Warning, warning, you may die because of your choices. There is a gay plague a gay disease out there, and it's fatal. And what do you do with that information? How do you how do you respond as a gay man? Do you run back in a closet? Do you bury yourself too? I don't know. It was just over over overwhelming. I was feeling the highest of highs and then the bottom just went out. And it didn't go out. Just like a floor collapsing. It was a deep, dark, continuous, ongoing motherfucking abyss. When you didn't think it could get deeper and darker and sadder and scarier it did. And I guess uniquely for me here I was a healthcare professional and nurse who is all about healing and helping and saving the world stamping out disease and saving lives. And here, I was in a world I was actually in the world of nursing, and medicine that didn't handle those initial years very well. And I saw some of the most horrendous things going on in what was supposed to be a health care environment. And I saw people discriminated against and punished and tortured and isolated and just was a frickin mess. Those were not good times.

Coach Maddox  7:49  
Well, and that's not a story we hear a lot of comments about. I mean, what you're saying right now, is not something I've heard a lot of I don't know that I had been really exposed to very many people that were in health care during that time and saw behind the lines. You know, we've all seen the documentaries that may or may not be terribly accurate. But some of I mean, some of what you're saying is, this is the first time I've heard that. I mean, I know in the very beginning, they didn't even know how it was transmitted. So we didn't know whether it was airborne, or whether you could get it from touching or shaking hands with somebody, we didn't have a clue.

Bill Brochinsky  8:35  
Yeah. And that's where the fear and the paranoia and the craziness went over the top. I was working as a nurse at Georgetown University Hospital. And I remember getting a couple patients on our unit was an oncology cancer unit. And a lot of people had ks lesions, Kaposi sarcoma, and we didn't know much, and I get that. But I saw a lack of humanity. And I remember one of my head nurses saying to me, Bill, you're spending too much time in those rooms, you're going to get it. Whatever it was. And I'm thinking, I'm spending time in these rooms because these men are lonely and in fear and petrified and they're going to die. That's why I'm spending times in this time in this room. And she said, the longer you spend time in that room, the more you're putting other patients at risk, and I'm thinking I'm taking all the precautions in the world, but it was her fear. And when people died, they threw away phones, beds, burned mattresses. This was Georgetown University Hospital. They just, I mean, I'm sure other hospitals did the same thing, but that's where I was at that time. Time, they threw away everything because it was contagious. While we didn't know wasn't contagious, and then even after we discovered this is infectious people still treated, everybody like they weren't contagious. You were, they were leopard's for a long, long time. And then finding out when I was at Georgetown University Hospital, I was actually part of a Western bloc study. So I participated as a volunteer. And after the 10th time of having a positive Western bloc, I said to the guy who was random study, I don't think I need to know any more than I'm positive, that's enough. But I realized I was positive while all this craziness was going on, and people would come in and they would get pneumonia, and they would die. And it was tough. It was tough to be a nurse who is loving and caring and generous, generous with what my soul, my caring and my knowledge, and then to watch people around me treat people horribly. And yes, some of those documentaries don't do it justice, because I don't think the world would really want to watch that isn't bad enough living it? 

Coach Maddox  11:24  
Yeah, I can't even imagine. So build during that time you are surrounded by it. You're you're in it every day. And at the same time, you're going through your own crisis, of not even knowing what it really means. Being told that you're positive, but not really knowing what that means. Because we still know knew so little about it. How did that? How was that for you on an internal level?

Bill Brochinsky  11:58  
It was confusing it was. It was exhausting. To wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and think oh, my god, is that little red mark? That's my first ks lesion. Am I next? I mean, there was always that underneath. Am I next? 

Coach Maddox  12:23  
Well, and how were people in your life around you at that time? family members, friends? Were they supportive? Or did they pull away? How did you experience your personal life as back then when there was so little known as a man with HIV?

Bill Brochinsky  12:43  
Well, I hid it for a long time, as many people did. I was in a noose, I was in Washington, DC, I was brand new, I was making an all new friends. I don't remember sharing it for quite some time. I for a while told myself, I won't tell people until I actually have the cancer, the Ks and an annual I'm gonna die. I'll just keep it a secret for a while. I kept it a secret at work. But somehow somebody found out or suspected something. And actually, the hospital kind of worked diligently to try and get rid of me. But I wouldn't go until I was ready to go. I knew what they were doing. They're trying to fire me for being HIV positive and, and good thing they didn't because I would have went up after them full force hope. And hopefully I've won that lawsuit. But they did. They backed down because I stood up and said, You're not going to do this. I'll leave when I'm ready to leave. And this isn't right. And how your, what they didn't like was that I I had to stand up and be authentic and say the way you're treating these patients is not right. And that's what they want to fire me. That's the image that they wanted to fire me for standing up to them. While underneath it. I knew they wanted to fire me because somehow they suspected I was HIV positive as well.

Coach Maddox  14:23  
And I would love to know where that came from that at a young age in such a vulnerable place in your life. That ability to take a stand, take on an entire institution and take a stand. Well, where did that come from?

Bill Brochinsky  14:41  
I think it came from my childhood and in my childhood. I grew up in a very intimidating home. I mean, they tried to be loving. My mom certainly was loving but my dad was an Intimidator for sure. And so for most of my youth The message to me was children should be seen not heard. Well, when I became an adult, I frickin wanted to be heard. Nobody was going to suppress me any more. Nobody was going to lie anymore. And I can't. I can laugh at it now, but it wasn't funny, then I kind of had a reputation of being the guy who had brutal candour. Because it, Bill said it, he meant it. If you want it an ominous answer, we're gonna get it from Bill. But I think I was overcompensating for those decades, in childhood of children should be seen and not heard. Oh, my dad had one of the worst military because he grew up in the military, but he used to say when I call for shit, you come in sliding. Those are fucking terrible messages for children to air and grow up with. So when I became an adult, I became a verbal, don't mess with me. I'll get you if you do me wrong kind of guy. And I think it served me in some ways, made me the survivor that I am. But I think in other ways it might have might have been perceived as somebody who was Condon sending somebody who thought they knew it all. And so I had modified that over the years. But to answer your question, it was from surviving my childhood. Which had incest in it and a whole bunch of other things. But those things made me strong.

Coach Maddox  16:46  
You know, there's a point when we've endured so much that we just can't endure anymore.

Bill Brochinsky  16:52  
Yeah, you're either gonna implode or you're gonna exploit

Coach Maddox  16:56  
or you're gonna come out swinging, you know? And yep, sounds like you came out swinging. There was a point where I came out, swinging and not so much physically. But metaphorically, I came out swinging. There was a correct I decided I had been had the world and wiped its feet on me enough and no more. Yeah. And I, I learned how to be intimidating. I got to overcompensate for a period of time, there was a time when, you know, I probably had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder.

Bill Brochinsky  17:36  
Yeah, people perceiving you as arrogant or aloof? Oh, my God, if I heard the word aloof anymore in my 20s and 30s, I would have just gone crazy. But I always heard a little. And it wasn't a loop. I was just thinking about things. I was actually thinking what my next move or statement would be. Yeah, yeah.

Coach Maddox  18:00  
Well, and you're taking a stand with the hospital? Did they? Did anything improve for the patients? Was there any modification of the way they were treating the patients when you took that stand?

Bill Brochinsky  18:14  
I think ultimately, things changed over time. But you know, as well as I know, a big institution like that things don't change easily. And they don't change quickly. But what I did see was people around me, nurses around me people in the hospital around me going, he's right. And, and spending a few more minutes in a patient's room and being a little more empathetic and being a little more compassionate. And then doing all the universal precautions and then saying, Well, I'm not going to get this because I took I took care of what I needed to take care of. And I hope that more nurses met people's needs. I hope I can't tell you, collectively, how much change. But I think sometimes when you see somebody stand up for something, there is a precipitous kind of result.

Coach Maddox  19:13  
Oh, absolutely. You can't take an action like that without it having that ripple effect and affecting people. And we never know how far it goes. Because there's no way we can see that far. But you definitely that there's no doubt that you had an impact on the lives of those men that were coming through the hospital during that time.

Bill Brochinsky  19:37  
And then when I left that job, I moved to Florida and I eventually ended up working for an end of life company and we had a separate team just for people with HIV. And we gave I think some of them most compassionate, loving care. I mean, people will come call us up and say, Oh, I think I need bill as my nurse or Oh, I think I need Jane, I think I need this team. I really need you guys. We we were changing the world a little bit. Sounds, not even sure we knew we were changing the world a little bit.

Coach Maddox  20:18  
Well, let's let some circle back around to your your journey, your own personal journey. I mean, I love all all that you're sharing in the stories about the way you navigated what was going on in the hospital. But let's see really in a little bit more on your personal journey and how you navigated that you're your own personal HIV. Well, and the truth that they had told you, you're probably going to die, because that's what they told everybody during that time. Of course,

Bill Brochinsky  20:53  
they did. So in unfold, unfortunately, I moved from DC to Florida. Fortunately, I met a wonderful man fell in love, probably the love of my life. And I knew he was positive and he knew I was positive. Neither one of us has started medication. Then he started medication back then the first one was AC T, I was not on medication, because my numbers didn't indicate I needed to right then and there I I had a doctor who was and me being a nurse was sensitive to the fact that maybe AZT was causing more problems than good. And unfortunately, that partner died in 1990 of lymphoma related to HIV.

Coach Maddox  21:46  
And how long have you been together at that

Bill Brochinsky  21:48  
point, probably four and a half, five years. I bought my first home with him for $88,000 in Miami. Um, there were heterosexual people that were jealous of our relationship. That's how tight you know how you meet that person, you're supposed to spend the rest of your life but that was Laird. And unfortunately, I spent the rest of his life with him, but kind of was left with nothing at the end. And those were really bad times. You read stories, and you read a word person. And I never really knew what the definition. I mean, I knew what whaling meant. You know, it's very poetic, or after everybody left, he had died, everybody left, his sister was coming over the house to pick up some of his ashes that you wanted to put it in piece of jewelry. And I remember sitting on the front porch of our home, waiting for her and just wailing, living the word, wailing. I didn't think more pain could come out of my voice or out of my body. And by the time my sister arrived, I was completely exhausted from I had no voice. I had wailed it out. I thought

Coach Maddox  23:25  
and during that time of sitting on the porch in wailing did no neighbors, nobody came.

Bill Brochinsky  23:33  
Nobody who would come to somebody wailing like that. You'd have to care.

Coach Maddox  23:41  
You'd have to care you to have to be a compassionate person. But you know, I can't I can't imagine that there weren't neighbors that hurt you.

Bill Brochinsky  23:50  
Oh, I'm sure and I'm sure they knew what I was wailing about. My next door neighbor was a lovely lesbian woman who I knew was home at that time. Afterwards, she said, Wow, you really weren't crying, weren't you? And I said, Yes, I was.

Coach Maddox  24:07  
Wow. But she didn't set her foot outside to know it scared him. I can't imagine that. I can't if I heard somebody wailing, I would have to go to them if they were a total stranger. Not even my next door neighbor, a total stranger if I heard somebody wailing I would. There was a woman came out of the grocery store recently. And standing right in front of me in front of the grocery store. She got the words on the telephone that somebody in her family had died. And she just started wailing. She dropped all of her groceries and just started wailing. And I went to her I know her from Adam. And I there wasn't really anything I could do. I couldn't even get her to calm down enough to Stop wailing but I I stood there next to her and

Bill Brochinsky  24:55  
and that's what a sensitive, compassionate loving person Unlike yourself, or me does, but not everybody is that way. So I can't beat or I can't beat anybody up in the neighborhood for it. I just was in my moment. And they were Enders and what it had been nice. Yeah, it would have been wonderful. But his sister was very loving in the moment and got it.

Coach Maddox  25:21  
I mean, my heart hurts that you sat by yourself and wailed the way. You're telling me that you did.

Bill Brochinsky  25:27  
That heart hurt. I'm sure people in the Ukraine are wailing. You know what I mean? There's a lot of hurt in the world. There's a lot of pain in the world. And as much as I would have loved support and other people to be there, like maybe his family. Although the sister came the mother and other people left, and in a truck full of stuff that was his was ours. It was terrible to watch that truck go with things we both cherished. But that's the person she was. Let's pack up my son's stuff. And let's get out of dodge. Wow. Yeah. But you know, my story is not unique. There were many, many, many stories like that where people were, you know, their lover was just torn out of the house after they died. And as

Coach Maddox  26:23  
I've heard, some of those are, you are right.

Bill Brochinsky  26:27  
So I don't feel like I'm special. I just feel like, I'm happy I survived it.

Coach Maddox  26:33  
How did you get through that loss in that time period?

Bill Brochinsky  26:37  
Well, alcohol of course, a quick run a quick run with some drugs. And it wasn't much longer after he had died April 5, that I got a call from some friends of my brothers, a gay male. My brother, one of my brothers is gay, was gay. And they say your brother's in intensive care unit. He has ACS cancer, and we think he's dying. So I leave my job, my home and I go to Denver, Colorado to take care of my brother until he dies, and he dies July 17. So Leia dies April 5, Roger dies, July 17. And then while I'm in Denny, Scotland, months later, bringing my ashes of my partner Laird back to his grand parents home, another friend of mine dies. And I mean, it's just it 1990 was chair or a bowl, just a terrible year. And then things got better a little bit

Coach Maddox  27:57  
hard. There was still a lot of death going on at that time.

Bill Brochinsky  28:03  
My grandmother had died in March, my mother called me up and she said, Willie, you got to come home, your grandmother died. And I said, Ma, I can't come home. She's like why? I said Laird woke up this morning and half of his face is paralyzed. And she says why? And I said, because his cancer is now in his brain. So I didn't go home from my grandmother's funeral because I was busy getting my partner taken care of. Wow. And he got whole brain radiation. And he did really well for a short period of time. We went on vacation to the Oregon coast, had a great time and came back when within two weeks he was gone.

Coach Maddox  28:48  
Well, what a beautiful thing that you got that special time together. Right there very special

Bill Brochinsky  28:54  
time. Yeah. Wow. And I actually quit my job taking care of people for a good five years, and actually went into a career that I'm still do to this day, I became an actor or writer, director, producer. I took a break from it all. And I think maybe four or five year break. And then I eventually went back and then in my 50s, I was a caregiver for my mom was with dementia. And I went and got my master's degree. And then I went into teaching and actually taught end of life care. And it was interesting to be all those decades later and teaching young students nursing students who really had no understanding of what it was like, didn't know what act up was didn't just had no history and hadn't been taught any of that either.

Coach Maddox  29:59  
When you have a young one Don't really know at all what the people of the 80s and 90s went through. So how long was it before you realized that you probably weren't going to die like they had told you?

Bill Brochinsky  30:17  
I think I lived with the fear of dying for a good 10, maybe 12 years. And then the heart treatments came out, and I realized, Oh, my God, I might actually live. And then I went back into the work market, and I went back into being a nurse and I went full steam ahead. But I was lost with some drugs and alcohol, there was a suicide, a failed suicide attempt there in the middle of it all. I had some leftover drugs from Laird.

Coach Maddox  30:54  
You said fatal, what do you mean? Failed? Oh, failed? I thought you said I was like. Well, I mean, you know, I do have one guest that his last suicide attempt was successful, he encoded, and they were able to bring him back, he literally died. And they were able to bring back his last attempt. He had attempted over 10 times in his lifetime.

Bill Brochinsky  31:23  
I think mine was a cry out for help more than anything. Which is,

Coach Maddox  31:30  
a lot of them are that way. Of course, a lot of them are cries for help. They're not really people wanting to end their lives.

Bill Brochinsky  31:38  
And like being on the porch, I kind of wish that people had saw it coming and but they didn't, or I didn't allow them to see it. That might have been the other part, too. You know, being a strong person sometimes can be an advantage and a disadvantage. But when I realized that this little contract I made with God or the universe, or Buddha, Allah, whatever you call it, I begged and said, Please spare me, I'll take care of every person with every molecule every cell I have, and love them and care for them and give them the best just spare me. When those heart medicines came out. And we were now living longer. I kind of realized, whatever deal I made with the universe. It worked. Yep.

Coach Maddox  32:37  
Yeah. Because here you are 40 some odd years later,

Bill Brochinsky  32:40  
42 years later? Yeah, here I am. And I'm still working on stigma around it.

Coach Maddox  32:47  
But I mean, you look like the picture of health, nobody would look at you and tell that you're HIV positive. And that's not the case. A lot of times, you can tell. Oh, yeah, you can tell. But and you know what I don't, I don't see that on you at all.

Bill Brochinsky  33:05  
I don't lose too much weight purposely because if I do lose too much weight, I'll start seeing a little concavity or concave Ness here. And I'll think, Oh, my God, I look like I'm HIV. Do you believe 42 years later, I'm worried that I still might look like HIV. So don't lose too much.

Coach Maddox  33:24  
I don't I think that that makes sense. I mean, nobody wants to look like they're sick, regardless of what the illness or disease is. Sure. I want to back up for a minute, you said something a minute that I go that I'd like to unpack, because I think this may be valuable for at least some of the listeners. You said, I wish that you know, somebody had foreseen the space that I was in. And then you said perhaps I didn't let them. And I would love for you to unpack that a little bit more. Because I think it's important for us to realize that oftentimes, we live in this space where we think people should just magically intuitively or their mind readers, and they should know what we're going through. And life doesn't really work that way. So tell me a little bit more about because what I hear you not in so many words, but what I hear us doing when you said that was taking some responsibility for your experience. And that's a powerful place to operate from instead of playing the victim and going there I was wailing on the porch and nobody ever even came out of their house or and that's the victim story. But the the non victim story, the story of responsibility is saying and perhaps maybe those people didn't come out of their house because I had shown up so strong, so self sufficient, and I didn't let people see what was going on with me. Can you tell me more about that, I think that's just something valuable to call out for whoever's listening right now. And this applies to not just the loss of a partner, it can apply to anything where we are traumatized. And, and, and we've had our, you know, we've been sucker punched.

Bill Brochinsky  35:22  
Yeah, I don't know if it's a combination of physical, mental, spiritual. But we often put out the opposite signals, or I can just speak for myself, but I see it and other people as well. And I'm thinking they're lying. The subtext underneath what they're saying, is not what they're saying. They're miserable, they're unhappy. And I was miserable, sad, unhappy, fearful. I was a wreck. What was the job? Don't let him see it. Don't let him see you sweat. I don't know.

Coach Maddox  36:12  
What was that? was letting them see that sweat. Because I felt emotion rush at you in that moment when you said what you just said.

Bill Brochinsky  36:27  
Probably just, I've realized this multiple times in my life, but I'm realizing that one more time again, I was a sickly child, who was pitied in the city and weakling. And I didn't want to feel that again.

Coach Maddox  36:44  
He didn't want to be perceived that way.

Bill Brochinsky  36:47  
I didn't want to be a little Willie, the sickly little boy that but he had take care of and he couldn't run. He couldn't do this. And he would get a wheeze. He would have asthma. He couldn't eat this because he had allergies. And he was skinny. And I don't know, I think because I was a sickly child, I felt useless as a human being. And I did. To be honest, I didn't want anybody's pity. I didn't want to feel those feelings again. I had grown out of them. I thought I had grown up.

Coach Maddox  37:24  
I think that's the key word you thought thought? Yeah. Because I felt it in you a minute ago, when you said that I could. I could feel literally feel those little boy inside of you. Having all that come present. Right there. And yeah.

Bill Brochinsky  37:45  
That little boy is still troubled. You never heal him completely. Or at least I haven't I guess I'm not even sure there's a way to heal that completely. When you're that traumatize when you've survived incest and a whole bunch of other things. And then too, you know, when the AIDS epidemic happened, I was 33 years old and a widower. That's not supposed to happen. I'm 66. Now, maybe now I could be a widow, widower and don't want to be but I could be. And now I'm reliving those days in a completely different way. Nobody should be a widower, 33 Nobody. Just figuring out what the hell I'm who I am at 33. Not this wailing, grieving, traumatized injured person who's probably going to struggle for the next few years to just do anything

Coach Maddox  38:50  
positive. I can I can feel that's really still very present for you. Very, I'm an empath I can I can feel that

Bill Brochinsky  38:58  
I was a sensitive child. So I understand your sensitivity to It was torture on certain days and beauty on others. Yes, that makes sense.

Coach Maddox  39:15  
That it's a double edged sword.

Bill Brochinsky  39:17  
Oh, completely, completely. But I I do love where I am right now. And I do love being 66 years old and having survived so many things. And I only hope that words and speaking up and speaking out can impact others.

Coach Maddox  39:42  
Oh, absolutely. So I'd love to hear a little bit more. I mean, we've heard all of the stuff that you survived, but I'd like to hear a little bit more about where you are now. What's life like? Now? because you're kind of on the other side of that, at least to some degree, most of that, you won't you carry some of it for the rest of your life in memories, and there will always be feelings. It's actually selves here.

Bill Brochinsky  40:19  
Yeah, it's actually pretty wonderful to finally be on the other side of it all. You know, you always say, Oh, well, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. Man, that was a long, dark tunnel. But I kept taking steps forward, and life has sort of broken out. And you can look at Erikson stages of life. But I'm old enough now that even in my 50s, when I went back and got my masters, I thought, I can teach a new generation things that hopefully they won't have to experience. And they'll learn the lesson instead of having to go through the whole situation.

Coach Maddox  41:04  
What was the one thing that allowed you to continue on in that very, very long, dark tunnel? You went for a long time, believing that there was going to be light at some point. And for a long time, there wasn't light, and yet you kept going? What was the one thing that enabled you to do that?

Bill Brochinsky  41:34  
I didn't want to waste my life. There's a purpose to everybody's life. There's a purpose on a sperm meets an egg. As soon as you're conceived, there's purpose. And I just felt if I gave up, I wouldn't fulfill the one or multiple purpose purposes. So you and I was created for?

Coach Maddox  42:07  
Are you telling me that you knew that there was still something for you to something of great value for you to do here? Yes. And that was the thing that kept you moving forward in that long dark tunnel?

Bill Brochinsky  42:18  
Yep. Because I could still hear myself breathing, and I could still hear my heart meeting. Even if it all felt hollow, and dark, and senseless. I thought I have to go on, I'm alive. There's a reason you're alive. Keep going, going, going. Go.

Coach Maddox  42:45  
Was there a point when you discovered what that purpose that you were moving toward? Was? Are you are you still on that path and have not fully discovered what that purpose is?

Bill Brochinsky  42:58  
I think I'm still on that path. But certainly during those dark, dark, terrible days, and the top decades in that tunnel, or at least one decade, where I thought it was going to die. Because the light would go out in the tunnel. I think I live I'm living the purpose, I live the purpose in taking care of people with my entire soul and being I've worked in end of life care and palliative care for decades, on and off. I was felt I was touched and blessed to offer that gift as a nurse to be somebody's last friend less confident, Confidant to be able to understand what it is to give somebody a good deaths, because I think most of us don't understand what that means. can't wrap our minds around that. So I had an excellent career. And and now my dream is to fuse that humanity. I've lived some of it not pretty. And to fuse that with the art that I'm working on. Even though there's an art to nursing as an actor, writer, director, producer, I want to bring humanity into my art, not to say it's not there already. But any art that I do moving forward still has to have that level of humanity within it. And as a director, I certainly have worked very closely with actors to pull that humanity out. So I'm just continuing my quest. I'm continuing doing what I'm doing. I'm working one on one if it's just a conversation with person, one person, like if I wanted this teacher that says this is what HIV looks like, and I wasn't a grocery store and some lady looked at me and said, Hey, what's that all about? And I had a conversation with her, then I would still be living my purpose. Yeah, that's beautiful. No, no, I'm fortunate that I found that and I understand my purpose. I don't always do it every day, you know, I'd be annoying.

Coach Maddox  45:21  
I love the way you worded when you're directing and working with the actors that your, your intention is to draw the humanity out in them. Because in that moment, I realized that when I'm having these conversations with my guests on the podcast, I would have never thought to word it that way. But that's exactly what I'm intending to do is to draw the humanity out in my guests, so the listeners can experience that humanity.

Bill Brochinsky  45:54  
You're not intending to do it, my friend, you are actually doing it. You may not be doing it all the time. But you're doing it at the right times at the right moments when it needs to be done. That's what empathic, sensitive, loving, compassionate, caring people do. That's why there's no accident that I'm here now. And you're there. Now. There's no accident to this. It was meant to be.

Coach Maddox  46:22  
I am I am receiving that. Thank you, for that feel. Good. I'm very touched in its moment. Thank you. Well, you have an incredible story. And you are in a place where there's light in that tunnel now. Oh, sunshine. So if you were going to drop a wisdom bomb on the listener, because we know we both know that there are certainly men out there are gay brothers that are in that dark tunnel, and they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel. If there was a wisdom bomb that you could share, to give them strength to give them hope to give them perseverance.

Bill Brochinsky  47:18  
What would that be? I guess if you can't find a light or you see that light is going away

ask for help. Reach out, grab for light. wailed scream for a light and maybe somebody will answer. But if you don't, if you don't make it, Audible, nobody's going to read your mind and that light is going to go out and you're just going to go down the tunnel in the abyss and you'll be gone and you'll have missed. We the others outside and around you will have missed the opportunity to to help to save to maybe help you reinvent yourself.

Coach Maddox  48:26  
Now what came to me intuitively a moment ago was when you're in that dark tunnel and you can't see the light and you can't find the light. Perhaps it's because you're meant to be the light

Bill Brochinsky  48:37  
that's pretty profound. Yeah, I think we are the light sometimes we just don't get it.

Coach Maddox  48:51  
Well, there is no way possible that you weren't the light for many of the people that you have treated over your over your career as a health care professional 1000s of

Bill Brochinsky  49:02  
people and I think about that touched

Coach Maddox  49:05  
and and you even when you were in your own dark tunnel you were the light for many of those people. You know when Yeah. When we when we can't when we can't see the light. We can't find the light. Maybe we're it's because the universe is waiting for us to be the light.

Bill Brochinsky  49:25  
Yeah. No, I think that's I think you hit the nail on the head there for sure. For sure. And you have to remind yourself either I have to remind myself every once in a while you just did. You are the light. Shining.

Coach Maddox  49:41  
We do have to remind ourselves because no matter how bright we shine, we go through dark periods ourselves. We're human. We're human. We're absolutely human. Well, I this has been an honor Been a pleasure to have this conversation with you. And it's been certainly a beautiful journey, a beautiful story. And your your energy for somebody that has been through all that you have been through you, your energy has a lightness to it, Bill. Good. Thank you. Thank you, thank you lightness to it and a brightness to it. I, I would say that you're completely on purpose.

Bill Brochinsky  50:36  
That's a huge compliment. That's, that's a huge validation of something I know, but often need to be reminded, hey, you're on point. Well,

Coach Maddox  50:48  
I'm very intuitive. And I pick up on things and I'm reading your energy. And I'm, I'm feeling that I'm feeling like you, perhaps have not fully given yourself the credit that you deserve. For all that you have done and all that you continue to do.

Bill Brochinsky  51:09  
And moments like these and opportunities, like these are great opportunities for a person to actually hear themselves. And so excuse me, when this gets posted, and I get to listen to it again. I get to reflect and acknowledge some things that they don't normally, you know, do so in, in the hopes of helping and touching and reaching others. At the same time, the other end of that is, yeah, you're doing what you need to do. And you may have a bunch of judgments on how you could do better, whatever, but you're doing the right thing. The flow is the right thing that's happening and to be 66 and doing it and thinking, Oh, I live as long as my mother. I got another 30 years of doing this.

Coach Maddox  52:01  
There you go. Lucky me. Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Gosh, I had a thought and it just went out of my head. What was I thinking? Oh, well, it's gone. Really the comeback?

Bill Brochinsky  52:26  
Welcome, text me later. Oh, arias.

Coach Maddox  52:29  
Let's move into rapid fire questions. Are you ready? I am. Ready is you're going to be huh?

Bill Brochinsky  52:37  
You got it. And I don't think you can be ready for these.

Coach Maddox  52:41  
So if you could go back in time, to any time of your choice, but a younger time in your life. And you could say anything that you wanted to say to the younger version of you. What would you tell him? How old would you would he be and what would you tell him?

Bill Brochinsky  53:04  
I would I would tell my sophomore year in high school self that

you were born for the stage. Just do it. In whatever way shape or form don't let anybody say you can't. You can do it.

Coach Maddox  53:34  
Beautiful. I love it. I love the way I just saw your energy light up as you said that.

Bill Brochinsky  53:43  

Coach Maddox  53:45  
All right. Many years from now you are a ghost at your own funeral. And you're looking at all of the people that have attended your funeral and there is a bevy of your gay male peers there. What do you hope they'll say about you in remembrance

Bill Brochinsky  54:13  
my epitaph should say brutal candour. He was honest. He spoke the truth with integrity, and a smile. Beautiful.

Coach Maddox  54:35  
Final question, what is your superpower?

Bill Brochinsky  54:41  
Oh, my superpower. I don't share this much

but it's picking up on people's truth. Very quickly. And it's been an advantage in all of my careers.

Coach Maddox  55:06  
So you read people really well. Yeah. Beautiful,

Bill Brochinsky  55:12  
when other people just miss everything, and it's so obvious to me and what a gift.

Coach Maddox  55:18  
Yes, I have been gifted with something very, very similar. And I know you know it. Yes, it's made life much different than it would have been if I'd been clueless. Let's put it that way.

Bill Brochinsky  55:32  
Yeah, the thing about being clueless.

Coach Maddox  55:39  
I guess what was coming to me a minute ago that I couldn't remember was that I just wanted to say two things I want to leave you with. One is that with all my heart, I hope that as a result of being here today as a guest that you feel truly seen and heard.

Bill Brochinsky  55:55  
I'm gonna say yes.

Coach Maddox  55:57  
And the other thing is to let you know that in my eyes, you are indeed an authentic gay man.

Bill Brochinsky  56:05  
Thank you, that's good to hear. And coming from you, because I do consider my sources. That is an ultimate compliment, and I respect it and I take it in. Thank you. Thank you for your time

Coach Maddox  56:19  
has been an honor and a pleasure. And yes, chances are, there will be other opportunities. If you'd like to come back.

Bill Brochinsky  56:28  
I would relish that. Okay. All right.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

Bill BrochinskyProfile Photo

Bill Brochinsky

gratefully a 65 yo. gay male, who had a 42 yr. career as a RN BSN MA, now retired from Nursing/ Education. Now Actor, writer, director producer, whose goal is to infuse the humanity of one career into the new career in the Arts. A long-term survivor of HIV, before there was even a test, and actually participated in the trials of Western Block test development. Bill has always been and Advocate for positive, healthy living and changing the optics/ stigma around HIV through education, candid dialogue and personally overcoming the shame and negativity imposed on HIV positivity. 4 decades living with HIV has been life altering and challenging. In 1990, he lost a partner, brother and 8 other friends.
He worked in HIV spectrum home care for 10 yrs, during the early years, while being HIV positive, himself, wondering when the axe would fall. Gratefully it never did. He was recognized by POZ Magazine in 2018 Celebrating 100 people over 50, making a difference in world around HIV. " I am happy and honored to be part of this Authentic Gay Man podcast" and starting to find my way back into the educational/ story telling world of advocacy. As the Lakota say, we are nothing, But our stories. I know that for certain, as I have lived it and have become the man, I am today for telling my stories, as honestly as I can. I hope a part of this touches your soul.