When I found out I was HIV positive, I didn’t know much about the virus except for what I remember learning in my high school health class. I thought I was going to die young. I thought I would look sick and be sick all the time. I thought I'd be tired all the time. I was pregnant and feared I wouldn't live long enough to be there for my daughter. I also felt dirty and broken; like damaged goods.
When they told me I would be fine and live as long as anyone else, I didn't believe them. I was actually kind of angry because I thought they were just lying to me. I thought they were trying to make me feel better in the moment. Like I was stupid enough to fall for it. Finding out I was positive when I got pregnant was difficult Throughout my pregnancy my main concern was, of course, my baby. Everything I did was for her. The doctors appointments, taking the medication, and not breastfeeding; for her safety. To do everything in my power to make sure I didn't transmit the virus to her. I wasn't really thinking of myself. I still had all those same fears.
After my daughter was born, the stress became heavier and I fell into a depression; one I hid well from everyone around me. My depression left me feeling anxious and angry all the time. I reached a point where I couldn't feel this way anymore. I was tired of being angry, I was tired of being sad, I was tired of feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to be a better mother for my daughter, she deserved to have a happy mom. I began listening to personal development videos on YouTube from people like Toby Robbins, Jim Rohn, and Mel Robbins. It really helped me to pay attention to my thought patterns and delve into the thoughts I was feeding myself on a daily basis.
I made the decision to be HAPPY. I believe our personal happiness is a choice and it is our own responsibility. I had decided this virus wasn't going to define me and take over my life. It was just a part of who I am and I would use it to do something good. I signed up for my first AIDS Walk in NYC back in 2017. I raised a little over $300 and felt amazing afterwards. I've done it it every year since. Shortly after doing my first walk I reached out to one of the women who had been in the room when I was diagnosed. I asked her what else I could do to get involved and help. She told me about the NYS peer certification program from the AIDS Institute. I began taking trainings in August of 2017. What I learned in these trainings bolstered my belief that I was going to be ok. There's proof and science behind this fact. I saw that treatment works beyond a shadow of a doubt. I sat in rooms with people who have been positive 20-30 years. I had living proof, and for me, that was all the reassurance I needed. For the first time, I KNEW I was going to be fine. I went on to complete the process and as of May of this year I am an NYS certified peer working for other people living with HIV.
In my journey, I've worked to help other individuals feel better about their status and give them the information they need, to KNOW they are going to be just fine. I've helped give them the tools they need to make sure they can advocate for themselves, adhere to their treatment, speak up with their doctors, and disclose if they are ready to. I have done my best to let them know they are loved, they are worthy, they are life. Anyone who treats us differently because of our status is a person we don’t need in our lives. They did us a favor by showing their colors. Our status doesn't define us, it's a small part of us. As a friend of mine says, I don't live with HIV, HIV lives with me.