They say that it takes tragedy or someone hitting rock bottom for them to make changes to their life. I guess that's what happened to me when I was diagnosed. My diagnosis, in conjunction with becoming a new mother, rocked my whole world. Although I don’t know exactly who I got it from, I know it was through sex. I know in my life I’ve had many sexual partners and used sex as a coping mechanism. I spent a majority of my life feeling unloved and unwanted; like there was something wrong with me. Trauma that I had experienced in childhood and my teen years left me feeling this way. I looked for love and companionship in the wrong places and in the wrong ways. I didn’t have any self confidence or self love. I looked to other people to give me worth and tell me I was in fact good enough.
Even though my boyfriend, who I've been with for the last almost 8 years, has been the one to really show me what love is, I spent the beginning of our relationship still needing that validation from him. Looking to him to give me my worth and feeling lucky that he wanted to be with me. Although I am more than blessed to have him, it took me a while to realize he is also blessed to have me.
I also spent many years drinking, partying, smoking cigarettes, and doing other things to make me "feel good" and "feel happy" because in my reality, I didn't and wasn't. I didn't take care of myself and I didn't love myself.
When I had my daughter, I knew I wanted different for her. I never wanted her to feel the way I felt growing up. I never wanted her to experience the things I did and go through the pain I went through. I wanted her to love, respect, and care for herself thoroughly. I knew the only way to teach her those things was to live those things myself. I had to love myself in order to teach her to love herself. I had to take care of myself physically and mentally in order for her to be able to do the same. It's not enough to preach these things, especially with our children. They watch everything we do and they listen to everything we say to ourselves and others.
I began listening to and reading a lot of personal development which helped immensely with my mental and emotional well being. I also wanted to make sure that physically, I was strong and healthy. Now that I had HIV, I KNEW I needed to take care of my body even more so. I knew it wasn't enough for me to just be alive, but to be alive, feel good and be strong.
I began working out regularly which I still do to this day. I lift weights and I run. My daughter does it with me sometimes. She'll join me in some of my workouts, even if it's just sitting and watching mommy. I'll take her with me on runs sometimes too. I was able to learn better eating habits and watch the things I put into my body and pass that along to her as well. I teach her the importance of putting nutritious food into our bodies so we can be strong and healthy. I make sure to remind her that she is special in her own way and so is everyone else. Everyone is unique and everyone has their own style and is free to be what makes them happy.
I've made it my mission from this point on to live the very best life I can. To not let my status fully define me, but add to me. It is a part of my story, and over the years it's become a good part of my story. I'm so proud of who I've become today because of it and because of my daughter. I don't regret it and I wouldn't change it.