"I Am Sick as Hell"
That was the Facebook memory that popped up for me recently. Seeing that memory reminded me that at that point in time my body was being attacked by HIV and I did not know it yet. It reminded me that I was in fact sicker than I thought. During that time, I thought I had strep throat. I couldn't eat, couldn't attend class, and the Penicillin was not working at all. I was so tired of feeling like I was going to faint. I remember that time so vividly. I never would have thought it was HIV. I was 18 and in my first year of college. At that time all I knew about HIV was to get tested when you go to the doctor. I never thought that a positive result would be the outcome of that moment in time. A few months later it became my reality. I had in fact been diagnosed with HIV. It was a dark and scary time for me. I didn't know what the next part of my life would be like. I immediately counted myself out of the joys in life. I thought children, a husband, a long life were just something of my imagination. Honestly that feeling lasted a long time.
During my first four years of my diagnosis, I went around aimlessly hoping it would soon just take me out of my misery. The stigma and silence were killing me. Since medication was not the recommendation for my HIV viral load at the time, I just knew one day this would be over. I wanted to wait for my death. I soon found out that medications were getting better and people were living longer. I had a decision to make. I made a decision to live. I owed it to myself to make a fulfilling life out of my situation. I had to stand strong and make some good decisions. I started to do just that. The best decision I made was to live. Although it made me sick and stigma was real, I could be happy and do anything I put my mind to. I chose me. No one could make this decision for me. My life mattered and would definitely impact others in some way. I never thought it would be this big of an impact but it is. I am glad I decided to do it. When I was alone it was hard and scary; I never want another person to experience that in the way that I did.
Today, I find myself just being grateful to wake up in the morning. I am happy to be able to walk, talk and be in my right mind. I am so glad long ago I decided to be happy and content with everything my life had become. I deserved to love and forgive myself. I did it and still do it today. Those Facebook memories evoked some emotion, to be honest. I thought for a second, what if it was just strep throat instead of the acute phase of an HIV diagnosis? But it went away, because it's not my reality. Honestly I love myself way more than I did back then. I found peace in the thing that made me "sick as hell".