I read a statement earlier this week that has stuck with me ever since. It said "Perhaps we as humans are like plants, the moment we cease to grow is the moment we begin to die." As I reflect on the twenty six year old woman who received a positive diagnosis ten years ago I wonder how close to death I’d be if I chose to stop growing.
I saw my mother wither before my eyes in a matter of months after being diagnosed seven years earlier. I honestly believe that a large part of her illness came from the stress of keeping her diagnosis a secret. Not having anyone other than my sister and I for support caused irreversible damage that eventually destroyed her. Witnessing my mother’s demise taught me several lessons that guided my decisions once I was diagnosed. HIV became the beginning of a whole new life cycle for me.
It may sound strange but I often say HIV saved my life. Being diagnosed forced me to choose whether or not I wanted to live. People living with HIV/AIDS have to be very intentional about caring for ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. In a sense, HIV became a fertilizer rather than a hindrance to my growth process. It created a sense of urgency in me to live life to the fullest. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what that full life entailed, something within me said it was out there and that I should take advantage of the opportunity to grasp it. I soon learned that ridding myself of the things and people that stunted my growth was essential to attaining that full life. We really don’t realize who or what those weeds are until we start looking closely. The very people and things we have around us that are comfortable and familiar can be those weeds in disguise. Uprooting weeds is a difficult and painful process but once there is a cleared space for new roots to grow and sprout I found it to be more than worth it. Once the weeds were cleared, I began sprinkling new seeds of prayer, positive people, and persistence. Aligning myself with a power higher than myself gave me direction and made my purpose clearer. Surrounding myself with other people who were also on this path towards growth gave me the support I needed and the fuel to continue when growing pains arrived. Once I fixed my mind and my heart to continue growing and living numerous unexplainable obstacles emerged as if to test my commitment to living this life I wanted so badly. Although some obstacles were harder than others to conquer I was determined to work towards the life that my heart told me was possible. Today, after ten years of pruning, clipping, and repotting I am finally living that full and abundant life I set out to accomplish after receiving the most devastating news of my life on a rainy October day in 2002.
So on my thirty sixth birthday, I celebrate the many women like me who have found life through and after HIV, and I encourage the women who, like the twenty-six year old me, are still finding their way to back to life to keep living. And to the woman who was diagnosed last week, last month or even last year, I say if you can grow through it, you can positively live with it (HIV).