I'm determined not to let HIV depression get me down.
I'm determined not to let HIV exhaustion get me down.
I'm determined not to let HIV stigma make me bitter and closed off.
The anxiety of disclosure will not make me feel small and dirty. It must not kill my hope of finding the love I deserve.
I have vowed not to let medication adherence wear me thin as fuck (even though it does) - and become medication non-adherent because of it. I am sick to damn death of taking a pill every day. Sadly (and yet hopefully), unless and until there is a cure, I have another 30-40 years of taking that shit. I'm not 50 yet and I want to live a long life. Which means the periodic irritation of a medication regimen that I need to keep me healthy.
I'm determined to advocate for people who don't have a voice that might be as strong as mine or as dramatic as mine. I'm aware I can be dramatic. Whether or not it’s a coping mechanism or a personality quirk is debatable. Deal with it or not as you like. I'm too old to care.
I'm determined each day to hold the hope that I HAVE HIV and that HIV does NOT HAVE ME.
I promise that whatever tears I cry some nights - because someone hurt my feelings during the day - will not mean that I cry every day.
It has never, and will never dwell in my heart that because I have HIV, God is somehow punishing me for being a terrible person. I'm not. Nor have I been. That is a stupid untruth that breaks my heart every time I hear someone say something of the like. It's a terrible awful thing that some small, insecure person put on someone else to make themselves feel better. I'm so angry that when people are in such a low place mentally and spiritually trying to fight this disease, others feel the need to denigrate them. In a time when we should be lifting someone, and carrying them over the rough parts, humans feel it necessary to belittle a positive person and make them feel smaller and more alone than they already feel. Shame on them.
I know that my diagnosis does not define me. Even as I struggle some days to label my humanity and sense of self as that of a woman, mother, nurse, sister, aunt, friend and PERSON, and not let all that I am be reduced to an acronym.
I will continue to use my voice and skills for women in this battle. I see, hear, and read the struggles and pain of other women like me and I want to scream for them. For us. For the pain women bear on the inside while we care for children and families and make a home. While we work jobs and make ends meet, even as people reject us and any accomplishments and strides we have made. As they try and reduce us to letters and falsehoods and old untruths of what we have and the supposed danger that makes us. We are not 3 or 4 letters.
Regardless of a single day or a month of days where I feel alone or lonely, I know that it is a passing moment and that I am not. I am part of a beautiful sisterhood of women who are capable of amazing things who heal and uplift each other. Who matter. Who thrive. Women who are different than me, but the same where it matters.
I am resilient. I am pretty. I am strong and determined. I turn my face to follow the sun and light. I am multi-hued and will grow, even when conditions are not ideal. I am so much more than HIV.
I love your article. You definitely are so much than any acronyms; and more than a woman, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, and wonderful person. You're also an incredible writer and inspiring advocate for other HIV+ women! After 32+ years of also being in the POZ club, I can relate to so much of your article. Like you, I never let it define me.
Thank you for this great article.