My Struggles with HIV and Mental Health
Becoming public about my status meant that I am now giving myself permission to be my authentic self. I did so on my 23rd birthday because I believe it is also my diagnosis date.
I can’t confirm it, though, because my parents never revealed the actual date to me. I never attempted to receive this information from my doctors because I felt doing so wasn’t respecting my parents' choice of not telling me personally themselves.
Why I didn't seek closure from my parents
People often don’t understand why I chose not to get closure from them; sometimes, I find myself asking the same question.
The reason I don’t is that, as humans, it feels easier to blame the person in front of us who directly hurt us. But that type of approach comes from a place of not feeling in control and heard in our situation.
Confronting the sources of pain
The emotional pain that I feel - I know they feel that pain more than I can ever imagine. It isn’t the right approach to add fuel to that pain because it doesn’t help me, and it surely doesn’t help them.
My parents' pain and my own were put upon us by our culture's portrayal of HIV. So I believe if I should be confronting anyone, it should be directed toward the sources used to deliver the self-hatred narrative of HIV to its consumers within their civilization.
What I learned about pain
When I began my advocacy work, I did precisely that. But now, I realize that I am playing another blame game that leads to a never-ending cycle of pain.
The only person that can heal me is myself
I learned that blaming others for my pain doesn’t heal me because the only person that can heal me is myself. I can choose right now to stop taking on the pain prescribed to me since birth.
Some pain takes time to heal
I also learned that I need to respect that some pain needs time to heal. Change doesn’t happen overnight but what matters is that I’m choosing to take a positive step in my healing process which means I have to be comfortable in the unknown.
I found out that I had HIV when I was 9 years old. I’m 24 right now, which means it took me 15 years to heal emotionally, and I’m still recovering. What makes healing difficult is the stigma of mental health.
Normalize mental health and talking about feelings
I wish talking about our feelings was normal because I find it to be really healing, which is one of the reasons I decided to start blogging about my life as a person born with HIV.
I went public because all I ever wanted was to not feel alone in my experiences and, to accomplish that, I needed to be open about what I was going through. It is challenging because we live in a society with so much shame and fear of being open emotionally.
Helping our culture evolve emotionally
It hurts me deeply that humans still don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves emotionally, and I hope to help our culture evolve emotionally.
If anyone knows of any mental health organization with the same mission as me, please let me know because this is my life's work. It’s extremely important to me that when I do decide to have kids, that my kids grow up feeling comfortable being themselves.
Do you wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day?