Recently I was asked what I have learned since my diagnosis in 2016. The truth is, I have learned a lifetime of lessons - the importance of being present, to keep your focus on your goals. But most importantly, I have learned I am and have always been enough.
I still feel insecure from time to time
Don’t get me wrong - on no level have I arrived. I still have moments when my responsibilities feel overwhelming, when relationships with others make me question my every word, action, and occasionally my self-worth. I tend to believe that it is a part of being human. But now, more often than not, I can recognize that my thoughts aren’t my reality.
We live in a world where we are bombarded with daily messages via social media and advertising, both telling us that we need this product or this book to make us feel whole or even adequate.
How do you change a narrative that is so deeply ingrained in your being?
I needed a change in my life
After the year I had in 2016 - newly diagnosed, in an abusive relationship, and a string of tough things - I woke up on New Year’s Day 2017 feeling (as cliché as it sounds) a need for change because I couldn’t stand the person I saw in the reflection in the mirror.
Some of that came from years of wanting the love and approval of a parent who would never give it. Some of that came from having my heart broken and being disappointed. I had allowed the way others had treated me to become the story I believed. That story clouded every part of my life including what I saw in the mirror.
Focusing on my health post-diagnosis
The next few years, I would focus on my physical health and well-being. I took a need to focus on my health post-diagnosis and ran with it. I started in a small apartment gym with broken equipment and never stopped.
Overcoming moments of self-doubt
Fast forward to the winter of 2018. I had the privilege of attending a summit of HIV-positive advocates who had all been recruited for a special project. It was a diverse group of people that I very much bonded with over the few days in a way that was incredible.
On one of my mornings there, I woke up an hour before my alarm in a near panic attack over the racing thoughts running through my head asking what I was doing, that I didn’t belong among such an incredible group of advocates. In reality, I had been chosen just like the others and I belonged despite what that nagging voice of self-doubt had to say.
Meditation when struggling with internalized stigma
Wisdom comes with time and hindsight is everything. Today I realize that my thoughts aren’t my reality. I find it incredibly important to practice things like meditation when I’m struggling with those inner thoughts or internalized stigma.
I am grateful for this journey
At the end of the day, HIV has taught me incredible lessons I never would’ve learned had I not been put in these unique circumstances.
While the road hasn’t been easy, it has taught me to appreciate the strength that comes when you take life’s resistance and turn it into something of substance. I am grateful for the journey that HIV started.
I hope when you look in the mirror you see someone who is worthy of love, belonging and know that you are more than enough.
How often does someone offer you unsolicited advice on your health?