a neighborhood of houses shaped like heads. A man shovels trash out of his house's window into a trash can on the sidewalk.

Welcome to 20 ! 20

I’ve been writing the year 2020 like '20 ! 20' to remind myself to seek clarity this year. And recently I have gone back to listening to audiobooks. Too many Netflix and Youtube binges have had my ears flocking to podcasts and books that are uplifting and inspiring. During the winter season, it is a great way to counteract the shorter days and darker nights.

Managing emotions and unproductive self-talk

I recently picked up a free audiobook from my local library called Start Finishing: How to Go from Idea to Done by Charlie Gilkey and from the start, I was hooked. One concept really stuck with me and I want to impart this to our community of those living with HIV, advocates, and friends. This 20 ! 20, let’s get rid of our head trash.

What is head trash?

That voice in the back of our head that prevents us from being the best human being we can be. It is that little voice that keeps us from making our doctors' appointments, taking our medications every day, or getting out of bed. It is the voice that can make or break our joy. We often don’t control the things that happen around us. We do control first how we think and then how we respond.

Emotional rollercoaster

During my day I can have moments of emotional ups and downs. Most of the time, I am so busy I don’t have time to even process them. When I finally get a moment to myself, all of that pent up energy, good and bad, comes flooding back for me. I really didn’t know what to do with this energy, so I used music as a tool to express my emotions. But I still felt left with some of these negative emotions in my mind.

Is this really what I think about myself?

So when I heard Gilkey use the term head trash, that resonated with me on a deep level. I had no name for these negative emotions that have the potential to paralyze me. Something about grouping these thoughts under a category, head trash was liberating for me.

So when I think negative thoughts, I actively isolate that moment. I ask myself, ‘Is this really what I think about myself?’ I give myself space to think about the reasons why that negative thought is not true. And once I’ve given myself time to process this thought, I can then put it away as head trash. Really sitting with yourself and allowing time for mental processing is a necessary these days.

Protecting our mental health

We have to recognize that we deal with a lot of information and situations daily and all of these external things affect our mental health. In carving out some time, any time to express positive thoughts and actions and to put in check our negative emotions is a worthwhile pursuit. This is my journey in life. I don’t always get to choose the circumstances, but I can control how I mentally navigate them.

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