a man with HIV brushes his teeth while his heart radiates love

It’s Ok Not to Be Ok

A few weeks back, at the age of 33, I went to therapy for the first time in my life.

I, like so many, have found this unusual time we are all in to be incredibly difficult - both emotionally and mentally. I can be honest enough to say that I have struggled the last few months.

It isn’t easy for me to admit that everything isn’t perfect, but I’d rather be honest.

I was at a breaking point

I was at a crossroads of pressure I’ve assigned myself as a big brother, consistent disappointments in dating, and the role I have assumed living life so openly. I found myself feeling like I was at a breaking point. My mind was in a constant state of running rampant. I was feeling out of touch with who I was and questioning nearly every decision.

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So I found myself calling the number I’ve had in my phone for years, in case the pressure of all of the things I felt so responsible for became too heavy.

I was afraid that I would be judged. It is an incredibly intimidating thought to be open and honest with a stranger, but I see now how freeing it was to say aloud that I’m not ok.

Mental health stigma was a roadblock

Early on in my HIV journey, I had thought about speaking with a mental health professional. The traumatic way I had received my diagnosis, along with being in a toxic relationship and finding myself in situations I never imagined I would be in, had made me consider it. But when push came to shove, I couldn’t bring myself to dial the number.

I see now that all of the stigma we have assigned to mental health and asking for help was a major roadblock. I thought it would make me appear less tough. But in actuality, the people who are brave enough to put words to their feelings are, in my opinion, the toughest of all.

Re-centering my mental health

While after the last few weeks I certainly feel better, I think there is a lot of work for me to do to re-center myself. Part of that is making time for self-care. Most of us, if we are truly honest, don’t do as much as we should. Here are some things that I’ve been doing for myself during this difficult time.

Meditation

While it isn’t perfect, it is a consistent start of my day to anchor myself in the present moment. I often get lost in thinking about the shoulda, coulda, would’ve’s or worrying about the future. I highly recommend utilizing one of the apps available if you are new to meditation.

Get outside

We are spending so much time at home that we often forget our bodies need sunshine and fresh air. Even better? Do it without your phone.

Practice affirmations

When I’m getting myself ready for bed - washing my face, brushing my teeth, or anything else in my nightly routine - I put on relaxing music or sounds and tell myself, "I am doing blank because I love myself." Say it till you believe it.

Know when to ask for help

Be it a friend, family member, or a professional, know when you need someone else’s guidance or just a listening ear, you don’t have to deal with everything on your own.

I hope you know that it’s ok to not be ok. You aren’t alone. It's a tough time to be human and I hope that you find peace no matter where you are in your life’s journey.

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