a man is depressed in the mirror despite it being littered with inspirational quotes

My Life With HIV and the Blahs

Despite the gratitude journal and the affirmations posted in my bathroom, I sometimes feel uninspired about life for lengthy periods.

Long-term living with HIV can be very repetitive. The daily grind of taking your medicines, checking on co-pays, and calling about doctors' network status can exhaust a person. On top of everything, the sensation of getting older faster than those around me can take the joy out of living. But what I went through recently felt even more cumbersome than that.

Growing despair

The feeling of despair grew so much recently that I took down all the little cards I had placed around my bathroom mirror. Little reminders to dress nicely, be kind, and choose to have a good day. They started to seem like disappointments — reminders of everything I couldn't do anymore.

I had been doing well with my journals and reminders. Getting up every morning to power pose and create boundaries. Now, I just wasn't in the mood to forgive and find my purpose in the everyday actions of life.

Coming to a head with depression

Two years of the Covid pandemic while working in close quarters with the public, coupled with the early deaths of several friends, the loss of my dogs all came to a head, and I couldn't write out one more gratitude.

I knew I was experiencing severe "blahs" when I listened to the same playlist on my phone for a month straight. Something had to change, or else I would slip into depression. I had to frame the importance of doing things to improve my outlook but with soft boundaries.

1 minute and 1 step at a time

Exercise has always been important to me.

Covid pushed me out of the gym and into our garage, but I missed the social element of being around other people. By the time I rejoined the local gym, I had gained weight and lost muscle mass. I struggled through routines I had easily done 2 years previous.

But I reminded myself that if I only went in for 10 minutes, that was 10 minutes more exercise than I did the day before. Taking that one-minute-at-a-time approach helped me restart my routines without unreasonable expectations.

Time to act kind

Nothing makes me feel happier than being a kind person. I started looking for opportunities to do something for someone else. Simple things first, like letting someone else cut into the lane ahead of me during morning traffic.

Over a few weeks, I took on more specific acts. I'd write a thank you note. I would bring someone their favorite snack or buy them a coffee. The more I did for others, the better I felt about myself.

It's okay to take a beat

Before Covid, I kept every moment of my free time filled. Now I didn't seem to have the energy or inspiration to do anything. I had to decide what was most important and what I genuinely enjoyed. Everything else I had to let go of. This meant there were gaps in my day.

I had to learn that it was okay to do nothing. Not because I was forced to but because I wanted to. I was permitting myself to lay in bed a bit longer or to spend the afternoon on the front porch.

I discovered that something as simple as watching clouds could reset my emotions. I began finding joy in the little actions. And most importantly, I rediscovered the fun in just being with myself.

A fresh set of goals

The most crucial step I took was reevaluating my goals and daily to-do's. I decided what was attainable and what needed to be put on the back burner.

There were so many things on my to-do list that I was able to let go of. The burden of being busy was leaving me, and my spirits were lifting.

I still woke up, did my power pose, and wrote down my intentions for the day, but they only took up a couple of lines in my journal, not a whole page. And I felt a sense of accomplishment again.

There were days when I just went through the motions. On other days I permitted myself to skip it altogether. But mostly, the mood was lifting while doing my practices.

Coming out of the funk

I bought a couple of books. I downloaded new music and started looking for a new dog to adopt. In the middle of all this, I also decided to restart my journey as an HIV advocate by sharing my story.

I might not be doing everything I had been before, but I'm happy with the pace of my life.

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