a woman looking at herself in a mirror in her bedroom, giving herself affirmations

Accepting Myself, Even When Others Don't

That day in August 2017, I thought my life was forever changed for the worst. I really thought my life ended and was over. Sometimes I still feel that way. But somewhere deep down in my heart, I know that becoming HIV-positive is part of my bigger journey. I know that my diagnosis was not the end of my life, but a different beginning.

Some things never seem easy

Like lots of people, that is a hard concept to understand. Even harder for my mind to grasp are the challenges with mental health. One minute I am planning the ultimate wedding with my future, very accepting husband-to-be, and the next I am crying out in distress to the God(s) above because I think I will be alone forever.

Currently, I am in the biggest transition in my life. I am moving cross country, ending my first "accepting" relationship since finding out, and dealing with it all while having depression. I guess I thought it would be easy. But just like sharing your secret, some things never seem easy.

The potential for rejection

I think a lot of the sadness I find in having to eventually tell a new partner is that someone you think has potential might immediately reject you. In those unknown moments, I have to hope for the best. The reality is that the best is going to be someone who accepts and acknowledges my truth. Imagine the pain I would subject myself to if I continued into a relationship with someone who did not accept me?

I often have to remind myself that if someone does not accept a part of my identity, then I probably do not need them in my life. Now, after having told someone before and being completely de-railed with the craziness, it makes sense.

Stigmatizing, hurtful comments

One time, I told a guy that I was briefly dating (we'll call him TJ). TJ and I went on many dates and eventually ended up in a steamy makeout session one night. I went home that night and decided that I should tell TJ my truth before things got more serious. I sent a text to TJ: "We need to talk."

Trying to explain things to TJ

We talked on the phone, and he was super sweet with my feelings. We dated for about another week. The following week, he was texting and calling erratically. TJ was saying how he "wasn't feeling good" and thought that maybe he "caught something from kissing."

I assured him, again, that it was not possible (again, explaining "undetectable") and how things cannot be swapped through saliva. TJ was unconvinced. He was describing cold symptoms, like a runny nose, and blaming my HIV for it. He kept saying I was "sickly" and that I got him "sick".

Stay true to yourself

This feeling hurt me for a while and, sometimes, still causes me temporary disappointment now. I remind myself often that temporary disappointment is far easier to handle than long-term committed pain. I remind myself, and anyone who has a diagnosis, that you are not "sickly."

People will often use words that will hurt your feelings, but learning who you are will help you stay true to yourself. Learning to accept my self has helped me understand that anything that someone says about me or to me does not define me. Sometimes having depression makes me forget the previous.

When I forget who I am, I take time to myself and talk to myself in the mirror. I repeat: “I am beautiful. I am worthy. I am loved. I am me. I accept me.” I repeat this until I get sleepy, even if I do not believe it in that moment. And then, I take a nap!

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