read the full story
read the full story
Being diagnosed HIV+ was the best and worst thing to ever happen to me. That is to say, nobody wants to live with disease, but I felt that after my diagnosis, my life was able to do a U-turn and get a second chance; a road to recovery. Growing up queer in the Church, I was taught that not only was being gay a sin, but AIDS was God’s punishment for being so. Despite all the years of self hatred, I eventually came into my own as a proud, queer individual.
I was very privileged to be educated on HIV before I became positive. However, upon my diagnosis, I immediately swept all my feelings to the side and continued on with my life. Unfortunately, there was that little voice in my head saying “this is your punishment” for being who you are. Months later, I would have a crippling episode, similar to a nervous breakdown, where everything boiled to the surface and I shutdown. It was then I decided to seek help and go into therapy. Little did I know that my therapist would not only help me deal with my new reality, but also help me unpack a lifetime of issues and trauma. It opened the floodgates to being able to be the most authentic version of myself and embrace life head on – perhaps for the first time.
I was able to work through my breakdown, in addition to really confronting my depression and anxiety head on. My therapist specialized in queer counseling and that was a blessing. He understood how to talk to me in a way that got me to open up about my life. I felt safe, heard and slowly came to realize that my feelings were valid. I didn’t fully understand how many factors were involved in my shutdown, but the HIV diagnosis was the straw the broke that camels back with my mental health. I had always been one to hold feelings in and for the first time I was opening up completely to someone. My therapist gave me permission to feel again. I am so grateful that he was able to help refocus my outlook on my life and learn to live with my anxiety and depression, in addition to HIV.
Before my diagnosis, I was lost and on a self destructive path. I was prioritizing partying, not taking care of my body and putting the bare minimum into my career. After working with my therapist to deal with the shame and trauma, I felt like I had been given a new lease on life. I do not know where I would be if I didn’t become HIV+. Now my career is flourishing as are my personal relationships. In addition, I’m the healthiest I have ever been, both mentally and physically. It takes work and commitment, but the tools I have to combat the darkness have been absolute game changers. I am no longer held back by the fear of failure and have embraced my new role as an agent of change. I am working towards building my voice and my platform to help those struggling with mental illness and HIV stigma. I am not afraid to fight for what I believe and what is right.
Despite leaving the church, I am very spiritual and whatever higher power is out there, I just don’t believe she would punish people for being who they are. I am exactly who I was always meant to be: A queer, bi-racial, HIV+ human.