I see this young man almost every morning after work at 6:30 am he’s a humble young man and yesterday I finally had a talk with him. He’s 31 years old, an alcoholic and homeless. His hands are swollen, and even though he’s a black man I can see the redness in his face from so much drinking I feel he may already have liver disease. All I thought about is that young man is around the same age as my nieces and nephews. I gave him a ride to his sister’s house while I listened to him speak about how he just wanted to get some sleep, how he hoped his sister was in a good mood and would let him come in just to rest. I the asked him if she doesn’t then what? He said, Ms. Dee, then I’ll have to walk and find somewhere to sleep outside. As he got out of my car I gave him my card and told him to call me if he was hungry. As I drove off I cried and thought about how there’s nothing to complain about, how so many people get into situations we know nothing about. How did this young man get this far gone and when did it start? I spoke to him about how there is help out there for him and not to let go of hope so when he thought he was ready to stop drinking and not having a place to go I would do what I can to help him with resources. Wishing I could help, but knowing that I really can’t so I just offer something to him when he feels he needs to eat. I really feel in life that we must show some compassion to others by mentally putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. What if that was me or a family memeber? I thought about him most of the day and said to myself HIV isn’t so bad, is it? How was it possible for me to make it this far being diagnosed with HIV and not loosing my mind? How was it possible to not just give up and take my drinking to a level of never stopping? Not that I’m happy to be diagnosed with HIV, but I feel being diagnosed has changed how I see the world today. Society looks down on so many people when they can find it in their hearts to just love. Love is a word that many just don’t understand a person has to go very deep within their soul to truly understand the love for others. It’s a feeling of not judging and embracing everyone no matter who they are, feeling the cry so far in their minds that they can understand what another may be going through. Even though we can’t help everyone we can still give our love in a way to let them know someone out there does care. Compassion is a feeling of deep sympathy and sadness for another person who is afflicted by misfortune, what a word and not many get it. Open yourself to care more for others and it will help you in a way you wouldn’t even Comprehend. It’seems that it should not always be about us and being selfless is what it should be. Loving the world and every human being in it will help make it so much better for every single one of us.
Lost Over and Over but Finally Came Back to Me!
It was 1987 I was 17 years old when I lost my best friend due to a shooting and on that day, I was lost and torn, but when I found out that she would be a vegetable and they had to pull the plug was a day I will never forget. There are times when I still find myself crying being so young and having to watch what happened to her. The man she introduced me to became my love he was 22 tall dark and handsome with beautiful long hair we had a bond because of the friendship we both shared with her. From that day, I never would have thought what was to become of my life.
He and I had a child I was 21 years old when she was born she was 8 pounds 2-ounce beautiful bright skin baby girl with black hair and tight eyes. She kind of looked like a small china doll. I loved her more than I loved myself. It’s something how a child can change your whole outlook on life. The way I saw life was different and the things I use to do was no more. I was now living for my baby girl and that’s when I started to see my relationship change. The love I thought I found didn’t like this new me he felt he was losing control. The teenager he met was different and she was someone he couldn’t control anymore. He became abusive the fighting was getting worse as the years went by but I stayed and again I was lost. Why did I stay? What was the control he had over me? Soon I realized that I had to leave and once I did I felt alive again like I did when I was 17 years old. Ten years I stayed and every year I lost more of who I was.
I was now 27 years old and I finally left him no more control, no more abuse and no more tears well that’s what I thought. Until months later when I was tested for HIV weeks after the results came back I was called into the doctor’s office and sat in that dreadful chair and heard you tested positive for HIV. Here goes another day I was lost, scared, in shock and numb. When I thought, I was now free to smile my smile months later turned into sadness once again. What happened to be being happy, what happened to me being able to feel free, what happened to the abuse that was over and now I can start over, what happened to me raising my baby girl and living with smiles. To me, it was all over. My daughter now 7 years old I left her with my sister and hibernated in my townhouse for months I didn’t go to work I slept and cried I didn’t even want to answer my phone not even to talk to my daughter. I gave up shit I was going to die anyways so why did it matter. Scrubbing my skin red as I showered sitting on the shower floor just crying. Take me now I don’t want to suffer, I don’t want my family to see me sick well not like those who were dying from AIDS that’s what scared me the most. I knew nothing about this thing they call HIV at all not one thing. All I knew was that gay men were dying from it and I didn’t understand how I contracted it when I was in a relationship.
I was going to leave my daughter and she needed me, so I finally woke up and knew that my daddy wouldn’t want me to stay this way. I can hear him speaking to me as I sat on the edge of the bed he says I raised you to be strong and you get up God doesn’t put more on you than you can handle. That was the day I woke up and started life over again. I was put on ARV’s so many pills, so, so many pills and they made me very sick. Who wants to live this way always at the toilet, always nauseated, dry mouth, numb tongue, and a headache. I wasn’t sick until I had to take these toxic pills. What kind of life is this and why am I going through it? Did I do something to deserve this? I found comfort in having a drink, yes, a drink a drink of alcohol it soothed the feeling I was getting from the ARVs it turned into one drink, then two, then three and the next thing I knew I was drinking every day as much as I could.
Lost over and over giving up once again and not even realizing it. Hiding behind the smile I carried daily putting on a face for all those around when in fact I was no good. I started sleeping with men for money the alcohol had turned me into someone that I wasn’t. I was gone I wasn’t taking my medication as prescribed. some days I would take them and some days I wouldn’t. Who cares? I don’t, I just wanted to drink and as long as someone had alcohol I was there. Going to work started to become much more difficult and I was soon fired and ended up on unemployment by that time my daughter’s father had passed away.
I was 29 when I met a man I fell in love with I stopped drinking and we were married. We raised my daughter and his son together. I was happy once again the beach, movies, the park we did everything together happy to be loved, happy to meet a man who was HIV negative that loved me for me in spite of my HIV. Soon after my husband started to use drugs. I was married, but alone raising my children he became abusive physically and mentally he even told me I was going to get AIDS and die anyways. Once again I was lost and I was depending on my husband financially because I was extremely sick from the new meds i was put on and I was having issues with my body that no doctor could figure out I was always in pain. My family was struggling with my husband only giving the minimum so he can support his drug habit. This story is so much more, I couldn’t give you everything in such a short writing.
Out of all that I have been through as a child, teen, and adult, being married to him was the worst choice that I ever made in my life. There was constant adultery, mental abuse, physical abuse and there was no respect for his family. His thinking was I’m the man of the house and he can do whatever he wanted. By the time I was 42 years old the marriage was over I had surgery to take care of the pain I was having years before we ended. I was working full-time and caring for my children. His son was now 21 and was 7 when we married, my daughter 22 and was 8 when we met and our little girl together was now 10. I stayed almost 15 years, it was years of hell, years of giving my children a life they didn’t ask for with him. I could have left and didn’t because I thought I could save him and have this wonderful man back that I met years ago. That man was long gone a year after we were married. It didn’t matter that he was evil, mean or even disrespectful. I wanted to keep our family together I never saw myself divorcing. I made up excuses saying til death do us part no matter what, but I think deep inside I was just afraid to be alone being diagnosed with HIV. I didn’t figure that out until we divorced.
Today It has been almost 5 years since we ended our marriage our daughter together is almost 16 years old. I haven’t dated, I didn’t speak to any men and I shut my eyes, mind, and heart to even being involved with a man. I needed to stay alone so that I can learn who I was as a woman and why did I choose to fall in love with the same kind of men. Myself and my 15-year-old daughter moved in our own place, in 2013 I started school to get my Bachelor’s Degree in Public health, went to a little counseling, evaluated my life, started speaking educating and advocating for HIV. I have to say that just because we are living with HIV doesn’t mean we have to stay in a relationship that doesn’t value who we are as a person. It doesn’t mean that we have to be treated like crap because we are afraid to be alone. We all must realize that we must love ourselves first and smile at the beautiful person we are when we look in the mirror. I am a better woman now. I am happy and I love me so much that I can squeeze me and be happy with that. My mind is so much different today and I will not accept any kind of abuse mentally or physically. We have to have standards of who we want in our lives even when it comes to friends we meet and we need to stick to those standards. Do not let any negativity even be a part of your circle. Not even from your family! Stand up and take control of being diagnosed with HIV. You are not less than, you are better than! When you shine on the outside others will see it and you will be a magnet to individuals who are positive people inside and out, loving, happy and caring. Be free from those you don’t need and be free to love who you are diagnosed with HIV. I did I finally came back to me!!
With HIV stigma you are not alone there are other women that are scared, ashamed and worried that someone will find out about their HIV status. Find a group, organization or friend you can confide in so you can talk. You are not alone.
What I would tell another woman about PWN Speak Up Summit 2016
September 27th-30th, 2016 in Fort Walton Beach Florida I attended a women’s conference with 250 women who are diagnosed with HIV and not diagnosed with HIV. Some diagnosed over 30 years all the way down to a year. It was a great experience, something that every woman that has been diagnosed with HIV should attend. The women embraced everyone with love and made the newly diagnosed women feel a sense of comfort, hope, and relief. It was a place to learn about different HIV issues that all women seem to face when it comes to HIV. What would I tell another woman that has been diagnosed with HIV about the PWN Speak Up Summit? I would tell her that it was the most refreshing, vivid and comforting conference that will give her hope in so many ways as far as a woman diagnosed with HIV. I would tell her it will help in so many ways by allowing her to find her place and who she is. It will uplift her spirits and also make her cry, but her cries would be of joy knowing that she is not alone in this fight. I would tell her she will find sister love among so many other women who care so much about her. The weight on her shoulders would be gone because she will know that she has found sisterhood with many other women going through the same thing. In hopes, that it will get rid of the self-stigma that she causes herself as she walks around and looks at all the thriving women in front of her showing her that she can live a great, healthy, happy, vibrant life with HIV. Us women need to realize that HIV is not who you are, you are a BEAUTY, a gem, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a friend and most of all a human being. Never let the words of someone else destroy the awesome woman you are. Live your life for you and not for anyone else, be happy in your own skin and know that you can kick HIV in the Butt all day long!! So I say if you ever have a chance make sure you find a PWN chapter in your state www.pwn-usa.org and become a member so you can be among Sisterhood, Solidarity, and Action words by PWN. I want to say thank you to all the women who worked so hard to put this conference together and I will see you next year.
Pozitively Dee (Davina Conner) PWN Colorado
I am A Woman of Color I am who I am! (I wrote this blog for the.body.com)
I am a Woman of Color, someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s mother, and someone’s friend. I am a human being that was handed a card in life that made me stronger than I thought I was. Not giving up on dreams or who I can become because of this card. Uplifting those in the fight against HIV. Holding their hands and encouraging their spirits to push past the stigma. I am a Women of Color strong, beautiful and brave never letting HIV knock me down in a society where people think I’m supposed to hide. Giving my voice meaning to get through the ignorance of others. I am a Woman of Color and being diagnosed with HIV doesn’t change who I am it only made me better at who I am. Fighting to change the face of HIV by putting a face to HIV. Not letting others tell me what I should be, keep getting up, keep moving, keep smiling and keep walking with my head held high. In hopes, that people are listening to my words. When I hear, who are you helping? You’re not moving forward in this fight to help any change, it’s a waste of time. I say it’s not about me, it’s not about me moving forward, it’s about that one person who heard my words and listened to me that makes all the difference. I am a woman of color; I am a Black woman and I am who I am!
Advocates Door (I wrote this for thebody.com)
In a deep thought, we think of the smiles, joy, love and caringness that are friends bring to so many of us. They love unconditionally without limits, without restraints and with every being of who they are. Without passing judgment on any other human being they push to help others feel happy inside and out. We sometimes forget that advocates are people too with emotions and when we see their smiles that light up, it gives others hope that they too will smile in that way, but sometimes we have to realize that they need the same unconditional love without judgment. Many advocates are seeking to inspire and give hope to those who need it and are lost because of this virus we call HIV. When that advocate goes home and closes the door behind them who is there to hold their hand, who is there to give them a hug, and who is there to tell them that everything will be okay. The stigma from society bothers their soul, their family has pushed them away and many advocates struggle with loneliness in private and in silence, ashamed to tell the feelings are so real for them once they sit in a lonely home with no one beside them. No one to say I love you dear, no one to lay next to, no one to have their back in their time of need, no children, no wife, no husband, but still they wake up, walk out the door smile and advocate for change a feeling in them that goes beyond their own selfless feelings. Depressed and dejected still fighting for equality, social justice, discrimination, and violence for the ones that they love so much. Are advocates are human beings who do get tired, who do get frustrated, who want to sometimes give up and if they do what will happen to the many people who need them? The ones who thrive off of their strength, the ones who says to them you really made my day today, so I say let’s be more aware of our advocates because we don’t know who is crying behind that closed door and just maybe one day that advocates door won’t open again to help bring a change.