Acceptance in human psychology is a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. The concept is close in meaning to ‘acquiescence’, derived from the Latin ‘acquiēscere’ (to find rest in).
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,Courage to change the things which should be changed,and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other……” (The first portion of the serenity prayer commonly found in Narcotics/Alcoholics Anonymous)
I know that I am HIV Positive and their is nothing that I can do to change that. It is an irreversible condition that is now a part of my being and my biological make up. It is constantly trying to replicate in my blood while the antiretroviral medicine that I take is in a constant battle to suppress it. I have known I am HIV + since 2012 however their is a difference between knowing my status and accepting it. I can choose to know my status but ignore it, many do, just as someone could know they did something wrong but yet choose to ignore it to make themselves feel better. I could let HIV be a thought in the back of my head while secretly it still controls my every action and thought. I can go the whole day living my life but when I take my pill every single night, it serves as a constant reminder of what my “new life” entails and remember how different things used to be. I can tell people it doesn’t bother me but deep inside it is burning me alive.
Knowing my status is just the first step, accepting it as part of me is a process and takes time for each individual who is HIV Positive, unfortunately, not everyone reaches this point. Using the definition above of acceptance in terms of psychology, we really need to break it down. Knowing the reality of the situation is the simple fact that we who are HIV + know we have a virus, a condition that has killed millions throughout the world over the course of 3 decades, and knowing we have the tools to put HIV/AIDS in it’s place. One thing that often covers this reality is the stigma surrounding the virus, this can cloud that reality, but those who truly accept it will not let this happen. Educating ourselves about this virus in all aspects and helping others understand is one way we can make that happen. As the definition continues we see that it is a process of mainly an uncomfortable condition however we do not try to escape it or exit.
How is this possible even if we wanted to you might ask yourself? Well their currently is no cure so physically we have no way of escaping. Mentally and psychologically one can disconnect themselves with the virus and despite knowing our status, choose to distance it from who we are and how we identify with ourselves. We can choose to know our status but still not really accept it. This mental separation of reality is what keeps us from moving forward and living our lives to the fullest. Those of us who have chosen to accept HIV/AIDS as part of our life can choose to know the reality that it is a part of us but also the reality that life is no different in many ways than the day before we were diagnosed. We have a condition just like cancer, diabetes, or multi sclerosis. It does take maintenance and upkeep in order to maintain a healthy life however it does not mean that we cannot accomplish every dream, aspiration, or goal that we have ever had in life. Seeing both of these realities is what pushes us forward and continues to give us the drive and will to keep living life.
The serenity prayer is something I had the chance to experience when I was going through a time in my life of overcoming addiction. Though I still consider myself a recovering addict, I have thankfully been drug free for over 5 years now, at one time drugs controlled my life. I believe this prayer though it is geared towards addiction recovery is still very applicable to acceptance of HIV/AIDS. We might not be able to change the virus itself, though we can keep it at bay, however we can choose to change the choices that we make in our future after the diagnosis. Not everyone has it in them to be an activist like myself, that is completely OK, however everyone is capable of sealing the wounds of HIV/AIDS that have been inflicted into their life and move forward. Not everyone reaches this point sadly, but it is something that anyone who is HIV Positive should strive to do. We need to have the wisdom to realize that staying depressed, distraught, and in a gloomy state is going to get us no where in life except push us backwards. We cannot change the actions that brought us to this place in our life however we can use it as a learning experience to make smarter decisions and realize that everyone no matter how old or young, makes mistakes. I have grown to a level of acceptance with my HIV/AIDS that I know I should have made better decisions but even if I could, I would not change my HIV status for the world. This journey has taught me so much and as I have stated before has coincidentally been a blessing in disguise.
So what does all this mumbo jumbo mean to someone who is HIV positive or currently living with an AIDS diagnosis you might ask ? Well in my opinion acceptance is a matter of perception in the eyes of every person, I can simply offer you my thoughts on what it truly means for me to accept my HIV Status.
Acceptance is knowing that I am HIV Positive however not letting it define me as a person. It is a sense of being that I fully accept where I am in life, how I got here, and what direction I will take to move forward. Acceptance is not something that happens over night, it takes time, however knowing my status was the first step. Freedom is knowing that I am HIV positive but also being aware I am not a prisoner to a disease, I am a living breathing human being, who is going places in life. Acceptance means that I know I have to take care of my health but realizing I am living with a condition just like anyone else. It is the knowledge that I may face discrimination and adversity throughout this journey however every one of those opportunities is a chance to educate others about what they might not know. The feeling of taking what I have learned from this experience and actually applying it to my every day life while not letting it consume me as a person.
Enjoying life and taking every moment for what it is worth is part of this road I have embarked on. Realizing that though I am a person who is living with a sexually transmitted disease, I am no lower or less worthy than any other person in this world and I am certainly not, “dirty”. Loving myself for all that I am, including the HIV, and knowing that no matter how hard this road may seem at times, it was a journey well worth it. I am not happy to be positive but I am grateful for the things that this virus has taught me and the drive it has given me to continue. Acceptance is not keeping my HIV status a secret and sharing my story to show their is no shame in being HIV +. It is a constant feeling of self worth, enlightenment, and courage that it takes to live with this virus day in and day out. When I wake up in the morning, it is the feeling that HIV/AIDS does not have to be the first thing that I think of, but one of the last things on my mind. When I take my pill at night, I don’t think “Oh Shit, I am positive”, I think to myself, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Yes it is not always this easy but it gets to a point where the good days outweigh the bad, and to reach that level takes persistence, patience, and determination. I am glad to have accepted my HIV and my new life for what it is, the only question is, will you do the same ?
Thanks for reading everyone and I apologize for the delay in blogs recently as I have been taking a brief break from activism to give myself some “me” time. I appreciate your continued patience and understanding, as well as the continued support in reading my blogs and watching my videos. I am currently working on getting more videos out there, once I get a camera specifically for vlogging I think it will be much easier to get them out there on a more consistent basis. Right now the only way I have to blog is at the computer on my Mac PC at home but since I am on the road a lot, this isn’t always possible. Therefore a new camera will allow me to be more active in the community and contribute more in the area of video logs.
I would like everyone to check out http://www.positivelite.com which is doing so much great work for the community. Their are many other fellow activists that have a lot of insight and wisdom to offer in the world of HIV/AIDS. This website has been so helpful in getting my story out their as well as my blogs/videos. They have a plethora of fantastic articles and reading material regarding this virus and are doing so much helpful work for all in North American and across the globe. So please make sure to take a couple of moments and check them out, they are one of my biggest supporters and I sincerely appreciate all that they do. It is always good to network within our own community and see how much is really being done in the field of HIV, I can assure you, there are so many hard working people out their contributing to the cause in one way or another, and http://www.positivelite.com is one of these that is making a major impact on the community.
Feel free to check me out on the links below and submit me any questions via social media or email if you have questions regarding HIV/AIDS. As always, EVERYTHING remains confidential. I am not looking to air someones personal matters across the globe but simply to loan a helping hand in the emotional aspect to those who need it. Get tested, get educated, and ALWAYS use protection.