My 10 Step to Do List for Enduring Depression

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My 10-Step to-Do List for Enduring Depression A plan of action to combat depression is necessary. While we may never be cured of this condition, we can take steps to suppress it. Some of these things may make us feel uncomfortable or at times seem down right pointless; however, I promise the more you do to actively combat your depression, the better you are going to feel in the long run.

As someone who has lived with depression for many years, I have learned there is no magical one-size-fits-all solution, but it’s my hope that implementing even one of these steps can help you on your own journey.
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Physical Activity and Diet

Physical Activity and Diet

Study after study has shown that exercise can help fight depression. It increases the endorphins or “feel good” chemicals flowing throughout our systems.

 I started out slow and am still not where I need to be, but have taken a step in the right direction. As the old saying goes: “The only bad workout is the one you didn’t do.” I push myself to go to the gym every other day, approximately three to four times a week, and do thirty minutes of cardio along with thirty minutes of weight training. Over time, I will increase the amount I work out, but for now, it’s just right for me. It energizes and motivates me to keep pushing forward.

Eating healthy is also important. I won’t sit here and say that I am a health nut; however, especially lately I have been trying to incorporate a more balanced diet into my health plan. I still fall prey to an occasional temptation for a sweet now and then, but overall, I feel better when I eat more healthfully. Cutting out soft drinks and junk food while increasing your intake of fruits and veggies are simple things you can do to set your diet back on track.

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Music

Music

Music is said to be the pathway to the soul, and I agree. Nothing gets my blood pumping more than uplifting music. As someone who has an hour commute to work every day, I have to find a way to keep myself occupied. Music invokes emotion, and while that can be counterproductive at times, it’s often helped me push through the depression. Soothing and relaxing music triggers good feelings and puts me in a peaceful state. As someone who has a love for the Mexican culture and the Spanish language, this incorporates the majority of what I listen to. Listen to whatever you enjoy because it will get you out of your mind’s thinking trap and take you to a state of being where your emotions have a voice.

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Build and Maintain a Support Network

Build and Maintain a Support Network

Building a support network is a big step that everyone living with depression should have in place. Whether it is a close friend, significant other, beloved family member or therapist, we all need someone we can trust and talk to. For me, a combination of all of these networks helps. At any given time, if I start to feel depressed, I know I have someone I can call and speak with or even visit to express my feelings. Make it clear with your networks what you want in return when you express how you are feeling. Most of the time, I just want someone to listen. And I am fortunate to have a great support network that will do just that.

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Get Creative

Get Creative

Whether it is writing, painting, drawing or singing, do something you love that can let your feelings flow. For me as a blogger and writer, that come’s in the form of written words and poetry. Putting my thoughts on paper is a way for me to fully work through my emotions and express what I am feeling inside. It’s not always the finished product but instead the process of writing that helps. Whatever might work for you, take up a creative hobby, and if you don’t know what yours is, begin the process of exploring one. You won’t regret it!

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Connect With Nature

Connect With Nature

The beauty of the outdoors brings a sense of mindfulness that I’ve found effective in my journey. Whether it is relaxing at our family cabin in Big Bear, swimming in the Pacific Ocean or exploring the beauty of Alaska aboard the annual HIV Poz Cruise, nature is important to me. I forget about the depression and for that moment focus solely on the beauty that surrounds me. It’s a very therapeutic exercise and fun at the same time.

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Spirituality

Spirituality

Whether you are a born-again Christian like me or hold no religious views, spirituality is something that can be beneficial to anyone living with depression. Spirituality is simply connecting with something bigger than us — connecting with our surroundings in a search for the meaning of life. Religion aside, it’s something that all humans experience on one level or another. It helps us to look at the big picture because, when we do, our problems do not seem so overwhelming. It helps us discover our purpose in life, which in turn inspires hope within us that, although we may be going through a tough time, things can change for the better just as quickly as they did for the worse. I personally practice praying, reading bible scriptures and focusing on improving my relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Pets

Pets

It is well known that there is a close correlation between those living with depression and our pets. I always had animals growing up; however, I never experienced a stronger bond than in the years of enduring depression. I have two dogs named Lobo and Lacy; they both play a vital role in my health care and have been there for me through my worst. They simply want to love and to be loved, the most basic principles of life itself. When I feel down and drained of energy, seeing the smiles on their faces is an amazing feeling. They define what it means to live in the moment, and simply by being with them that energy transfers to me. Nothing like a good fluffy hug to lift my spirits.

I love the story of six-year-old child who asks his parent why dogs die at such a young age. The boy says, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life — like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?” The child continues, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

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The Power of Positive Thinking

The Power of Positive Thinking

I know this step seems cliché, and I agree that it is not enough to shake the depression at times. However, I have realized that surrounding myself with positive people and filtering out the negativity and toxicity changes how my mind thinks. Sometimes it may seem as if there is nothing positive in our lives, but I guarantee you there is if you would only look for it. I suggest writing down three things you are grateful for. Regardless of how big or small, over time this will change the way you see the world. This is more of a mindset than an individual practice, but when implemented, you will notice the change.

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Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

Depression and isolation often go hand and hand. It’s actually something that I’ve practiced in the past because I don’t want others to suffer. I’d rather block them out, ignore them and fall into a state of nothingness. It’s easier to do that than to accept that, to fully get ahold of my depression, I have to interact with society. As a social media advocate, this also means taking a break from the digital world. Although inside I may not be feeling it, the benefits of physically interacting with others are enormous. It could be as simple as hanging out with friends or giving to someone who is less fortunate. Doing these things serves as a distraction, as the focus and attention shifts from my own thoughts to the lives of others.

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Recognition and Acceptance

Recognition and Acceptance

Awareness and recognition of what triggers my depression is important. This not only helps me better understand my condition, but also helps me formulate a better response the next time it happens. For many, recognizing when depression is sinking in can be a hard task. For me, I now know almost automatically. It’s been a learning process to get to this point; however, I can now accept when it is hitting and implement the steps above to suppress it to the best of my ability.

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General Disclaimer: TheBody.com is designed for educational purposes only and is not engaged in rendering medical advice or professional services. The information provided through TheBody.com should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, consult your health care provider.

Bow Ties and Butter Knives: Fighting Stigma Within Our Own Community

Speechless… That was my first reaction when I glanced down at my laptop screen and saw the following comment appear on my Twitter feed.

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It was in response to a photo I had posted in support of The Bow Tie Movement Campaign; a grassroots initiative seeking to raise awareness for heterosexual HIV positive men. The words that first caught my attention were knife and neck. Was this someone reaching out for help or yet another stigmatizing comment from someone looking to put others living with HIV down? Then I looked further and what I found shocked me.

This tweet was published not only by another heterosexual HIV advocate, but also one well-known to the public eye. Dick Donato also known as @EvelDick, a reality TV star that appeared on Big Brother and Couples Therapy, shared his two cents on what he thought of the campaign in a series of tweets.

 

I won’t sugar coat it, his responses upset me. But more than the anger was a feeling of disappointment. As advocates people who follow our lives look up to us. We are being watched constantly and our words have a profound impact, whether we know it or not. I’m a believer in the age-old saying, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”.

If the man isn’t a fan of bow ties. Ok, I get it. But to put down a campaign that’s focus is to eliminate stigma by tweeting out stuff like this, makes me feel like we have taken ten steps back in the progress we’ve made to date.

To begin with, the idea of using a comparison of self harm to wearing a bow tie is just not right. Call me hyper-sensitive or say that I am overreacting but as someone who also advocates for mental health awareness, it’s just not appropriate. There is nothing humorous about it. I’ve written in detail about the mental health crisis we are in as seen in some of my previous blogs here and incidences like this don’t help the situation.

The conversation then began to shift…


I learned early on in advocacy that it’s important to stay focussed on one thing, why I wanted to share my story to begin with. Sure, it’s great to know that what I’m doing truly is accomplishing my mission by helping others. But it doesn’t mean that because I haven’t reached 133,000 people, that indicates what I am doing is worthless. What kind of message is that sending? That numbers are what are important? These are people’s lives we are talking about here.

Wether it’s one or one hundred thousand lives, a blog viewed by a couple hundred a month or a show viewed by millions, we all can play a part in this fight. Let’s not put each other down but rather build each other up. This isn’t a competition and the minute that it becomes one it is time we take a serious step back to analyze the situation.

A key component of being an advocate is being humble. While I commend Dick for the work he has done in HIV advocacy, I believe he dropped the ball on this one. Heterosexual men face an enormous amount of stigma and often stay in the closet due to this stigma. We expect it from the outside world that is uneducated and ignorant to our struggle but not from one of our very own.

If I was just starting into advocacy or thinking about speaking out about my status, this would have deterred me. A heterosexual male is going to look at this and say “Whoah, if that’s the reaction the HIV community, how will others react?”

The whole point of this campaign isn’t about bow ties. It’s about saving people’s lives! I am so thankful for the love and support I have received from fellow advocates, friends, and family. I truly do wish Dick the best and hope that this will serve as a learning experience that we can all grow from.

Advocacy isn’t about reality TV but rather real life. Lets put an end to the drama and focus on ending the trauma induced by the stigma that has followed this virus for decades. Wether you are straight or gay, like to wear bow ties or would never be caught in public wearing one. Let us never lose focus; reaching zero and a HIV/AID’s free generation.

 

 

 

 

I’m HIV Positive, Not a Criminal

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The presumption of innocence is something that we in the United States hold dear as one of the most sacred fundamental aspects of our Criminal Justice System. In courts across this nation hundreds of thousands of cases are heard ranging from civil disputes to criminal action alleged to have taken place. The justice system is a key element that holds others accountable for their actions and places punishment according to the laws enacted in an effort to keep order throughout the country. We entrust our judicial system to give everyone a fair trial balanced with the decision from twelve of our peers. The outcome of a court decision can change the fate of someones life forever including financially, physically, and in some states even the act of living itself. The courts play a vital role by upholding the laws on the books but what happens when the courts enter into the bedroom? What happens when there are laws on the books that the courts are upholding that target those living with HIV/AIDS?

In 35 states across this great nation including 2 commonwealth US territories, people’s lives are being turned upside down for failing to disclose their HIV status. This is not only an issue that we face here within the United States but a cause for global concern as various countries have enacted similar laws. The original goal for these laws are often well-intentioned however the impact these laws have in terms of people’s lives and ongoing prevention efforts far outweigh any benefits of them remaining on the books. These laws have taken the conversation that should be happening between two people within the bedroom into a public forum of debate. We must decide as a nation whether accepting personal responsibility for our sexual actions is the correct method or wether we will continue to place our own health in the hands of others.

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As I enter the world of social media on the daily, I am seeing more and more cases where people are being sentenced to decades if not more in prison for failing to disclose their HIV status while having sexual relations with others. These laws vary from state to state and in many cases are not even current with the medical information available to date. Wether protection was used, the viral load of the HIV positive party, the actual transmission of the virus, and whether a verbal disclosure happened are irrelevant in many scenarios. Unless one has a written contract or acknowledgement that one has been told about ones HIV status then the ability to defend against these allegations are often extremely difficult. The courts have taken on the role of moral police when interpreting these laws and have entered into an area that has devastating effects for all involved. The risk or actual transmission to someone else is not what is important, it is simply sorting out whether disclosure took place or not.

I am completely for giving others the choice before having sex with someone who is living with HIV. Do I believe it is the government’s duty to get involved in this conversations? No. Of course there are cases of intentional infection but proving intent is much more than having sex and failing to disclose. When you are having sex with someone then you should be asking the questions regarding HIV status including the presence of other STD’s from the very get go. The responsibility of disclosure does not outweigh the responsibility of taking an active role in your own sexual health.

These cases often turn into a case of who the courts find more credible and trying to convince a jury of 12 that someone willingly exposed themselves to HIV is about as hard as it can get for a criminal defense attorney. These cases not only challenge the issue of disclosure but the long embedded stigma seen within the majority of America when it comes to the topic of HIV/AIDS. The HIV + defendant is guilty from the start due to this overwhelming stigma and people’s misconceived notions of how one contracted the disease. When added to various other factors such as race, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle it is an uphill battle that seems almost impossible to overcome.

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These laws not only discourage people from getting tested as at that point they can be held legally accountable for their actions  however they also open the door for our government to be more deeply involved in the most intimate part of our lives. I have personally always disclosed to every one of my partners and encourage others to do so at all times when it gets to any point where intimacy is inevitable however that is as far as my role can go. Disclosure is a complicated issue and people’s reasons for not disclosing can be vast and complex. In my opinion disclosure is the right thing to do because I would never want someone to ever go through what I have went through. People should not be intentionally trying to spread this disease and as an activist my goal is to see an end to this epidemic once and for all.

New laws are on the horizon such as H.R 1586 REPEAL HIV Criminalization Act of 2015 which would aim to end these laws once and for all. Brave organizations such as CHLP & Positive Justice Project continue to pave the way alongside many fellow HIV activists & allies to see a day when HIV is treated as a condition, not a crime. This is obviously a very brief overview on HIV Criminalization and I encourage you to do your own research on the matter. It is astonishing that in todays day and age with all the medical advancements we have made, these laws have remained in effect. It is a complex issue that we must map through in order to get true justice for all however we can do it together one step at a time :).

HIV Criminalization Fact Sheet

Poz.com HIV Criminalization

HIV Is Not A Crime

Support H.R 1586 Repeal HIV Criminalization Act of 2015

Individual State HIV Non Disclosure Laws

Christian & HIV Positive: Not An Oxymoron

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV) 

Faith plays a major role in the lives of many however it holds a special importance to many who are fighting the battle against HIV/AIDS in their personal lives on a daily basis. Their is a number of religions in the world however my focus will be on Christianity as I am a HIV + born again Christian. 

This virus has so much stigma and discrimination already attached to it as it is seen as mainly a sexually transmitted disease. Many live in hiding with the condition living inside of them out of fear of how others will react, loss of employment, or the misguided judgements about how one contracted the virus. Faith is important in my daily walk with HIV because I know if it was not for Jesus Christ that I would not be able to make it through day to day, He gives me the strength to carry on. 
I gave my life to the Jesus Christ when I was a young teenager. I had grown up in a home where both parents came from different religious backgrounds therefore they did not want to make us have to choose one or the other. When we moved to California we were invited to a non denominational Christian Church where we all became saved. At the time I did not really realize what being a Christian entailed however as I went through more trials throughout the following years I would truly find out what it was like to have a personal relationship with my savior. 

I was caught in the web of methamphetamine drug addiction for over 5 years, survived death twice due to a reoccurring internal bacterial staph infection in my left leg, and later would be diagnosed with HIV. Throughout all of these years I have been a Christian, I would not say I am perfect nor ever have I been, only One is without sin. However going through all of these rough times in my life really made me realize what was important in life and how precious the time we have here truly is. 

I hear so many bash Christianity, many who are HIV Positive, due to past experiences they might have had with someone who is “Christian”. I would like to point out that being a Christian is not about religion but rather a relationship. Is sex before marriage in Christianity considered a sin? Yes it is… I am not saying that I have not sinned by committing this action however I am also human. As it states in Romans “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. The Lord did not create sickness in order to punish anybody however He does give us the free will to make our own choices and also receive the consequences for our actions. No one deserves to get HIV/AIDS however it is something that does happen due to some like myself, who did not take the proper precautions to protect myself. 

Many of my friends who are positive have such a negative outlook on Christians due to the view of some Christians when it comes to the issues of homosexuality and sexual liberty. I am an ally for LGBT equality and believe God wants us to show love for ALL. 

This disease does not discriminate on so many levels including ones religious preferences. Their are steps that need to be taken in order for the church to help put a dent in this epidemic. The issue of “sin” needs to be taken out of the equation because if one does look at it from that angle, the eyes may be blinded. Am I promoting everyone to go out and have premarital sex? No… However if someone does make that choice then I want the church to be more involved in letting people know the risks they are putting themselves at and how they can protect themselves..

Simply ignoring a problem does not make it go away.

Just as a country who stays in isolation and never gets involved in conflict is not clear of impending danger in the future. 

The Christian church as a whole needs much more education when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Many fear what they do not know and many feel they simply do not need to know. This virus is affecting everyone, including Christians like myself, and we need to get away from thinking of it as the modern day leprosy. 

Millions have unprotected sex daily but yet only a handful contract this virus & many times from those who do not know their status. It is a matter of getting educated, getting tested, and loving ourselves enough to protect ourselves if we are going to make the choice to have sex. 

The church needs to be more involved in this in my opinion in order for us to reach an HIV/AIDS free generation. 

This is not just a gay disease, an iv drug user disease, something that happens to someone else.. This is happening to MANY including myself, I am a Christian but also HIV +.

Have I sinned ? Yes, every man has. Does that mean God doesn’t care about me ? Absolutely not. He only allows as much as we can bear and I lean on him for understanding. He helps me through on a daily basis and considers me every bit as worthy. I am not ashamed of my faith and thank God every day for the medicine available to myself as well as the doctors he has put in my path. Everything happens for a reason in my eyes and there is a reason I am walking this journey. With my faith alongside adherence to my daily ARV adherence, nothing can get me down. God bless all have a great day 

Please take a moment as well to check me out on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

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pozitivehope1@gmail.com

http://www.instagram.com/pozitivehope 

We Are HIV

Please check out my friend Rachel’s blog and journey as she shares her experience living day in/out with the HIV.

It has been eight months and twenty-eight days since I received the most devastating news of my life. On March 19th, 2013 I found out that I was HIV positive. It was just an ordinary day. I got out of bed, got ready for work, stopped and got my morning Starbucks and headed to work. Later that afternoon I headed to the local planned parenthood to get my birth control refilled. It started out as any other visit. I gave them my name, filled out the ever so mundane health history, peed in a cup and had my finger pricked for the routine HIV test.

I will never forget the soul numbing sensation I felt the day the doctor walked in and gave me the news.

“What?” Surely I did not hear her correctly. I imagine the look on my face must have been enough for the doctor to understand I wasn’t grasping what she was saying to me. So she repeated herself, and still I could not seem to understand the words that were coming out of her mouth. Then it hit me like a freight train traveling at the speed of light. She said I was HIV Positive. I swear I felt my spirit leave my body. It was like the Rachel I had known just vanished and I was left in this shell, of well… nothingness. At that very moment I wished I was dead. It was the first time in my life that I truly wished I was no longer walking in this beautiful world. I thought my life was ending right there at that very moment. I mean I have HIV doesn’t that mean I’m going to die anyways? Might as well be now.

Wait! How could this be? I’ve never used needles, let alone shared needles. I’ve never slept with a homosexual man and as far as I knew heterosexual women do not contract HIV. I don’t want to get sick and skinny and waste away. I don’t want my friends and family to know I was just diagnosed with HIV. What will they think of me? Will they still love me? Will they still hug me? Will my friends want to hang out with me? Will anyone ever want to touch me again? The doctor asked me if I wanted her to call anyone for me. What? Are you serious? I mean who in the hell are you going to call for me? I just found out I am HIV positive and you want to call someone for me? I don’t even know what being HIV Positive really means but I know enough about what people think of when they think of HIV, and I’m not about to tell another living soul unless I absolutely have to! No thank you! I will deal with this all by my lonesome. I mean I have no family here and the people closest to me are my roommates. Oh no, my roommates! What if they find out and they don’t want me to live with them anymore? Where will I go? Really doc, what am I going to say? “Um, hey can you come pick me up from the doctor and by the way, I’m HIV +!” Yea I don’t think so…

I do not remember too much from the rest of that visit besides the doctor telling me that it might be a false positive due to some Prescription diet pills I had been taking. OK, that is a glimmer of hope. Maybe it is the diet pills causing the false positive. I remember them taking my blood to send off to the lab to be tested. I remember thinking back to the last time I was tested and knowing right away who gave it to me. If this is true and I am HIV Positive then he would have to be as well.

I knew there was only one person I could have been infected by and I knew if he tested positive; than this was real. I couldn’t bear to wait the 7-10 days for those results to come back, I had to know now. I was calling his phone before my foot stepped outside of the clinic. If this is real then he will be positive as well. If he is negative then I know this is just a false positive and I can rest easy. Ugh, why isn’t he answering his phone? I must have called him 10 times in 2 minutes. I knew he must be at work so I started to look up his work number when finally he called back. I wasn’t even slow to say it. It just spilled out of me like hot lava erupting from a volcano. I begged him to leave work right at that moment and go get tested. He said he couldn’t but that he would do it first thing in the morning. I was so frustrated. I didn’t want to wait until the morning. I wanted to know now! But I let it go and we agreed he would go to the clinic first thing in the morning. I would have to wait until the next day…

I actually went back to work that day. Needless to say, I wasn’t very productive. I guess it made more sense than going home and facing my roommates. I knew all they would have to do is take one look at my face and they would know there was something wrong, something very wrong. I was not ready to talk about this yet and what if they didn’t want me to live there anymore? The prospects were way too risky for me.

I spent that evening hoping and praying to God almighty himself to please let this be a false positive. I made promises that surprised even me. I promised him I would not ever take life nor anyone or anything in it for granted ever again. I promised him I would be the best Rachel I could possibly be and I would live the best life I could possibly live. I would strive hard to be a better person than anyone I had ever met. I honestly would have done anything humanly possible to have those test results come back as a false positive. I had lots of hope that evening.

The next morning my friend called as he was waiting in the Planned Parenthood parking lot for them to open. I could hear the fear in his voice as we hoped and prayed together for his results to be negative. The next couple of hours as I waited for him to call me back were the longest two hours of my entire life. Finally he called. I remember his exact words were. “I am so sorry Rachel.” I waited for him to bust out an “I’m just kidding, it was negative!” He never did say that. We just cried.

I knew I didn’t need my blood draw results anymore. I knew I was HIV+.

http://www.wearehiv.org

I Accept My Status

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)

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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.

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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.

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The Sky Is The Limit

Hoping everyone had a very Merry Christmas/Happy Kwanza/Happy Hanukkah and wishing you a Happy New Years. May 2014 be filled with joy and new opportunities for all of us. This year has been an interesting one for me but a time of personal growth as well. When I made the decision to take off of work on temporary disability 4 months ago I did not know if I was making the right decision or not. I have always been a bit of a “work-a-holic” so to speak and didn’t know what I would do with myself if I was  not constantly at the office day in and day out. I used to think I would have too much time on my hands and not do anything productive with it however it has been quite the contrary. This time has given my leg a chance to heal further, gave me the opportunity to go on a wonderful cruise with almost 300 other HIV + folks, as well as take a big step towards one of the biggest dreams I had in my mind but never thought would actually take place. It has also given me time to cope mentally and emotionally further with this virus as after my diagnosis I kind of put HIV towards the back of my mind, working through the pain. However I realized after taking this time I just needed some well needed “me time” to fully process everything and see where I would be going with my future. I have always been involved in activism since the beginning and accepted my diagnosis but never gave myself the chance to fully comprehend my new life. This time off has given me that opportunity and I am very thankful for it.

The title of this blog is “The Sky Is The Limit” and for very good reason. One of my biggest dreams in life has been aviation and having the freedom to fly an aircraft. I remember when I was a little kid having been invited to the front flight deck by the Captain and seeing all the buttons, looking out the window, and having the breathtaking experience to see things from the point of view of the cockpit. The last couple months I have been contemplating what I would like to do for a full time career. I wanted something that would be enjoyable, make my family proud, make sufficient money to live on, and something I could do long – term. That is when pilot kept popping into my head and the more that I thought about it the more I wanted to do it. I never knew how I would start my journey towards this dream until yesterday.

I called the Big Bear City Airport and set up an appointment/demo flight with a flight instructor today at 12:00 PM. Driving up the mountain I had no clue what to expect or what I was in for. I thought it would be a very short flight and it would be nothing hands on, all visual, but I was still willing to try because I wanted to get the general feel if it is something I would truly enjoy. When I got to the airport I went over some paperwork with the instructor about the costs for becoming a pilot, granted not cheap however doable, and from there we took off. The instructor was very sociable, patient, knowledgeable, and has been flying since 1994. He taught me the basics of the aircraft and we proceeded to enter a Cessna 182. When we got in the airplane he allowed me to sit in the PIC (Pilot in Command) seat on the left hand side of the cockpit ! I was amazed at this as I figured he would be sitting there however it is a dual control aircraft so each side has equal control of the plane. It was then that he showed me how to move about the airport by taxiing and using my feet to guide the plane to either the left or right. I would akin it taxiing to driving a boat, same concept.

From that point he then told me that I would be doing a lot more hands on training than I had anticipated. He told me I would actually be the one to take off, cruise/fly the plane, and land. My eye balls were about as big as the sun at this point, filled with excitement, however nervous at the same time. Obviously he had the same controls on his side so if anything went wrong he could always take control of the plane and continue on from there which did give me some comfort. We then proceeded to taxi on the runway and I took off !!!!! It was an exhilarating experience better than any drug that is our there or even more pleasurable than sex. Feeling that plane lift off when I pulled back on the yoke was an indescribable feeling. We flew over the mountains of Big Bear and then towards the desert which was also very breathtaking. I was so scared however he was very patient and walked me through every step making me feel very comfortable. He proceeded to show me what it would feel like in an engine failure, actually making the plane come to an abrupt halt in mid air, which scared the *#$@#$ out of me to say the least lol ! We were fine of course and the propellers were still moving so we got on our way again in no time. It was then he showed me what it would be like to fly with no visibility because you have to learn that when learning to fly in clouds. You have to rely purely off your instruments otherwise within seconds you could be tumbling towards earth at a very fast rate. He had me close my eyes and put my head in my lap, he was watching to make sure we did not crash but the whole point of the exercise was to show how humans are not like birds. I thought I was controlling the plane and flying straight just as I had been however when I looked up I realized we were at a very steep angle heading downwards very quickly. With a quick correction we continued back up and increased in altitude once again. After another 30 minutes or so of flying over the desert and practicing turns we headed back towards Big Bear. It was the most beautiful site seeing the desert and mountains meet, something out of the movies. I got to see the lake from a whole other perspective as well as the ski slopes, mountain ranges, ext….  The winds were very strong and he said it was not a good day to practice landing because of how the winds were but said “What the hell, lets give it a whirl.” He demonstrated landing one time so I would know how to land and then we took off once more. After during a quick turn around it was my turn and I ended up landing the aircraft safely.

This flight today has sparked my interest in aviation even more and has made me want to begin the journey in pursuing my Private Pilots License (PPL). I am going to start working on it at the beginning of the year as well as continuing my college degree. I am hoping to get all the necessary hours in and have my PPL within 1 year. It was a terrific experience that I am still in disbelief even happened. It all seemed so surreal however it really did happen and I found out that I LOVE flying. It has always been a dream of mine however to get out there and actually do it, words can’t describe it. I wanted to share this with everyone so you can see that this virus does not have to stop us from doing everything that we want in life. It is only a stepping stone in life however there are many other major life events that will continue to happen to us. I have said before that this virus is simply a new beginning and it is so true because we are still humans with dreams and aspirations. My dream has been to fly so I went out and did it ! I found out I loved it and will continue to pursue it. We don’t know how far we can go in life unless we try. So if you are thinking about doing something but a little voice in the back of your head keeps telling you that you can’t do it or what are you thinking, your positive. Expel all that negativity from your mind and when you yourself or someone else says to you “You won’t be able to do that” tell them “Watch me” and show them !!! The sky is the limit !!! Follow you dreams and never look back, we are SO MUCH MORE than HIV.

Take care and have a very blessed night. Thank you for reading

Sincerely

Joshua D Middleton

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