When actor Charlie Sheen said, "I'm not living in that prison anymore" I felt that deep in my soul. It resonated loud and clear. I kept my own HIV infection a secret for seven years. For Real!
Now that I'm well into my 50s, there seems to be no turning back. I'm doing what I should have done in my 30s and for sure when I started to see my 40s that is, live with intent. Well, I sort of lived with very limited intent for 20 years plus, that is, to tell my story to as many people as possible before I died. It was a lofty goal that I did very well. I mean I have spoken at literally hundreds of venues from colleges, churches, high schools and conferences. The only thing is that this goal was single focused and connected to death. Then, I didn't die. Limbo!
Pride and shame will kill you and your spirit. This I know to be true. And it does not matter the circumstance. These two emotions have the ability to create chaos in your life, from your health, to your job and dating. These two will lead you down a path that adds absolutely no value to your life. It's like this: For years, I kept my HIV status a secret because I didn't want to be judged. I was more afraid of what people thought of me, over and above trying to live my best life with HIV.
Of course, when I was younger, I thought, by this age, I would be married with at least one child and a dog. I had it all planned out, so I thought. I would be this big-time political organizer working on important electoral campaigns across this country. Back then, I had goals like many young women. I believed with hard work you could achieve anything you want. Yep, my goals were written in gold, so I thought. I would get a Ph.D. in political science and I would be the "go-to" woman for important matters on the American political scene.
Over the years I've had mild bouts of depression but nothing on this magnitude since I transitioned to AIDS twenty- two years ago. Back then I thought that I was never going to get AIDS and when I did, it caused the worst mental health crisis of my life. I cried all day and I was barely making it through my daily routine. I started medication but I think the turning point was when I started speaking at high schools here in Chicago. God gave my life new purpose and meaning and that turned things around.
The other day, I Googled "dating" to get pictures for a blog post and the images that popped up were all of some sort of reference to dating online. Like for real, for real, so many pictures came up with computer images with hearts that I rechecked to make sure that I had actually searched "dating," or that some sort of auto-correct hadn't led me to online dating. LOL!
Nausea and exhaustion merged and sleep took over. I woke the next morning in my hotel room curled up in the middle of the bed hugging the pillow. Something had come over me last night and it had been cathartic. I knew I needed to do better. "Sophie is not coming back," I told myself. "The good thing is the joy she brought you for eight years," I mumbled. I remind myself of this daily. I remember when Oprah lost one of her white labs, Gracie after one year. She watched her die from swallowing a small toy. I had just gotten Sophie and could not even image the pain she felt. I shuddered to think about it. I had Sophie for eight wonderful years.
I'm drowning in the chaos of my life. It started back in February when I started this emotional eating and Cheetos were always in my right hand, going straight into my mouth. Now, in full disclosure, I took a moment a couple of months ago to examine what had gotten me so off track and all roads led to a man that I wanted, but who didn't want a relationship. So I walked as hard and as fast as I could to a place where I could hold onto my dignity. For me it's simple. No matter how much I want a man, I never want to keep him at the cost of me.
Grief is a monster! I'm learning that it also sticks to you like Gorilla Glue. Honestly, these last three weeks dealing with the loss of Sophie has been new territory for me. I've never felt this level of sorrow for anything even when I lost my first two dogs. When Imani died I was sad and I cried a lot, but it didn't effect my bottom line. She had lived 12 years and while I was very sad, I was not overwhelmed. I had also done everything possible for her lung disease and was at peace with that fact. Of course I still had Nambi, who was Imani's baby and she was my constant companion. I had Nambi for 16 years. She and Sophie overlapped for almost four years. When I put Nambi down, I felt like she had lived a long and good life. I blogged about Nambi when I first started. You can read it here.
Two weeks ago today, I stopped living after I put my baby girl Sophie down. Like for real, for real. Honest to God, I have never felt grief on this magnitude. While I still had breath in my body, my life stood still. Sophie was a special dog that left a foot print on everyone she encountered. For a moment I didn't think that I could go on. The grief was all consuming but like with most things in my life, I kept going in spite of the pain. So here I am, still missing my baby girl and adjusting to life without her.