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Loving Yourself After Your HIV Diagnosis

By Brian Ledford

November 5, 2013

Sinking into a state of depression after first finding out that you are HIV-positive is a very common occurrence. Most of us experienced it in some shape or another and it can be a hard thing to shake off. We all too often forget how to love ourselves and the world seems like a dark, cold, and lonely place where love can never exist again.

You can not let these feeling overwhelm you. You have to learn to love yourself again, and once you do that the world and HIV are not so scary. It is not always an easy thing to do because you are not the same as you were before so you have to learn to love the new you, HIV and all. For many that is that hardest thing to do.

It took me about 2 years after I found out and hit rock bottom to start loving myself again. For the longest I put on a happy face for the world but I hated myself and everything about me. I hated my HIV, I hated my job in the Marine Corps, and I hated everything about my life. All I wanted was for my life to change, but I did not realize that nothing was ever going to change till I decided to make it change and start loving myself again. I am not sure I ever actually thought those words, but somewhere in the back of my mind it all started to click. If I wanted to be happy, I had to make an effort. Once I made that decision to love myself and accept my new life, things started to look so much brighter. It was slow at first, kind of like learning to walk again; you have to take baby steps before you can run. I decided I was no longer going to feel guilty about my HIV, instead I was going to embrace it with open arms so I could use my experiences to reach out to others.

Loving yourself after HIV may seem impossible, but trust me it is not. Once you realize that, everything will start to fall back into place and your life will regain some of it's normalcy. Remember, you have to love yourself before you can open up and allow others to love you. It takes some time and a lot of hard work but it can be done, I am proof of that.

Start out slow if you need to. Take the time to stop and just watch the world around you for a few moments each day. You will soon realize you are not any different from the lady in the grocery store or the man pumping gas next to you. There is a practice called Mindfulness which teaches one to know the mind, train the mind, and free the mind. Freeing the mind is to liberate the it so there are no barriers, shackles, or constrictions that block us from loving ourselves. Usually freeing the mind begins in small steps, each bringing a corresponding peace. Learning these practices have taught me how to love myself again and have been a huge tool my overall acceptance of my HIV.

However you choose to do it is up to you, but loving yourself is key to being happy. Even when it may seem impossible, find something about yourself that you love, hold on to that feeling and then find another thing and keep building from there.

Be Strong and Fight On!!!

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