August 4, 2014
This piece originally appeared in Rae's blog, Diva Living With AIDS.
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.
As I made my morning tea I started to remember that Sophie had come to BlogHer last year with me. She was the bell of the lobby at the Sheraton Hotel and the official greeter at the MultiCulti party. I reflected on how happy she was going from arm to arm that night. I like the fact that BlogHer is dog friendly and Sophie fit right in! She was definitely Ms. Personality.
When I arrived back to Chicago I knew changes of some sort had to be made, but the moment I put my key in that door and there was no Sophie barking like crazy, dread swamped over me. The worst part of being on Earth without her is walking into silence each time I come home and waking in the morning without her being by my side. Adjusting to this this new life is hard, very hard. I'm not sure how long it's going to take for me to be at a better place.
My grief is real and so is my depression. I feel them in the depths of my soul, yet there is a part of me that is fighting, that wants to fight. I want to find a balance. I don't intend to avoid the grief but at the same time, I don't want the grief to control me. I didn't like how I felt in that hotel room in San Jose. I never want to be that self absorbed/consumed by one thing. I never want any one thing to have all of me. It's bad enough that HIV/AIDS has dictated a good portion of my life for most of my life. I want to control what I can.
I understand that my depression is what the experts called "situational depression," which typically occurs after some sort of trauma and or traumatic changes in your life. In my case, the sudden loss of Sophie. I'm having difficulties adjusting to the changes brought on by Sophie's passing and I just fucking miss her.
Situational depression is different for everyone as is major depression. For me, there hasn't been a day that has gone by that my heart hasn't ached for my baby girl. I've cried at least 32 of the 35 days she's been gone.
Sleep is a far away thing that I believe will come back to me one day, but right now I haven't slept through the night if I slept at all. It takes everything and I mean EVERYTHING I got to do anything other than read and knit. And of course, I've been eating my way to hell and back.
It's been a week since BlogHer and that night in my hotel room I consumed Reese's peanut butter cookies and s'mores with bacon on top. I'm proud to say that I have made some changes. No, I'm not better, I just made some changes for the better. I live in the real world and I know that it is not going to get better overnight, but I have at least stopped myself from total destruction. This is my plan!!
Coping with loss of any sort is hard. Each of us must figure out the best path that will lead to the best outcomes. The darkness will pass if we don't fight against the darkness, like going against the gain. The darkness will pass if you don't plant yourself in the darkness, holding onto it for the life of you. It will pass, for nothing stays the same. Remember, no experience is ever wasted, not even moments of darkness. As for me, I'm sure when the light starts to trickle through the darkness, I will look back and say, Aha, I see what was learned in these moments of darkness.
Rae Lewis-Thornton is an Emmy Award-winning AIDS activist who rose to national acclaim when she told her story of living with AIDS in a cover story for Essence Magazine. She has lived with HIV for 27 years and AIDS for 19. Rae travels the country speaking and challenging stereotypes and myths about HIV/AIDS. She has a Master of Divinity degree and is currently working on her Ph.D. in Church History. Rae has been featured on Nightline, Dateline NBC, BET and The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as in countless magazines and newspapers, including Emerge, Glamour, O, the Oprah Winfrey Magazine, Jet, Ebony, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune, to name a few. She earned the coveted Emmy Award for a first-person series on living With AIDS for Chicago's CBS News.
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