I was raised by my grandmother and step-grandfather in South Los Angeles. Due to my parents' drug addictions at that time, they felt it was best that my grandmother raise me.
I had a sheltered life, so you know what that means. My grandmother loved and cared a lot about me, she did the best she could, as she knew how. I still grew up feeling less than adequate and unworthy. I felt ugly, and I was thin. I remember when I was in junior high school, there was this black girl walking down the hallway who was thick and already developed. When she walked by me I could hear her jeans go "swish-swish." I though that if my jeans could do that, then all the boys would like me and I would get the attention that I wanted. I just wanted to fit in with the "in-crowd" and to be accepted.
I felt different because most of my friends lived with their parents, and I didn't. My parents would pick me up on weekends, and those were the days I wished for all the time while growing up. My mother and father were so loving and caring when I was with them. They weren't strict and they were open-minded, so I felt free to tell them things that I couldn't tell my grandmother.
My grandmother didn't allow me to make decisions about anything, especially when I was a teenager and even until my adult life. I remember how my father and grandmother always had arguments about me. They would argue about how she wouldn't allow me to make my own decisions, or go out with my girlfriends to the mall or movies. She always called them "fast ass heifers." I am not putting down my grandmother at all, I love her dearly, and I know she did the best she knew how.
I learned co-dependent behaviors early on as a child, and it carried on into my adulthood. There was a void in my life and I couldn't figure it out. I always felt that if I could get a man, he would complete me -- mind, body and soul. Each time I went into a relationship, I felt like this was it, and when it wasn't, once again I was out there, hurt and mad. For years, I would jump in and out of relationships thinking that I had found love, but what I found was heartache and pain. I would allow men to use and abuse me, because I didn't want to feel rejected or make them upset by hurting their feelings. Whenever they wanted me to have sex with them, even when I wasn't in the mood, I did it anyway. Most of the time I just wanted to cuddle, but I didn't know how to express myself back then. So each time I fulfilled their needs I felt torn up inside, but I didn't know how to stop.
It seemed the older I became, the worse my neediness and desire for love became. In 1996, when I was about 25 years old, I met a man who was light skinned, fine and tall. He also had his own place, a car and a deep sexy voice. I just knew I had found my husband. When we were dating I had asked him if he had ever taken an HIV test. He told me that he had, and it came back positive. He then told me that he had taken another test, and that it had come negative. Back then I didn't think anything of it because some tests were coming back inconclusive.
A year and a half into our relationship, he became a ward of the California Correctional Center. In May of 1998, I received a letter from him stating that he had tested positive for HIV antibodies and was HIV positive. At the time I was living with my mother, who had been clean and sober for nearly 14 years. After reading the letter I knew I was HIV positive because we didn't use protection at all. Back when we were together and sexually active, he had stated to me up front, "I don't use condoms, so don't ask." And of course, I didn't ask.
I told my mother about the situation, and she encouraged me to go get tested. I will never forget how she held me as I cried like a baby. "Baby, we are going to get through this together," I remember her saying. With those words of encouragement, I went and had a test. I received my results a week later, and my test came back positive. I was HIV positive. After my diagnosis I went through more drama, and once again my self-esteem and self-worth were at the floor. I was tired of going through all the drama, and I wanted to do something about it. I went to therapy and started working on myself to get rid of all my personal baggage. That's when I discovered I didn't know how to love myself, and that I was looking for people, places, and things to fulfill my needs.
Today, I am still working on myself and learning how to love and accept me. It is only through the grace and mercy of God, who I have allowed to be the head of my life. Through my spiritual journey, I found that God, not men, places or things, complete me.