The Beginning of a New Me

Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes.

My story begins in the '80s and ironically those years were also the beginning of the fight against HIV & AIDS.

Early on in life I knew I was going to be someone important and so did those who surrounded me. I always longed to be a part of something big and eventually around six years old I decided on being a doctor when I grew up. I never faltered from that dream till this day.

I was kind of a rebel, not in a sense of what most of my peers were doing, i.e. sneaking out of the house or what my southern people call "fast". After all I was the granddaughter of a preacher and my grandmother was saved, so my morals were something I always had. I was more interested in books and expanding my knowledge than boys. But I most definitely had an issue with any kind of authority despite my standards and expectations others had for me. I always felt that I had to set an example for my siblings, being the oldest. I never understood then, what I know now; that my higher power had a plan for me from the beginning.

In May of 2003, I was the victim of a sexual assault from someone I knew. I attempted to report it only to be told that it was going to be a grueling process and my word against his. The police department actually told me that it was pointless to even file a complaint and to go home and deal with it, as well as actually laughing at me. I was a student at the time and it threw me into a major depression.

I was getting a little better until October of the same year when I contracted meningitis. It was the first time I ever have gotten sick; really sick. I had to quit school, and having quit the semester before, I was placed on financial aid suspension, making it just that much harder to complete my educational goals. After all, college is expensive.

In December of that year a godmother of mine noticed a huge lymph node on my neck that wasn't there the day before. And it was massive. I got it checked out and they said it was nothing but I, being confused by all the new issues popping up, began to worry but the lymph nodes swelling disappeared. In June of 2004, those same lymph nodes returned and I was sent to get them biopsied after a MRI reveled my head and neck were full of unseen swollen lymph nodes with what seemed to be a million of them. The surgeon said that it wasn't cancer as he originally thought and I was relieved, but he told my mother and I that it was most definitely infectious and that I should have and HIV test. I was all for that since I always got tested with friends as the support factor, and I never had anything to worry about.

I wasn't someone who fit the criteria for the contracting the virus. I wasn't born to an infected mother, didn't engage in unprotected sex of any kind, and never received any blood transfusions or took part in intravenous drug use. It didn't cross my mind what happened a year before. But when I got the call a few days later, I fell apart.

Why would anyone tell someone that they are HIV positive on the phone is something I never can comprehend. I was there alone and I would be lying if I said I didn't think about ending everything right then, but I didn't. Instead I opted to call my family, even if I didn't get the reaction that I was expecting. That move is what has kept me grounded and I never regretted it for a second. I have always been candid. I figured why stop now.

I didn't take care of myself in the years following. My health declined, being diagnosed with random rare infections every other month and eventually it started affecting my mind, although my mind never was 100% when it came to dealing with things normally. I spent a good amount of time in therapy trying to come to terms with it, lacked support in my life and one day my mind snapped.

I ended up having a breakdown of epic proportions. I spent a month in a mental facility for giving up, not eating and not wanting to expand my life and no matter what the treatment team threatened me with, I just didn't care. Till one day I woke up and realized I didn't belong there.

I never believed in the word "crazy", but I was not the woman talking to people who were not there, using the bathroom on myself because another personality told me to do it. I wasn't the woman sitting in the corner rocking because I thought people were coming to get me, hearing signals from space. I didn't belong there and because of that I stood out. My doctor there was just waiting on me to say one thing: that I would start medicines, and I finally agreed. They released me and I never looked back. I have never believed in medication, after all I'm a natural chic, but it has improved my life abundantly.

I am no longer a lost little girl, but a woman who found her worth again and her faith. I am finally at the stage where I need to let my voice be heard in hopes to inspire those who fight the ignorance daily, to know that they have nothing to be ashamed of. I am glad to finally be one of the many voices of those who remain voiceless. I am not HIV ... I am more than that.