Well, where do I start? It is no secret that I have been going through one of the toughest times of my life. I thought I may not be able to go, but how can I cancel when they gave me a partial scholarship ... and The Well Project, where I blog, I am on their CAB and their Global Ambassador, assisted me in every way to show my presence as a Latina activist/advocate there!! So I said "Maria, push through, truck it and be real with what you are feeling emotionally and mentally."
It was not easy to go through severe depression. Being in that comfort zone or that dark hole at home and all of sudden being in a place where there are thousands of people that are speaking to you, watching you, and even asking to take pictures with you ... the hardest was smiling. :-( Yeah, my eyes were puffy from crying so much, but you know what? I am so glad I pushed myself and went. I was embraced with love from people that I would never imagine comforting me. :-) I started to feel better as I was being uplifted and most important to me ... I refuse to be a fake anymore or Mrs. Super Woman that has all her shit together! I don't! My life is not perfect ... just like any other human being. I was taught to not show weakness (this is what they call it), show vulnerability ... and I can't do it anymore! People would see me, hug me and ask me, "Maria, how are you doing?" I would respond, "Not OK ..." or "So-so ..." This is very important because it was then when I finally got the support that I needed from everyone, :-) not the other way around while I am sinking.
So I am on the plane returning home and I can't wait to see my therapist Thursday and I hope that the energy at home is peaceful. It's hard when my wife and I are both going through depression. But we are getting the help we need and we are there for each other as much as we can be. We both have our demons that we have to deal with. I will rise from this with more wisdom, love, courage, strength, self care, self love!! I will not disassociate myself from my story anymore! I refuse to do so. People want to see Maria the Great. Well, I am not going to do that anymore, because while I am motivating others -- who motivates me? Many activists and advocates that I saw were burned out like myself and to my surprise many were anxious, depressed and burned out! Some were as disgusted as I am to see so much envy between brothers and sisters in this fight. I don't want to lose my passion for my mission.
I also noticed what I always notice: Where are the Latina activists??? Why aren't we joining forces like other groups? We want changes but expect to get it without moving a finger. I know not everyone is an advocate and I know many of the youth I am mentoring (I have no Latinas in the USA) tell me that they would like to but were taught to not disclose as teens, so they are afraid to come out to the light in fear of HIV criminalization! Next year USCA will be in my stomping grounds, South Florida, and I am working on something with others to have Latinos more visible. :)
Agencies and organizations, look out for your HIV poz employees!!!! So many tell me, "Maria, I want to go but it is staff that always goes -- HIV-negative staff!!" Come on! We need new faces. This is the way that they get informed and go into their communities and educate others. Please give these new activists opportunities to participate. As I spoke yesterday for a Spanish news channel, we discussed the under visibility of Latinos !!!!!!! Wth is going on? I know that we are like "don't ask don't tell." But, we have to change that and know that UNITED we stand! DIVIDED we FALL! #latinosmattertoo. We must stand up!
I enjoyed joining the protest with my dear sisters Arianna Lint, Bamby Salcedo, Cecilia Chung, Naina Devi, Gina Brown and so many powerful women! It was powerful. :-) I enjoyed everyone. Special thanks to my sister from another mother, my one and only boss and dear friend Krista who uplifts me like a mother does a daughter. She is selfless and compassionate! One of my sheros, and I mean that! Michelle Anderson, who told me she needed me, while she cried and almost messed her beautiful makeup, :-) thank you for your love!! Gina Brown always has kind words for me and nothing but love. Jennifer, our physician at The Well Project and a wonderful human being who sat with me at dinner and listened to me. :-) Emily Carson who I love and have a whole lot of respect for. Lepeina Reid, who hugged me constantly and gave me encouraging words as well. :-) Amber Dukes, Lisa Vaga, Tiff Brewer, Masonia Taylor, Robin Barkins Benjamin di'costa, Mark King, Timothy Brown and his wonderful hubby, Tyler Curry, Guy Anthony, Ken Like Barbie and so many more ... you know who you are.
So I leave with a better state of mind and mission -- the biggest mission of my life, :-) taking care of Maria!! Loving Maria, therapy, being OK with saying, "NO, I can't." Prioritizing the most important things in my life. My wife who took care of the home front and my mother that prays for me daily and has unconditional love. It was an amazing experience and being a part of 3 campaigns at the same time shows you that I need my Latinas to stand up and unite in this fight and journey!! Again we need to be united and we need to be more visible. Come join us in this fight.
Love and light.