The Fear of Attending a Support Group

Doorways Through IPemmy ElderSupport groups are everywhere. There are support groups for drinking, sex, gambling, health issues, etc. Having a problem that requires a support group is hard enough but then you add the fear of attending that first meeting. You don’t really know anybody, but you do know that they all have the same problem going on that you do and that’s a comfort. A million thoughts are running through your head when attending the first meeting. Will I have to speak? Am I being judged? How will this help me?

Most support groups are non­judgemental and a safe zone where you can share your thoughts and feelings with people who understand what you’re going through. Being the newest member of anything is always hard, but being part of something that is helping you better, or get through your life is the best.

I was a new member of a support group about three or four years ago and I was terrified. I didn’t know anybody and was hesitant about people finding out about my status. The ladies of that first group were wonderful, though, and made me feel very welcome. Now it’s years later and this group has become such an integral and important part of my life. I love every single person so much and I can’t imagine how I would get through life without their support.

Support groups are there to help us and most of the time they end up being our biggest supporter. I encourage everybody to try one.

At Let’s At Let’s Talk About It- we stand up and speak out against gender-based abuse!

reprinted from:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shannon-weber/women-hiv-and-trauma-towa_b_10489298.html

Women, HIV and Trauma: Toward Resiliency & Healing

06/17/2016 02:52 pm ET | Updated Jun 18, 2016
  • Shannon Weber Love note writer + public displays of affection + mapping the end of HIV transmission
  • Co-authored by Karishma Oza, HIVE Program Coordinator. 2016-06-15-1466025254-1904082-LoveNoteHeal.jpg

    One in four U.S. women have experienced gender based violence. Among women living with HIV, one in two has experienced intimate partner violence, and more than 60% have been sexually abused – 5 times the rate of the general female population.

    For over twenty-five years, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital & Trauma Center-based HIVE clinic, has provided compassionate, expert reproductive and sexual health care to women living with or affected by HIV. The impact and consequences of violence against women, particularly women living with HIV, is magnified through the lens of women’s reproductive health. Reproductive health highlights the intersection of violence and reproductive justice at the individual, community and institutional level.

    • Trauma is associated with: increased HIV vulnerability, higher HIV incidence, faster disease progression, more hospitalizations.
    • Unaddressed trauma is associated with twice the rate of death among women living with HIV.
    • The aftermath of violence and/or trauma ruptures women’s relationships with themselves, their partners, family members and the medical system.
    • Women living with HIV have higher rates of tubal regret – meaning more women second guess their decision to have a tubal ligation, for some this decision was made for them.
    • Partner contraception sabotage increases rates of unintended pregnancies.
    • 33 U.S. states with HIV criminalization laws enforce long histories of systemic oppression, further stigmatizing women.

    Pregnancy, contraception, trauma and HIV vulnerability intersect in ways that dramatically impact women’s lives. Even in the face of these overwhelming statistics and devastating outcomes, there is hope. Our collective resilience is cause for a standing ovation. We can seek solidarity in our advocacy efforts and heal through relationships even as we continue efforts to create systems-level change.

    Progress at the national level to integrate trauma-informed care into the primary care setting and specific references to trauma-informed care in the updatedNational HIV/AIDS Strategy, shifts institutional approaches. We share strategies for operationalizing these guidelines at the clinic and individual level with a lens toward healing and resiliency-oriented approaches for working with women living with HIV who’ve experienced trauma.

    1. Shift our focus from “What is wrong with you?” to “What happened?” Moving away from blame, allowing space for her story, staying curious, seeking to understand her worldview creates opportunity to meet women where they are and understand their lived experiences.

    2. Commit to self-care and resiliency oriented approaches to our work. More than just practicing what we preach, this integration of trauma-informed principles become the touchstone for truly becoming a trauma reducing, healing system. This begins with a commitment to heal ourselves.

    3. Include women. Ask women for feedback on provider and program approaches, integrate women’s lived experiences when designing new programs or crafting policies, hire women for important roles. Create space for women living with HIV to lead.

    4. Use trigger warnings at the beginning of emotionally intense meetings or online content. Those with primary or secondary trauma are among us. Invite self-care. Create awareness and respect with an overview of what to expect. Respect the self-care measures others take.

    5. Universal screening for intimate partner violence, with counseling and referrals. Preventative education about the intersection of intimate partner violence and health can be provided to all patients, not just those who have disclosed a history of violence. Ask questions in non-triggering, nonjudgmental language with the goal of patient empowerment and safety.

    6. Rape and other forms of violence remove women’s sense of power and control. The medical system is inherently hierarchal. However, medical visits should not create more pain, violence, or humiliation. Turn commands into questions, create space for her response, provide opportunities for women to be in control.

    7. “Difficult” patients may have experienced sexual trauma. She isn’t difficult; she’s had a difficult life or experienced traumas that are difficult to integrate. What might be difficult is the system she’s trying to navigate. Reframing allows space for the experience she is living, invites you to meet her where she is today.

    8. The body of a survivor remembers traumatic experiences. We are somatic creatures; this is our vulnerability and our strength. Through our interactions with survivors, we can change the way we see her, then change the way she sees herself.

    Toward resiliency and healing, we share this poem.

    beyond compassion
    By Silvi Alcivar, The Poetry Store

    the gates call you
    to move forward,
    to pass through thresholds
    that make you able to sustain you,
    the work,
    that make you able to sit in service,
    to model dignity,
    to recognize trauma,
    to take care of community,
    self,
    to live your intellect through your heart
    and be wise.

    the wise one asks:
    what’s the beauty of what we attract?
    what’s the beauty asking me to heal?

    the wise one remembers the breath.
    the wise one drinks the waters of nourishment and release.
    the wise one works with the shadow knowing the shadow means
    there’s always a source of light.

    the wise one asks:
    what are you teaching me?
    what isn’t being seen, held?

    oh, the gates call you, wise ones,
    to move forward, to attend
    to what needs attending, what wants attention
    in ourselves and our inheritance.

    call in your support. breathe.
    honor the spaces between.
    hold intention. clear. release.

    put on your golden cape.
    heal. and be healed.

    Baby, You’re a Firework

    Whenever I think of the fourth of July, I automatically think of fireworks. I think of gathering with others to celebrate, but most of all, the colors and the awe that come with watching the festive explosions. It wasn’t until recently when I began thinking about what the holiday was originally designed for: to celebrate independence.

    Because of my age, it is hard to consider myself independent. I always look at others who seem to have their life together and think that they are the picture of independence. I see someone my age living in his or her own apartment, landing his or her dream job, and looking absolutely happy while doing it. When I see these individuals, I always compare myself and come up lacking.hands.

     

    But then I think of the fireworks.

    Each firework is unique. No two patterns end up being the same. No two fireworks follow the same path. Why is it that I am in awe of the fireworks, but not of my own accomplishments? To be independent, you do not have to follow the same exact path as those around you. That is the beauty of independence: you get to define what it means to you.

    In light of this road to self-discovery, I will part with the lyrics to Katy Perry’s “Firework”:

    You don’t have to feel like a wasted space

    You’re original, cannot be replaced
    If you only knew what the future holds
    After a hurricane comes a rainbow

    Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
    So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
    Like a lightning bolt, your heart will glow
    And when it’s time you’ll know

    You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
    Just own the night like the 4th of July

    ‘Cause, baby, you’re a firework
    Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
    Make ’em go, “Aah, aah, aah”
    As you shoot across the sky-y-y

    Baby, you’re a firework
    Come on, let your colours burst
    Make ’em go, “Aah, aah, aah”
    You’re gonna leave ’em all in awe, awe, awefireworks2

    Fear of Making a Presentation: National HIV Testing Day:

    First, I want to start off and say, I am not a presenter. I never have been. Getting up and talking in front of people seemed to be the worst kind of torture to me. I hated it and I never could remember all I was supposed to say or do. They say the only way to conquer a fear is to do it often and repeatedly.hiv-testing-day-468Recent events have allowed me to put this theory into practice. I have had to come out of my shell and actually speak to people. At first I was terrified about speaking in front of people and having all their eyes on me, it was a nerve-wracking feeling. Well, I gritted my teeth, buckled down to practice and got through it with a lot of help and support from others. Now I have been making presentations on a pretty regular basis, and this mostly involves talking to people about living with HIV and how it has had an impact on my life. Wanting to help other people living with HIV is what gave me the push to tackle more public speaking. I wanted to educate others on the disease, those living with it and those who are not.

    Being able to help and educate people was important to me. It’s important that the word get out there that living with HIV is not a death sentence anymore, you can live a long and healthy life. I can’t say I still don’t get nervous before a presentation, but once I’m warmed up it’s usually a piece of cake. I usually practice what I’m going to say the night before, and it really helps when you have a partner to practice with. That way you have somebody besides yourself listening to your presentation, and they are able to give you feedback on it.

    I would say you can really start speaking out anywhere, but probably keep it small at first. As long as you have the passion to educate, inform and help people you will be able to speak up anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you have the experience or not. Your passion will shine through.

    June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. As we observe this day, take time to create awareness and encourage testing. So, I challenge you to take the first step as well and speak out.

    Here are a few sites for additional information:

    aPositiveLife.com

    https://www.aids.gov/news-and-events/awareness-days/hiv-testing-day/

    Share with us the steps that  you take in observing this day.

     

     

     

    Don’t Cheat on Yourself

    As human beings, we automatically are taught to nurture others and that makes us start on the road of learning to”cheat on myself.” I never thought about that until today. I should be on the path to help myself when it comes to things like bubble bacalmness photo for blogths, going clothes shopping, getting my hair done, etc.  I should be open to learn how to see the positive in everything and learn how to enjoy everything that I am doing. If not, I am“cheating on myself.”

    Sometimes I have family, friends, or significant others who try to take all of my time away and sometimes it feels as if I am being taken advantage of. The time that I have set for myself should maybe be marked as an important appointment on the calendar and even put it on the phone with an alarm. When I do this, I will make sure to tell others that I am going to be busy and stick to it because I deserve it and so do you. It’s just as important to do this for myself and makes me just as important as someone else is. If I stand up and say “NO” or just saying that I am busy, that should be enough. I don’t feel guilty because this is me that requires rejuvenation.

    Just because I learn to say “NO” doesn’t mean that I don’t love others, it’s just that I have decided to do things for me as a women with HIV and it makes me learn about myself, then I will be better at helping others. As a matter of fact, it makes me stronger and maybe I have learned not to “cheat on myself.”

    I decided to write about this because I have been letting others dictate my choices and that is not going to continue because it will stress me out and cause me to be sick. “Cheating on myself” makes me forget all of the little things that make mehappy.

    Get back to doing you, and stay on track, so that you will be able to have strength to show others why you are so happy, maybe it will catch on.

    What makes you cheat on yourself and what would you like to do for yourself that will help you stop? 

     

    Show Some Pride

    Every year in June is national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month (LGBT Pride Month). Early in its development, the LGBT Pride Month was only celebrated on the last Sunday of June as “Gay Pride Day,” but over the years, the designated day has expanded into a month-long celebration that came to also include lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgender individuals!

    Now, celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia, and concerts. LGBT Pride Month events attract millions of people from around the world! In addition, memorials are held for those members of our community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. So, the purpose of this month is to honor and recognize the impact and progression that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have made for this community.

    If you want to participate in any of these LGBT Pride Month festivities, please visit http://gainesvillepride.org/ for more information.

    flag-waving                                                                         Image from: http://www.digitaljournal.com/image/68063

    Let us know of any events in your area!

    I Can Do Something

    So What’s A Girl To Do?

    I love sex. Really I do!! I love to talk about sex, I love to educate people about healthy sex and of course I love to engage in healthy sex. The best part though is the look on peoples face when I tell them I am HIV poz and that sex is awesome in my world today. Ooohh the blushing I witness on a daily basis!!

    The majority of people have a mindset that if your HIV poz, 1) No one will want you, 2 Poz’s can’t EVER have sex so they don’t transmit HIV to anyone, possibly go to jail or prison, and 3) You’re gonna die so what’s the use?   FOR REAL!!! I have actually had that one said to me. Well, I’m here to tell you that sex is “doable” Ha ha get it, doable?

    Sex is the major route of transmission for HIV. However when I was diagnosed I wanted, no… I NEEDED to blame someone. Once I grew up a bit (emotionally, spiritually and mentally), after being Poz for 13 years, at 42 years old, I realized that I was ultimately responsible for my Poz status. Then, I forgave myself. Once I grew up a little I came to be ok with me; I decided that I do like sex and that I want to have more of it!!!

    So what’s a girl to do?!?!  I mean really!?!?! Dating sites are great, but when do you disclose? In your profile? First date? After he’s in love with me and will not want to leave me?  Well, I will tell you that I have done both and it ended well both times. One walked away…the “after he falls in love” one. Then the “first date” one, he stayed and got educated about HIV. He started taking PReP, along with condoms, and it was on for us. That relationship ended after 13 months. But before it ended…I learned a lot about me and my orgasms. That’s right I said it loud and proud “ORGASMS ARE FUN”.

    Although I am currently single, I am hopeful for a life partner with the same mindset and sexual drive as me. It was a long road to get here and I am thankful for every part of it. Today I am an HIV + 49 year old sexually active happily orgasmic woman.