My name is Pattie and I am living with HIV since 1992. It’s not easy living with this disease, but you can live a pretty normal life if you want it. You have to work at it. You have to be your own advocate -no one will lead the way for you. I think the more you worry about the disease- it the harder it will be for you. Try to live a normal life and make sure you take your meds every day -at the same time everyday -no matter what. There were many times in my past that I would party all weekend and didn’t eat- but I still took my meds at the same time and that is one reason I believe I am still living today.
“Your tracks will never end as long as you go to meetings and make friends.”
The support groups really helped me to understand what my body is going through. You are not alone -there are a lot of women living with HIV. You have got to have the will to live when things start to go wrong with your body. My friends from the groups, that I go to, really help me in life- where to get help with any problems that I have. Talk to people in your situation who are HIV positive.
For the first 20 years when my husband and I were diagnosed, we didn’t tell anyone. So all of those years we never talked about it unless there was an article in the paper or we had a doctors appointment. I didn’t know anything about HIV- only that it kills you. When the word HIV or AIDS came up I would freak out and leave the room and conversation because it wasn’t good things -it was always bad things people said. All the people were so uninformed- it used to get me so mad. They always talked down about people living with HIV. Some doctors didn’t even want to touch me or take care of me- they looked at me like I had leprosy. But when I found out about the support group on HIV, I was the first one there. I wanted to know and learn about everything that went along with the disease.
I still have a lot of life in me and many good, good friends that have helped me get to this point in my life. I am Happy and most of all UNDETECTABLE of this disease because I always took my meds every day at the same TIME. “Your tracks will never end as long as you go to meetings and make friends.”
It’s a hard job being a caregiver for an adult child. Sometimes it’s harder than when she was a little girl.
My daughter suffers from “Sickle Cell Disease” and had a severe stroke when she was only 20. Before that she was a college student and very independent. Her stroke made her almost helpless. Thankfully she survived and grows stronger everyday.
I had to take charge of her care at home. I learned her medicine schedules, side effects, when to re-order her meds and pick them up. I cook her meals at her scheduled times and what doesn’t interfere with her meds. I also cook what she likes and I have to refuse some sweets and snacks that are bad for her.
I have to follow her doctor’s orders, keep her appointments, and schedule around my own doctor requirements.
She receives some outside help with a caregiver aid however I am still her main caregiver and support. I bathe her and take care of her personal needs and put her to bed.
My social life is almost non-existent but I try to get some much needed time for myself.
My charity program is a time away and I attend my support groups when I can.
My own health is not good but I push forward for the needs of my daughter.
That is what it means to be a Mother. I always answer to “Mommee, Mommee”.
I was diagnosed in October 2009. I was given my test results in Jan. 2010, my CD4 was 12 and my viral load was over 157,000. I was started on Isentress twice a day plus Truvada once a day. Three months later my viral load was undetectable (under 75) and my CD4 was 57. I have posted my continuing growing results on LTAI’s Blog before. Now on Jan. 9, 2017 my CD4 is 445, my CD8 is 473, and my helper cells are at 28% (CD4-CD8 Ratio). My health continues at a pretty good condition for an old gal of 65 years young. My health issues, which I had before HIV, have not
worsened, such as my IBS, acid reflux, etc. I have some heart issues (at 11-12 years old and had rheumatic fever) and suffered a mild silent heart attack 18 months to 2 years ago. I suffer some mild-hard chest pain and have been on continued long- acting nitro med (Isosorbide). I take blood pressure medicine and anxiety meds and both are said to be related to my HIV and other meds. However at 65, in today’s world, I think I would be on both even without HIV. It’s always important to see our doctor, take our meds and try to stay positive and active when we can.
I attend my “Let’s Talk About It” support group monthly and attend other advocacy meetings whenever I can. I talk with my support and advocate friends often, and I send Pen Pal letters to 5 other women living with HIV who I help to advocate for. I
also have a special email pen pal in Croatia, who is also living with HIV, that I email and have for almost 7 years. I feel this support and advocacy helps not only me but the other women as well. I am a member of a newly formed Leadership group for women of our communities. We have to remember that if we don’t advocate and fight for ourselves, we may get lost in the shuffle. Today’s political world is crazy and we must not be forgotten or pushed aside. We can’t allow someone else to make choices for us, without us!
Remember the words of Elizabeth Taylor: “I Will Not Be Silenced. I Will Not Give Up. I Will Not Be Ignored!”
How can we be supportive/inspirational to other family and friends when we feel so…. lost ourselves?
I have never been a what I call the “in your face type” with “things are wonderful and just smile”. I am a realist and like to face obstacles head on with truth. I can be supportive when someone is down and needs immediate support but I wonder later was that the right approach.
I am not a “Debbie Downer” but I believe in telling the truth when someone needs it. Some of the fake support others dish out doesn’t faze me nor does it help in the long run.
Facts, not fairy tales, I guess is what I believe is best. I know, I know “some” can’t handle the facts but I feel they need truth and facts head on to ditch the fairy tales.
How does everyone feel about that or how do you give support for the doom presently approaching us?
I battle with low self-esteem because of things I have been through in my life, or things that have been spoken or done to me.
I never knew how to break free from it, I always felt less than anybody around me because of the way I looked or how I spoke and all I wanted was to feel love. I was finding love in the wrong places or things. I was looking for a way out, wanting to know how to escape everything within me and learning how to love me.
These are ways that help me to be free:
Taking responsibility for my own life and decisions, which can be hard at times, but I have to do it.
Forgive, which is a choice, not a feeling. Never give a person or something so much power over me that I choose not to forgive.
I no longer rely on someone else’s validation to feel good about myself. When I started taking responsibility for myself, it began to build my self-esteem and stability within and gave me hope. I started feeling good about myself.
Self-esteem problems can damage many important parts in my life, like relationships, ambitions, achievements, and health when playing the victim role.
I never want to be powerless and helpless another day in my life. I lost many years of my life by being powerless and helpless. I was giving someone else command over me, and allowing them to have control of my responsibilities and relinquishing my God given power and will.
I replace a negative with a positive by:
Changing my mind to what can go right instead of wrong. I learned the mind can only think one thought at a time.
Using humor and fun or being around someone that makes me happy.
Reminding myself that the negative thought that I’m thinking is only negative, it has no power other than what I give it.
I was watching The View when I heard Cookie Johnson say when her husband ”Magic Johnson” confessed that he was HIV she had to make a choice. Her choice was to leave and let him die or stay and help him live!
She said how hard it was for her when he had to close himself in a room and call all the women he had, had sex with over the past 10 years. I heard her say this and I thought “This is my story in reverse.”
I’m the infected spouse and my husband decided to stay and help me live. He stood by while I had to talk to the health department and disclose my sexual contacts. He wasn’t literally in the room but he knew I was online and on the phone giving names and contacting those I may have exposed or who may have exposed me to HIV. He chose to stay and in the early days or months he probably thought I wasn’t going to be in his life and our children for much longer. He chose to stay and help me fight this disease. He was tested within hours of my diagnosis and tested negative. I thank God for that. He chose to care for me when I couldn’t get out of bed. He drove me to every appointment to sign up for care, for medicines, and everything connected to infectious disease. He keeps me on schedule and checks for any new side effects or symptoms. He drives me to the hospital when I have to go and stays until I force him to go home and rest. I wouldn’t say he’s a Saint but he’s pretty darn close to it.
We still argue as many couples do that have spent so many years together. They are not big fights more of disagreements because we don’t agree on a lot some days. One thing I guess we do agree on and that is that it’s better staying together than being apart. And alone.
I love this man whom I decided to marry so many years ago and will try to make up for the terrible choices I made in a bad time in my life. If he asks something of me I can not refuse and part of that request is keeping my status private from most of our life. Secrets are hard for me and lies are a close second.
Now in our later years we care for one another. I guess the part of the marriage ceremony fits here. “In sickness and in health” We are the elderly couple sitting together on the park bench or walking on the beach. We may not be always holding hands but we will be very close together.
There are many things that we can do to make our future better and one of them is giving our past away. Our past has so many bad things that weigh our lives down and it could make us sick. So, we begin little by little, on trying to make our future stronger by giving away the past and all of the things that come with it. The things that are in our past may consist of many things, such as, work, school, sports that we may play, children, and relationships. I know what you are saying, “Why give away all the things that make us happy?”
We don’t give away the memories, we give away the bad habits, and the bad thoughts that may have come to our mind throughout the day, not to mention that we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Maybe, the toast is a little over cooked. These are just a few things that come to mind. This stuff needs to be let go or given away through your Power Greater than Ourselves, our journal, parents or maybe friends.
As we talk about the little things, some which are listed, these things start to leave our minds, body and our souls and makes us smile, and enjoy our days. This is a necessity because it is essential that we lighten our load by letting go of the past.
To have a strong future, I have given you a few things that will help to strengthen yourself, your future and the thoughts that may come to your mind. If we give away the dirt, we can’t help but feel cleaner.
Beauty- The quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.(loveliness) 2. the BEAUTIFUL person or thing such as a beautiful woman. 3. a particularly graceful, ornamental, of excellent quality. 4. a brilliant, extreme, or egregious example or <that mistake was a beauty> — Merriam Webster Dictionary
As you can see there many definitions of the word “Beauty” just as our own definitions are different.
This is the time to share the beauty of things in life. A good example of beauty is to always try to find the positive out of the negative. True beauty is not always about the outside and the way we look, that is always a plus, but it doesn’t define us.
There are many ideas of beauty in us spiritually, emotionally, physically, we just have to search within ourselves what indeed we think is beauty. We have to also be as consistent as we can be when showing our beauty. Believe and be honest to yourself. Even when we are going through things and we think that we are all alone, but we aren’t. There is a beautiful person or a group of beautiful people that don’t mind showing you how to reconnect with your beauty.
Remember that we are all beautiful. True beauty is having a good attitude and that is more beautiful than anything.
A few years ago, I started a new journey on my own when I moved to a new city. I have been HIV positive for many years, and sometimes I found myself having too much on my mindat one time. It would become very chaotic and overwhelming, so one day I decided to go and sit in my yard to try to relax. I wanted to sit outside and get the sun on my face because I felt like I could draw energy from the sun.
I would breathe in slowly, thinking about nothing but drawing in energy. I keep breathing in until I felt like I bottled up all of the energy I could manage. Then, I would breathe out slowly. While breathing out, I let everything go. I let go of stress. I let go of the things that are outside of my control. I just let everything out while breathing out. I tend to let my arms out too while I’m breathing out because it helps me get rid of that extra energy. When I breathe and meditate, it is about me letting go of the things I cannot control.
My advice for anyone who would like to start meditating is that, first of all, you can meditate anywhere. I used to live by a beach, and I would walk on the beach in the mornings when it was quiet to do my breathing. You can also meditate in your bed before you go to sleep. I suggest sitting up in your bed, crisscross if you can. Then just slowly breathe in and out, focusing on letting go of the things that are outside of your control. The most important thing about meditating is finding a quiet place where you can focus on your breathing.
What I have learned from meditating is that worrying isn’t going to change anything in your life. With meditation, I’ve learned that it is important to let things go and not focus on the things that are outside of your control. It helps to make life’s hardships a little easier to deal with. We have to be okay with not always being in control.