Ignorance MUST Be Bliss

Last week my Sister and I went to get tattoos on Fremont St at Rockstar Tattoo, while on vacation in Las Vegas.  Mind you this is my third tattoo since I was diagnosed HIV Positive.  Anyways, as always I like to make the tattoo artist aware of my status because, well, I know not many people do and I want them to be aware that anyone who walks in that door could very well be HIV Positive and simply not tell them. Plus, I just wouldn’t feel right not disclosing my status to someone who is going to be exposed to my blood so intimately. Well this time was a little different from my previous two experiences…

The tattoo artist had me fill out a short health questionnaire and one of the questions was “Are you HIV Positive?” Of course I answered the question honestly and handed him the form after I had completed it. He then asked me if I was nervous and I replied yes and informed him that I was Positive and asked if that was going to be a problem? His response literally broke my heart. He shouted across the shop to another tattoo artist, “Hey, whats our policy on tattooing people with HIV? And what’s the set up for that?” Well this shocked me and quite frankly embarrassed the hell out of me! Tears just started streaming down my cheeks, you see I cry when I get angry, sometimes I wish I didn’t because it prohibits me from saying the things I would really like to say. I looked over at my sister to see if she was hearing this and yes, yes she was. I guess I wanted her to march over there and kick his ass for me but I think she was just as shocked as I was. She asked him if he was joking because I mean he had to be joking right? Um no, he was not joking, not at all. He then proceeded to tell me that he was not comfortable tattooing someone who is HIV Positive. This comment was like salt on the wound and only made the tears come faster! Eventually I was able to compose myself enough to ask him if he really thought I was the first HIV Positive person to walk into this shop and get a tattoo? His response left me speechless, he said YES I was the first person. All I could think is how stupid could you be? I’m just the first person to tell you! You flipping idiot!! He then proceeded to tell me that he has tattooed thousands of people and I was the first HIV Positive person to ever walk through the door. I think what pissed me off the most was that I found myself trying to explain to this imbecile that I take medicine everyday and I’m undetectable, it was like I was trying to make excuses for myself. It was horrible. Absolutely horrible.

Thankfully another tattoo artist came to the rescue and said he had no qualms with doing my tattoo. Had he waited another 30 seconds we would have walked out and taken our business elsewhere. The Artist named Ray who did my tattoo for me really did a great job and I am thankful for him.

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Getting Back Right Part Deux

It has been five weeks since I shared my bout with depression with all of the world and I figured maybe it was time to give a little update on all of that.

Well first off let me say, I am feeling much better! I haven’t broke down in tears for at least three weeks and that is pretty huge considering I was crying everyday for pretty much no reason at all. Actually, let me stop fibbing. There were a couple of reasons I was able to come up with.

At first, I thought one of the reasons was really dumb until I told my therapist about it and she told me it wasn’t dumb, that it was “normal” and that I wasn’t crazy for feeling so extremely sad. You see back in January when I wrote my post about dating with HIV there was one guy in particular that I really, really liked! I mean, I really liked him. I was super excited about him because he was different than all of the guys I had ever dated before. We did different things, we went to the movies, coffee shops, church, grocery shopping, out to dinner, out to dinner with his friends, we went to his parents house, we texted each-other everyday and we talked for hours. Yea I get those things may not seem so different but the difference was we were never physical. We never even kissed each-other. We were also brutally honest with each-other about EVERYTHING. I honestly believed he would be different than any guy I had ever dated before. I truly respected what he was going through and was thoroughly enjoying the friendship we were building. Then one day out of the blue he called me and said he could no longer see me. This broke me. I am usually very careful with men and I usually treat them as suspects who have to pass a rigorous test proving their good intentions, but in this case I was 100% sure he was an honest man who would not let me down. I carelessly let down all of my walls and let him in only to be crushed. I am only now getting back right from this experience.

The second reason I was able to come up with was that I came to the harsh realization that I was not as important to one of my very best friends as I thought I was. In life you will only make about a handful of friends that you will want to keep close to your heart for your entire life and when you realize that you are not as important to them as they are to you, it is heart breaking.

Thanks to my awesome therapist and my amazing family and friends, I am feeling much better and am looking forward to even brighter days ahead.

Rachel is finally roaring in the face of her days again.

Getting Back Right

It took me awhile to decide to share this part of my journey. It seems ridiculous that I would be so open about my HIV diagnosis but so ashamed and embarrassed to come out and say that I am clinically depressed. I know that sharing my journey with HIV gave me strength and helped me to start the healing process. The emails I have received since starting this blog have been phenomenal. All the way from people newly diagnosed asking for advice to people needing a pep talk because they were scared to go get tested. I know from the emails I have received that I am not the only HIV positive person suffering from depression. Hopefully by sharing this part of my journey I will help someone else feel not so alone.

A couple of days ago I was asked to speak at a woman’s retreat this coming September. Specifically, I was asked to speak about a significant life experience and how I came out on the other side/better side of it. Although I am still in the process of trying to figure out exactly why I am feeling so depressed my hope is to have this under control by September so that maybe I can inspire some of the women at the retreat who may be feeling the same way I am to seek help. No one deserves to feel this way and no one should have to deal with this alone.

Just this week I went to see my therapist and she said I was sadder than she has ever seen me before. It is hard to believe that I could possibly be anymore sad than when I found out I was HIV positive and my life would forever be changed.

Thinking back to the first six months of my diagnosis I guess I would describe that as a mourning kind of sadness. Much like the stages of mourning the loss of a loved one. 1.) Denial and Isolation, although I never really expierenced  any denial about my diagnosis, I most definitely did isolate myself. For several months I only spoke with a very select few people. The less people that knew, the less I had to deal with the emotions, stigma, pity, and all of the things that come with telling people you are HIV Positive. 2.) Anger, Oh the anger… I felt rage in my soul that I never knew existed. I literally wanted to break things. I once had the opportunity to throw some dishes at a brick wall and honestly it felt so relieving! In fact, I would do it again if given the chance. Sometimes I would scream at the top of my lungs while driving (so no one could hear me of course), and sometimes I would just cry, because that is what I mostly do when I am angry. 3.) Bargaining, If only I would have used protection… 4.) Depression, Of course I was depressed when I found out, although it is nothing like the kind of depressed I am now… 5.) Acceptance, I do believe for the most part I have accepted that I am HIV positive, but I know I still have a ways to go. 

I am hoping that within the next few weeks of seeing my therapist and coming up with a plan to get out of this funk I can start to get the old Rachel back. Quite frankly I’m tired of crying and worrying about things that aren’t  even happening or may never even happen. 

I want to be the Rachel that wakes up and roars in the face of the day and does everything she possibly can to make a difference. Not the Rachel that swirls about in a black cloud.

Stigma, Don’t Let It Stop You From Helping Yourself.

Recently I took notice of how many Facebook friends I have compared to how many of my friends have liked my WeAreHIV.Org Facebook page and it dawned on me that the people who did not take the time to “Like” my FB page are probably scared of the Stigma that may be attached to “Liking” a FB Page dedicated to HIV & AIDS… That or they really just don’t care about a girl on a mission to single-handedly end the HIV/AIDS Virus. OK, OK, I realize I will probably not be able to end the spread of HIV. But hey! A girl can dream.  I’ll admit, it kind of hurt my feelings at first, then the more I thought about it, the sadder I became. Not because I’m missing out on 144 “likes” (which would put me well above 500) but because they are probably the same people who think this could never happen to them…
Maybe they are married or in a committed relationship or maybe they just think they are invincible. Well let me tell you that is most definitely not the case. I don’t want to scare anyone. (Well, maybe I do want to scare you just a little bit. I mean sometimes a good scare can really get you thinking in the right direction!) Let me tell you a story about my first group meeting. I was absolutely appalled when I went to my first meeting for positive heterosexuals and met married couples who had been married for years and one of them cheated on the other and brought home a little gift called HIV (Insert Sarcasm). Not only by cheating on their spouse but some also brought it home because they were using drugs and sharing needles. It is sickening to me because if there is one place you should feel safe and not have to worry about contracting HIV it is in your marriage. But, human beings are not perfect and it does happen.

That my friends is why everyone should get tested.
Knowing your status is better than not knowing your status. Some of the people I met ended up getting really sick when they were first diagnosed because they had been married for 20 plus years and no one thought to check for HIV. Some of them had full blown AIDS by the time they figured out what was wrong with them. Most of them are lucky to be alive today!
Please do not let the Stigma scare you away from educating yourself and the ones you love. Don’t let your loved ones say, “I wished someone would have talked about HIV with me. “
Don’t forget: We Are HIV.