I am at a very painful place in my life, Its the moment that you realize nothing that you have been doing is working for you and your not exactly sure how to change. I have this beautiful, happy, intelligent child who is quickly growing right before my eyes. I look at her and I want to be so much more for her. Right now I feel like I’m fighting my past to obtain my future. How does one overcome a lifetime full of having nothing, being nothing, and doing nothing? Poverty is an infectious disease. I would even go as far as to say that it is genetic. There is a cure but its not easy to obtain. A person has to be driven to break the chains and step outside of the picture that has been painted for them.
In my current situation I am at the point of wanting change. I don’t have the tools to break the chains yet but I know it can be done. My daughter can not grow up and think that abuse is normal. My daughter can not think that the answer to everything that she wants is “No we can’t afford it.” My daughter will not be ok with receiving government assistance in order to eat and maintain stable housing. I really feel let down by all the organizations that are set up to “help” those who are living in poverty. Every place that I have ever gone asking for help has only directed me to where I could go to receive a handout. As an HIV positive youth I would ask for information on GED programs and HIV peer counselor trainings or training to become an HIV testing specialist so that I could qualify to help others get through the difficulty of testing positive, I’m no longer considered a youth but I still haven’t been pointed in the direction of where I could be trained for any of the things I’m interested in. At this point I know that the places that appear to be there to help us get ahead are really there to help us have just enough to survive. Every Social worker I’ve ever dealt with only has information that will help me stay poor. The system is not designed to change lives it’s set up to keep everyone exactly where they are.
I call this transforming victims into survivors. Victims are not happy with where they are. Victims see a problem and want to fix it. Survivors acknowledge the problem but they don’t give it any power to make them feel negative. Being a survivor is a good thing when there is nothing that you can do about whatever the issue is. THEY want you to think there is nothing you can do about living in poverty so they offer you food stamps so you can be poor and still buy food. They offer you a few hundred dollars every month so that you can be poor and pay a bill or two. There is low-income housing which encourages you to remain below the poverty line because if you make too much money then you no longer qualify for the nice apartment that you live in. There are perks to being poor so that you can be a survivor.
My goal is to overcome, and defeat poverty. Im at a place in my life where I know it is possible but I’m not certain where to start. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that it took me so long to realize that I’m capable of so much more. I can be a champion. I look at my daughter and see a champion in her. I made her so why don’t I see a champion when I look at myself? She is just a baby and I know there is nothing that she can’t do. I have to do better so she can have a chance to see her own potential before she gets to be my age and relive my story. I love my mother but I hate the fact that I have allowed history to repeat it self by reliving her story. I have given up my power, my joy, my love, and my potential by holding on to the chains of what I saw growing up.
I’m happy to say that my mother is now doing better then she was when my siblings and I were kids but I wish I would have seen her doing well when I was a child so that I would have nurtured the spirit of a champion instead of aiming to survive.
I’m standing at the gates, still on the side of poverty, trying to discover how to make it to the other side. I don’t think its going to be easy. As I get started I plan on documenting the journey so that others can pull strength form my struggle. I believe it all starts with education. I have earned my GED about 3 years ago. I haven’t done anything with it yet but that was the start. I have a few college courses under my belt but right now my focus is finding a source of steady income. I give myself 6 more months to make this happen. I’m hoping that should be more then enough time. I’m not sure if this is the right thing to be focused on right now but that’s the beauty of being in control of my own destiny. If my plan isn’t working out I have the power to change it and try something new.
At the age of 30 I finally feel like its ok for me to be mad at the people who caused me pain. A friend of mines expressed to me that he use to hold on to a lot of anger because of my story. He questioned how anyone could intentionally hurt me. Now that I know someone else held strong emotions about my past I no longer feel like I was wrong to be angry. I have put a lot of effort into acting like everything is ok. I just went through something that was very emotional for me. I went way back to the city that I remember abuse starting. I was a part of a project targeted towards telling the story of HIV and intimate partner violence (IPV). I had to mentally go into my past and speak about the stuff I don’t tell people. The sexual abuse, the memory of my father beating my mother, the past and current abusive relationships. I now know that my coping method is not working. I can’t just pretend that everything is ok. That is what I’ve done my entire life. People have said awful things about me but I’ve always smiled and said silently to myself, ” they talked bad about Jesus so it’s ok.” I’ve never admitted my true feelings because I never gave myself the permission to be angry but yes I’m angry.
My childhood was drenched in abuse and death. That abuse has followed me into the present day. I have tried several times to “fix it” but I don’t think I know how. The earliest memories I have took place in New York. My abusive father convinced my mother to pack up and move 3,000 miles away from everything she knew. It was there that my mother decided to leave him. I remember her making me and my three siblings go out the window and up the fire escape to the neighbors apartment when her and my dad would fight. Arlene would just open her window and let us in. She would turn on loud music so that we couldn’t hear our parents arguing down stairs. I would always want to know why my dad always made my mom cry but I never asked. My mom left him and started to date a guy who would have been the father of her 5th child. During that pregnancy she tested positive for HIV. The baby was born during her second trimester in the 5th month of pregnancy. He survived five months before dying at home. The cause of death was listed as SIDS. Shortly after Raymond died my mom somehow found out that I was being sexually molested by her boyfriend. Her reaction was not expected. She blamed me and she took out her anger on me. Still to this day I make excuses for her. My grandma was abusive to her as a child so she only reacted the way she knew how. I would love to hear her say she was wrong and she’s sorry for the way she acted but I know for a fact that I learned how to forget from my mother. She blocks any negative situations from her mind and its like it never happened. We moved back to California but the Abuse followed me.
I’m not sure how old I was but I know I was in middle school. My mom would make me take the bus to school alone. Some days I would miss the bus so I would go into this store to get snacks and kill time between buses. One day the man who owned the store closed and locked the door behind me. He asked me to follow him behind the counter he pulled down his pants and sat down on a stool he told me to look as he played with himself. I just stood there. He touched me and kissed me then he ejaculated. He gave me $40 as he let me out the back door of the store. He told me to come back and see him and I did. I use to earn money doing stuff around the house for my mom but no one ever gave me so much money to do nothing. It got to a point where he wanted more. I was conditioned not to disagree with adults so I didn’t, I let him do what he wanted to me and he would give me money. I changed schools and no longer took the bus near his store so that ended that.
I have had a total of 6 relationships in my 30 years of life. All except 1 of them were very unhealthy for me. My self-esteem has always been on the low side and I never made decisions for myself. My Lack of self confidence had me fall in love with anyone who expressed the slightest interest in me. The longest relationship I’ve had was with a guy I met on the party line at the age of 19. We ended up in an on and off relationship for over 10 years. This guy was very toxic in my life. I tried so hard to please him but I was never good enough. He would physically, verbally, and emotionally abuse me. He isolated me from my friends and family, took control of my money, told me what I could and could not wear and how to style my hair. I was so dependent on him I would follow him everywhere like a sick puppy. I would sit in his car while he was at work or in class. During one of the off times I was in a relationship with someone who was exactly like him. Very militant, his way or the highway. This relationship ended with me being homeless and with only my purse and my laptop computer. I ran back to the party line guy because I knew what to expect and deep down I knew he was dangerous but I felt safer with him then I did on the streets. I felt I needed him but he rejected me. He still called whenever he wanted sex but I was not good enough to be more than an object to him. I began to date a woman thinking I would be better off with a female since my luck with men was not great at all. This relationship was destine to crash because I didn’t love her. I felt sorry for her I stepped right in to her pity party and allowed my misery to be pushed aside by hers. . .
I could go on and on forever describing the failed love stories that make up my life but the common denominator in each situation is me. I need to do some serious soul searching and learn how to love myself. That is not something that I have ever seen demonstrated to me. I have no idea what it looks like, feels like, or sounds like. I can imagine it’s a beautiful thing but how would I know? I can only say this for sure. I’M WORKING ON IT!!!! When I get there I will blog about it but until then I’m open to suggestions and encouraging kind words.
Yesterday was awful. I started to feel sick on Sunday. I ate oatmeal for breakfast and my stomach didn’t feel right then. I skipped lunch and at 3pm all the oatmeal that I had for breakfast graced my taste buds with and unwelcomed encore. There was a tornado brewing in my tummy. I convinced my body to sleep that night but the next morning at 4:30 am the tornado made its way to my head concentrating all its force on my left temple. I couldn’t take it. I made 6 trips to the bathroom before 5am. I didn’t know what to do. Being HIV positive and now single and living alone who could I call at 5am? I waited until I thought she might be awake and called my mother…. no answer. I don’t have a car so my options were call 911 or chance it on the bus. Hours went by as I attempted to get dressed so I could take the bus to see my Dr. by the time I had my clothes on it was around 2pm and I was sure that I wouldn’t make it to my clinic on time. I changed my destination and planned on going to the E.R. Just as I was walking out the door my mom called me to ask me to accompany her to her appointment for lab work. God is always looking out for me. once she heard my voice she knew something was wrong and came right over. I made it in time to see my Dr. and avoided the hours of waiting in the E.R.
Today I still don’t feel well at all so I’ve bundled up in front of my T.V. and I don’t plan on moving until I feel better. But I can’t help but think about the fact that I’m here alone and my mind keeps wondering to the last person who was there for me the last time I got sick.
Breaking up is always hard but the times when you need that person makes it hurt even more. I was the one to end it but once you notice that saying good bye means your giving it all up, the good and the bad, its too late. I think about her all the times. I loved taking care of her. It made me feel needed. There was so many little things that she said she never had before and I made it my goal to give it to her. Its been a month so the break up is still fresh and I still worry about her. What hurts the most is the fact that I know she isn’t worried about me. No one is. If my mom weren’t going in that direction I would have been on a bus going to the E.R. If I died last night no one would even know. Its hard to feel Positively Beautiful when your alone kneeling over a toilet bowl.
I am so blessed to have had my experiences in life. I thank god that I don’t look like what I been through. There is alot about me that I keep to myself. I’m starting to learn that my past has value. If my words can stop another person from going through the pain that I have gone through then I need to take the key and unlock the vault that I hide all the bad stuff in. Like I stated in a post in the past I could have easily been that young woman in Texas who was killed by her lover. he blamed his rage on her positive diagnosis. People fail to do the research on transmission from woman to man so alot of the times women are hurt out of ignorance and fear of something that is a slim possibility to begin with. when you think about sex I can honestly say I have been there done that. I didn’t care about myself for a minute. I let others tell me what I should do and even when I insisted on condoms I wasn’t strong enough to enforce my wishes. At my lowest point I was one of those women who allowed a man to control my body and and my finances. For 2 months I rejected my own intelligence. I allowed him to dress me up and take pictures of me and sell me on the internet. All because he looked at me and said I was beautiful and that he loved me. I now look at that sad little girl that I use to be and I know what her issue was. She had to learn to love her self. She had to see her own beauty. She had to wake up and determine her own worth. I never really thought he loved me. I never really believed him when he called me beautiful. I was just a soul-less shell of a body aimlessly wondering the earth waiting to live. I can now say I’m proud to have had the experiences that he gave me. One day I just packed my stuff, got in my car and drove away. He called me asking me to come back promising it would be different. He had his other girls calling me trying to talk me into coming back but God made it easy for me to leave with no harm and no trouble the first time. I was not going to fall into the same hole a second time.
We moved from the 2 bedroom house behind my granny in south-central LA, to a 3 bedroom apartment on the west side of LA on the outskirts of Beverly Hills. It was another major change. I went from a place where I didn’t have many friends to a place where everyone smiled and said hello. My school was in walking distance. The first day I thought my mom was going to drive us to school but she didn’t she told us to pay attention to what she did and where she turned because she wasn’t going to come pick us up and she expected us to be home within 30 minutes of school letting out.
My older sister, older brother and I were afraid that we would get lost so we drew maps of the neighborhood as we walked to school with my mom. As the days went on we would take different turns just to see what was where and to add to our maps. We marked streets, the homes of our new friends, the candy stores, and streets with hills that we could ride our bikes down, big trees, parks, libraries, and strange looking buildings. By the time we finished making our maps the first pages were torn or lost.
My days at Shenandoah Elementary were fun. I was still very shy but I had a few friends. No one messed with me and I did well in my class. I was the type of student who wanted to get all the answers right. I raised my hand to answer every question and I cried if I didn’t get the answer correct. I was in the third grade. Only seven years old and I had a secret. Like all kids I wanted to share my secret so I told a girl that I considered my best friend. This was the beginning of the discrimination. I told her I had a big secret and that I would tell her if she promised to keep it between us. I told her and she stepped back and said to me “Your gay and your gonna die. My uncle has that and my mom said hes gay and deserves it.”
“Gay? Whats that mean?”
She just ran off and I never talked to her again. I didn’t want to tell anyone that I told my secret so I kept this conversation to myself. I think that was the day I began to keep everything to myself I didn’t want anyone else rejecting me. I tried hard to fit in. I didn’t have an opinion and anytime any one asked me to make a choice my answer was either I don’t know, I don’t mind, or it don’t matter. I didn’t want to make any wrong choices and give anyone reason not to like me. It became my major goal in life to make others like me. I was always polite I always smiled and I never tried to stand out. I didn’t want anyone to notice me because I thought they would somehow discover that I had a secret.
I was in the 4th grade and I’m not sure why but my mom had to tell my teacher about my illness. Ms. Magana is one of the nicest teachers I ever had. Im not sure if she was so nice to me because I was HIV positive or if she was just that way by nature but I felt like she smiled just a little brighter when she looked at me. She was the first teacher who didn’t question my intelligence. I always felt smarter than the other kids in the class because in New York they teach you at a faster pace than in California. I knew how to multiply and divide in the first grade. Ms. Magana let me do work from the 5th grade books and she also let me help her grade papers. I was helping her make copies one day and I got a paper cut. She asked me if I could clean it and bandage it myself or if I needed her to help me. She didn’t want to send me to the nurse because she understood the stigma and rejection that may have followed. I told her I could do it myself. I washed my hands dried them and tried to put the band-aid on. She saw me trying and came over took the band-aid and put it on my cut. She explained to me the my blood had germs in it just like everyone else’s and any time anyone got a cut we should always make sure to protect ourselves from their blood. She explained to me that she was not afraid to help me clean and cover my cut because she could do it without touching my blood. She put the band-aid on me and said “see all don’t and I have nothing to worry about. She got a bottle of cleaning solution from the cabinet sprayed the table I was sitting at and wiped it down with a paper towel. That made me like her even more because now I felt like I had a friend.
Shortly after the death of the baby my mom was told that if she wanted to survive with AIDS the best thing for her to do would be to move back to California. She pack up the things that we were able to carry including the goldfish my siblings and I got while trick-r-treating and she bought 5 grey hound bus tickets. I don’t remember much about the trip across the USA but I do remember getting off the bus in Los Angeles and meeting my grandma she was so happy to see us she took turns hugging and kissing all of us over and over again. Now that I think about it I know that took love because we had just spent 3 days on a bus and there were no shower breaks.
Even thou I was born in Los Angeles I felt like I was in a very different world. It was warmer and it felt less crowded. I was in awe at the grass that lined the sidewalks and to openness of the streets. My older sister and brother and I were bused to school. In New York our school was a short walk away. Living with my grandma was fun in the beginning but then I started to realize how mean she was. She asked us to do things that my mother never expected us to do. Like hand wash her clothes and do yard work. In New York we didn’t have a yard and my mom took care of all the laundry. I began to dislike my grandmother. I thought she tried extra hard to make life hard. But even thou I didn’t like her I loved her. She didn’t hit my mom and she didn’t hurt me like Willy did. Despite the fact that she always found a reason to whoop my siblings and I, I did feel like it was unfair or wrong because she was equally unfair with everyone.
My mom checked us into school and then left us with our grandma while she went to take care of something’s in New York like selling our old furniture and getting rid of the rest of our belonging. During this time my grandma was our care taker. Looking back now I question my mom’s judgment. She left us with a woman who abused her when she was a child. My grandma didn’t even raise my mom. My mom was raised by her aunt. My grandma was and still is an abusive drunk. She is mean for no reason and I remember trying hard to please her as to no avail. I can remember trying to do well in school and she never noticed. My teachers would praise me more than she did. I do credit my grandmother with teaching me how to stand up for myself. I was bullied a lot at school because I was very shy and very quiet. Granny told me to keep an old sock with 4 double d sized batteries in it at the bottom of my backpack, and she said if anybody messed with me to just take it out of my back pack and wrap the end around my hand. She told me to keep it ready and if they swung at me take that sock and swing it at them as hard as I could. She advised me to keep swinging until they backed away from me for good. I had to do this one time ever in life and I cried the entire fight. But winning that fight showed me that I was able to defend myself against the bullies and that even thou I was a small and skinny child I didn’t deserve to be messed with.
I can remember my first spelling test at Loyola Village Elementary School. The teacher informed us to sound out the words in order to spell them. I never had that instruction from my teachers in New York. We were taught that cat was spelled C-A-T we were taught to remember it not sound it out. Sounding words out was hard for me. I had a New York accent and every word I said sounded like it had an “A” at the end of it. When I got my graded test back I earned an “F” because each word had that extra “A” at the end of it. My granny told me to pick a switch off the tree so she could use it to spank me. I only did what I was told and I didn’t understand why she was so upset with me. I never really understood my granny like I said I didn’t really like her but I loved her with all my heart and still do.
It saddens my soul to know that in some states, the spit of an HIV positive person is considered a deadly weapon. Ive spent alot of time trying to educate young people but I would love to sit in a room with policy makers and share my story with them. I would like to hug the law makers and then educate them on the basics of HIV transmission. I must admit I fool myself in thinking that everyone knows how HIV is transmitted. I cant recall blogging about modes of transmission so here it is.
HIV lives in 4 body fluids. Blood, breast milk, semen, and vaginal fluids. The virus can be found in these fluids and any other body fluids in which these 4 can be found including pre-cum and any body fluid containing blood. If I, an HIV positive person, were to spit on you, lick you or eat off your fork when your back is turned you are not at risk of catching HIV. If I were to kiss you on your lips you should not run out and seek an HIV test. If we got in a physical fight unless we both some how receive open wounds there is no risk of you becoming infected.
HIV positive people are serving time in prison for spiting. Although it is a very rude thing to do to someone there is no reason that ones diagnosis should make this an arrestable offensive. I have been reading up on HIV related laws and I must say I am not at all surprised at the fact that HIV positive people are still afraid to live out loud. I watched the movie titled Philadelphia just yesterday and it made me think. After all these years and all this work people are still being fired from their job after their HIV status is exposed. I know this to be true because It happened to me. Ignorance should be outlawed! If we would all take the time to learn all there is to know about what it is that we fear then how great would this world be. Racism would be erased, stereotypes would vanish, and ignorance would not be an option.