Health Activist Writer's Month Challenge: Key to Success

There are often times living with HIV that I find myself encouraging others who are newly diagnosed, or think they've been put at risk of contracting the virus. In those moments, I remember the times I needed encouragement and where I sought the strength to push through and find my happy when times told me I shouldn't.

I was raised to seek contentment in life, rather than happiness because happiness is an emotion that is fleeting where contentment is a disciplined state of mind. Applying this to my life, I've learned contentment leads to joy and peace. Those are two things that no one can give you or take away...but I can give you tips on how to get to a place of contentment when dealing with heavy life changes. 

Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel. There is no handbook for the appropriate response to a diagnosis, loss of friend or even death. Everyone has different experiences, perspectives and emotions that wire them to respond differently to things. You don't need permission to feel. When I was younger, I was told my paternal grandfather had passed away. I giggled and my mother gave me the most horrified look and I subconsciously began to pay attention to how people responded to death. Everyone either cried or was upset in some way. For years, I would catch myself if I heard of death or loss before I let out a "inappropriate" response. It wasn't until I was an adult and shared this with my mom that she apologized and then asked me if I remembered why I giggled. I did. I was remembering my trips to visit him and how he'd play his organ for me or take me get a Whopper from Burger King right before dinner if Grandma was making something I didn't like. He spoiled me and it was our little secret. My mom then shared that the reason my reponse was so different than everyone else's is because I was supposedly the only person grandpa was kind to. I was expressing an emotion others wanted to but because it wasn't coming from the same place, they chose to respond differently. Ever since this conversation, I have chosen to be me and not apologize for what my heart needed to pour out. What you feel is what you feel. Never apologize for that. 

I apply this to living with a stigmatized health condition. HIV brings judgment and fear from a lot of people. In that, I have to find my happy with it. People are already uncomfortable with it, so why not? I've found people have a hard time being uncomfortable with something I'm clearly ok with. The key to happiness, is to live YOUR life for YOU, and make no apologies for it. I find reasons to laugh and smile every single day. I was told that I was born into the world smiling, not crying. I fully embrace that. While I know this is not the case for everyone, I encourage you to embrace who you are, what makes your heart tick, what brings you joy. Surround yourself with it so that even if you cannot tap into it daily, you can access it when you need it. That's why, if you ever visit my home, you will find random pieces of bubble wrap stuffed and stashed in small places.

My final sentiments on finding the key to happiness is this:

Embrace healing, Give inspiration, and Live Victoriously - in spite of it all.
(For more on how I do that, please visit my website!)