I’m not Superwoman: A Caregiver’s Dilemma

clipart751126It’s been about six month since I have written a blog post, please excuse my absence. I finally had to admit that I am not Superwoman. I am the caregiver to my 91 year old mom and 46 year old special needs son. Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulder and I realize that I just cannot do it all. And managing their healthcare along with managing my HIV treatment, can be a bit of a challenge. I spend a lot of time in doctors offices and at the pharmacy, and on some days those places are the only times that I get out of the house. At one point, I was neglecting myself and missing my doctor’s appointment.  Skipping medical appointments is not a wise thing to do, if one wants to remain healthy while living with HIV.  I had to get serious about my own health and self-care. Making sure that I carved out some time for me and doing what I needed to do with my time and not what others thought I should be doing. I had to find the balance in my life and not feel guilty if I choose a dreamy massage over having dinner on the table on time. 

Being a caregiver can also be lonely, especially when you don’t have the time or energy to be as sociable as you use to be. People who have never had the experience of caregiving don’t understand that it can be time consuming and demanding. Some people expect that you can continue doing what you did before, like going out to events or being involved in organizations. Eventually people stop contacting you because you are not available to participate and then you are forgotten. This further exacerbates the isolation and loneliness. But on the positive size, I’ve learned a lot from caregiving, such as: time management ,effective scheduling and how to have the grace of patience. I’ve gained so much more insight into my weaknesses and strengths. I’ve also honed the skill of saying NO, to any request that is beyond my capacity. And it’s so precious getting closer to my mother and learning valuable lessons from her knowledge and wisdom. Looking at the bigger picture, I know that I am doing one of the most important jobs of my life, taking care of my mother and giving her a good life while she is still here.

I cherish the good-feel moments of caregiving, like when your’e laughing while  watching a movie together, then there are scary times when you are sitting in the hospital emergency room. It’s a continuous and sometimes difficult job but it must be done. But not with my Superwoman cape on anymore! It has been discarded and I’m discovering how to ask for help and getting services for things that I cannot or do not want to do anymore. It’s not longer important for me to do it all, sometimes to save my energy, I sit down and do nothing at all and that’s just as important. This Superwoman is no more!

                        Me and my mother –   2017

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3e4

We All Have A Story to Tell

53869268_10218572960217885_4116659396539318272_nAs we draw to the close of Women’s History Month, I reflect on the courageous, outspoken women throughout history who broke barriers and traditions to be heard. For a long time women were discouraged from having voices and their stories were deemed unimportant and disregarded. But today’s women are demanding to be heard, they are standing up and speaking out and their stories are regarded as valuable. It’s important for our stories to be told to help create social change. The personal is also political because our stories are reflective of larger social issues affecting women and our communities. And hearing the powerful personal stories of women turning pain into power and learning how these women overcame adversities, can help to inspire, empower and heal other women and the community. 

Everyone has a story and it’s a matter of personal choice if you want to tell the world or not. However, telling your story can be healing for both you and whoever hears your story. Sometimes when you are writing your story you believe that you are alone in your suffering and when you start telling your story you realize that you are not alone, others are suffering too. Your story then becomes a bridge to reach other people in your situation and this is where the support and healing begins.

On March 16 2019, a bridge was build between the community and a group of brave women authors who told their stories at an event for Women’s History Month called “Telling Our Stories,” held at the Joseph E. Coleman Library 68 W. Chelten Ave. Philadelphia, Pa.  These awesome women authors told inspiring stories of surmounting odds, that are relatable in our communities, from living with HIV, domestic violence, incest, mass incarceration, addiction, stigmas of medical conditions, to losing everything you own, running to save your life and being thrust into poverty.

IMG_4592

To quote social activist Bell Hooks, “People resist by telling their stories” and these fearless women authors through their stories are resisting the stigma, discrimination, ignorance, fear, shame, denial and the unwillingness to discuss these topics in our communities. The conversations between the authors and the audience was powerful, enlightening and honest. More of these open community discussions are needed and will be planned.

Panelist of women authors were as follows:

author photoAsha Molock, has been living with HIV for seventeen years, and advocates to combat stigma and ignorance surrounding pertinent issues relating to HIV and AIDS. She was the recipient of a book award from the Association of Black Sexologist and Clinicians for her debut inspirational workbook, Gaining Strength From Weakness: 101 Positive Thoughts for HIV Positive People. She released her second book, The Underground Woman: From Prisoner To Freedom in September 2018 Available @ https://amzn.to/2rhE4EL Contact the author: www.facebook.com/undergroundwoman2018

IMG_1952 (2)Betty Jean Nobles, author of A SMALL CANDLELIGHT, is a riveting story inspired by actual events in her life and the life of her son. This powerful story mirrors American Slavery and decades of biased treatment against Black Males, unfair arrests, and malicious prosecutions. She was thrust into the Criminal Justice System like many Black and Latino families, who were unknowingly ushered into the menacing cycle of Mass incarceration. Available online at BBOTW.com, barnesandnoble.com, Amazon.com Contact the author: https://www.facebook.com/A-Small-Candlelight

OmwaOmwa Ombara is a journalist in exile for the last 7 years and author of God’s Child On The Run, released February 15, 2018, captures her experiences as she exposes corruption in the Media among politicians in Kenya and her flight to the US after the bungled Kenya post-election violence that saw over 40 women and children burnt to death in a church where they fought refuge, 1200 people murdered by neighbors and friends and 650,000 forcefully displaced from their homes. Available in paperback and kindle. https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Child-Run-Omwa-Ombara/dp/ 1641403276#immersive-view_1551149937294 https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/gods-child-on-the-run-omwa-ombara/ 1128107760?type=eBook  Contact the author: https://www.facebook.com/omwamemoir/

51919837_2056338214401669_6820771957152153600_nHana Redding is a motivational speaker, and creator of the Zorry Flowers Good Fruit Monday and Positive Thursday YouTube, inspirational and motivational series.  She is the author of Living With NF & Story of Survival. Her story of living and thriving with a rare genetic disorder, commonly called “The Elephant Man Disease.” Available on Amazon and Barnes and noble.com Contact the author: https://www.facebook.com/hana.redding https://www.youtube.com/watcv=K3KglrPtnmQ&feature=share

renda roseRenda Rose Williams, motivational speaker, poet and author of God’sGrace and Mercy Brought Me Home: Don’t Cry for Me. I’m Free. After experiencing incest at an early age and rape during her teen years, Renda speaks about how truth and choices empower us to rise above pain and misery to get to freedom and victory. She has worked with Victim Services of Montgomery County (PA), is currently a spokesperson for The Truth Behind Incest–The Movement, and developed a nonprofit company through her poetry ministry, Rose Waters, Inc. Contact the author: http://www.rosewaters1940.wixsite.com/rendarose1

ceo cwilsonCarolyn Wilson, Author, Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Fearless Magnified Educator. A survivor of Sexual Child Abuse and Domestic Violence who intentionally created a new narrative for her life. She works with women of all ages teaching them how to tap into the power of positive thinking to live and create their best life. Carolyn is CEO/ Founder of Magnify Your Essence, the Celebrating YOU Women’s Conference & Expo and the best-selling author of Magnified Thoughts Available on Amazon-https://amzn.to/2NbgTbF B&N- https://bit.ly/2TrMhG4,  Website: https://magnifyyouressence.wordpress.com Youtube: https://youtu.be/AYsdbf1hb80

52141331_2185175191799266_5719008538152402944_n

Minister Angela Bell , author of The Jewel That Shines Within: New and Collected Poems. She has spoken her poetry at churches, funerals, weddings, parties, poetry readings, and on Gospel radio stations. Angela offers these poems as a prayer for your intentions. Available on Amazon.com Contact the author: https://www.facebook.com/angela.d.bell

 

“Everyone has a story, and there’s something to be learned from every experience.” Oprah Winfrey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Yourself !

You are amazing!UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_7f2  So, celebrate that!  Don’t wait for someone to recognize you or sing your praises, if they do then it’s wonderful, but you must recognize your own greatness first. You are doing wonderful things in your life, whether it’s taking care of family and loved ones, getting up going to work every morning to put food on the table, or taking care of yourself and being the best person that you can be, you should be patting yourself on the back. Love yourself enough to know that you are worthy of your own recognition, awards and rewards.

I decided to celebrate myself after recovering from the last six months of having family issues. I was just settling into a routine of taking care of my elderly mother and special needs adult son. And I was learning how to incorporate some self-care into that routine. Then in April of this year my son was hit by a car and fractured three bones in his ankle. The stress on me was tremendous, the pressure of running to the hospital everyday and then running home to take care of mom was exhausting. But I had to be there for both of them because mom is getting fragile and I had to be present to advocate for my son because of his special needs. I could feel myself slipping away from my own needs. I missed many doctor’s appointments, as I put my life on hold and attended to their medical needs. And forget about a social life, it was more important for me to rest if I had any down time.

In the midst of my son’s therapy another family issue needed my immediate attention and emotionally and physically I was split in three directions. That split finally tore me apart and several times I thought about checking myself into the hospital. But it really wasn’t an option because I didn’t know who was going to care for my mother and son. I didn’t even have the opportunity to have a proper nervous breakdown. So, I sought out-patient psychotherapy, which I still continue today, and I’m doing great.  While all of these events were going on in my life, I made a personal commitment to get my book published. Which was another added stressor but I persevered through all the unnerving life challenges and published my book, The Underground Woman: From Prisoner To Freedom in September 2018.

So, I celebrated myself on November 17th, 2018, with a book release party.  It was also a release from all the stress that I went through over the last 6-7 months. I had to honor myself and I spared no expense: I rented a venue, hired a caterer, had a delicious book cake made and promotional giveaways. I am proud of the fact that in spite of everything that I have gone through, not only because of living with HIV but the stress of this year alone and I AM STILL STANDING TALL!

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” Oprah Winfrey

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_7ee

IMG_3937

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_7e2

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_7fa

IMG_3917

The Underground Woman:  From Prisoner To Freedom, now available on Amazon

https://www.amazon.com/Underground-Woman-Prisoner-Freedom/dp/1722610808/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543429224&sr=1-1&keywords=asha+molock

 

It’s Okay, To Not Be Okay

Mental-Health-Week-2018-1-768x628

Mental health awareness week is slated for October 7-13 Th, but mental health awareness is a daily reality for me. I have a lot going on in my life…managing my life with HIV, taking care of an aging parent and special needs adult son, sadly I sort of let my self-care slide a little. Until I realized something familiar creeping up on me, tiredness, insomnia and on the verge of tears every day. I had been through this before and I knew it was time to put myself back into psychotherapy. I’m not ashamed to admit that I need help, regardless of the stigma associated with mental health.  And the word “psycho” doesn’t do much  to break that stigma. To some people it may conjure up frightening images of Anthony Perkins in the 1960 movie Psycho, pulling the shower curtain back with a big knife, ready to stab Janet Leigh to death.  Also, people use the term “psycho” when describing someone who they feel has really lost their mind.  And please stop calling it an illness, it’s a health condition, people in need of mental health don’t want to be seen as being sick. Mental health stigma prevents people from seeking psychotherapy.

fullsizeoutput_54a

 But, you can call me looney if you want to, I know when I need help, I seek it and it helps improve the quality of my life. I first sought the help of a family therapist ( I like that term better that psychotherapist), years ago when I had some troubling events in my life. First, my father passed away, then a year later my sister passed and the same year a friend and co-worker. A few years later I was diagnosed with HIV. But, I never slowed down after losing those loved ones. As a single mother, I had to keep moving, working, taking care of my family, I never fully grieved my loss. Then HIV stopped me in my tracks, it was the straw that broke the camels back. Grieving the lost of family and friends was compounded with the shame, guilt and fear of having an HIV diagnosis and holding on to that secret for ten long years. I wrote about those years of hiding my HIV status and how holding on to that secret made me depressed, in my new book The Underground Woman: From Prisoner To Freedom. Available now on Amazon   https://www.amazon.com/Underground-Woman-Prisoner-Freedom/dp/1722610808/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1538106036&sr=8-3&keywords=asha+molock

“Due to HIV stigma and discrimination, I was a prisoner of my own insecurities, shame, guilt and fear, as I hid my HIV status from family and friends—until I gathered the strength to set myself free.”  Asha Molock

Never be ashamed of anything that you do for the betterment of your life. It takes a strong person to admit that they need help and then take the necessary steps to get that help.

mental health

Comfortable in My Skin

IMG_2986

I watched the Color Purple recently, for what seemed like the fiftieth time since the movie was released in 1985. As usual, I cried at the end when Miss Celie, played by Whoopi Goldberg ,was reunited with her long-lost sister and children. This time, one other scene resonated with my spirit, when Miss Celie announced that she was leaving her abusive husband. He responded to her by saying,“What are you going to do? You’re Black, you’re poor, you’re ugly and you’re a woman.” My goodness! A person has to be very comfortable in their skin to have spirit breaking insults hurled at them, whether directly or indirectly and still have the strength to move on with their life, like Miss Celie did in the movie.

When I was growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, I wasn’t comfortable in my skin. Honestly, I didn’t know that I had the right to be or how to be comfortable with myself, for that matter. I never saw girls that looked like me, with dark skin, wide noses and kinky hair in magazines or on television. My kind of beauty was not accepted, not even by my community, where most of the women and girls tried to adapt their looks to fit into a standard of beauty that wasn’t our own.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager in the late sixties, when singer James Brown wrote the song, Say It Loud —I’m Black and I’m Proud in 1968, that women and men stopped straightening their hair and began wearing Afro’s. I was one of those women, proud and comfortable to wear my hair natural.

But, it takes a lot of self-work for one to remain comfortable in their skin. I went throughout most of my young adult life working on building my self-esteem.  I was resilient and persevered in spite of adversity and considered myself to be #blackgirlmagic, even before it was a concept. I had graduated from college, became a school teacher, gotten married, purchased a house and raised two children. I truly believed that I had conquered all of my insecurities and my life was finally together.
I was unstoppable—until contracting HIV.

HIV stopped me in my tracks and put my life at a standstill for ten years. Because of HIV stigma and discrimination, I spent ten years trying to get comfortable in my skin again. I internalized all of the misconceptions, myths and fears that society thought about people who lived with HIV. I felt shameful, guilty and worthless. My self-esteem had dipped to an all-time low as I hid my HIV status from my family and friends. Then, I realized that I had to uplift myself and move on with life.  I began writing daily affirmations such as, “ I sow the seeds of peace, joy, love and harmony in the garden of my life because having HIV means I must plant the life I want to live.” Eventually I had written enough affirmations to put into a book entitled, Gaining Strength from Weakness: 101 Positive Thoughts for HIV Positive People. https://www.amazon.com/Gaining-Strength-Weakness-Positive-Thoughts/dp/1499082517/ref=la_B00QJU54OM_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525136646&sr=1-1

Today, I still read my book of affirmations because being comfortable in your skin can be a continuous process when you are living with HIV. Some people still have negative opinions of people who live with HIV. Stigma, criminalization and discrimination still exist and it’s disheartening when you hear or read insulting, stigmatizing comments or someone is being discriminated or criminalized for having HIV. The struggle to fight HIV stigma continues for people living with HIV, who just want to be treated with dignity and feel comfortable with who they are.

Miss Celie, summed it up for me in the Color Purple, when she stood up to her husband, looked him fearlessly in his eyes and answered, “I’m Black, poor and may be ugly but dear God—I’m here!  Amen, Miss Celie, Amen!

A special thanks to Zee Strong, creator of The AIDS HIV Survivor Living Memorial : A Digital Living Quilt. These lovely photo frames allow people who are living with HIV to feel comfortable enough in their skin to show their faces to the world.

 

IMG_2952

March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

Title picture

March 10th, 2018 is National Women and Girls HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. It was first observed 13 years ago to bring awareness to the impact of HIV on women and girls. Although, new HIV diagnoses among women and girls have been declining over a number of years, women are still vulnerable to contracting HIV. There are 1.1 million people living with HIV in the US and roughly a quarter of them are women. https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwghaad/about-national-women-and-girls-hivaids-awareness-day  It’s important for women to continue having  conversations about HIV because awareness does make a difference and can prevent women and girls from contracting HIV.

national-women-and-girls-hiv-aids-awareness-day-2016-1-1024x856

If I had been aware of my vulnerability to HIV, I probably would not be writing this blog. Before I was diagnosed with HIV in 2001,I didn’t know that HIV was a condition that women also contracted. I thought it was a disease that was exclusive to White gay men.  I didn’t know that heterosexual men and women were also getting HIV. As a school teacher and mother, who was engaged to be married again, I believed that I was as far removed from the world of HIV & AIDS, as one could get. I didn’t think it concerned me or my fiancé because we were both heterosexual and middle age. Fat chance that HIV would cross our paths, but I was sadly mistaken! I was unaware that being a divorced Black woman, back on the dating scene and going through menopause ,made me at risk for contracting HIV.  I had only heard myths about HIV and never thought it was necessary for me to seek the knowledge that I needed to be sexually safe. I wish that someone would have sat me down and made me listen to the truth. The truth is that anyone ,of any race, age or sexual orientation can contract HIV and, it doesn’t matter if you are in a long-term relationship or marriage. There are no safety nets.

graphic stats

There are a number of factors that can make women more vulnerable to HIV, along with having condomless sex. Women usually contract HIV through vaginal sex. And untreated sexually transmitted infections and vaginal dryness for women in menopause, can create harmful conditions in the vagina that can increase the transmission of HIV.

Domestic violence is another factor that can make women and girls vulnerable to contracting HIV. A women dealing with an abusive partner may feel powerless, if the partner is engaging in sex outside of the relationship. She may be afraid to negotiate for safer sex practices or the use of female or male condoms, to prevent her from being exposed to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases.
If you need help for violence or abuse, call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

What can you do for National Women & Girls HIV and AIDS Awareness Day?
Please read:
What Every Girl Needs To Know About HIV
https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwghaad/every-girl
What Every Woman Needs To Know About HIV.
https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwghaad/every-woman
Share this information with the women and girls in your family and with your circle of friends.
Find a National Women & Girls HIV & AIDS Awareness Day event in your city to attend, like the one happening in Philadelphia on March 9th, 2018 . Take a friend along.

event March 9th
Use the hashtag #NWAGHAAD on social media

 

IMG_2886

Photo credit: Freedom G. Photography/ Photo frame design : Zee Strong

 

National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day: Can You Be Your Brother’s or Sister’s Keeper?

27540186_10213249177178020_915023740280535299_n

February 7th , every year is recognized as National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day, founded in 1999 to bring HIV awareness in African American communities. But how can we spread awareness about HIV if it’s a mute subject in our communities? We don’t want to have informative talks about HIV, yet we spread misconceptions which stigmatizes, discriminates and places moral judgements on a person’s worthiness because they are living with HIV. This is serious damage that we are doing in our communities and it continues to create a fear of HIV that prevents people from getting tested and accessing treatment.

HIV & AIDS will not magically disappear, no matter how long we keep our heads in the sand. There are an estimated 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV, with 498,400 being African Americans. Although, HIV rates have decreased for Black women, they still have higher rates than White and Latina women. The hardest impact of HIV is on the MSM (men who have sex with men) population. Also, HIV has a devastating effect on our youth between the ages of 13-24 ,who are 55% of new HIV diagnosis, in that age group. Our youth are our future and we still are not discussing it!
http://files.kff.org/attachment/Fact-Sheet-Black-Americans-and-HIV-AIDS-The-Basics

Denial prevents people from looking at the bigger picture. Some people think it doesn’t concern them, that it’s a problem of those “other people”; Black women and men living with HIV, straight, gay or transgendered people, sex workers, IV drug users or any other group that’s affected by HIV. But the bigger picture is, it’s a community problem. It doesn’t matter if you are not personally affected, whatever affects your community should concern you.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4ca

There are a lot of issues in the Black community, that as a whole we haven’t come to terms with or have not been healed from. Our communities are hurting from racism and oppression, and adding insult to injury are the things that are swept under the rug. Because of shame we are taught not to discuss rape, incest, homosexuality, drug and alcohol addiction, mental illness, incarceration, domestic abuse, among others, especially if it existed within your household. “What happens in this house stays in this house.” We are socialized to be shameful, to be quiet and keep our mouths closed. And…then along comes HIV. We haven’t even deal with our other “stuff” and here’s something else to be shameful and quiet about. We are ashamed about the conditions in our communities because we were made to think by the establishment that we are at fault for all of our problems. We did something wrong, it must have been our lifestyle. “Why don’t you pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Ok, but many of us don’t even have the boots!

There are circumstances that make our communities vulnerable because our basic human rights have been denied for so long. The problem lies in a broken system that has never been in our best interest. When your human rights have been denied you become defenseless, powerless and a perfect target for the ills of society because the resources, information and skills people need to empower and protect themselves are withheld. And when you look at poverty, homelessness, mass incarceration, inadequate education, lack of health care, unemployment, addictions, violence and trauma, these are some of the root causes that fuel the HIV & AIDS epidemic.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_4ec

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948 but was never ratified by the United States, in fact, this country is among some other countries who do not recognize universal health care as a basic human right.http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

As long as our human rights are continuously oppressed, there will always be problems that can be detrimental in marginalized and disenfranchised communities.
We must come together in the Black community and look at our problems in its totality and not fractionalize and think that one issue has nothing to do with the other. We are a broken community that must become whole again. After all, we are all in the same rowboat trying to row without the oars. Can we come to terms that the culprits in our communities are oppression, racism and lack of human rights and not each other? Can we have some empathy and stop stigmatizing and looking at people only in terms of a medical condition or their sexuality? We are not the problem, we have problems! For when we stop looking at the individual as the issue then we can truly be our brother’s and sister’s keeper and work on our problems together.

So, what can you do for National Black HIV & AIDS Awareness Day?
Educate yourself,  bring up the conversation and share what you’ve learned with someone else, especially our youth. Use the hashtag #NBHAAD and of course get tested.

https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics
https://www.preventionaccess.org/about

“We must live together as brothers or perish as fools.”- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A special thanks to Zee Strong for creating this awesome photo frame.