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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

to everything there is a season

Last week I decided to let go and even talked to my counselor about it at length.

For the past few days I have been quite successful at looking at my things as annoyances and space taker-uppers than fond memories and cherished belongings. This process has all been real good for me.

I also applied to be on The Amazing Race, though I am sure the odds are stacked against me and my roommate being selected to go on. So, I let go of the idea that I was going to be cast on the show and that felt good too, but I think it would be awesome if we were chosen. The idea of being in a race got me thinking...

I am facing a lot of weird feelings, emotions and thoughts that are difficult to get out of my head. I think that is the hardest thing to let go of; my feelings or thoughts. They keep me company when I am lonely, afraid, day-dreaming or sad, but I admit some of them have to go too.

It has become apparent to me that I blog to passively get support from family and friends. I thrive on feedback, comments and advice. There are certain posts that I still go back and read; those ones were for me, but I think others were more of a lure for support in the form of comments from my friends.

I realize now that I need to be more active in my friendships and relationships with others. I need to be a support to get support. I have to let go of the idea that because I need support or help that my family and friends are obligated to drop everything to serve my needs.

I am strong and intelligent person; sometimes I forget, but I do know that I am not that weak. I don't need friend or family crutches; I just need to stand up, stand tall and move forward on my own. Yes, I need my family and friends to be there for me when I fall, but I have to vocalize that injury instead of expecting others to just assume I am broken, injured and need help. Of course, I also need to vocalize such needs to my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Many things I struggle with, my family and friends can't really do anything about other than pray on my behalf, which is great, but I need the Atonement; I need Jesus to heal me.

Part of my letting go journey has begun and it includes standing up on my own two feet and taking this journey; this long walk down a short road, on my own with the guidance of my Savior and the Holy Ghost. It doesn't mean my family and friends can't cheer for me on the sidelines, but I can't expect anyone to carry me any longer or any further. This is my life and my journey; my walk and I have to make it alone.

I can't fulfill my mission or purpose here on Earth if I can't prove I can do it all by myself or rather that I have the desire to make choices for myself that lead me in the right direction. I have to prove to myself that I am strong, powerful, intelligent and worthy of the presence of God, my Heavenly Father.

" And {I will} prove {myself} herewith, to see if {I} will do all the things whatsoever the Lord {my} God shall command {me}." ~ Abraham 3:25

Probably one of my favorite piece of scripture ever (I love the song) sums it up:

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." ~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

letting go

Today it hit me.

I spent thirty years of my life trying to hold onto to memories, people, places, things and now I want to get rid of half of what I have, but I don't know how to let go.

Letting go, for me, is like purposely choosing to be abandoned. Recently, I have been searching my soul and talking out loud to those who will listen about letting go. Not just of stupid things, negative people or bad places but also letting go of fantasies, dreams of what could of been, false realities and a sense of entitlement, as one friend pointed out to me last year.

None of this belongs to me. Nothing is owed to me. Nothing is mine.

I tend to go into a situation "knowing" that all will work out in my favor and all the odds are in my court. This is a silly, immature fallacy. In the end, I get upset because I am confused to why it didn't turn out my way. One regret I carry is that I didn't take advantage of a wise grandmother, who didn't know much about anything, but knew nothing in life was free and even in the case of friends or family, it takes work to earn what you want; be it love, respect, honor, money or fame. I now wonder if my grandmother cautioned me from overextending myself and setting my expectations so high because at the time she could see I would only do the bare minimum to pass. There's a list of evidence favoring that statement.

I was a good runner with the potential to be a great runner, but I didn't work as hard. I was a good student with the potential to be a great student, but didn't work hard enough; I often lost focus of the end goal. The list goes on for 30 years. I am good at a lot of things with the potential to be great, but I have not been willing to do the work; to focus on the end goal; to push through the pain. Sure, people that know my story will tell me they're impressed because I'm not addicted to drugs, in prison or dead, but that's not good enough for me - I don't think that should be good enough for anyone.

There you have it friends, I am admitting I am not as great as I could be. Some of you might write comments that reassure me otherwise, but please, don't. This isn't a post fishing for compliments - I am writing this for me.

There's a lot wrong with me and what's wrong with me is a list of bad choices, some that haven't been resolved. Today I read an article in the September 2009 Ensign about loving those you know with same-gender attraction; I find the articles about this subject to be interesting because I often think, "how things really are," is left out. However, the author wrote this one line that I really like that I feel I could apply to myself.

It reads, "After all, it is the Savior's role, not mine, to heal her." Instead I read it this way, " After all, it is the Savior's role, not mine, to heal me." I am not sure if that's true because I always figured it was my role, as well as the Savior's, to heal me. Apparently I had this notion that I am equal to God and Christ's power. I would never say that, nor is that what I really believe. In thinking I can heal myself or resolve my problems with or without the Savior is ridiculous. Time and time again I am told in blessings, talks and scriptures that it is, "after all we can do..." ~2 Nephi 25:23

Today, it hit me.

I can do all I can do and it will never be enough to match the strength, love and purity of the Savior's. He's not looking for a perfect sculpture; a masterpiece, He's looking for clay.

One of my favorite scriptures reads, "O (Jey), cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O (Jey)." ~Jeremiah 18:6

How many times does the Lord have to tell me it's not only okay to let go, it's time to let go? I have built up all this evidence why I have failed in this life because I haven't measured up to a standard I knew I couldn't attain alone. The Lord, on the other hand, as gracious as He eternally is, has volumes of books of evidence proving I am good enough for Him.

I think of Laman and Lemuel; they were not that different from myself. I am no Nephi; I am a rebel who so quickly forgets the mercy of God. I love what Nephi exclaims to his brothers, "How is it that ye are so hard in your hearts, and so blind in your minds...How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord? How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord? Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord has done for us...Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to His will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him." ~1 Nephi 7:8-12

I am not a complete rebel, but I have lost some sight of how great the Lord has been to me in my mortal life and on my journey back to Him. Lucky for me, God still loves me. Isaiah wrote and Nephi recorded several times this great phrase or reminder, "but His hand is stretched out still."

I like to believe that the Lord keeps telling me to let go and grab hold of that hand that, "is stretched out still." So, maybe today's a great day for that.

Today it hit me.

It's time to let go.

You have been caught Jey Walking!

Monday, August 10, 2009

just so you know

"I'm so excited for you - but what does it mean to be undetectable?" is the question I get the most and I do not mind at all explaining what HIV/AIDS is and why being undetectable is so important.

So, please indulge me as I layout the basics of HIV/AIDS or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV is the virus that leads to AIDS and AIDS is a diagnosis given to those with HIV that have a high viral load count, a T-Cell count under 200 and/or an opportunistic infection - an infection that only those with severely compromised immune systems generally get.

Let me state emphatically, HIV/AIDS IS NOT A GAY DISEASE.

"HIV does not discriminate. It is not who you are, but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV."

No thanks to the CDC in the early eighties, the common myth is that HIV/AIDS only affects gay people and those they engage in unprotected sex with. Though the gay community and those that had unprotected sex with them were and are still being infected - they are not the source nor the only ones being infected.

The other common myth is that HIV/AIDS came from apes/monkeys - there is no certain known source of HIV/AIDS and there is still extensive research into when and where it first appeared. Some reports show evidence that it has been around since the late 1800's-early 1900's.

Another myth: There must be a cure because so many people are living healthy, longer lives even with HIV/AIDS. This is false, there is no found cure. Anti-retroviral drugs or "cocktails" are strong and can fight off the effects of the disease for a long time. Thanks to the advances in medicine and science and a landmark move by two pharmaceutical companies to collaborate their work into a one pill once a day drug - many people around the world are surviving. There are so many millions, though, without these drugs that die every minute of every day mostly because of ignorance, refusal to get tested, governments who refuse to accept help or allow their infected people to have drugs, etc. Please, just remember, there is no found cure, but there is hope that we are close to getting one.

Now that I've covered all that - you may want to know what exactly it is. There are plenty of websites that describe HIV/AIDS, I will list the best ones at the end. HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, but not like most viruses. HIV is unfortunately, really smart.

In basic terms HIV comes into the body through semen, vaginal fluid, blood and breast milk. The ways it is transmitted is through unprotected sex, sharing contaminated syringes/needles, giving birth and breast-feeding. There are rare cases where it was transmitted through oral sex or kissing that still involved either blood, semen or vaginal fluid - NOT saliva. Though saliva carries the HIV antibodies - it would take at least 8 gallons of saliva in contact continuously with at least one of the other bodily fluids to be infected. Even then, there have not been enough cases to prove that kissing leads to infection unless blood is present and that oral sex leads to infection unless blood and a contaminated bodily fluid is present. Not to be too graphic, but I can't imagine anyone wanting to kiss someone while both their mouths were bleeding, etc.

Just a reminder, HIV is not transmitted through sweat, saliva, urine, mosquitos or anything other than what was listed above. It is strictly a virus only humans can get, though there is evidence that other similar viruses have been found in our relatives; primates.

HIV, once in the body, attaches itself to T-Cells (CD-4 cells) aka white blood cells and basically retrieves DNA from the cell and imitates the cell as if itself, the virus, is a healthy white blood cell. The virus in its new disguise tricks the healthy cell into letting it inside. It enters the cell and starts making millions and billions of copies of itself that are sent out like destroyer drones. Eventually, the healthy cell is taken over by the virus and the process repeats until, without treatment, the person has no more healthy cells to protect themselves and they die.

Everyone has T-Cells; when you get a cold, T-Cells send out antibodies that save you from death and doctors can use these to diagnose you. When someone gets HIV - antibodies are sent out to help fight and that's why doctors use saliva to do preliminary HIV tests. They do blood tests to confirm whether someone who tested positive through saliva actually has the HIV virus and not some other virus; the preliminary tests are 99.9% accurate, but there are a few reasons why a false positive may show up.

Ok, so jump to someone like me who not so long ago wasn't doing so great. My T-Cell count was at 303 and my viral load was 88,668 or something like that. That's not so great. Doctors will suggest and strongly encourage that any HIV positive person with a T-cell count under 500 should begin treatment.

What is treatment? It's different for everybody. It began in a horrible way but now we have hope. The "cocktails" or anti-retrovirals are meant to do two things at the same time. One, kill the virus before or as it attaches to the T-Cell. Two, enter the contaminated T-Cell and stop the virus from making copies. So, drugs are designed to help and protect T-Cells and the body by increasing T-Cells and decreasing viral load. The idea is that an HIV/AIDS patient have more than 500 T-Cells and less the 48 copies of the virus/viral load. When someone has under 48 copies, tests can no longer detect the virus in the body and that's why we call people with an undetected viral load, UNDETECTABLE.

Just an interesting note: A person who has been diagnosed as having AIDS, but because of treatment improves to the point that their T-Cells go back over 200 and their viral load matter if the person lives the rest of their life undetectable, they are still considered to have AIDS. Once an immune system has been so compromised, ANYTHING, can set it right back down or even to death.

Early treatments required sometimes 12 to 15 pills a day, three to six times a day. Imagine taking anywhere from 36-90 plus pills a day that each cost about $100 or more. Today, drugs are still expensive, but there are more and more organizations that make it possible for more people regardless of income to have access to these drugs. I believe it's now the law in the United States that HIV/AIDS patients cannot be refused medical help and medicinal treatment - the program is known as Medic-Aid - anyone who enters a hospital with HIV/AIDS can demand Medic-Aid to cover the costs of the support they need. Of course this program is based on low-income and each state has a set standard.

I feel I have rambled on here and there and mixed everything up. Hopefully, I have presented this information in a way that has been helpful to all that read it. I am more than happy to answer any questions about HIV/AIDS and/or my personal experiences with it via my personal e-mail.

I love you all and thank you for the thoughts, prayers and support you give me. Without it, I would not have the ability to open up and share such vital information with my family and friends. Again, I really do appreciate all that you have done on my and other HIV/AIDS patients behalf through emotional, physical and financial support.

You have been caught Jey Walking!
once there, scroll down for websites for more information

You will also find an essay I wrote about my experience with HIV

Friday, August 7, 2009

counting my blessings

If some one told me the day I was diagnosed HIV positive (November 18th 2005) that in four years I would be undetectable and healthy, I would not have believed them.

Today I went back to my doctor's office to find out that I am still undetectable after only seven months of drug treatment. Not only that but my T-cell count has increased to 732!!! (That's really good news!) My goal is to hit 1,000 T-Cells by November 13th - my next test.

I'm not cured physically - but my ability to trust that the Lord really does have me and the whole world in His hands has expanded and my spirit has been impacted by the healing process.

I just want my family and friends to know how much I love them and am so appreciative of their thoughts, prayers and generosity offered on my behalf - it really has made the difference.

Thank you so much!

You have been caught Jey Walking!