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The fight of my life!

Since I've been back home in Portsmouth I've been taking time to just relax and get back to being at peace with my life. I've been able to see old friends, hang out, eat well, and fill my days with lots of laughter, which is good for the soul I know. I've been able to visit familiar places and have been greeted my familiar loving faces as well. It's truly been a blessing that I've been able to take a break and come home to hit the reset button in my life, and even more blessed that I have a husband who supports me in that, even if he (like me) misses being together each and every day.

Well, there are two issues that I know I have to face head on, and I have not gotten any more at ease about dealing with them since I've been home than I was when I was living in Richmond. I've been HIV positive since 2005, and most of the past 10 years have gone by without complication or incident. I've been on a medication regimen of one pill a day, and more recently (or the last time I was in treatment rather), I was taking 3 a day. Even 3 isn't bad when considering some folk are oh half a dozen pills or more for HIV or other things that they've contracted over time. Part of me coming home was for me to take the time I need in order to get back on track with my health and treatment when it comes to being HIV positive. There was a point where I simply dropped the ball. I could say I'd just gotten fed up with all the doctor visits and questions and stuff, but honestly, the answer is a lot more simple, even though it's not something I've ever admitted to anyone before. Truthfully, I stopped taking my meds and stopped going to the doctor because I simply wanted to die. For a long time, HIV wasn't that big of a deal for me. I mean, I'd gone on after my diagnosis to complete my degree from Norfolk State and in that process I even met a man who would end up being the love of my life, and my husband. So, to the person looking from the outside, things seemed just fine. And they were, until my mental health started to become more of an issue than it had been before.

After moving to Richmond, I felt depressed. Never before had I been away from my friends and my family for so long, and it really took a toll on the way I felt about life and myself. I became depressed, ended up in several hospitals for suicide attempts or just mental breakdowns. What was simple to deal with before (HIV), was now something that seemed too much to handle, especially since I felt like I was losing the capacity to think clearly or make important decisions rationally, without always allowing my emotions to overwhelm the situation and take priority. After months of going back and forth into hospital behavioral health wards, and seeking counseling at a place for the homeless, I started to find some kinda way to cope with what life had handed me.

Understand, I'm supposed to be great. I'm BENNAIRE. I've been told my entire life how smart, and well-spoken and handsome I am. So to be faced with these things at this seemingly late stage in life, really had me confused. I wasn't working because there was just so much going on in my head that holding down a job simply because too much for me to handle. Not that I didn't want to work, but I just couldn't keep a job once I found one. My self-esteem suffered, and soon not even my husband or closest friends could get me out of the funk I was in. I would take small little trips home to get out of Richmond and come back to what I thought would help me feel better, and it did for a little while. But I was still feeling down about myself and about my life, and I was slowly slipping away from the people in my life that cared the most about me. I wasn't reaching out to talk to them, wasn't returning calls or texts, and I'm sure my social media pages were just as depressing as I was in my head, so that probably didn't help folk want to be around me or talk to me either.

Don't get me wrong, through all of this I always had somewhere to lay my head, food to eat, clothes to put on, etc. But for me, losing my mind and having my health spiral downwards was about as close to rock bottom as I wanted to experience. Even weed wasn't helping me as much as I knew it used to, even after smoking I would still be depressed and still didn't have the motivation or clear thought to get back into treatment for either of my issues. I really just had made up my mind that if I couldn't kill myself with a gun or with pills (which I had tried both), I would just let nature take its course and one day I would just sleep and not wake up.

Writing this now makes me shake my head in understanding just how crazy my thought process had become. To think, I had friends and family who loved me unconditionally, but in my head they couldn't love me, because I just had so many bad things going on with me at the time. Although the gay issue wasn't really an issue to begin with, I had allowed myself to think that my friends would turn away from me because of that. Because in my head, if I'd never allowed myself to act on my feelings for other men, I wouldn't have ever been infected with HIV and wouldn't have had to seek treatment, etc, etc. I felt that my mental health was something that my friends and family would possibly shame me about. Not out of hatred for me necessarily, but because they probably wouldn't understand, or would feel that I was making it up because I'd never had any difficulty with my mind before. I'd always had somewhat of an attitude and a smart mouth, but to hear that you're bipolar and suffer from borderline personality disorder, kinda puts a different spin on something that was, up until then, just typical of people like me. Or at least I thought.

Even now, I still battle those thoughts about what I feel people think about me, or how they would see me if they knew everything that I try to keep from them. I know it's crazy, but that's just how my mind has worked for quite a while now. Instead of trusting in what these people have shown to me over 3 decades of life and friendship, I have been so down and out that I've allowed fear and depression to enter in and convince me that the love these people have for me isn't strong enough or unconditional enough to deal with the reality of who I am and the things I've done in MY life. I haven't ruined anyone else's life. I haven't murdered anyone. I haven't stolen anyone's life savings. The things I deal with are things that affect me, and me alone. Now, I know those who care about me would be devastated if I were to leave this earth in an untimely fashion, but aside from that, what I chose to do or say, or how I chose to live are decisions that I have to deal with, not them.

I've grown to understand that sometimes in life what we go through is a result of decisions that we've made, and sometimes shit just happens because it's going to happen. No matter what we do or how perfect we try to be, there will be things that come into our lives that are going to make it more difficult, or just plain old unfair. Yes, I've done things that created the situation I now find myself in and I'm okay with that. My actions directly affected my life as it is now, and I'm man enough to understand and accept the fact that nobody had anything to do with those choices but me. And I also understand the fact that other things, such as my mental health, have nothing to do with things I might have done in the past, and there's probably no way I could have avoided becoming bipolar of having borderline personality disorder. But, what I can do is keep pushing and fighting to make my life better, not necessarily easier.

In all this, I can say that I'm thankful and grateful. I still have life and breath to draw from the Universe, and in every breath I have another chance at life and living. I have a support system that is second to none, friends and family who will never stop encouraging me or loving me, no matter how down I feel about life or how horrible I feel about myself. I have more than one place to lay my head, and a village of mothers who will always welcome me with open arms and more than likely a plate of food too! There are children who call me Uncle that motivate me to keep trying to be better, because they're going to need a strong man in their lives (many strong men) to teach them and show them how obstacles can be overcome and how problems can be solved with dedication and a clear mind able to think critically. I have been blessed by the Creator with many gifts and talents that nobody else has, and it's up to me to figure out how to use those things to create the world in which I want to live.

But after saying all that, all I need to worry about is this moment. Right now, in writing this, I know that I'm on the right path. I've made a move to come home where I know I can focus and not be beat down by feelings of being alone or stuck. Right now, I'm making progress at getting back into treatment for HIV and my mental health issues and even though I'm a bit nervous about what that might mean for me, I'm still moving forward. I can't sit and wonder if I'm going to be back to taking 3 or 4 pills a day or 1. I just have to make my health and wellness the priority and keep that in mind whenever I don't feel like doing something or I think that something won't matter if I don't do it exactly the way I'm instructed to do it. Even though all these things constantly run through my mind, I've just got to keep moving through them and not allow them to change what I KNOW I have to do for myself.

I'm built to conquer this. I haven't always thought I was, but time has shown me that I can. There are some folks who can't say they've been living with HIV for ten years, and there are people who were diagnosed with mental illness who didn't make it to this day. So whatever shortcomings I think I have I need to forget because my Creator clearly made me to be able to take blows over and over but still get back up and stand tall. My ancestors dealt with a lot, and I know their blood runs through me, giving me the same strength and tenacity to fight and press forward. So in anything I face, I stand on their shoulders. I come in a room as one, but I stand as ten thousand! It's because of that, and the people here now with me, that I know I'm not alone in my fight.


  1. Benn, this absolutely tugged at my heart strings. I truly believe you are great and when you didn't think you were, I was here hoping, praying, believing that you'd see what I and so many others see in you. Be kind to yourself.
    Love and Light,

  2. Benn, this absolutely tugged at my heart strings. I truly believe you are great and when you didn't think you were, I was here hoping, praying, believing that you'd see what I and so many others see in you. Be kind to yourself.
    Love and Light,

  3. Thank you for sharing your journey. I pray that things continue to become clear for you. You don't even realize how you sharing your experience can touch the lives of others. Keep on pushing.


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