LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL

Written by Were Immaculate.

18th September 2021.

 

Disclaimer- I realize that the topics touched on in this blog are sensitive. If you feel offended by my choice of words, please note that it is inadvertent and every day I strive to tell the stories of women in the most sensitive and respectful way possible.

 

“I tell my story because I want to encourage someone who feels discouraged” Daisy.

Today’s story is about Daisy (Not her real name) Daisy has had a million reasons to give up. A million reasons to stop fighting for her life. Yet more than a million times she has picked herself up and decided to move on against all odds.

When I heard Daisy say that the reason why she tells her story is to encourage a person who feels discouraged, i thought to myself, “that right there. That is the sound of hope. That is the sound of a woman whom life has attempted to beat, but she was stronger than the storm. The sound of a woman who not only went through the storm but is willing to go back into the storm to lead others out of it, because now she knows there is a way out.”At this point, I hadn’t listened to her whole story yet, but I knew that for sure, the story was bound to end with the confessions of a girl who every day fought battles no one knew about, but made it look so easy.

Thank you Daisy for being brave enough to tell your story, I hope it serves as a guide to all who go through a similar journey.

Daisy values her story and wants to tell her story, but like you and I, we just can’t trust our stories with the whole world. What if our stories are used against us? What if they are used to beat us down worse than where we are. What if the world does not see our stories the way we see them?  What if they use our stories to do to us as our adversaries did..or like life did.

A woman gets herself in a relationship with a man who beats the life out of her. This woman has no kids with the man, in fact, the man doesn’t have a shilling to himself. Maybe even gets fed by this same woman whom he beats every single night religiously. Guess what? This woman stays. Not one, not two, not three years but a whooping five years being used as a punching bag. Until one day this man hits her so hard that he breaks her rib which punctures her lung. Maybe then, we can say she contributed to her own ill fate (or not but that is a conversation for another day).

What I’m driving at is, it is one thing to ‘choose’ your own fate. However, it is another for nature and the universe to select the ‘worst’ case scenario and place it right at your doorstep. For you to deal with it. For you to handle it.

Daisy. Young, energetic, vibrant, intelligent, diligent, you name it all.

Daisy is young. Too young to understand anything that’s going on. All she knows is that every now and then, she and her mum are in and out of the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). “Kenyatta Hospital was our regular home, “ she says. Daisy’s mother always told her that the medicine was for chest pains. One day, Daisy is in class 6 and decides to ask her mum what the medicine is for. Her mum at this point is still not ready to tell her what the medicine is for. When daisy went to class 7 boarding school she stopped taking her meds which were for ‘chest pains and that was when her situation got worse. Eventually, Daisy’s mum informs her that she was born with HIV/ AIDS and that her life depends on the drugs that she had been taking all that time.

STIGMA

At the time when Daisy’s mum discovered she and her daughter were HIV positive, HIV/AIDS was a highly stigmatized disease because of the lack of awareness of it and therefore the first few years were hell for them. This was about the year 2003-2005.

Stigma from society, however, was not the most painful part of it. Stigma from society can be borne. But when your family stigmatizes you for having the disease, the wounds cut deeper. Daisy’s dad was advised to get a second wife and get as far away from Daisy and her mother as they could, which he did. Daisy and her mum were left in their death beds to die.

I absolutely love it when Daisy pauses at this point and asks “but who is God?” Reminds me of the song by Israel Houghton, See a Victory. Whose lyrics go, “You take what the enemy meant for evil and you turn it for good.” Despite the exclusion by other members of the family, some other family members came through and that’s how they were able to get through the tough seasons in their lives.

In her high school, she had a supportive headmistress and boarding master, however, she stopped taking her medicine because of the pressure of people inquiring from her what the drugs are for. Daisy’s situation got worse when she trusted one of her friends and “hell broke loose” in her own words. The lady told people around about her HIV status and she was stigmatized. Her classmates moved their desks away from her and during meals, everyone would stay away from her on the line. One time her mum went to school and Daisy told her mother she wanted to transfer to another school. In her mother’s wisdom, they talked to the school administration, and people began to socialize with her again.

REJECTION IN ROMANTIC RELATIONSHIPS  

“You might have accepted yourself but rejection takes you back to ground zero” Daisy

Daisy says that opening up about her HIV status has always been a challenge that has affected her romantic relationships because of how people react once they know about her HIV status. Some pretend to have accepted you and then dump you later.

“It is hard to convince a Kenyan man that you can’t transmit HIV/AIDS when your count is 0”.

I can almost feel the pain in her voice when she says that sometimes when people are single it’s not always by choice. It’s out of fear. The rejection makes you feel more stigmatized. It’s a lose-lose situation even when she decides to date those who are positive. This is because some of those that are HIV positive don’t take meds and can reinfect which could also affect her worse.

SELF ACCEPTANCE

From hearing her speak I could tell that sometimes the problem is not just that society or the people around you stigmatize you. Sometimes it is the fact that somewhere within you you just can’t believe that this is how you get to live your life. It’s a potpourri of anger, shame, fear, and everything else that may come with it.

Daisy is a woman who every single day since the year 2005 has been required to take Anti-Retroviral drugs to keep herself alive. Reminds me to be grateful to God for living every single day without a care in the world. She has also been responsible for giving medicine (Anti-retroviral) to her mum even before she was 5 years old. Daisy’s mother is a woman who had to fight not just for her health but for her children who were taken away from her due to her HIV status to be given back to her.

Daisy reminds me that there are people in this world who go through situations that some of us can’t imagine. Yet they do so bravely every single day. Daisy reminds me that you can choose to rise past your circumstances and find the strength every single day to live.

If you are like Daisy and are HIV/Positive – the world may feel like a lonely place but there are others just like you. Others like Daisy are fighting every single day. You are not alone.

LIGHT IN THE TUNNEL

Daisy leads a team that works towards mentoring young people on matters to do with HIV/AIDS. Daisy also does campaigns on people knowing their HIV status.

Thank you so much once again Daisy for having the courage to share your story with us

MY TAKE HOME

Take care of yourself. Taking medicine every day is not easy. Use condoms.

Please take your HIV test. Anyone, especially those who are sexually active, you have to check your status. For, your own health, and for those around you.

A positive HIV result is not the end of the road for you. Just like Daisy, you can choose to live with courage every single day.

Take your medicine. Daisy said anytime she failed to take her meds her situation grew worse. Fight for your life baby.

Get your mental health in order. Daisy mentioned that she had to see mental health experts every now and then because of her status which was overwhelming.

Awareness is key. There is no need to stigmatize people living with HIV/AIDS when it could be your mother, brother, sister, or daughter that just hasn’t told you of their status.

The journey is tough. “Its not easy taking this things daily sometimes unakasirika tu”

The journey may be tough but hold on. Other warriors are fighting alongside you..

Thank you so much guys for reading this blog and thank you Daisy for sharing your story.

Peace.

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