Author Archives: Joie

About Joie

Living with HIV in Nigeria and doing my best so other people- read: girls- do not have to.

My Work Is Not Mine

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This is a post I wrote in early December of 2016. Unfortunately, like many of the posts that will follow this, I have only just been able to see my way clear to posting it now. However, the content is still relevant especially for where I am now.

Today, I was so depressed. Sad about many things. The main thing is money. Where will it come from? How will I get what is due me? I have a friend I lent a substantial amount. She was supposed to pay me two months ago and then at the end of last month and I am yet to receive any news from her. On one hand I am angry that she is so nonchalant (seemingly), on the other hand I do not know whether to just take it easy with her as we are in a recession. But I have issues too, and I deserve an explanation, right?

The second part is that some money that I was eagerly expecting, as a start-up fee from somewhere I had been has now been attached to so many conditions that I am certain that I cannot meet. This particularly upset me because it upset the plans which I had carefully laid out in my head, and disrupted the dream which we had been encouraged to have. So in one way, I feel cheated. The thing about it is that I need something to fall back on, and now all that is there is an empty space. So I was afraid. And for a moment, I thought maybe this dream of social engineering, and change is just a pipe dream. Maybe I needed to tuck it carefully away in my ‘things I have dreamt about’ box, and return to the ‘things I really need to do’ life.

Then I read two articles.

One was from a friend, Uwana, talking about the physical abuse her mum had endured and the sexual abuse she had suffered. The other article, from a woman on a totally different continent spoke about how she learned from her mother and grandmother to stash money away to be able to withstand and avoid the horrors of a bad marriage. Then it clicked again.

My work is not for me.

It is for the women that have come before and for those that go after. It is for my mother, whose only escape from a life of drudgery and living with a man that does not appreciate her for decades was her parents’ home. Where she could be a daughter and a sibling again. Happy and carefree. Then her parents both died in quick succession and she seemed trapped. Not one day off. For 40 years.

It is for her sister who has survived a poor and very sick husband who later died, extreme poverty (so bad that she had to be given used underwear by her siblings), and a schizophrenic child.

It is for my daughter, who had a glimpse of what it meant for a revolting stranger to violate you, albeit unsuccessfully.

It is for all the former classmates and the juniors in secondary school who sent me inbox messages about what they had endured in their marriages, in their lives and to their person.

My work is not for me. It was given to me. And the provision will be made to accomplish it.

Thanksgiving of A’Roach

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You know how cockroaches refuse to be killed and you are chasing them all over the place until they run to safety in a hole? That is exactly how my friend described my life and me. A description I actually hated but which seems to ring true.

As I write you I am in the continent of Asia, and in India to be precise. This is my third month here. Yes, I raised the funds and how I moved from that despair in my last post to being here at this location is more than a miracle. More than a miracle. I will catalogue everything in my next post but for now I want to express gratitude to all those who assisted me in one way or the other. The bulk of my expenses was not from any particular person but was earned however a few people seemed to open the ‘floodgates’.

Thank you Ese. Thank you James. For the much needed material. Thank you Uche and Neuyogi for the psychological. And thanks to everyone who came anonymously with a prayer. May all your dreams come true.

Please do not be offended that I am not writing the post filling the gaps at the moment. I had to come back here today to take stock and be reminded that the universe can shift. For you.

Talk soon.

Love and Light

Joie

 

 

 

 

 

The Life Reboot

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I have battled for a while on whether to post this or not. Somewhere in my mind, this blog is to explain the science behind my illness the way I understand it, and that there is no real place for my own feelings outside that. Don’t ask me why I feel that way, I don’t even know but that feeling sometimes restricts me from posting some of my real feelings. But suddenly, after a few things happened over the course of the last few months, it occurred to me that a lot of who I am and what I am struggling with is related to this illness. Whether I realise it or not, whether I admit it or not and whether I want it to or not.

Last year was a very rough one for me as for a lot of people. But it was different for me because I had to ask my self the question ‘how did I get here?’. How did I become this person who desires death more than life, who from being excited to wake up in the morning, was looking for ways to end her existence quickly. Who had lost herself so much that could not stand to see her own reflection in the mirror? Who had nothing to believe in or hold on to, not her faith, or her abilities or family, or friends or wealth?  A pretty girl with dreams who suddenly became an average single mother with no hope for tomorrow? It became clear to me that despite my best efforts to the contrary, life was just happening to me. And it was painful, and it was meaningless.

I struggled through severe depression towards the end of last year and mustered the courage to go to my parents’ only to be faced with the realisation that I was not free from discrimination.A few things my mum said made me aware that she would always see me as the child with HIV, that she felt my daughter needed to be protected from me and probably that I was not good enough for my own child. This discovery tore me apart but I returned vowing to work hard this year, succeed and relocate my child to live with me. Then another hit. It turned out my brother’s house which has been my lodging for this while would no longer be available to me, or anyone. He had been owing rent for a year and the landlord’s family had had enough. Why that included launching a vicious physical attack on me personally is still a mystery to me, but when it rains it pours. But for me this was the last straw; if I was broken before, I was totally beaten down now. My property that I had packed up and lugged around for 7 years would have to be lugged around some more. I could never really settle down.

I did my usual blood tests and my CD4 count was the lowest I had ever seen it go in all my years of living with this disease. Despite the ARVs, despite the new treatment centre. They said it was probably the new regimen. Or stress. Stay away from stress, they advised. I would laugh if I could.

But I had lost myself. I have lost myself.

But something similar to a  glimmer of opportunity just showed up. I have an opportunity to go to a training program somewhere in Asia for a little over half a year. If I can raise the money. Initially I was not enthusiastic about it because it seemed to be the sort of glamour less opportunities that present themselves in my life. Like an archaeological find that may or may not be valuable, but never the real burnished gem. But now, I see it for what it could be for me; the opportunity to find myself. And though I worry about missing my daughter for so long, and about what future lies for me beyond that training, I will take it if I can raise the money.

And I will give out some of my property the electricals, the electronics;  I will discard some, the soft furnishing, the extras; and I will burn some, the artwork and the utensils. Because those things are a sad reminder of who I thought I was. I am looking to see who I could be. Or  if being is even an option.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year (Hopefully)

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I cannot exactly say I am happy we are in another year. I do not share the ‘thank God for life’sentiment of Nigerians. Life to be life has to have a purpose and that purpose should set it in constant motion. Otherwise, what is the point. But that is a post for another day. Today I just want to take stock of last year with a view to…I do not even know.

A few good things happened  in 2015

  • I left LUTH for a much better health centre
  • I began ARVs
  • I came ‘out of the closet’ with my illness
  • I met someone
  • I got a job
  • I made a great friend from an (read:this) unlikely place
  • My mother replaced her car

Then things rapidly went downhill

  • ‘Someone’ turned out to be no one worth my time
  • I lost the job before I began, got another one and was fired from that one after two months
  • I was diagnosed with severe depression
  • I fell seriously ill several times
  • I was unable to move out to my own place

In general, 2015 was quite a horrible year for me. I am a bit more cautious about effervescent optimism at this moment yet I am looking forward… And ignoring fear. Or trying to.

World No AIDS Day (and other stories)

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Wow! On paper it does not look like I have not been around but in spirit I have been away for long. Too long. And so much has happened. Where do I begin? I think I should start from  the latest.

By now you have heard about the Sugabelly rape story – if you haven’t google it and relocate from under that rock. It was such a distressing piece to me, not just because she went through a lot -and she did- but because in many ways I could relate. And it brought back all the ways I could relate so vividly. I cried and cried. My personal reflection on the event is summed up here , some of which you already know, and some you do not.  However, this culture of silence over rape and abuse that we seem to have embedded in our (Nigerian) culture is a good port of call in discussing ways that we can rid the world of AIDS in the near future.

In my opinion, If we are to rid our country of this illness then we must be ready to  stop pretending. We must be ready to speak about the things that are taboo. How we are unhappy in our relationships, our marriages and want out rather than sneaking around with multiple partners, how we are being beaten by a partner instead of saying that it is a family/ domestic matter, how we were sexually abused as kids, or raped as adults instead of running around broken. Conversely, we must also be able to empathise with people who have been in these situations or who are in them even if we do not understand them. They are not sluts, and prostitutes, and ashawos, and shameless, and irresponsible and stupid. They do not want it nor are they asking for it. They just are. Because HIV in Nigeria is primarily transmitted by sexual intercourse we have to lift the lid off all the situations that can make ensure that sexual intercourse is unsafe and/ or dangerous. because it is perpetuated by our culture of silence we must question our taboos.

So where have I been?

Let’s start with the good news

Towards to the end of July I began I job in a start-up.  In September I began ARVs and met someone who liked me irrespective of my status. In October my mum finally got paid her gratuity and in November we bought her a new car.

And now the bad news

In September I was fired  because my boss needed to micromanage me and I resisted. He literally wanted to arrange my work schedule by the hour so he knew what I was up to or supposed to be up to every hour. I thought that was ridiculous but offered a weekly update on my activities. Then one day the company director came and not finding him on his seat spoke to me. He became nervous and insecure and fired me.

In October I broke up with my ‘person who liked me’. Turned out he liked my pocket. He expected me to fund or at least subsidise his life. I caught him out in a lie more than once and I cut him off. (That didn’t take long.)

So here we are. This is the short version of the events because I really do not want to rehash the long. But I am on ARVs now and I have been doing well. I had no adverse reaction to the drugs which was a shock and a pleasure to my healthcare professionals because it is very rare. I may share details of that if you guys are good because only two people asked of me when I was away 😦  But being on the ARVs without side effects empowered me so much that I began to share my status with my colleagues and friends. I am living openly now and frankly, it feels great! I feel free and unhindered; I no longer carry a burden. And I help people too. When they see me and find out I am positive they are encouraged that being positive is not death.

Otherwise I am just here wondering about my next meal and hoping that December doesn’t run so fast without me.

How ya living?

 

 

 

Yesterday, I Almost Beheaded A Man

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Here is a post I wrote for a co-authored blog I contribute to. Every time I read it I re-live the emotions, raw and unyielding.

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(This is a post I submitted as a journal entry for World Pulse. Unfortunately, it is a true story.)

I had braved the unnecessarily long, tedious bus ride – a journey of two and a half hours turned eight due to bad roads and heavy rains- just to see her. I never stayed away from my daughter this long – four months in the development of a toddler is a long time. When I freed myself of the emotional abuse that was my last full time job, I promised myself that I would finally do all the things I did not have time for when I was working, especially visiting my daughter- who lived with my parents- more frequently. Unfortunately, I did not anticipate that I would encounter so many difficulties getting re-established work-wise, that I would scrimp and save and live in near penury and be too broke and…

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Aaaaah Life!

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Sometimes it seems like life is determined to squeeze you of any semblance of happiness or at the very least contentment. “You will be miserable, you will be miserable, you will ALL be miserable!” And what can you do? Suddenly, from an enthusiatic, bright youth,  you find yourself a grumpy, disillusioned, unsmiling adult with chronic health issues. Nothing to look forward to, nothing to light you up inside.
This is what I have been fighting my whole life. Even as a child I recognised the expression, the gait, the mien when someone’s inner illumination had dimmed. I never wanted to be that way… But it seems I am losing the battle, if I have not already lost.
I no longer wish to die. I realise how my absence will be dangerous for my daughter. I watched a documentary where a little girl was so badly maltreated by her relatives because she had no one else to stay with. Human beings can be nefarious. However there are things worse than death, and some others that feel like death.
This is a random muse. Recent events necessitated it. I feel so out of balance, so confused. Or maybe it’s  because the I haven’t been taking my immune boosters. The doctor actually confessed they were something like placebos and so since I had problems affording it anyway I figured I might just shelve it for a while. (Yeah, I know. It sounds like a bad idea to me too now that I think about it.)
So what’s really the matter, Joie? Everything. I keep trying to stand on my own feet but I keep falling. And it is not that the ground is far, it just (feels like) keeps being snatched from under me. Consequently I find myself afraid to  feel happy or excited or hopeful about anything.
This is the adulthood they spoke of?

Joie