Friday, June 24, 2016

Facing Forward: Joshua

Facing Forward is a series that shares the lives of people living with arthritis and other invisible chronic illnesses. The goal of the series is to see how we are similar and how we are different - and to remind us to keep moving forward because we aren't alone!

Name: Joshua
Location: Murrieta, CA, USA
Diagnosis: HIV Positive
Date of Diagnosis: June 5th, 2012

How are you currently treating your condition?
I am currently taking Complera which is an antiretroviral therapy three medicine "cocktail" used to suppress the levels of virus in my system. In addition to the pharmaceutical medication I eat as healthy as possible, take vitamins, maintain my spirituality with God, and exercise at least three times a week. When I am not working full time as a bail agent much of my personal life is dedicated to HIV advocacy because by helping others it has helped me cope more with my own diagnosis.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced since your diagnosis?
Confronting the stigma that surrounds HIV has been one of the biggest challenges I have faced since my diagnosis. As a heterosexual male who contracted the virus through unprotected sex I tend to break the sterotype that is attached to this condition. At times it is as if I have to "prove" my sexuality and it feels like I am in the middle of a rock and a hard place. Not accepted by the HIV community nor the heterosexual community. It's been tough. I've learned to deal with it however at times it's hard.

There is also the issue of daily adherence to medication. Although I have only missed a few doses since being diagnosed it is something I constantly have to remind myself of day in and day out. Sometimes when taking my pill, even though it has become routine, it brings me back to the day of my diagnosis and the array of emotions I was feeling that day. My battle with depression seems to have become more of a struggle since my diagnosis and although HIV was not the direct cause of it, as many other issues helped built up to it, the diagnosis was certainly a catalyst and major contributor.

Finding someone to accept me romantically was also a challenge. As someone who has always wanted children and the typical "white picket fence" life we all like to imagine, my diagnosis cast doubts in my mind whether that would ever truly happen. After a couple years in I am now happy to say that I am in a mixed status relationship with my girlfriend who is negative and know having kids is a possibility. In the beginning when I was diagnosed I didn't think that was ever going to happen. However, the more I have educated myself and worked alongside my healthcare team, the more I realize that HIV will not stop me from anything. It is simply an obstacle, not an impossible barrier to cross.

What are your favorite tips and tricks for managing everyday tasks?
  • For myself it is writing down at least three things in my journal that I am grateful for in my life, however great or small they may be. This helps shape my attitude for the day to focus on the good in life and make me a more productive person. It makes me realize that today is going to be a good day because I choose for it to be one.
  • Exercise for me boosts my energy and gives me more time to get the things I need to get done accomplished. Although I am not at the point where I exercise every day, even three times a week in the gym for a couple of hours makes a huge difference not only physically but mentally as well.
  • Helping others throughout the day through online advocacy helps as it puts everything into perspective. There is always someone out there that has it worse off and that makes a huge difference.
  • Making a list of things I need to get accomplished is also important for me, as often my mind seems to be running a million miles a minute. A list helps me stay focused and even if I can't accomplish everything I want on that list that exact day then I will pick it up the next day and start where I left off.
  • Having goals is important as it helps me realize what I am doing today is benefiting myself in the future. 
  • Putting myself in situations where I have to socialize is also important. Even though I am very much an extrovert, the depression can be difficult at times therefore it's important that I am not isolating myself but rather living life for the moment and interacting with others, because ultimately that will help me in managing my every day tasks. The mind is a powerful tool and if I get myself stuck in it thinking about all I have been through then it makes things difficult.
  • Not sweating the small stuff or surrounding myself with those who are toxic or dram oriented. Maintaining a calm state of mind at all times.
  • Building and surrounding myself with a support system of family and friends that have my back no matter what and know I know I can talk to whenever necessary. In addition to online support groups, both for HIV and depression, so I can speak with others living what I am going through as well. This support has been fundamental for me and the point I am now in my life.

How do you manage to keep facing forward every day?
I face forward every day by reminding myself that everything that I have been through has molded me into the person I am today. Life has ups and downs and without the downs we wouldn't appreciate the ups. Hope is a major part of my life and is a word that is misunderstood by many, but for me it's more than simply a word said loosely but a way of life. It is what propels me forward because I believe things will always get better. I'm an optimistic type person and it really took myself accepting my virus before I could see a brighter tomorrow. It's a matter of the attitude that you put into it. Whether you see the glass half empty or half full. I know that with medication adherence and taking care of myself both physically and mentally, everything is going to be ok.

If you could go back to diagnosis day and tell your past self one thing, what would it be?
Embrace what you are feeling right now and don't be ashamed to let it out or fool yourself into thinking that holding it in is a symbol of strength. It's ok to feel...Things might seem grim now but soon you will realize this is not the end but rather the beginning that is helping drive you to your purpose in life.

Would you like to be featured on Facing Forward? If so, please send an email to  

No comments: