By Tyler Curry
Whether you are newly diagnosed or a long-term survivor, the weight of living with HIV can sometimes get you down. It’s just as important to manage your mental health as well as your physical health. After all, there will never be a cure for HIV stigma until there is a cure for HIV. If you haven’t done such a great job with keeping up with your mental health regimen, here is a 7-day detox to shed excess stigma and help you feel a little lighter again.
Day 1 - Unfollow anyone who brings you down.
Unlike most diets, the first day of this stigma cleanse is the easiest. Social media is an ever-increasing force in our lives. It is up to you whether that force is for the good or for the bad. On day one of your detox, unfollow anyone who you feel doesn’t shine a light in your life. Maybe they have expressed obvious forms of stigma or maybe they just rub you the wrong way. Either way, removing their faces from your feed is the first step to getting your mind right.
Day 2 - Establish your go-to shoulder to lean on.
It doesn’t matter what your current issue or frustration with HIV may be, sometimes you just need to vent. On day two of your stigma detox, reach out to someone you trust and set up a meeting where you can let it all out. Having a support system is crucial to living well with HIV, and reconnecting with your number one friend or loved one will always lighten the load you are carrying.
Day 3 - Bullet point the basics on health and prevention.
Even though the science is on your side, it can be easy to slip into a depressed state when you are living with a chronic disease that carries stigma. On day three, brush up on the facts and bullet point the basics about treatment and prevention. Doing this every so often guarantees that your info is up-to-date and no one can try to convince you that your prognosis is anything else. You are a safe and sexy bet, so take today and create a list that will help you never forget it.
Day 4 - Do something fun!
The best way to combat stigma is to live your life in a way that utterly flies in the face-of-face of those who try and keep you down. Today, make a concerted effort to do something that will incite spontaneous belly laughs and make your jaw hurt from smiling too much. One of the biggest advantages of living with a chronic disease is that you are reminded that life is to too short and nothing should be taken for granted. Add to it that you will never be younger than you are at this moment and seize the opportunity to live it up and laugh out loud. What are you waiting for?!
Day 5 - Make a new appointment with your doctor.
You may dread going to the doctor, but you can’t deny the feeling of levity you get from the calming influence of someone who knows more about HIV than you do. If you are feeling anything less than fine about HIV, schedule an appointment with your doctor for lab work and just a good chat. Make a list of questions that you always forget to ask when you are up on the table and take the time to get comfortable with the person who’s in charge of your treatment. When you engage in your own health care, you become engaged in your own life.
Day 6 - Find a new social outlet.
Whether it’s a happy hour for professionals in your field of work or a new sports league that you’ve wanted to join, take today to create new relationships in your life. Putting yourself out there and developing new relationships can sometimes be intimidating when living with HIV, but probably the best way to bring some levity and joy into your life. New hobbies and new interests can do wonders for the psyche, so take day six to finally get around to that thing you have been meaning to do.
Day 7 - Volunteer your time to help others.
Congratulations! You have reached the last day of you stigma detox. For six days you have been thinking how to help yourself. So on day seven, it’s time to shift your focus to the problems of others. Find a non-profit organization that you feel passionately about and donate your time to help others who are in need. Volunteering can eliminate any remnants of stigma you may have and give you perspective on the problems in your life.
After completing the seven-day stigma detox, revisit any one of the days guidelines to keep your own stigma in check and ward off any negative assholes or unwarranted fears that naturally comes with life, with or without HIV.