More Than Just Blue



Province says he tries to cope with his depression by keeping busy. He loves to garden and tends to his elderly neighbors’ yard free of charge. He says he also always has some home-renovation project brewing. And he tries to take care of his overall health by hitting the gym. If he doesn’t exercise regularly, he says, he feels the effects in just a few days and begins to spiral into feelings of apathy about his well-being.

But he’s quick to put the brakes on that kind of thinking when he realizes it’s going on.

“It’s like, No, I’ve got to take care of myself. If nobody else cares, I do,” he says. “Because nobody else looks at me in the mirror every morning—as scary as that can be for me some days.”

Be Present

Province also tries to maintain a rosy attitude, he says, and to share it with others.

“When I leave the house—going to the grocery store or whatever—I always try to do something nice for somebody else while I’m out,” he explains. “It may be holding the door for somebody or helping them carry out their groceries. I make it a point to bring some kind of positive impact on somebody else’s life. And in doing so, it makes me feel better about myself and brings my emotions up. It feels good to say, Yeah, I am a good person, and I can do something to help other people, no matter what’s going on with me.”

Owens says she would seek a sense of community in her church because of her strong religious beliefs, except for the profound stigma she’s suffered there both because of her being HIV-positive and because of the mental health struggles that she’s been through. So outside of watching sermons online, she’s found another outlet for her spirit—working as a speaker, educator, and advocate for HIVers in the communities where she and her husband, who’s in the military, have lived.

“I’m 38 years old, and I have so much left to give!” she says. She adds that she finds solace and kinship among those she jokingly calls the “degenerates,” the other HIV-positive members of her local AIDS support group.

“The same way you work the program with HIV, you can work it with depression,” she notes of the multitude of support groups out there for both issues. “You just need to broaden your support system. In every community, no matter how large or how small, you can still find support.”

Therapist Howard seconds that notion: “A person living with HIV needs comprehensive services. They can have a blood draw, they can have a pill, but if they don’t have a case manager to help prevent them from being evicted, and if they don’t have a therapist to help them with all the stress, then just having an undetectable viral load is not going to get that person to be successful.”

Back in Brooklyn, Guaylupo says one way he finds success in battling his depression is to resist his old temptations to up and quit what he’s started. As a teenager, he admits, he abandoned his long-term job at McDonald’s on a whim one day, and later he dropped out of college shortly before he was set to graduate.

“I don’t give up on my job now,” he says, contrasting his present and past. “I’m not done with school, but I’m still doing it. I took off two semesters, but I’m planning to go back.”
  He also says he has to fight the darker days, which sometimes make him want to lock himself in a room and throw away the key. Now, he says, he’s learned to make healthier choices.

“Whenever I feel stressed-out or depressed or down—to the point I sometimes just want to scream—I can contact my therapist or one of my friends and just let them know what I’m going through. Even though I’m going to feel down, I feel a little better if I talk about it.”

Tags: Health