I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Monday, January 9, 2012


My friend texted me the other day and asked..."How often do you cry? Maybe about living positively? Not being in Zambia? Anything?" My response made her say "Wow. You should write about that." So, here I go... (Please keep in mind that I am not looking for pity or sympathy in writing this, rather simply attempting to share some real honest feelings).

In the very beginning, I don't even remember crying. It was more of a feeling of emptiness rather than sadness. In my medical records from South Africa, the hospital doctor actually reported that I appeared to be "emotionally flat". I guess that is what shock looks like...

Some of the first tears I remember having were on the airplane, departing from South Africa and heading back to America. And for the next 17 hours of that flight, my eyes watered up anytime that I didn't distract myself by sleeping or staring at the TV screen.

In D.C. I cried a good bit, but it was somewhat structured... I cried mostly when I was talking to my counselor or family and friends. I cried during conversations with my roommate, and during phone calls with my ex-boyfriend. I cried when writing e-mails to other PCVs. Yet, I was doing pretty good and staying pretty strong overall.

Once I left D.C. and transitioned back "home", things got a little more difficult. The past couple months have been a bit of a constant, and pretty unpredictable, roller coaster. I've been struggling not only to deal with the HIV diagnosis and all that entails, but also just with the readjustment to life in America, and letting go of the people, and job, and dreams that I left behind.

How have I held up? That is hard to answer. It is constantly changing. I seem to do okay for a few days, or a week, or even longer... and then suddenly something triggers me, and all of the emotions that have been building up inside suddenly come rushing out. There have been times when I have thought about suicide. There have been times when I'm crying so hard that I hyperventilate. There have been times when I could just sit and stare at the wall for hours.

It is not always like this. There are good days. And there are bad days. There is no rhyme or reason to it. It is not something that you just get over. It is not something that just goes away. It might seem okay for awhile, but then another unexplainable moment occurs, when you just sit there and think, "Holy ****. How did I end up here?" You sit and replay the events in your mind, and it is just as hard to believe now, as it had been those first few days.

Like I said, there are good days. And there are bad days. These past couple weeks have been good days. As I told my friend, "I've been kind of riding on a high from this whole blog thing." But, unfortunately, yesterday was one of the bad days. I spent the whole day depressed and laying around, but still trying to push the bad thoughts away and hold it together. By about 10:00pm, everything had built up, and I lost it, and I launched into an uncontrollable crying and hyperventilating fit. I felt totally lost. I felt that I couldn't figure out ANYTHING in my life. Too many decisions. Where to live. Jobs. Relationships. Finances. Insurance. Doctors. Future. What future?

Thankfully, I had a friend with me, who understands all of these feelings, and who laid there and held me and waited for it to pass. It did pass. I slept through the night. And today, I went out and had a pretty productive day. I met with a new clinic and got the process started to get new doctors, and hopefully some counseling services...


  1. One of your best posts! Love u Jess!

  2. We're here for you Jess. Through the good, the bad and the ugly. We stand beside you. =) Even in your weakest moments, you are still by far one of the strongest people I know. Love you!

  3. I know exactly what you mean about good days and bad days.

    I went through a horrible situation last year...although I don't want to go into detail here (it's almost been a year and I haven't even been able to talk about it with my best friends or family), I just want you to know that someone else out there knows what those days are like. There is nothing that we can do but try to stay strong and keep on keepin' on....and just know that we are all here for you whether in real life, or through your blog. It will get better.

  4. Never, ever apologize for your feelings!

    “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.” ~ Washington Irving

    Wishing you strength, courage, faith, and a happier day!

    Warm regards,
    A Concerned reader, Mary

  5. Jess, I believe your story and your strength is going to save someone's life. I've been telling all my currently serving PCV's to read your blog. Through the main trials and tribulations ahead, know that people from around the world are behind you and sending you love.

  6. Jessica--

    I'm so glad to have seen this blog and will share it. My heart goes out to you and your family. While I can't pretend to have dealt with the same, I've been in that 1 percent statistic and know how it can eat you alive to keep it a secret.

    I'm glad you've been brave enough to share, and to help others in the meantime, and hope it helps strengthen you for many years to come!

    Much love and best wishes,

  7. Jessica,

    I've been following your blog and am so impressed by your courage revealing so many details about your life. You're in my prayers and I hope you know what a HUGE difference you've made for others (or at least for myself)!

  8. You are amazing! I am so happy I ran into your blog. I am sending your link to a friend here in New Orleans who is a health planner for the New Orleans Regional Aids Planning Council. Also to a friend recently diagnosed with an auto immune disease and told she has 5 - 10 years to live and can't have children. It's not HIV+ but I think the emotional struggles you both face are the same. Much love to you for your openness and honesty. -Robin