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Mental Health



Monday, 24 October 2016 Written by // Michael Yoder Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, Mental Health, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Michael Yoder

"Can we allow our "Self" to cry and laugh and create the safe places where our child can heal - or at least be less afraid?" asks Michael Yoder

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”  -- David Richo

I've been talking with a number of people lately, and I'm starting to believe that we're all really just wounded children living in grown-up bodies. And it's not just those of us living with HIV - it extends to everyone.

Children are shaped by experience. Of course, you could say that adults are shaped by experience as well, and I would say that it's just the child in us learning more things. Children are in touch with the magic in the world and they are also cruel and vicious. Children can love unconditionally and they can be greedy and selfish.

Just like adults.

I think the wounds we carry as adults are more often than not started in childhood - when we are impressionable and open and vulnerable. We collect experiences and they begin to develop into our grown-up personalities. The trauma of residential schools is one prime example, but being bullied, living in dysfunctional homes and any number of other things can open hurt places that we carry through our lives.

How we deal with the wounds is multitude: we can get lost in self-care (whatever that means); we can drift into self-medication; we can become completely isolated and alone, we can shut down altogether, we can work to face and address the wounds. There are many other ways we can deal with or hide from the wounds. No matter what we do, they're always there.

We are ten year-olds living in grown-up bodies.

I've heard some people suggest that the wounds we suffered made us more vulnerable to contracting HIV. Whether that's true or not, I do think that living with HIV can reinforce some of those internal voices that tell us we "not good enough", that we're "bad" and "dirty". All those noises in our heads can simply compound what we already hold onto. I remember that when I was asked to stand for a position on the Canadian AIDS Society board of directors there was a very clear voice in my head that said, "You can't do that! You're only 13! Grown-ups do that stuff!" I went on the board anyway and really faked my way through - my child pretending to be a grown-up and shaking inside in case anyone should find out that I wasn't really an adult and that I really had no clue what I was doing.

Letting the hurt go isn't necessarily that easy. Ingrained messages that have become a part of who we are don't just go away by sitting on a pillow and meditating for an hour, or reading a few lovely positive affirmations on Facebook.

But somehow the adult voice in us needs to be protective of the child that we are. I wonder if a part of making that happen is to let the better parts of our inner kid out to play. Inasmuch as we carry hurt, we still carry, joy and magic and wonder. Can we be that curious child who marvels at the clouds and likes to play with our friends? Can we allow our "Self" to cry and laugh and create the safe places where our child can heal - or at least be less afraid? Can we stop picking at the scabs and scars we carry and start to see our own self-worth without beating ourselves up over every little blunder we make?

Perhaps, if we can manage to slowly integrate the loving aspects of our child - the good memories and experiences we can become more whole and more healthy. It's there - but like an Easter egg, we have to go find it first.

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