How I Learned to Love Myself

Posted in: News 2005-Older

Positive Poetry

By Precious Jackson

Hi, my name is Precious. I
want to tell you a little about myself
so you can get to know me a little
better.
I was raised by my grandmother
and step-grandfather in
South Los Angeles. Due to my
parents’ drug addictions at that time,
they felt it was best that my grandmother
raise me.
I had a sheltered life, so you
know what that means. My grandmother
loved and cared a lot about
me, she did the best she could, as she
knew how. I still grew up feeling less
than adequate and unworthy. I felt
ugly, and I was thin. I remember
when I was in junior high school,
there was this black girl walking
down the hallway who was thick and
already developed. When she
walked by me I could hear her jeans
go “swish-swish”. I though that if
my jeans could do that, then all the
boys would like me and I would get
the attention that I wanted. I just
wanted to fit in with the “in-crowd”
and to be accepted.
When we became sexually
active, he stated up front,”I
don’t use condoms, so don’t
ask.” And of course, I didn’t.
I felt different because most
of my friends lived with their parents,
and I didn’t. My parents would
pick me up on weekends, and those
were the days I wished for all the
time while growing up. My mother
and father were so loving and caring
when I was with them. They weren’t
strict and they were open-minded, so
I felt free to tell them things that I
couldn’t tell my grandmother.
My grandmother didn’t
allow me to make decisions about
anything, especially when I was a
teenager and even until my adult
life. I remember how my father and
grandmother always had arguments
about me. They would argue about
how she wouldn’t allow me to make
my own decisions, or go out with my
girlfriends to the mall or movies.
She always called them “fast ass
heifers”. I am not putting down my
grandmother at all, I love her dearly,
and I know she did the best she
knew how.
I learned co-dependent
behaviors early on as a child, and it
carried on into my adulthood. There
was a void in my life and I couldn’t
figure it out. I always felt that if I
could get a man, he would complete
me – mind, body and soul. Each time
I went into a relationship, I felt like
this was it, and when it wasn’t, once
again I was out there, hurt and mad.
For years, I would jump in and out of
relationships thinking that I had
found love, but what I found was
heartache and pain. I would allow
men to use and abuse me, because i
didn’t want to feel rejected or make
them upset by hurting their feelings.
Whenever they wanted me to have
sex with them, even when I wasn’t in
the mood, I did it anyway. Most of
the time I just wanted to cuddle, but
I didnt know how to express myself
back then. So each time I fulfilled
their needs I felt torn up inside, but I
didn’t know how to stop.

It seemed the older I became,
the worse my neediness and desire
for love became. In 1996, when I was
about 25 years old, I met a man who
was light skinned, fine and tall. He
also had his own place, a car and a
deep sexy voice. I just knew I had
found my husband. When we were
dating I had asked him if he had ever
taken an HIV test. He told me that
he had, and it came back positive.He
then told me that he had taken
another test, and that it had come
negative. Back then I didn’t think
anything of it because some tests were
coming back inconclusive.
A year and a half into our
relationship, he became a ward of the
California Correctional Center. In
May of 1998, I received a letter from
him stating that he had tested positive
for HIV antibodies and was HIV+. At
the time I was living with my mother,
who had been clean and sober for
nearly 14 years. After reading the
letter I knew I was HIV+ because we
didn’t use protection at all. Back
when we were together and sexually
active, he had stated to me up front, “I
don’t use condoms, so don’t ask.” And
of course, I didn’t ask.
I told my mother about the
situation, and she encouraged me to
go get tested. I will never forget how
she held me as I cried like a baby.
“Baby, we are going to get through
this together,” I remember her saying.
With those words of encouragement, I
went and had a test. I recieved my
results a week later, and my test came
back positive. I was HIV+. After my
diagnosis I went through more drama,
and once again my self-esteem and
self-worth were at the floor. I was
tired of going through all the drama,
and I wanted to do something about it.
I went to therapy and started working
on myself to get rid of all my personal
baggage. That’s when I discovered I
didn’t know how to love myself, and
that I was looking for people, places,
and things to fulfill my needs.
Today, I am still working on
myself and learning how to love and
accept me. It is only through the grace
and mercy of God, who I have allowed
to be the head of my life. Through
my spiritual journey, I found that God,
not men, places or things, complete
me.

Precious Jackson is a treatment adherence counselor at Women Alive in Los Angeles. This poem originally appeared in the organization’s spring 2003 newsletter.

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