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Pride and Shame will kill you and your spirit this I know to be true. And it does not matter the circumstance, these two emotions have the ability to create chaos in your life from your health, to your job, and dating. These two will lead you down a path that add's absolutely no value to your life.  It's like this, for years I kept my HIV status a secret because I didn't want to be judged. I was more afraid of what people thought of me, over and above trying to live my best life with HIV. 


Shame dictated all of my behavior. For example, I didn't read about HIV because I didn't want anyone to catch me reading literature about HIV and draw the conclusion that I was HIV positive. This behavior left me in a state of ingorance about the disease. By the time I transitioned to AIDS I had no freaking idea what was happening to me. Honestly, I didn't even understand what a T-Cell count was. By then I had been going to the doctor for almost five years and had never bothered to ask or read on my own. I was living in a state of abysmal.  Even after it became clear that I needed to understand more about HIV, I would hide the AIDS Treatment magazines deep in my handbag. Once home, I would keep them out of eye sight. I put more energy into shit that had no positive outcome to my life, but only added stress and misery. I was focused on the wrong thing. 


My health was failing and I didn't have the courage to save myself. I allowed shame and pride to hold me captive. For sure, I was a complete and total mess. I was afraid to seek all the help I needed for the best outcome because of my captivity to the least important, less relevant things of all. 


Over the years, I've allowed shame and pride to dictate my path, which also dictated the outcome. This has been true for my health, my lifestyle and also in my relationships. How long have you continued to hang out with your group long past its value to your life? In fact, you often ask yourself, "Why the fuck do I keep hanging with this group or person, when I feel more pain than joy every time we are together?" But nonetheless, you stay locked into the madness because you don't want to be called the "trouble maker" so you make face value peace with your presence, but the inside of you feels like it's under attack over and again.


Yep, how many women have gone to the altar dispite the fact that their soul told them over and again  that this was the wrong path. It does not feel good, but you get more and more locked in, out of pride and shame and before you know it you are in a marriage that is chipping away at your very core. Once I stayed in a relationship hoping that he would marry me and when it became clear that he was never going to marry me, I continued to stay because my pride didn't want to admit to the outside world that I had wasted my pretty year in and year out.   


I can give many more examples of how we allow pride and shame rule over and above making the best decision for our life at that moment in time. I'm so glad that I've turned that chapter in my life. I'm at such a good place. I'll continue to say it over and again, I like who I have become. I mean really like me, who I am, what I do or don't do and even how I do it.  I've been so liberated from people's opinions of me, but I've also been liberated from the negative committe in my head. I have euthanized that bitch. 


Today, I live from the place of my soul, not my head. Let me tell you, the head will create more problems for you then your soul ever will. The head will have you married to a man with two children and a dog and brotha man ain't thought past your vagina. The head will make you buy a car your paycheck cannot afford. It will make you stay in a relationship that sucks the very life out of you. Yep, the head will make you think you are in a relationship with a man who has clearly told you that he is not in a relationship with you, for real for real.  The head will mess you up so bad, that you miss the blessings that God has for you. Yep, God always gives us what we need, it's the head that tells us that it's not enough, or you want it in a different package.


I want to utilize everything God gives me for my journey. I will never look a gift horse in the mouth. God has arranged the Universie in such a way that everything works in your favor, even the fucked up in the end will be a footstool to a better you. Remember the Bible says, that the rejected stone became the cornerstone. That's real, I've lived that in my own life. 


Today, I'm not letting anything interfere with me living my best life. I take what I have to work with and use it for my good, without the burden of the judge and jury that lives in my head or on Facebook. For example, everyone knows my finances have been non other than scares these last five years.


 I've stop bitching about it because I honestly haven't missed a meal, even when the refrigerator has been bare. It's like this, about a month ago, my case worker suggested that I apply for the food pantry. Yep, it's been that bad. And without any hesitation I said yes. And when I get approved I'm going to put on my red lipstick and walk right in that place and get me and Chloe food.


 I'm not confused that God has arranged everything in my favor to get me to what's next. The Bible says that God will provide your every need. I've concluded that my soul wants me to be here to do the work that I was called to do and I'm listening loud and clear. So shame, pride and the judgments that come with it has been put to rest. Your Soul is pleading with you to live YOUR best life, not the life your head made you believe or the life that others deemed appropriate, but  the best life that God designed just for you. Listen to your soul, it will point you in the right direction. 


Post Script: Thank you for all the wonderful birthday wishes!


Reflecting On 53!

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I turned 53 today! Honestly, I never imagined me at this age and I'm not quite sure how it should be, so I'm listening to my soul because it always knows what to do.


Of course when I was younger I thought by this age, I would be married with at least one child and a dog. I had it all planned out, so I thought. I would be this big time political organizer working on important electoral campaigns across this country. Back then, I had goals like many young women. I believed with hard work you could achieve anything you want. Yep, my goals were written in gold, so I thought. I would get a PhD in Political Science and I would be the "go to" woman for important matters on the American political scene.


Even after I was diagnosed wit HIV in March 1987 almost four years after becoming infected, I believed that my life would be unchanged by it. The following fall, at age 24, I went on the 1988 campaign trail for the Democratic primaries, by then my second presidential campaign as a senior staff person.  I traveled across the country organizing the youth and student arm for  Jesse Jackson's Presidential Campaign. I even tracked delegates and worked the floor of the Democratic Convention in Atlanta. I was doing that thing, working with some of Black Americas top political players like Alexis Herman, former Secretary of Labor, Dorothy Height, Ernie Green, Mayor Marion Barry, Donna Brazile, Ron Brown and the list goes on and on. 


Life was going as plan. But by 1992 I made a transition to AIDS and I literally saw death looking straight at me. Back then the life expectancy for a person with full-blown AIDS was 3 years and I was on that time line. By 1995 my T-Cell count had dropped to an all time low of 8 and I was on my third bout of Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). Treatment for HIV was mediocre and I had no hope for a future.


By then, my life purpose was to live each day to the best of my ability. To tell my story to as many people as I could, as many ways as I could before I died. I almost never thought about tomorrow and that meant I never turned down a gig for today. I lived in the right now in everything from spending to speaking. If I wasn't somewhere speaking or conducting an  interview I was in bed resting. The quality of my life had dwindled to nothing. My busy schedule kept dying off my mind. And doing every single thing my doctor asked of me  kept me alive.



Now be clear, you dog gone straight there was a God factor, but if I didn't have a doctor who was determine to keep me alive or if I missed one beat I would have died.


Even when I was taking 32 pills a day, or drinking 72 ounces a water a day to avoid kidney stones from the medication, or throwing up, or shitting on myself I always followed the rules. The side-effects were so vicious that there were days I couldn't hold my body up. Between the combination of my compromised immune system not being able to fight off infections and the side-effects from the HIV medications, most days I didn't know if I was going or coming. 


In the end, it all worked out. By 1998 new medications were on the horizon and my doctor never missed a beat. She dished out new medications as they came and I complied with her instructions. We were in sic every step of the way. 


I started to see concrete improvements in my health by 2000 as did most of the HIV landscape. HIV/AIDS was becoming a chronic illness, rather than a death sentence. But only if a person was diagnosed early, got in treatment and remained in treatment, they could live many more years.


So here I am, living many more years then anyone ever imagined. For sure the damage that has been done to my immune system cannot be repaired, and I find myself having more complications than the average newly diagnosed person living with HIV today.


Something as small as getting a tooth pulled, often ends up with an infection and antibiotic on one end, and on the other, it still takes me more than two weeks to heal over the average person with HIV. But these struggles are small in the scheme of my journey.


 I continue to take my medication and my doctor has said that I have many more years ahead of me.


I've been muddling through these last 5 years or so. I've adjusted to the good things about my health and I've also adjusted to the changes all of this has had on my speaking career. HIV/AIDS isn't the sexy topic that it use to be. And when organizations do bring speakers, they tend to draw from the younger activist, rather than the seasoned activist like me. It has hurt my pocket for sure. This year has been the worst of all. I made less money this past year then I did when I was 17 years old, for real, for real. But thanks be to God, I have a roof over my head and food to eat. But lack of gigs has not stopped me one bit. I  continue doing what I do wherever, whenever, and however I can. About five years ago  I added blogging, tweeting and all things Social Media as a way for me to continue to do the work.  I know that I'm alive for a  reason, a purpose and I do the best that I can with what I  have.


At 53 I embrace my journey even more than ever. I acknowledge that God has more work for me. My memoir Unprotected is on the Horizon. This story, my story, my full story needs to be told. I will spend the summer finishing up the edits.  Yep, there's still more work to be done with editing, layout, book cover and all things that make a book.  But hold tight,  World AIDS Day, December 1, 2015 is the final release date. You can pre-order HERE.


I want to help people one on one. It's time to get my Life Coaching ministry back up. I've had a few clients in the last couple of years but I've not put any energy into getting new clients. I'm changing that today. I feel that call and I've got to answer it loud and clear.  I didn't  go to seminary for nothing.


God has gifted me with the ability to help people get to next. To not use my gifts in all possible ways is to squander that gift. By the way, if you are interesting in hiring me as your Life Coach email me at raelewisthornton@gmail.com


 I'm alive! The gratitude that I have for my life and ministry are beyond words. Honestly, I wouldn't give anything for my journey. With the help of God, I have done some pretty amazing things with my adult life. I'm grateful for everyone who has supported me in all the ways you have supported me, especially your prayers! God has answered your prayers. 


It's never to late to plan, but planning without action is futile. I'm excited about this next phase of my life. After coming out of that depression  these last six months, I feel like I have been reborn. God has a way of giving you clarity even at the darkest moments of your life. 


I'm thankful for every step of my journey.  Happy Birthday to me! 



Post Script: In honor of my birthday  RLT Collection is 53% off. The coupon code at checkout: birthday. SHOP HERE

Death Pussy!

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Today is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! I'm honored to have been asked to be an ambassador for this day with other incredible AIDS Activist by Women's Health. Since I don't have a speaking engagement today, I'll I'll be taking questions from 11:00-5:00 on both my Twitter and Instagram accounts. You know the rules, nothing is to personal. you can find me on both accounts @RaeLT the Hashtag for the day is #NWAGHAAD


Also, I thought that I would repost a blog that was reprinted in my book, The Politics of Respectability. There is still so much stigma attached to HIV and that must change. This blog post speaks to the core of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. But it also speaks to how we as women see ourselves. I believe when we love ourselves first, we live our best lives. Get Tested! Use Condoms but first talk to your partner before he touches one breast *wink* See ya on Social Media later today


Death Pussy!



Last year I wrote well over 200 blogs, but Death Pussy was one of my most read... I thought that I would share it just one more time. I hope for those who didn't get a chance to read it last year, this recap will be enlightening... For those who did read it,  you will either get a new aha moment or be reminded of the old one!



I've never had anyone call my vagina "death pussy," at least not to my face. But I have had someone call it "diseased pussy." I've even been called "that AIDS Bitch." Each time I wanted to be mad, but I couldn't. I had to stand like the strong black woman that I am and take that hit like a champ. The fact of the matter is that my vagina is infected with HIV and I do have AIDS. The fact is HIV has taken up camp right between my legs and there's not a damn thing I can do about it. But, I've learned over the years not to put a lot of energy into what I cannot change, and my HIV status is one of them.


But Sunday when I was reading the RLT Reads Book Club first book, What Look Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day, I was stopped in my tracks. In one part, a young man refers to Ava, the HIV positive woman in the book, as "death pussy." I was so stuck that I had to put the book down and go bead to clear my head. I thought about it long and hard. I was really shaken. The very core of me was sadden by this description of a woman infected with HIV. I understood the writer's goal of showing the ugliness that people with HIV must face, but it ripped at the very core of me. And y'all know that I have very thick skin, but I was genuinely hurt. It was as if I had been transcended into that very scene in the book. I felt like that young punk was talking to me and every woman in the world with HIV. Suddenly, HIV became an incredibly heavy load, a burden to bear.


It made me wonder if that's what people thought about me. And honestly, more so, if men thought of my vagina in the very same way. It seemed to speak to the core of my self-worth. I started to wonder, had men reduced my self-worth right down to my vagina? Forget that I'm intelligent, smart, educated, articulate, compassionate, driven, cute as a button, and the list goes on and on. Has this been the problem with my dating life in recent years? Was I that much of a liability? Death is a heavy load to carry between your legs. But when I really reflected, what disturbed me the most was in that moment, I had bought into the madness also. Just by thinking such a thing, I had thrown all my self-worth out the window and reduced my value right down to my vagina?


But, that's the way of the world. Our self-worth has very much been connected to our vaginas for centuries, all around the world. A woman's worth has been placed between her legs by man since the beginning of time. Even with Eve, our punishment became the blood that flows each month from between our legs. And in ancient times, a woman had to be isolated during menstruation and then "purified" before entering back into society.


The value of our vaginas has risen and dropped like the stock market at the whim of men. STOP IT! Before I go any further, this is not about male bashing. Why does everything have to be about them? Why can't we women talk freely about us, and let it be about us? Why is the discussion about us, co-opted by them? Why can't our truths, where they intersect with men, be articulated without being perceived as criticism about them. And the fact that I'm even qualifying myself speaks to the very core of the problem.


Yes, our vaginas have been used like a commodity, with no value to us. It's only worth has been where it intersects with the agenda of men. Our vaginas have been mutilated so we can have no pleasure of our own. This horror has been even forced on baby girls, implanting a memory of pain and terror to our vaginas, making us hate it before we really know what it is.


They have been using our vagina's baby making machine to help drive a labor force to build this country. Slave owners made it clear, our vaginas belonged to them, for their pleasure and for their business.


In modern times, our vaginas have been used for human trafficking for the pleasure of men; enslaving our mind, body and spirit. Our vagina's have been raped, beaten, and used as a tool to advance political agendas.  Our virginity has been taken from us in a misguided belief that our untouched vaginas will cure them of their diseases.


Make no mistake, we have many subliminal messages drilling into us over and over again that the value of our vaginas are connected to something greater than who we are. Even what appears to be innocent advertising sends a message. Honestly, take a good long look at the Dolce and Gabbana ad, then take a good look at the picture of the soldiers and the woman. The similarities outweigh the differences.

So when I heard the term, "death pussy," I had a heavy heart. It forced me to sit down and take a long hard look at the history of women. But it also made me look at  my own history. What got me to this destination called HIV. But most important, why would I consider at any level, that such a term as "death pussy" would define me. Had I reduced my entire self-worth right down to my vagina? Was this leftover residue from my childhood, being violated by the men in my family who should have protected me? Being taught that any love that I get from a man may begin with popping popcorn and watching tv, but ends between my legs?


I had to gather myself. Remind myself that God created me in His image, all that I am, mind, body and spirit. I cannot let anyone determine the value of my vagina anymore. I made myself a cup of tea and became still in the moment. Instead of focusing on the darkness of my life, I shifted to the goodness of my life.


l had worked too hard and too long in therapy to be thrown right back into the self-loathing that got me there in the first place. I cannot believe the hype! I will not believe the hype! I am a wonderful Black Woman and any man would be lucky to have me. If a man can't see that I am living in my life, that there is nothing that says death about me, then he does not see my true value. And I believe that a man who does not see my value is not worthy of me. It's like putting pearls on swine, they have no place together. And I will never again give the best of me to have just a part of him.


But most important, how I see myself will dictate how I treat myself. This is not just about a man but about what I do with my life and how I live that life. Your self-worth must begin with you, about you, for the greater  you, to be used in the larger society. But you can never fulfill your purpose in life if you do not see yourself as God sees you and intended for you to be.


There is much truth to the Bible verse that says, "As a person thinkth so is he." But I submit, it's the easiest thing in the world to tell someone, "Change your mind and your ass will follow." The truth of the matter is that change takes time and work. You cannot will the darkness away, you've got to dig yourself to the light. And once you get there, you gotta constantly remind yourself that the light is where God intended for you to be.



Have you ever had a stupid ass conversation in your head that led you to do something stupid that then lead you to justify your stupid shit? I know I have, a thousand times over. 


Like being mad at a man because of whatever it was that he did you didn't like or maybe what he didn't do that you thought he should have done. You play it over and over in your head and by the time you approach him, you have written a play with 3 Acts and before you know it's something you never intended for it to be and now you gotta hold your guns whereby creating more of a mess and still have to justify that shit.


 I've come to learn in my old age, that sometimes when people don't measure up to what we want at that very moment, it may not even be about us, but about them. Sometimes we need to get out of our head and just be still. Let it all play out in real time, not imagined time. The ego can do a job on you, for real, for real. 


Like, have you ever purchased something that you really didn't have the money to do but you justified why you should buy it? I know I have twenty thousand times over. 


You tell yourself, it's on sale or, it might not be here when my next paycheck comes around, or I need to look fabulous for that event. And let me add, the last of these might be the only truth, you do want to look fabulous for the event and the people there of, and none of it has to do with you. But your ego has convinced you that this outfit will make you the belle of the ball. And then at the end the ball, as you remove all the glam, you realize that the same people who liked you before the ball still do and those that didn't well, still don't. 


But now the damage has been done in the short time of what 2-3 hours because of what you thought would happen, but didn't. 


At the end of the day you see how insignificant your new outfit was in the scheme of things. But you allowed your ego to talk you into spending what you really didn't have to spend and now you're stretching your dollars just to get to your next paycheck. Which means you're stressed more than ever and now you talking about, "Lord when will things change for me?" But the real question is when will you change for yourself? 


When things get hard we give God credit for stuff that ain't got nothing to do with Him. Free-will is a monster of a beast to manage. I know in my own life, I've allowed others to abuse me and I've abused myself in so many different ways willing my free-will like at a roulette table, taking a chance with each spin. And with each defeat, I lost a part of myself that could never be regained. Sometimes you even spin the wheel and your life is changed forever. 



Have you ever been mad at someone for something that they did to you in real time? But then long after it's been said or done you are still holding on to the mad? And then the mad takes on a life of its on. Oprah said that once she was so mad at a person, for well over 10 years, and then she saw that person walking down Michigan Ave laughing and going on with her life, while Oprah was holding onto the mad. We allow our ego to hold us hostage for something that cannot be undone. All you can really do is move on because holding on will imprison your spirit. 


Our ego spends a lot of time convincing us of this and that in some narrow context that we make ourselves believe. When in real time ,we need to step back and watch the ego jump the hurdles in our head and after it has finished, say "oh ok" and keep it moving. You are not your ego and you don't have to do everything it suggest to you. But you do have to become centered so that you can operate in the best of you. 


You can't allow your ego on one end and your low self worth on the other, which is still ego in reality, run your life. You have got to be willing to walk away from some stuff and let that be ok. You don't like how a man treats you, then stop participating. There are so many men in this world  that you don't have to stay stuck with the one that does not value your worth. 


You don't like being broke every pay period, then stop spending what you don't have. Figure out a way to make what you have work. Look, in these recent years I've changed up my outfits over and over with just a new blouse, or shoes or handbag rather than a new suit, blouse, shoes and handbag.


You don't like the hold others actions have on you, let it go. I recently had some craziness with my biological family, meaning the white side of my family, who I don't have a relationship with. I'm not going into details here, I'm saving it for the memoir. I was so fucking hurt by there actions. But I had to decide, I could let them make me bitter or I can keep going. The first thing I thought to myself, "I've worked so fucking hard to get through this depression, I will not let them send me back." I said it everyday out loud for two weeks and I said it to my closet friends, so that they could give me positive support. Sometimes friends can help to keep you in the chaos just by the direction of the conversation.  To not have a set-back, I knew that I had move to closure. So I signed their fucking document and kept it moving. Then I thought about it, they have done absolutely nothing for me in 52 years, why would I expect something now? People are who they are and you better believe that shit or you will allow them to hurt you over and again.




Sometimes the victory is just letting go of people, places and things. I've learned in these last years with my financial struggle that I didn't need all the things that I thought I needed. Life has a way of making you take notice. After I had sold almost all my designer handbags and most of my St. John Knits, I learned that I still had enough to look great every single day. I always make it work. 


I heard a story about how they capture monkeys that gave me an 'aha moment'. They put rice into a trap and when the monkey smells the rice he reaches in and grabs the rice. The rice becomes the prison of his own making. But the monkey has a choice, he can let go of the rice and be free or hold on and be imprisoned. Over the years I've held onto a lot of people and things and they have been the prison of my own making. I stayed way too long in unhealthy relationships. I've bought more things that I ever should have and the biggest prison of all has been my family. I became an overachiever for my Mama who raised me, rather than myself. I thought that she would shower me with love as I excelled, but she never did, not even as she was dying. She died how she lived, most people do. 


All these prisons that I made for myself year after year. Allowing my ego to convince me that my thoughts were my reality, when in fact my reality was my right now. If a man treated me bad, it didn't matter how well I sucked his dick, once I was done, he was the man he was before I began. It didn't matter how many clothes I had from the best designers, those who would love me, would love me in Walmart clothes and most of all, dressing myself  up on the outside did not change what I was on the inside. That took work, of which no amount of money could buy. 


Only when I let go of the rice, did I start to live my best life. These day's I practice watching my ego jump hurdles in my head and then say, "Oh Ok"  Sometimes, I win and sometimes I lose, but the more I practice, the better the person I am. 


This time 20 years ago, I was the talk of Black America. My cover story in the December issue of Essence magazine had hit the new stands. Essence had dared to put a woman on the cover of their magazine that was not a celebrity or a super model, but a typical young black women, living with AIDS.


I was every young black woman who thought that she was doing everything right in her dating life. Despite of the fact that I had grown up in a physically, emotionally and sexually abusive household, I had managed to escape, drugs and alcohol. I had gone to college. I had a professional career.


I had done everything I thought to do as a young woman living in the 80's. I never had a one night. I never had sex on the first date, but I was in search of the right man to live my fairy tail life, for the rest of my life. You know, a career, a husband, a house and 2.5 kids, that's two kids and a dog. With dating came sex. There were very few virgins in the 80's. This was the era of Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing and Diana Ross, "Love Hangover." Sexually Transmitted diseases were not on the radar. The first cases of AIDS were primarily white, gay and male. Even as late as 1987 Cosmopolitan magazine told women if they only had "heterosexual sex," they could not get HIV.  For the most part, the rule for young women of my generation was to not get pregnant out of wedlock and embarrass your mother. We saw "protection" as birth control pills.


Until 1991 when Magic Johnson announced that he was infected with HIV most of us in Black America only saw HIV/AIDS through the eyes of our gay relative on one end and our drug addict cousin on the other.  Or the television version, white, gay, male that looked like death was knocking at their door. Even then, we thought Magic was an exception to the rule. Many dismissed him as a "special case." Rich, good looking, and famous, we concluded that he probably had enough sex for a hundred men, thats how he became infected. Since most of us don't have that kind of sex, HIV was out of our reach, so we thought.


Then came me and the Essence cover story.  I had only been speaking for about six months when Susan Taylor asked me to be on the cover and tell my story. At the time, I had been infected with HIV since 1983, but I didn't learn about my status until I donated blood December 1986.


So when I appeared on the cover of Essence, I had actually known my HIV status for 7 years.  But for the most part I had basically kept my status a secret. Other than the men I dated, those first seven years I only told 5 people. When I made a transition to AIDS in 1992, I started to disclose to my friends. Then on a fluke, about a year later or should I say in God's purpose and plan, I started speaking locally in Chicago high schools. Then I met Susan. It all happened so quickly.  I had no idea the impact my story would have on the lives of others or on me; or that it would place me in the national arena and change my life forever.


In retrospect, it was our density, mine and Essence magazine. Even among Essence staff there was a debate over my cover story. It was pure audacity at the time. I thank God for His perfect plan and for giving both me and Susan Taylor the, editor and chief of Essence  the courage to follow that little voice inside of us, that said "this feels right. "For years women have told me the impact my story had on their life. Women still bring that magazine to speaking engagements for autographs.


There were other controversies around the cover story. Many AIDS Activist were angry with me because of the title., "Im Young, I'm Young free, I'm Dying of AIDS." Declaring that I was dying on the cover of a national magazine they said, made HIV/AIDS dark and hopeless. But honestly, AIDS was that dark back then and to give some pep talk contrary to the current situation would have been a lie. I was proud and not deterred by criticism.






Twenty years later, my Essence cover story has become one of the most iconic articles of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and I humbled.


I am equally thankful that I lived to see the 20th anniversary of this cover story. I thank God for my doctor who never gave up on me when  medications barley kept you alive. She was always looking for next; And no matter how complicated the next treatment was or how sick it made me I did it.


 I am also grateful for the continued relationship with Essence magazine. You can check out the 20th anniversary feature story on me in the December 2014 issue. You can also watch my video interview with Essence HERE


If you missed the December issue featuring me at the newsstands, you can read it HERE



Foot Note: In Celebration of the 20th anniversary... RLT Collection is 20% off! Coupon Code RLT20 And take a peak at the 20 Collection  that I designed in honor. Fab Bracelet designs all in red. SHOP HERE

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

World AIDS Day!! On Monday December 1, 2014 Essence Magazine is hosting a Google Hangout with me at 3pm EST. The Host will be Essence Relationship Editor Charreah Jackson and writer on the December 2014 anniversary article on me. Please join the conversation. Nothing will be to personal as we reflect on the 20th anniversary of the iconic Essence cover story on my life and all the important issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.



This is the link it you want to cut and paste http://plus.google.com/+essencemag Or just Click HERE!

Join the conversation!



One Day At A Time!

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For the last few months I've been sitting still. Not because I didn't want to move but I've just been stuck. Depression has that way on you. It seems to just grab you and not let go. It paralyzes you in the worst kind of way. 


Over the years I've had mild bouts of depression but nothing on this magnitude since I transitioned to AIDS twenty- two years ago. Back then I thought that I was never going to get AIDS and when I did, it caused the worst mental health crisis of my life.  I cried all day and I was barely making it through my daily routine. I started medication but I think the turning point was when I started speaking at high schools here in Chicago. God gave my life new purpose and meaning and that turned things around.  

But this time there has been no turning point just slow progress. 


Over the last couple of years I've had so much trauma in my life. Any one thing could have triggered depression but combined they were the monster that paralyzed me. People take trauma lightly, but it has an impact on ones life. Over these years my health has required so much to manage. 


On and off IV medication to treat the drug resistant herpes because my immune system can't fight it off with regular pills. My veins becoming occluded as a result, not one but two ports placed that didn't work. Diarrhea I couldn't control, then constipation with no relief. And I still have 15 pills to take a day.  My finances hitting so rock bottom with no speaking engagements in sight. It's more than a notion to have to choose between groceries or  your light bill. Then being kicked out of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority over my tweets and the unkindness that followed. Women who called me sister turned on me because I dared to speak up. And quite as it's kept, some still dig at me via social media. Then my precious poodle Sophie died in July. One week she was barking for bacon and then the next week I was told she had cancer.  She became so sick in a matter of a week I had to put her down. 


Then let's not forget, HIV itself effects the neurons in the brain that effects your Serotonin.  Those living with HIV are prone to depression. So over the years I've been on and off antidepressants to keep it in tack. But I was caught off guard when Sophie died. I had been off Zoloft for a few months and before I realized it I was so far gone into a deep depression. Depression is a strange illness. It not only takes away your joy but simple things like daily living. It paralyzes you in a way that even taking shower is to overwhelming. 


The fighter in me knew that I was in trouble back in August. My therapist and I shifted gears. For a while I was having sessions twice a week. Then she referred me to a incriable psychiatrist. The psychiatrist wasn't taking any new patients, but when I called she was the one to actually answer the phone, and bam I'm in!  So she's been working to get me properly medicated these last couple of months. And they both have been working to help me fight depression as best as I can. The way God works is awesome. He seems to get me what I need, you just have to be willing to go for it.


At first I was guilty that super woman hadn't kicked in. I kept telling myself, "Pull it together girl." But honestly, I didn't have the energy to push or pull. Depression takes away everything but your breath.


Then I had to accept that this is an illness like any other and you have to do what you can each day, one day at time.  Now, for sure you have to do something or it will consume you. But I had to accept that my something is baby steps. But baby steps are better than no steps.  This has been hard for a super woman like me. But I accept my victories whatever they are and however they come.  Like I've showered everyday for the last three weeks and actually read my morning devotional with tea. I was going two-three days without a shower. For real y'all. The last two weeks I've opened my computer that was a victory a small step that got me here today writing a blog for the first time in two months. Understand something, depression is so overwhelming that even opening the computer can be to much. 


So I take my small victories in this war on the way to winning this battle. But I'm not letting shame or pressure to be what people need me to be to guide what I do or don't do. If I feel like posting on Social Media I do. If I feel like talking or responding to a text or call I do. But if I don't oh well, prayerfully there will be another day.  


For sure I can see progress. I have come a long way since my Sophie died. I know that God still has work for me. I have not given up, even if it seems like I have. I'm just fighting this battle, One Day At A Time. 

I've thought about suicide everyday since Robin Williams took his own life. The pain he must have felt at that moment must have been all consuming. I've been battling depression in the worst kind of way. I'm not sure how I got here but after Sophie passed I seemed to have gone over the edge. I talk about my grief and the onset of my depression in Drowning I and II. I saw myself slipping more and more into this darkness and tried to pull my way out with a plan that just went straight to hell in a hand basket one minute at a time. 


After Robin Williams death my mind started racing and I started to panic. I even asked my therapist about suicide and she said that most people don't give a lot of thought to it before they take their life. It's an impulsive act. The person becomes all consumed at the moment in time and it seems the only way out. In truth it scared me. Right now my life seems to be on some kind of autopilot ran by someone other than me. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to do any of the things that I set out to do. It's like this, I say I'm going to go one way and I actually go another. Shit most days I don't go at all, I just be. 


I came to the conclusion that  I'm tired.... I'm tired of thinking.... I'm tired of taking medication... I'm tired of trying to make life happen... I'm tired of being this super famous black woman with AIDS... I'm tired of doing it on my own.. I'm tired of trying to save those that I'm suppose to be saving...  I'm tired of trying to make life work... I'm  FUCKING tired of AIDS... I'm tired of deciding if I should buy groceries or pay my cell phone bill with the little money I do manage to get. I'm tired, tired, tired. I'm even tired of being tired, so I just be.


Most days I don't have the energy to wash my tail. No joke, I can go 2-3 days without bathing. I say to myself, "Rae you stink" but most days I feel like I have a ball and chain around my neck and making it to the shower requires to much of me. So I do nothing. I marvel at the few times I've recently had commitments that were unavoidable and I was forced to make myself look like a woman with the world at my feet. When it's all said and done, I come home and with the stroke of a cloth I wipe the facade off my face, inch by inch by inch, and then I just be.



Some days I make it to the kitchen to cook at least the meat but cannot muster up the energy to make a vegetable. It's easier to eat cookies for breakfast and cheetoes for lunch. It requires only that I open the bag. Eating chocolate is even easier than washing fruit. I can't  remember to take my medication and that's with my alarm set. I hit the button and I know what I'm suppose to do but doing it requires something of me. Quite frankly I'm tired of expectations, even those that will save my life.


I have never felt this level of hopelessness ever in my life. Even when mama was beating the living shit out of me I knew that she would eventually stop and I could go back to being a "normal" little girl just like my friends. Even when I was raped at 17 coming home from church, I knew deep down that when he finished his "business" he would roll off my body like water and I could go home and wash him out of my spirit. Even when my T-Cell count was 8 and I was on my third bout of PCP  (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) I had faith that God still had a plan. In all of my life there was faith in what I could not see. 


Right now, I'm even tired of faith. I'm tired of hoping and praying for better tomorrow's in my right now pain. I want God to intervene in my right now, but right now he seems to be silent and His silence has exhausted me. I'm tired.... 


Be clear though, based on my history with God and my deep understanding of how God operates, I know that God has a plan for the rest of my life. Frankly, it is only that knowing of God that keeps me alive when I'm tired of living. I'm a tad curious on how this thing will play itself out. I'm probably  just plain nosy, but for sure, curiosity and hope are two very different things 


Yet at the same time, any hope in God's plan for my tomorrow are overshadowed by my desolate right now. It feels like God has taken a freaking vacation on my life and just maybe some of my depression is connected to my faith; And honestly, church folk don't help God out one bit. The fact that I haven't been to church since the first day of Lent and the only thing any member of my church can tell you about me is what they read on Facebook is just... I'll leave that one alone for now.  I'm unpacking all of this in therapy. 


For sure, I understand that all consuming feeling and it has exhausted me into a place of just being.  Maybe the thing that helps to keep me alive besides my curiosity with God plan for my life, is that I'm just to tired to do anything other than just be. 

I attended a screening of the documentary A Sacred Journey  sponsored by Clorox CareConcepts. It was a heart wrenching and heart filled story of one film maker, Ernesto Quintero brother's journey with ALS and his families role as caregivers.


This was perfect timing in the back drop of the recent ice bucket challenge among celebrities to support ALS. For me I was able to learn more about this devastating disease, but equally important is the conversation about caregiving.  After the screening there was a very thoughtful and honest dialogue about caregiving with a panel of experts, including the film director Ernesto.


The documentary begins when Ernesto's brother  Juan is diagnosed with ALS.  This film touched the very core of me. It is one man's courage to fight against the odds. The film highlighted Juan's desire to give something back to the community.  He decided that he wanted to leave a legacy by painting a mural for his former elementary school. Juan rallied his close knit family and they all rose to the occasion to make his dream come true.


I was overwhelmed by this story of courage and perseverance. As ALS ravaged his body, Juan held onto his spirit. It made me think about my own 31 year journey of living with HIV and AIDS for 22. Right now, I'm at a junction in my life where I'm incredibility tired. Tired of medications, tried of sickness, tired of trying to make it happen, just simply tired. 


This documentary helped me to put things into perspective.  ALS is an horrible degenerative  disease. As I watched the documentary I  could do nothing but think, at least I can walk and use my limbs. Now be clear, I never compare illnesses because I believe each persons journey should stand on its on merit. Pain is pain and should never be measured. What one person can withstand, my devastate another and vice-versa. But this film made me at least acknowledge that even living with AIDS, I am blessed on so many levels.


I was struck by the strong family support and solidarity surrounding Juan. The father knocked me off my feet when he said, "God is the doctor of all doctors." This is one strong family in the face of one tough illness.


The family have risen to the occasion of caring for Juan. Caregiving is not easy. I remember those days when I took care of my mother during her battle with cancer of the mouth. It was a long 2 1/2 years. The commuting her back and fourth to the hospital for chemotherapy. The midnight calls and runs to the hospital. Even preparing her to come home from the hospital was not easy. Just trying to decide how I should clean her apartment and what to use that was safe for the both of us took work.


This documentary definitely stuck a cord.  I know first hard that there are very little resources for caregiving. I was impressed with this family as they provide around the clock care for Juan.


I was also impressed with Clorox's innovative project Care Concepts When Care Comes Homes. Clorox has created a full line of cleaning and personal products for caregivers.  As a person living with a chronic illness, these products will be helpful for me and truly, any basic personal care needs for a family.


The most impressive part is that Clorox took this concept a step beyond making products. When Care Comes Home is an important on-line resource guide for caregivers.  There is a caregivers guide from day to day caregiving with steps along the way. It is especially refreshing to see the partnership with the council of experts on the various topics of caregiving.


There are 66 millions Caregivers in the United States and very little conversation. Caregiving and Caregivers are important but yet forgotten. I think Clorox's When Care Comes Home is a great project. Parenting with Ernesto to create dialogue around caregiving is wonderful.  Overall it was a great evening combining the arts and healthcare eduction. Oh yeah and lots of popcorn.


There will be two more screening of this documentary with a panel discussion that will also include Ernesto. One in Los Angeles on Oct 1, at the CineFamily Silent Theater where Juan and his family lives and another on November 13, 2014 in Washington, D. C. at the West End Cinema.  You should consider attending.



Of course, the evening was not complete until Ernesto did the ice bucket challenge for his brother Juan.




Ferguson In Photos

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 Olson Images

The images coming out of Ferguson, Missouri are nothing short of AMAZING. Yet there have been clear violations of the First Amendment with arrest of journalist. The ACLU have filed a law suit on behalf of journalist  and freedom of the press. Some of the most incredible photos have come from photo journalist Scott Olson of Gettys Images. I would not be surprised if he won a Pulitzer Prize for his images. Scott was also arrested last week.

Scott Olson Being Arrested


Two of Olson's photos appear on the cover of national magazines this week Time and Bloomberg Businessweek. For those of us on Twitter we have seen this protest through photos, not just those taken by the media but also those taken by citizens with their telephones. Times have really changed. If you are not on Twitter  all you have to relay on to capture this movement are news outlets. I thought that I would share some of these amazing photos with you. ( I give photo credit to those I know for sure)


Scott Olson Image

They also marched in the day...

This man stayed on the picket line.


These men were stopping looters /Olson Image


She was passing out water and snacks to the protesters




Jack the co-owner of Twitter Jack passes out Roses



The Roses Caught On!

Owners of the Barbeque Joint came back before the week was up.

Trying to get tear gas out of her eyes...

The Nation arrived to protest at night and to help keep peace


Rev. Jesse Jackson 

And then they marched....

Michael Brown Lying in the Streets.

Praying for Chief Johnson who was given the duty of Ferguson Security. 

Black Love on the Front Line... Joe Raedle/Getty Image


The New Black Panther Party worked the streets at night helping to control looting and violence


St. Louis Councilman Antonio French has been there from day one!

Monks Came From Tibet

Chief Johnson

Olson Image




This was called an Amazing moment between Chief Johnson and a Protester.


Roses down the street Mike Brown was killed



Other Ferguson Post:

Michael Brown and The Politics of Respectability

The Case of Mike Brown




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