On October 3, 1995, Mariah Carey released her fifth studio album “Daydream.” The album is most remembered for it’s three chart topping singles “One Sweet Day,” “Always Be My Baby” and the ever enduring and influential “Fantasy.” However, the song that has always resonated with me is the album’s closing song “Looking In.” Written by Mariah, “Looking In” is a piano driven somber and introspective ballad that has helped me in many ways. The lyrics have supported me in making sense of significant moments of my life.
“You look at me and see the girl, Who lives inside the golden world“
It was early 2014 and all my dreams came true – a new city, good job, i was married, and living in a beautiful home. What more could a boy ask for? All was perfect. All was true. Little did I know my mental health was not ready to embark on that journey and soon all would eventually come crumbling down.
“But don’t believe that’s all there is to see, You’ll never know the real me“
Little by Little darkness started to cloud my mind, I felt alone, neglected, started to drink heavily, and even attempted to take my own life. Those around me that supported me also added to my darkness.
“She smiles through a thousand tears and harbors adolescent fears“
My insecurities played a huge part in my discontent but I was raised to SMILE and carry on because “the show must go on.” And the show did go on. The pressure of being someone who I wasn’t set in, I resented my partner for my faults and I fled into a world of drinking. Although I love him dearly, I had to leave. I applied for and accepted a job in my hometown of Miami, Florida. This new start felt amazing. I was leaving my home, my husband, the city but admittedly, I expected him to follow me as I had followed him when we met.
“She dreams of all that she can never be, she wades in insecurity and hides herself inside of me“
Living in different cities cause us to drift apart. I found myself in someone else’s arms. It wasn’t long before it would come to light. It was my birthday, my husband decided to come to Miami and celebrate with me and friends. After leaving the club, “alcohol” decided that we should get a rapid HIV test. As his results came in negative, mine said otherwise “Sir, you have tested HIV positive”.
“Don’t say she takes it all for granted, I’m well aware of all I have. Don’t think that I am disenchanted please understand“
I apologized to my husband, my family, my friends. I didn’t mean all this to happen. I took full responsibility for stepping out. I continued to slip into darkness. I couldn’t and didn’t understand. I asked, “What’s wrong with me?” I wanted all this to end. Divorce was my way out. Although I wasn’t even sure if it was my choice or influenced by my dark thoughts? Now, there I was – divorced and living with HIV – alone.
“It seems as though I’ve always been, somebody outside looking in“
What a mess I made, but I was taught to keep smiling. The show must go on. And so it did. I emerged myself in work. I put all my issues aside and started to flourish in my career. A year down the road life hit again. I lost my maternal grandmother and my amazing my job. Not knowing where to turn, I sought out professional help. To my “surprise” I’m diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder! Because mental health was never discussed growing up, I chose to ignore my diagnosis and found something else to keep myself occupied. Club promoting which was the answer and easy money.
“Well here I am for all of them to bleed“
The darkness in my mind never subsided. So I was clubbing, making quick money, and drinking. First DUI Arrest then. Probation. Second DUI Arrest. 21 days jail time. Then finally rehab. I think that was most of 2018 and partially 2019 but honestly, It was all a blur. But with the support of friends and family, I was able to myself from out it the darkness. My commitment was now supporting those going through the same struggles I was enduring.
“But they can’t take my heart from me, and they can’t bring me to my knees“
Although I was helping others with their struggles, I still had not accepted my own. I found love and was again engaged. I still had not accepted or dealt with my mental health diagnosis and insecurities. It cost me my relationship. I decided to seek professional help again. This time around, I was open to the support and began treatment. I started loving myself and taking care of myself. It was the best thing that ever could happen to me.
“They’ll never know the real me“
Today, I am able to say my past has helped me understand my present and has prepared me for the future. I’m proud to say that I work to support people on the margins who for a program that takes a Multidisciplinary Approach Stabilizing Treatment and Empowering Recovery (MASTER) that aims to increase engagement in case management and treatment of people on the margin who are living with mental health, struggling with substance use disorder and living with or impacted by HIV. Everyday I regain and forgive myself more and more. Helping others has opened my mind to helping myself. “THE BUTTERFLY EMERGED” If you don’t know my story then you don’t know the real me. I will always be that boy looking in at the man I’m becoming!
Rolando (he/him) is a Gay Cuban American HIV+ Man from Miami, Florida with a flare of femininity. Proud of everything he’s accomplished since being diagnosed in August of 2015, he has been part of the Miami Dade Ryan White program supporting people living with HIV in navigating the emotional roller coaster HIV Stigma. Rolando is outspoken, passionate and committed to advocating to end the stigma of being HIV+. Rolando is a 2021 Gran Varones Fellow.