Written by Standard Issue

Lifestyle

What’s in a label?

Lizzie Jordan became a mother, a widow and a person with HIV within a year and a half. Now she’s helping young people and their teachers tackle difficult subjects.

Lizzie Jordan-015 copyThere are many labels you could give me. I am a mother. I am a widow. I am HIV positive. Nearly 10 years ago, I collected those three particular labels within an 18-month period.

I could easily tell you how I contracted it but I believe the hangups around identifying routes of transmission only reinforce stigma around HIV. No one would ever ask if a cancer patient could pinpoint it on the 20 fags they had every day, for example.

Suffice to say, life was suddenly turned upside down. I was faced with the frightening reality that I wasn’t actually invincible, as I had believed in my early 20s. I was faced with the harsh reality that our precious little family of three was now a family of two.

I had to step up. Every day I had to get up. When you have a child depending upon you there is no other option. I became suddenly very aware of my own mortality and of my health, something I was previously guilty of taking for granted. I also had to start regularly having difficult conversations, whether that was explaining to a nursery nurse why my child may get upset when expected to cheerily make a Father’s Day card, or explaining on a date that I am HIV positive.

“I have more energy now; I feel amazing; I sleep better. I am now using this new-found energy to make a difference.”

About 18 months ago I started taking antiretroviral medication. I knew this was for the long term and that I had a responsibility to look after myself. It was time to take back control and to actually look after myself. I had piled on weight and I wasn’t fit. As a mother, I want to be there for my child. I want to make sure there are countless fond childhood memories of us goofing about together.

So I started to work out, to eat better and to lose weight. I’m now five stone lighter than I was back then and can lift weights I never imagined I ever could. I train in the gym regularly and am more active than I have ever been. This summer my child and I were able to go rock climbing together (the year before I wouldn’t have been able to as I was over the weight limit).

I admit I was getting it wrong – I was prioritising slices of cake before my long-term health. I have more energy now; I feel amazing; I sleep better. I am now using this new-found energy to make a difference.

I am so very proud to have cofounded a social enterprise, Think2Speak, with my friend and colleague Naomi Watkins. Naomi and I met years ago while both networking for our existing businesses; mine a marketing agency, Yello Story, and hers as an emotional wellbeing consultant. We quickly became great friends and allies; Naomi is a respected consultant and advisor in the field of domestic abuse as I am an advocate representing a face of the HIV community.

Together we recognised that there are many, many conversations going on each day in UK classrooms that teachers don’t always feel equipped to deal with. According to Public Health England, in the average UK classroom of 30 15-year-olds, three could have a mental health problem, 10 are likely to have witnessed their parents separate, one could have experienced the death of a parent, seven have been bullied and six may be self-harming.

“I had to start regularly having difficult conversations, whether that was explaining to a nursery nurse why my child may get upset when expected to cheerily make a Father’s Day card, or explaining on a date that I am HIV positive.”

We decided to actually do something to help all those young people, and the staff who work with them; all those young people who may need signposting to help and support, or simply need someone to talk to, and for all the teachers, stretched to their absolute limits, to help them confidently handle conversations and know that the support is in place for them and their young people.

From just £10 per pupil a year, Think2Speak is able to make sure a school has everything in place to support the emotional wellbeing of its pupils, to ensure that teachers are supported and have access to resources and training and that the young people have access to counselling when a listening ear is needed.

Together we want to use Think2Speak to eliminate the stigma around asking for help and to reduce the stigma around talking, whether that’s about your feelings, worries, sexual or mental health. Let’s empower young people to have healthy, happy relationships, emotionally and physically.

Lizzie Jordan is director of Think2Speak.

Just £10 will enable Think2Speak to help a child today. Support Think2Speak now: http://www.think2speak.com/support

@think2speak

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Written by Standard Issue