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A Message of Hope & Forgiveness

Brryan Jackson: Growing from Adversity and Finding Life's Passion

Brryan Jackson has no memory of his father, Brian Stewart, purposely injecting him with a syringe tainted with HIV-infected blood. That’s because he was 11 months old.

It wasn’t until Brryan began having unexplained health issues—cuts that wouldn’t heal, severe asthma, mosquito bites that didn’t diminish, but rather grew—that his mother started seeking answers. He was hospitalized, yet no doctor could tell his mother what was wrong. Until they could.

Brryan had AIDS. He was given five months to live.

In the years that followed, Brryan was bullied and tormented at school (he was called AIDS boy, gay boy), and kids refused to play with him or invite him to birthday parties. It was, by all accounts, a lonely life for a 10-year-old child. When he was 13, he tried to commit suicide.

Brryan’s story could have ended there, but the reality was that it was just the beginning. He began counseling, deepened his faith in God, and was urged by friends to tell his story.

From his diagnosis to now, it has been a 24-year journey, and by God’s grace, says Brryan (he changed his name to distance himself from his father), he has gone from taking almost 25 medications daily, (one of the medications resulted in an 80 percent hearing loss), a litany of shots and antibiotics, and being sent home to die, to just one pill and living AIDS-free.

“He’s taken something that’s heinous and horrible and turned it into something positive,” Jennifer Jackson, Brryan’s mother, told the St. Louis Post Dispatch in an interview.

From there, Brryan began speaking at high schools, and telling thousands of students his story. He talks openly about mental health, abstinence and safe sex, and about getting tested. He has spoken at churches, and testified at Congressional hearings. He is an AIDS activist and has been honored as People Magazine’s “Heroes Among Us.” In short, he is using his notoriety and taking what could have been a horrific event, into a message that is life-affirming and positive, all in the hope that it will help others.

Which is why Brryan now dedicates his time to life- and legacy-coaching, and helping people achieve their goals.

“I’m big on making the world a better place and visualizing how I can leave an impact,” he says. “It’s asking the question, ‘What’s the life you want to live? What do you want to leave behind?’”

Brryan says quite often people just don’t know where to start.

“The starting point is analyzing the path and building a vehicle for the future. It’s about helping them find their passion, and what their purpose is.”

While the cliché may be, “Go big or go home,” Brryan believes the opposite is true--that is, start small and go big—at least when it comes to deriving your life’s purpose.

“I help people break down the practical steps so they realize they can do it by setting goals. The goals are out there, but we need to break down the process, and the process needs to be celebrated.” In essence, he says, it’s all about perspective, and getting people to mentally embrace what they have achieved, versus looking at how far they have to go.

Another facet of Brryan’s coaching is focusing on mental health. Since his suicide attempt, he talks openly about having a healthy mind set, which is underscored by also paying attention to a person’s physical and spiritual health, as well.

He admits that he still suffers from depression, and while he agrees the stigma of mental health is dimmer than it was in the ‘90s, he believes there is still a long way to go.

“When it comes to mental health, I think there’s a huge misconception that we need to get these people to help. I think we need to allow people to be vulnerable because that takes courage. We need to be there to actively listen...and take pride when people are vulnerable with you because you are a safe place for them. If you’re not that safe place for them, is there one?”

On his website blog post, Brryan writes: You win people over by listening and giving them a safe place to express their wounds and success.

To that point, he believes everyone should have a counselor, a therapist, or a mentor, in their life to talk to.

Brryan has since forgiven his father, Missouri inmate no. 1018559, but says he doesn’t have a relationship with him. In fact, in 2016, he petitioned the Department of Corrections to keep his father behind bars, and will do so again next year, when his father is up for parole again.

“Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. Forgiveness is defining that situation for you. It’s not about the other person. I have to operate without having a dad. And I’m okay with that, but he still has to answer for his actions and incur the consequences.”

There is no doubt that Brryan’s story could have been a tragedy of Greek proportions, but he believes life is all about choices.

“When tragedy happens, you can’t change that moment, but what you do next, is the most important decision you’ll make, because that will define you,” he says, adding, “we’re not limited by our circumstances, we’re limited by the choices we make.”

For more information, visit BrryanJackson.com/.

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