Young Calgary man with HIV pens song to inspire others experiencing hardships

A young Calgary man living with HIV is using song lyrics to inspire himself and others to make positive changes in their lives. 

We're calling him Samuel — CBC has granted him confidentiality, because it's a condition of one of his programs. 

At 25-years-old, Samuel will tell you he's already been through a lot. 

He spent time in a juvenile facility, seven years in jail, has a permanent federal record, and then at 23, he was diagnosed with HIV. "I don't know, it was tough," he said. 

But, Samuel says he's turning things around and is enrolled in multiple programs to make positive changes in his life.

One of those programs is run by the Sharp Foundation — an organization that works with people with complex diseases, mental health, addictions and a history of homelessness. 

Hannah Lacrampe is a transitional support worker with the foundation. 

As part of her work with Samuel she encouraged him to write a song — and she hopes Samuel's words inspire both him and others who are struggling to keep going. 

"Giving a chance to hear their life story shows importance to them. That they are worth it, that it's worth all the trauma they went through, that they're still good to come out of it."

Lucie Edwardson/CBC

Lacrampe said before starting the poetry exercise, many clients expressed that they didn't think their voices and stories should be heard by others. 

"They've never really been given a chance, and they haven't really been treated very good. But they are just as important as anybody else," she said. 

"And having a different way to externalize their feelings might not just help them, but other people who are going through similar situations as well."

Samuel said he was inspired when he heard American hip-hop artist Logic's song, titled 1-800-273-8255. Its name is the suicide prevention hotline. 

Logic's song starts like this: "I've been on the low, I been taking my time, I feel like I'm out of my mind. It feel like my life ain't mine. Who can relate?"

And, Samuel says he can relate. 

"The whole song. The dying part. I don't know," he said. "I just thought about my life and started writing it. I've lived a pretty messed up life."

Samuel said there's been times in his life when he wanted it to all end, and he attempted suicide. 

"[Hearing Logic's song] made me feel not depressed," he said. "Like there was someone else out there going through the same things as me."

He hopes people who hear or read his lyrics will know that they're also not alone. 

More to Life

All my life I've been hurt 'n' felt pain, Never did think I would start to go insane I went as far as grabbing a knife, And cut my wrist to try and take my life. I was sent to a group home at the age of ten, Started thinkin' I'd never see my family again. Always gettin' into fights and runnin' away, I bottled up my anger and didn't know how to say, That I need help and I don't wanna die, No one heard me so I gave it a second try At sixteen I tried to hang myself, An angel named Andrea cut me down from the shelf Andrea told me there's more to living, I always wanted to take, now I started giving I see homeless people n try to help them out, They're in more pain than me, I know they need my help. A good motto to have in life is to forgive n forget, You be wishin' that you did when you take your last breath. There's more to life than anger and hate, Only you have the power to start and change your fate I was diagnosed with HIV at age twenty-three, And I despised that person who gave it to me But it wasn't her fault I guess she hadn't known, I'm going through life it's my anger that I've thrown As I drive through the city of Calgary, Alberta, I think to myself I ain't got no future. So I'm tryin' again I'm askin' for help, By someone who relates then they know how I felt I was sentenced to seven years at the age of eighteen, The judge looked at me and said you're a really mean person, Who needs to spend some time in jail, And at this time I'm going to deny you bail I did a lot of thinking while I did my time in jail, This time when I get out you know I ain't gonna fail Because of what I've done I lost respect from my family, When I get out I'm gonna try and make 'em happy, By showing them that I've changed who I am And if I can do it then anybody can A good motto to have in life is to forgive 'n' forget You be wishin' that you did when you take your last breath There's more to life than anger and hate Only you have the power to start and change your fate As I finish this song you all need to know That there's help out there and you don't need to go And hurt yourself just because you're in pain By doing so there's nothing you'll gain. I know you feel that nothing goes right You're just like me so stand up 'n' fight For your life you're not leaving yet By doing so there's happiness you'll get So listen to my song 'n' listen to my story I know you'll be thanking me, know you won't be sorry You gotta go through life 'n' forgive 'n' forget I know you will be wishin' when you take a last breath

If you're struggling or know someone who is, you can call the Canada Suicide Prevention Service hotline 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566, or text "CONNECT" to the Kids Help Phone (which also serves adults) between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. ET at 686868.

For a list of 24-hour crisis centres in your area, visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention's website.

If you feel your mental health or the mental health of a loved one is at risk of an immediate crisis, call 911.