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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Don't Get me Wrong, the CDC does plenty, but when it comes to Prevention it comes up Short

Don't get me wrong, the CDC does plenty, but when it comes to Prevention within the mental health population of the gay community, it failed and the proof is the contraction of the HIV virus.

Not sure why mental health screenings are not part of the CDC message when it talks about HIV and substance abuse, no they would rather pump out statistics about HIV and substance abuse, then address them with a media campaign and posters similar to that of their new HIV Treatment Works.

I'm not saying HIV treatment doesn't work, but how many HIV+ people wouldn't have HIV to begin with had they gotten this message out in the 80's, 90's even today, that if you are using any substance to self medicate go for a mental health screening.  That if screening were done as many as one out of five or some twenty percent wouldn't need HIV treatment at all, just behavioral health treatments.

Could it be the $54,000 HIV medication costs and profit from pharmaceutical companies that has kept this none fact in a show box, in the back of a desk drawer.  I'm certain there's a reason.

I recently read a post on Face Book where he said, I can't wait for the end of AIDS so we don't have to do these fundraising events.  My reply, close an AIDS service organization, are you out of your mind, half the budgets of these organizations go to mental health services, who do you think the clients are some Congressmen who has top notch health care for life and six figure salaries who can afford the $54,000 medications.

No they are people in the gay community who are poor, yes poverty exists within the gay community at all ages.

I'm happy the CDC is coming around to some new programs, but you are to late.  Most states are looking to end AIDS ins 2020.  I hope they address the mental health consumers, the 20% who live or better yet might not live with HIV had they had these programs thirty years ago.

This was just published in 2014, travesty:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/behavior/substanceuse.html

This one is my favorite, revised in 2012
http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/hivaids-drug-abuse-intertwined-epidemics
"Drug abuse and addiction have been inextricably linked with HIV/AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. The link has to do with heightened risk—both of contracting and transmitting HIV and of worsening its consequences."

RESOURCES:

http://www.drugrehabcenters.org/Category/New%20York/Drug_Treatment_For_Gays_and_Lesbians.htm

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Suicide, In Memory of their son lost fifteen months ago.





I didn't get this couples name this past Friday evening, April 24, 2015.  I did give them mine and also my card as into the brief ten minutes we shared in laughter out came my sharing my story as a gay man who lives with HIV, bipolar and substance abuse, that I was a suicide attempt survivor and still have suicidal idealization from time to time, hence my card and how I feel I'm doing God's work, each time I share my story and listen to others.

I'm often asked, do you talk to everyone, my reply yes but more important I listen.

In memory of their son, lost fifteen months ago.

I don't know about most cities but when it comes to intersections and the traffic light both pedestrians and motorists respect one another, most of the time.  I will say it is at these intersections I do my talking and listening.

I was walking on Eight Avenue to catch my bus when I stopped abruptly causing the couple which I has just passed to stop as well.  The only thing I heard, was "are you going to talk this loud all night so that everyone could here what you say," followed by laughter.  The laughter peaked my curiosity so I turned and said what was so funny.  The wife said you heard me, I said no all I heard was your husband and asked her what did you say, her reply, there goes a man I would love to have sex with as they continued to laugh.

My reply, thank you as I was flattered, but replied back that I love people of color, but swing the other way and love the brother which the wife went from laughing to tears as it reminded her of their gay son they lost fifteen months ago.

The husband behind holding her arm, as I said, I'm sorry for your loss and went on to give them my card, and shared that I live with mental illness, bipolar and that I'm also HIV+, that I carry minority stress and that he also did as a gay, black man, that for him, he was a minority within a minority and for me, I'm a minority within a minority, within a minority, that at times I often want to let go, that it is very hard.

 As we hugged, I said let's not go to tears, that I didn't want to ruin their evening, she went on to say, I love this man,  I quickly shifted gears back to laughter saying, "we seem to be enjoying each other lets grab a room and have a three way which she let out with more laughter and said this, " that only in New York can something like this happen on the street."

She said I work in a hotel here in New York City, the husband shared he worked for the Post Office, I said I work at a non-profit and also educate, do awareness around bipolar and HIV and often share my story.  I left them saying email me and in the subject line write:  "I want to have sex with that man" that seeing that will bring me back to tonight's share.  I said if you wish we can meet up, that I don't drink and also feel free to reach out to me if you need assistance with coping with your loss, they replied thank you and we will.

I walked on, grabbed my bag in my arms and said a prayer for them, for their son and for me.



RESOURCES:

"Wikapedia Minority Stress."

"Increased Risk of Suicide in Blacks and Latino LGBT Men"

"LGBT-Inclusive National Suicide Prevention Strategy"







Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Brush Fire

I've been in a place of late, stop. Know that I'm strong person, but know that I walk the planet at times not seeing people but pixels so many that my mind can't process it all and at these periods, like flood gates all four sides lifted and the onset of a major panic attack happened..that was this past August.

I had four back to back panic attacks the most severe I walked four blocks past my office stopped wasn't lost, but said to myself what am I doing here, and started to boil in side as I made my way back towards my office. As I got closer, block by block the boiling of emotion like a volcano started to erupt and it did. It was severe, so severe I couldn't see the medication I carry in my bag as my mind had left me, my mind had left me, rare.

Thanks to three co-workers who saw me, stopped me as I rushed to the stairs hoping not to be seen...hurrying upwards, I heard my someone asking if I was okay?

As soon as a heard a human voice and then felt theirs hands as they got me to step backwards, down three steps, did the melting speed up out came the tears, crying, I felt like I collapsed and I did into a chair I sat.
One got me water and said hydrate, the other raw almonds and said eat, the last handed me a photo of a kitten and said pet it and I said why and was told to just pet the photo and sure enough it hit...so fast like a brush fire it hit, the petting put out the flames, enough to where I could see my pills and take the one I needed for the anxiety. 

Anxiety is no joke when it goes full range panic attack, that was my second severe one, the first was when I diagnosed, but this one was severe and I'm thankful for the people in my life and for myself in that in a way I knew to go where I feel safe, it was my office and within less then an hour after taking the pill, I was bright, composed and working, advised to go home and relax, but I decided to stay and be around people.
Thanks to Andrea, Marion and Lisa

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Depression, Clinical Depression, Serious Mental Illness and HIV

photo source: Pinterest 


Depression is a syndrome, a combination of emotional, behavioral and physical symptoms portrayed by sadness, loss of pleasure, loss of self-esteem and sometimes difficulty functioning.  If you are experiencing these problems and they persist overtime, cause you suffering, interfere with pleasure and work on a daily basis, you may have clinical depression.

Clinical depression or major depression "More than 19 million Americans suffer from clinical depression each year ."  If you feel depressed most of the day, a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships, find yourself withdrawing from others, fatigue...loss of energy. trouble concentrating, problems remembering to take your HIV medications, problems sleeping, talk to your provider as you may need a physiological evaluation.   

Major depression, clinical depression is treatable with medication.  Once medicated the symptoms will cease allowing you to get better, feel better and get on the road to recovery, medication is crucial for this to happen.


From my website facts page you will find statistics on major depression, serious mental illness and HIV, also please visit the resources page with listings in all fifty states.  

Today, nineteen years later, on two cocktails I'm back working part-time, living in affordable housing, my SMI (bipolar disorder) is in check.  This can be you, again talk to your provider.




RESOURCES:




Monday, January 26, 2015

Full Disclosure HIV, Bipolar and Insomnia........Not Easy, But Necessary



Full disclosure; HIV, bipolar and insomnia, and why full disclosure is important, not just for the safety of transmission for the man you are with, but for your own anxieties around my being a dual diagnosed HIV and bipolar, mental health consumer, as insomnia for me is extremely problematic.  It has ruined two relationships as both partners didn't understand the severity, all they noticed was I wasn't in bed  when they woke up, I know not the right men for me.  Not easy, but necessary if you are to find Mr. right, he's out there.

I met someone last summer, of course when traveling who on the second night of day two asked me to spend the night, knowing about the past problems, my anxiety kicked in, not so much on my HIV disclosure,  although can be hard, it's no where as needing to disclose your suffer insomnia and bipolar, so I needed to make an excuse to leave when I wanted so much to stay.

The third night of ten wonderful days, he said out of the blue how's your sleeping habits, my reply was problematic but that I have medications that will knock me out.  Curious I asked why did you ask and he went on to share that he's in open relationship and was reading me, as his partner lives with bipolar.  Wow, talk about gaydar, he had bipolardar if there is such a word.

For the first time in a long time I was laying with a man, with no anxiety about my HIV, no anxiety about my bipolar, (which I do manage very well, with medication), and again no anxiety from the insomnia as we lied there talking, cuddling and him saying in a loving way, it's time for you to take your medication, period!  And in my double cocktail, both my HIV and psychotropic medications, I dosed off.

If any of you have shared this experience, after many attempts in finding the right medication I was prescribed Seroquel,  Seroquel which put me to sleep in his arms in a deep medicated sleep. The lowest dosage is 25 mg and me being a bear, that pill will put me out withing one minute, and sleep as much as 10 - 14 hours.  So with my psychiatrist on board I use a pill cutter and take half, 12.5 mg and sleep a good 7-9 hours and woke up everyday rolling over to find one another.

I was happy to meet him, as we had a good ten days, we are still friends and he showed me that there's hope out there for me and although it hasn't happened, I learned that full disclosure around not just my HIV for the safety of the other partner, but for my own anxieties, the very real insomnia that kept me away from dating is something that the partner needs to know if they are to wanting to get to know you on a deeper level.

I know, it's very hard to do that, but I'm hoping to meet someone again, with the same level of understanding, if this is you, if you've been here, know you are not alone and that as we age with our HIV the stigma of not just that, but that of bipolar is slowing taking hold.


RESOURCES:

Sleep Problems and HIV

Bipolar Insomnia

The Importance of Sleep

 www.Bipolarsingles.com



Monday, January 19, 2015

Gay Men With Mental Health Issues, I've been singing this tune since 2004



Since 2004

"Gay Men With Mental Health Issues Have Higher Risk Of HIV," 
source: (Randall Mayes, Design & Trend, Science, January 16, 2015)

"The study included 4,295 gay men who had sex with other men in the previous year. They participants took behavioral surveys and a HIV test every six months."

"In the 680 men who completed the study, the researchers found that those who had the most mental health issues were more likely to become HIV positive during the study."

As the Bi Polar bear whom for the last eleven years has been writing about HIV and mental illness not only do I agree, but support any moves to add both HIV+ testing and the reverse Mental Health screenings in the HIV+ community as a way to not just talk about stigma, and help 'New York State end the AIDS epidemic by 2020" , and cities like San Francisco, "getting to zero coalition" reach their challenges of zero transmission of the HIV virus, and finally for the Gay Community to speak the words Bi polar and SMI (serious mental illness) into the media, when they talk about depression, it seems like words like these  are kept in the closet.

I recently attended a Long Term Survivors Town Hall Meeting, at the end I took to the microphone as no where in the evening where they spoke about aging and co morbidities was serious mental illness, or bipolar mentioned.  Scott A. Krammer, LCSW, ACSW  offered this:

"The Bipolar Bear came out her tonight and talked about the mental health issues he's living with.  By doing that, talking about the issues, he lessens stigma by showing others they are not alone.  By using his voice, he gives others hope.  This is just one example of how healing happens in the Community."

Just as proud as I am to to be HIV+ wearing shirts and riding bikes to raise money and awareness, I'm one of 1 in 5 HIV+ men and women struggling with a serious mental illness and depression, wearing my own shirt as the Bi Polar Bear.    


Op-Ed Wearing Red & Green, in POZ Magazine 2013


I'm a Consumer Activist on these issues, I wrote last year that had safe sex kits handed out when exiting bars had cards that spoke about substance abuse and mental health screenings and  HIV prevention, well maybe I would be simple, a gay man living with bipolar disorder, and the rates of transmission would have been much lower or better zero rates of transmission of the HIV/AIDS virus in the year 2000 not twenty-years later.



So  a call to Action: to those who hold sponsor HIV rides and Walks, add mental health to your brochures and advertisements  as the funds your are raising, are in fact treating substance abuse, HIV and mental illness.

Huffingtonpost. article, Where Has All the Money Gone," , says, " It means less support for mental health and substance abuse to deal with the very issues that were part of that reason that they are living with HIV and AIDS. 

RESOURCES:

My website, www.bipolarbear.us  they most comprehensive list of resources and on HIV and mental Heath.

Visit my Testimonials page to see what people are saying about 2013 SAMHSA Voice Award Fellow

"Stephen has been an active and steadfast member of the NAMI GLBT Networking Group. He has been an invaluable supporter and advisor to the work of NAMI to meaningfully include and support GLBT individuals. He provides this group and communities beyond his NAMI family with resources through his voluntarily maintained website and blog with which he shares a unique perspective of personal recovery and experiences with bipolar disorder, HIV and substance abuse. He has built a strong awareness-building platform for these issues through cycling events, media outreach and many contacts he makes to advocate and raise funds for recovery efforts."

- Marin Swesey, Program Manager, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Multicultural Action Center, 2008-2013





Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rubbers, Writers Block, taking a Step Away From it all.


Not what you thinking?

I have dry cracked skin problem on my feet, hence the use of my dried cracked leather hammock, thought it appropriate.  Well my dermatologist prescribed two scripts both topical.  I tried just with  a pair of socks and the socks got treated nicely but not my feet.

So being myself, always thinking outside the box, usually when I'm in a mellow side of mania cycle, I found a pair of those rubbers you stretch over you shoes and proceeded to grease up my feet and wear them while at my desk.  I'm wearing them now.

To my amazement my cracked dry feet aren't as they used to be and my dermatologist was like wow, what an improvement, I shared my trick with her, and she was like you should patent that.  I kinda of just did that, taking this photo and writing this lite humorous...but brilliant post on rubbers and feet.

So if you have cracked feet, possible a foot fungus and need to apply cream to your feet, or any over the counter foot care product, buy yourselves some rubbers and treat your feet to a nice vacation


I've been having writers block, writing about HIV and bipolar post after post isn't easy.  So like my feet I'm giving myself a vacation and taking a step away from it all for a few weeks.

RESOURCES:

Rubbers. I got the standard shoe model
but they come in so many sizes and colors, have fun.