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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The pluses of Story telling. Education diminishes fear and Inspiring others

2012-2013 Voice Award Fellows

"SAMHSA’s Voice Awards Fellowship Program is a pilot project designed to give consumer/peer leaders in the behavioral health community the skills they need to amplify their voices to promote important behavioral health messages through story telling. By sharing stories about resilience and recovery from a unique personal perspective, together, the Voice Awards Fellows will shape public perceptions of behavioral health and promote social inclusion in the workplace, in schools, and in communities nationwide."

I tell my story one to one more then I do when speaking to an audience of people. I love both, they both take practice and knowledge of who, when and how to shape your story, but the message is the same, that of a dual diagnosed HIV+ and bipolar man in recovery from substance abuse.

Last evening I noticed a test book behind the counter of one of the shops I frequent, I asked the clerk what are you studying and she replied that I had just graduated Rutgers with a BA in Social Services and started her masters as you need a masters in this field to land a job.  She went on about how expensive it is, what jobs she's had to date, interning, etc.  In this case, she started the conversation and I jumped in and shared my story and the journey it has taken me on, the latest lay over, DBSA.  She asked where's that.

I said not where but what, and it was a certification training to become a Peer to Peer Specialist.  I recently received letter that I had passed and my certificate will be arriving soon.   I then spoke about the Fellowship above and how I was selected for sharing my story about my dual diagnoses HIV and Bipolar and my troubles with addiction to crystal meth.

We spoke for a good twenty minutes and she shared that it was a pleasure to meet me, she jotted down my web page and said she would check out the site.  In this case my story was well received and my goal of educating to diminish the compound stigma was accomplished.

I've told this story many times, one was years ago, it was to my Pastor.  I was wearing my I'm Positive T-Shirt and he asked me what I was positive about, I said life Father.  He said life is good, I said yes.

I later that day went back and explained I was HIV positive and he said is there anything I can do, I replied prayer, he said prayer you got. In that sharing of that story I educated my Pastor about HIV and later that year about my being bipolar.

Story telling to large groups is an awesome experience, one place this year was at the The Rainbow Heights Club.  "Rainbow Heights Club, located in Brooklyn, New York, is an advocacy program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender consumers requiring mental health services. We provide socialization, support, peer advocacy, and a safe place to take the next step on your road to emotional recovery and wellness."

After my one hour talk, this is what some in the audience wrote me on my feedback forms, how do you improve your story telling, ask for feed back:

"Beautiful wonderful strong man, he covered all pertinent information our membership needs to know."

"I leaned so much and thanks," "everything was great, more on safe sex," "thank you for coming today and teaching us how to live with both HIV and mental health."

"Steve has the personal touch."

Rainbow Heights has a special place in my heart, I'm a member.  In addition several years back I helped raise $1500 which was matched by a board member.  Please if you can make a donation this year as the club took a hit from the sequester.   Thank You.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's In Your Medicine Cabinet

Have you ever gotten stuck or found yourself staring into you medicine cabinet when it's time to take your prescription medications? I have and one day  came up with separating my medications using black tape and also colored dots.
On the left are the culprits as to why I need this system, they are psychotropic medicines for the brain, they make you happy when sad, sleep when wide awake, cope with anxiety when everything you are trying so hard to hold together needs help, okay so these are the good guys if you are living with mental illness.

The dots, well count them all nine and those are just the medicines for each illness, I left out the medicines that are for the side effects of some of those medicines and also the OTC vitamins, heart regiment aspirin etc. those are on another shelf and bottles are all not white.

All not white, that's the other reason for the colored dots, between the OTC and the prescribed pills four are all white, so in addition to the black tape and the colored dots I use a pill box to help me better adhere to my daily cocktails.

Lastly in the morning when I wake up I leave the kitchen counter light on to remind myself to take my morning medications and look at the time as I need to take some again every twelve hours.

I hope my system helps you when you get to that day when you start to stare at them. Those days when you walk into the pantry and stare at those shelves and say what did I come in here for.

What are you tricks, what you do so you don't forget to take your medications or worse take them twice because you forgot if you took them in the first place.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Do I see a first GMHC AIDS and Mental Health Walk Being Planned

Janet Weinberg, Chief Operating Officer 
Gay Men's Health Crisis, (GMHC)

In a recent article  I read in Gay Voices Huffington Post, August 9, 2013 the following supports what I've been saying all along.  It's not in a statistic, it's said just as it was meant, "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." 

"Where has all the HIV Funding Gone, Janet Weinberg, GMHC"

I'd like to share the most recent statistics from a recent Op-Ed I wrote titled Wearing Red and Green, that was on Poz.Com website this past May.
These statistics supports from the sentence above "that they are living with HIV/AIDS."

Janet Weinberg is referring to those of us, me one of them who are dual diagnosed, those of us struggling with mental health and substance abuse, and those living with all three HIV, mental health and substance abuse.

From Wearing Red and Green, "In the process, I realized that I am not alone. Researchers estimate that as many as 40 to 60 percent of the HIV-positive population will experience depression at some point. That's right—half. Another study looked at 200 adults living with HIV and found that 15 percent had bipolar disorder. And whether you are HIV positive, have a mental illness or both, it's quite likely you have a substance use problem as well; data shows that if you have a mental illness, your chance of having a substance use disorder also is as high as 50 percent"

I don't want to go to far from what's the heart of both HIV/AIDS and mental health and other programs affected by the sequester, that being funding.  I do see hope on the horizon  as just before their August recess a bill was introduced into the Senate, "Senate HUD Funding Bill Reverses Harmful Sequestration Cuts in Housing Assistance ", lets hope HIV/AIDS and Food Stamps aren't to far behind.

Lastly, from my own Op-Ed above, "But when have you seen an AIDS and mental health ride, or an AIDS and mental health walk?   Maybe when this is over GMHC will host the first ever AIDS WALK  in the Nation, called  GMHC AIDS and Mental Health Walk.  Now that would be a major break through that we/they go from a statistic to actual inclusion, social inclusion towards helping raise money and by eliminating compound stigmas that they/me live with day to day.

Social Inclusion defined as, "A socially inclusive society is defined as one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live in dignity. Social exclusion is the process of being shut out from the social, economic, political and cultural systems which contribute to the integration of a person into the community.(Department of Health, State Government Victoria Australia)  

National Alliance on Mental Illness - GLBT resources