Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dare I Say, Thank You HIV

A life reborn, finding myself one day at a time.

7 years. 7 years ago today I was diagnosed with HIV. 2555 days with HIV. 61,320 hours with HIV.

I went to the clinic to get my results. I was sure I had HIV. My friend told me I was worrying for nothing. I didn't tell her, I had unprotected sex with an HIV positive guy. A month after having sex with him, I had the worst "flu" of my life. I could barely eat, I had no energy. I lost 20 pounds in under a month. I knew what the results were going to say.

The nurse sat me down and told me "your test came back positive." She gave the speech, "it's not a death sentence, the medications are better now days, blah blah blah." I asked her how many people she has had to tell. She said I was her first. Awe, I popped her HIV diagnosis giving cherry. I told her she was doing a good job. WTF!? Typical me, putting others needs ahead of mine. Easy to do, when you have no self worth. I saw the time and said "crap, my parking time has run out. I need to go put more money in. I'll be back, I swear."

I put more money in and went back to the clinic room. She was surprised I returned. She told me I had an appointment with the infectious disease doctor in a couple of weeks, gave me some pamphlets and asked me if I needed anything. Need anything? Seriously? In 15 minutes you told me I have HIV, you gave me a bunch of pamphlets and now I need to go to work. I don't know what the fuck I need.

I got into my car, I tried to cry, I couldn't. I just started laughing. I drove to work, as I was walking from the parkade to work I texted my friend "I have HIV." She messaged me back saying that's not funny. I told her I wasn't joking. She called me, told me everything was going to be okay and that she was here for me. Maybe a text wasn't the best way to tell someone, oops.

I took a deep breath and walked into work. I knew it was going to be a difficult night. I was working till 2 am, I just received life altering news and my job was to take escalated calls from angry dick heads who didn't get their dipping sauce for their pizza. Fuck!

It didn't take long before I lost my shit on a customer. I had a woman, who had been moving all day, she said she placed an order an hour ago and there was no record of her order. I apologized, offered a discount and to rush the order, that wasn't good enough. She started crying, complaining how she moved all day with two kids and then started yelling at me. I yelled back at her and I heard her phone drop. All of a sudden a man's voice came on the line and in a concerned tone said "um hello?" I flipped out and said "I can't deal with this shit! Good bye!" and hung up on him.

I can laugh about it now. I assume he was her husband. This poor guy is probably thinking, what the hell is going on? My wife is losing it, the pizza guy is losing it, I just want some food.

7 years later. 2555 days later. 61,320 hours later. I've changed jobs a few times, I've gone a few dates, still no relationships. I've gone to group therapy and individual therapy. I've had my struggles and I've had my successes. I've grown as a person. I've set boundaries with my father. I've become closer with my mother. My friends are fucking amazing! I have small group of friends, we've been friends since high school. 17 years of friendship and counting!

Lately I've been depressed. Working has been a big source of that. Every time I feel that I am moving forward with my health, I feel like work takes me 5 steps back. Butt! A big hairy bubble butt! Sorry wrong kind of butt. But! I have to give myself credit. Despite being depressed, I am still trying. I am still trying to eat healthy, I am still trying to make myself see my friends. This past weekend I went to a conference out of town for people living with HIV and AIDS. That was huge for me! I put myself out of my comfort zone and faced my anxiety head on.

Even though I've been depressed it doesn't have as strong of a grip on me and I can thank HIV for that. Contracting HIV was hitting rock bottom for me. Contracting HIV made me realize I needed help. It  motivated me to join that group therapy program. It got me diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. It motivated me to start individual therapy with a Psychologist. It motivated me to try new things. Did I mention I started taking singing lessons last year? Something I've always wanted to do, but was to scared to do.

HIV made me realized life is too short and it has allowed me to grow and become a better person. As I write this, tears are running down my face. Some are sad tears, because to be honest obviously I would prefer to not have HIV. BUT another big hairy bubble butt! A lot of them are happy tears, proud tears that I have turned a negative into a positive (I swear no pun was intended!).

Because of HIV, I am becoming a better version of myself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Shackles of Anxiety

I'm driving in my car, thinking to myself "I can do this, I can do this." I round the corner and my heart   beats faster every block closer I get to my destination. I attempt to turn into the parking lot, I jerk the steering wheel in the opposite direction and think "park across the street so you can see who is going in."

I'm so nervous. My anxiety is through the roof, my heart beating fast, mouth dry, palms sweaty. Mom's spaghetti? Wait that last part is from a song. Concentrate. It feels like there is a lump in my throat. I think my co-woker said that is called globus. Sounds like a travel agency.

I see a few people go in. I can do this, I can do this. I stare at my runners on the seat, just pick them up, open your door and go into the school. Nope not yet, I got here early for a reason, so I can work up the courage to go in. A couple more minutes pass, it's an all or nothing moment. I grab my shoes, open my car door and cross the street.

I open the school doors and walk down the hallway. My heart beating fast, nauseated, and the globus in my throat. That reminds me, I should plan my next vacation. I round the corner and I see a few guys sitting outside the gym. I try to make eye contact and smile, they look away. I nervously grab my phone and start looking on Facebook.

In my last therapy session we talked about how I need to be physically active. It will help with my joint pain and my mood. I've been wanting to go to recreational volleyball which is run through a local gay and lesbian sports league. Meeting new people isn't easy for me, you know with the anxiety and all. Hard to make conversation when you have a travel agency, I mean globus in your throat.

A few more guys show up and they all know each other. Everyone is laughing and hugging and catching up since the last time. Fuck. This is what I was afraid of. Afraid it was going to be a close knit group and I would have to awkwardly wiggle my way in. I feel like I'm going to have a panic attack and freak out. I try to covertly control my anxiety and tell myself, breathe, breathe. I manage to calm myself down. I tell myself once were in the gym and we get setup and were playing I will be so happy I did this.

The doors open, everyone goes into the gym and starts changing. Okay, so change rooms aren't a thing, nice underwear. I'm awkwardly standing against the wall while everyone is still chatting and having a gay old time. My anxiety is going through the roof again. Two of the guys are setting up the net, people start getting together and practicing. Do I just walk over an join them? I would, but my feet are stuck to the ground. Can globus travel to your feet? Who is running the volleyball? Who do I give my money to? Why are they spiking the ball? I thought this was a recreational league. TOO MUCH!

FUCK THIS! I can't do this. Grab my shoes, stare at the ground and I walk out of there. As I open the gym doors, my lip is quivering, I'm doing everything I can not to cry. My eyes are tearing up, I get out of the school and there are some junior high kids hanging outside of the school. I look to the side, I don't want them to see me, this pathetic old man about to cry. I speed walk to my car, come on globus lets pick up the pace! I get in my car, slam the door shut and start crying. I slam my fist on the steering wheel and yell FUCK! What is wrong with you?!

I'm crying because I feel pathetic, I feel stupid and embarrassed. It's just recreational volleyball, what's the big deal? This shouldn't be so hard. A normal person would of just said "Hi, I'm here for the volleyball, who do I pay my money to?"

But. I have to give myself credit. I drove there. I got out of my car. I went into the school. Hell, I went into the gym. Yes, I left but I made it farther than I thought I would. I tried, I gave it my best. Each attempt is a step in the right direction. Do not give up.

Take that globus, not telling me I can't cancel my flight without penalty. Shit wrong globus.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tired of Being Tired

I'm tired. I'm tired of being tired. Tired of fighting. Fighting to live. Fighting to be mentally healthy. Fighting to love myself.

It's too much. I'm exhausted. It's a constant struggle. HIV. Asthma. Arthritis. IBS. Bipolar. Anxiety. Welcome to my pity party, I can cry if I want to. Today I didn't wake up till three pm. That's not true, I was first up around noon and couldn't get out of bed. The safety of my bed had me wrapped tightly in his arms. If I don't leave bed, I don't have to face the struggles of the day. If I allow myself to fall back asleep then I don't have to think about the life I hate. I fell back asleep and woke up around two. I went on my phone trying to distract myself. That didn't work as I saw on twitter it was mental health awareness day and that got me thinking about how I was feeling and relating to what people were posting.

I thought to myself, just get up, go make a coffee, it's simple. But then the evil part of my brain that's busy being depressed said to me "No it's not! Stay in bed. If you make coffee, you have to remove the blanket, get up, put on pants (the pants would only be for my roommates benefit), put on a shirt, put on your slippers, walk to the bedroom door, open the door, walk down the hallway, open another door, walk up the stairs, put the coffee capsule in the machine, lock the lid, press the button, wait for the coffee to fill up, grab coffee cup, go down the stairs, back through the door, back down the hallway, through the bedroom door, sit down, take a sip and ruminate about how shitty life is." So  yup, I stayed in bed for another couple hours. My bladder being full finally got me out of bed, which then led me to my couch and watching The Flash.

Work has been super stressful. I've been so stressed my IBS is acting up, my jaw and neck are sore from being tense, I've been having dizzy spells too. The other day at work, I had been go, go, go. I finally realized I hadn't eaten anything five hours into my shift. I went to Harvey's and ate. I got back to work, sat down in my chair and I felt lightheaded which quickly shifted to dizziness and then my eyes got heavy, a wave of blackness went over me and I almost fell face first in the keyboard. Thankfully I didn't faint but that was the closest I ever felt. It was intense. No time for the weak though, I logged into my computer to pump out more work.

Last February I went on short term disability for two and a half months. I was feeling like I do right now. I started seeing a therapist, I still see him every two to three weeks. I feel I didn't give myself enough time to build structure and get myself mentally healthy when I returned to work. I felt guilty that my co-workers had to pick up the slack and felt I needed to show I can do my part and even more now that I was back. My manager is aware I have HIV and Bi-Polar disorder. I've told her one of the main things I need is a consistent schedule. I struggle trying not to sleep too much. My therapist has told me it's important I get up at the same time every day to build that consistency. I find it difficult to do, when my start time isn't the same or is later in the day. My goal is to get up at eight thirty am every day and not hit snooze. This week I am working noon to eight. Since my mood is in the crapper it is very difficult for me to not hit snooze and sleep to the last possible second. If I'm asleep, I don't have to feel.

Recently we lost two supervisors and that meant the supervisors were down two people in their schedule rotation. One of the supervisors expressed concerned that I don't work the same hours as the rest of the team so out of guilt I volunteered to be a part of the rotation temporarily and work a late week every four weeks. That was a mistake. I have fallen back into old habits and my mood keeps getting worse. I feel stupid writing about this. It feels so dumb that this should be such an issue.

Getting up at eight thirty am each day shouldn't be hard, how can it have such an impact on my mental health? But I know it's important and I know it does. I know I need to say I can't work these late weeks anymore. And I also need to say I can't handle the current workload, I need to get my mental health back on track so that I can be a productive employee. Sigh, easier said than done. My arch nemesis anxiety is filling my head with all the irrational things that can go wrong.

I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of being in pain. I'm tried of struggling. Just so tired.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Stuck in Between - I'm a Large and a Half

I'm frustrated, I'm angry, I'm sad. I am tired of being rejected. Whether it be trying to meet people for dating or getting laid, I get rejected...all the freaking time! I've been told, "sorry I'm only into white dudes." I understand that people have preferences, but when I look at myself in a mirror and see a white dude looking back, I wonder, what the hell is wrong with you. Then I will hear "sorry I'm only into fit guys" but then the next guy says to me "sorry I only like bigger guys." Is there no in-between category? Is there any in between sized lovers out there? Then I get told "I'm only into young guys" and then I hear "sorry I'm into older guys only." Is there no one that likes a guy in his early 30's? Next

I hear "sorry I'm into masculine guys only" and then I'm told "sorry I'm into a more feminine guy." Should I tell them about the time, when MSN Messenger still existed, that a guy said to me "is that your sister in that picture, she's really pretty." I responded with "that's me." The guy messaged back "oh, well you look nice, oh phone call, gotta go." It's like when I go shopping and try on clothes, a large doesn't fit but an extra large is way too big. I am always stuck in the middle!

When I do finally find a dude that is into a guy that's in-between all the preferences, a guy that is into a large and a half, I then have to tell them about being HIV Positive. So, I have passed the first 20 damn hurdles, received some scrapes and bruises along the way and now it's time for the pole vault and I have to vault over 20 feet to get over the next one.

If one more guy asks me if I am "clean" I am going to lose my shit. I have started responding with "yes I am clean, I have a shower every day and make sure to clean my ass before sex, now if your wondering if I am HIV Positive, the answer is yes. I am on medications and my viral load is undetectable, if you are unsure what that means, please feel free to ask questions. All I ask, is you stop asking if someone is "clean", just because I have HIV, it doesn't make me dirty."

I feel my response works two-fold, one I get to provide the sarcastic response which satisfies my bitterness and immaturity, but then I also try to educate them. I understand I am probably negating the education part by having the sarcastic response, but frankly I don't care it feels good, ha! I sometimes mention to them, that being with a guy who is honest and open about being HIV Positive and is on medications and their viral load is undetectable and you use a condom, you are going to be just safe or even safer. With someone who says they are HIV Negative, unless they are providing you a very recent copy of their test results and you can verify their id against the information on the test results, you have no way of knowing if they are telling the truth. Sadly, most of the time, they respond with sorry I just can't do it with a Poz guy.

I recently downloaded Tinder, big mistake. I quickly deleted it after a guy messaged me and said "you should be like that Subway guy Jared and eat at Subway so you can lose weight." I was on for a while and had no success. I don't know where to meet people, it is very frustrating. At this point, I have been kicked so many times, that I am starting to give up. Just resigning myself to the fact that I probably won't ever be in a romantic relationship or even get laid. Fuck.

Monday, January 5, 2015

New blog post, new job, new medication

Eek ack wowza! It has been a year and half since I have written a blog post, way too long! This past July I was laid off, it was actually a good thing. I was hating my job and hating my manager, it was hard not to walk out with a smile. I started a new job in September, I am a Team Supervisor in a call centre. I have a lot of a call centre experience and managing/mentoring people is something I have wanted to do and have indirectly done in my past roles. In the four months I have been at the new job, it has been intense. A lot of things are broken, including staff from past poor management. There is a lot to fix and some days it has been overwhelming, but change is happening, slowly, but it is happening. We have a new Manager starting and I know her from one of my previous jobs and from what I remember she was amazing, so hopefully she still is!

Another big change is, I finally got in to see a Psychiatrist this past September. My doctor had referred me back in March 2014 and he finally followed up and they didn't get the original referral, so that is why it took so long to get in; better late than never. The Psychiatrist is the cutest little old man I have ever seen. He is shorter than me, I am 5 Feet 6 Inches, he wears these old style suits with a bow tie, I swear he must be in his 80's. I want to put him in my pocket. He had me fill out a bi-polar screening test, I selected yes to everything. He looked at it and said, you should not have been on Zoloft at all. I said that makes sense, a week before my episode back in February, my Zoloft dose was increased. He said that would do it.

He prescribed me 600 mg of lithium. I started taking it right away and had my blood taken a week later. I had my follow up appointment with him and he asked me how I was feeling. I told him I had never felt better. For over two years I had been going to my family doctor repeatedly complaining of severe fatigue. All I did was sleep, sleep and more sleep. I went from seeing my friends multiple times in a week, to once a week on the weekend. As soon as I started taking Lithium my energy levels were fixed, I told him I didn't nap once this past week. He was happy for me and also surprised that I was noticing a change so quickly.

He upped my dose to 900 mg a day to get the blood levels up to the therapeutic range. The next follow up appointment he said that my blood levels were in the therapeutic range and that we would stick with the 900 mg dose. He asked me if I was still feeling good and I said that I was. I let him know that my roommate, who is also one of my best friends, said she had noticed changes in me. My friend noticed that I was coming out of my room a lot more, I was more social with her and her husband. She also said that I was posting on Facebook much more and that it was quite funny, he gave me a weird look when I told him this. He was probably thinking what's a Facebook.

I went to my pharmacy to fill the prescription and the Pharmacist asked how the medication was going. I said really well, that I hadn't felt this energetic in such a long time. She looked at me concerned, and then I realized and said oh I mean normal amounts of energy, not too much energy haha. She laughed and said oh good, and she was really happy that the medication was working so well for me. I love my pharmacy, everyone who works there knows my name, they are always so friendly and genuinely care.

It has been a frustrating few years of trying different anti-depressants and having various doctors not take me seriously because I don't fit the DSM Manual criteria perfectly or because I am so self aware. Fingers crossed the Lithium continues to work for me, and a big hallelujah for finally getting to see a doctor who got me onto the correct medication.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Let's Take the Time to Educate

I just read the article "Transgendered Artist Arrested for Baring Breasts on Plane"

It frustrated me to read it. Two Transgendered women on a plane didn't like that a flight attendant said "You guy's have to teach us how to do our makeup, you know because you used to be guys right?" Nina Arsenault said they were provoked by the inappropriate questions.

Were the questions inappropriate? Absolutely. Was the best response to those questions to take off her top and strut down the aisle to purposely shock the fellow passengers and flight attendants? No I don't believe it was. The only purpose of that was shock value. It didn't teach anyone on that plane anything. If anything, those flight attendants that asked those questions, were probably put off and embarrassed and maybe afraid to interact with a transgendered person in the future. This action they took just further secluded themselves.

It would have been nice to read that they took the opportunity to educate the flight attendants. To tell them why it was inappropriate to ask those questions and phrase it in that manner. It would have been nice for them to encourage the flight attendants to do some research on the issues transgendered persons face everyday. But instead they chose to use shock value which takes away from their cause and makes it appear that they only did it to bring some attention to the fact they are artists. I'm not saying they have to be advocates. If they don't feel the need to be advocates for the cause that's fine, they could have simply said the questions you are asking are inappropriate and left it at that. If the flight attendants persisted they could have asked to speak to a manager when they got off the plane.

If someone said something inappropriate to me about being HIV Positive, such as "your dirty" I wouldn't strip naked and start rubbing myself with soap to prove I am clean. I would take the opportunity to educate in hopes of reducing the stigma around being HIV Positive. I hope people don't applaud these women for what they did, what they did was not positive.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

People Like Us... Were not alone!

Kelly Clarkson! Love her, she is great. I love that she stands up for Kelly Clarkson and Clive Davis. I love her music, her songs are great and she has amazing set of pipes. Her latest single is People Like Us. It's super catchy, I love belting it out while I'm driving.

The song got me thinking how it speaks on behalf of so many types of people. When I sing along to the song "People Like Us", I think about being HIV Positive and people like me. I think about my life and what I have been through and how it feels like this song was written for me. I am sure many people feel that way, it is amazing how a song can touch somebody. I love that a song can have such global appeal but feel so special, so personal for that one person.

In the song she sings:

Hey...everybody loses it
Everybody wants to throw it all away sometimes
And hey... and yeah I know what your going through
Don't let it get the best of you, you'll make it out alive

There have been many times where I have lost my shit. I haven't had the easiest life. I have written in past posts about be raped when I was twelve years old, my dad being alcoholic and angry, my mom never being around, having to raise myself, acting out sexually, dealing with bouts of major depression, wanting to kill myself, the list goes on. There were definitely times I wanted to throw it all away, but thankfully I didn't. It helped me to realize that there are other people out there that know what I am going through.

When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I googled like crazy. I came across the forums on I am so thankful for those forums. When I was scared, or curious, had questions I needed answered, there were amazing people on the forums willing to answer questions and provide advice. Sometimes it just helped to have someone say "I'm sorry that your going through this, I know how you feel." It helped me not feel alone. I sometimes think if it wasn't for contracting HIV, I wouldn't be alive. Contracting HIV was rock bottom for me. What did I do to myself? How could I let this happen? It made me realize I needed help, that I couldn't figure this out on my own. It allowed me to be honest with myself, which led me down the road to group therapy.

Group therapy was the scariest thing I have ever done and the best thing I ever done. It was a lot of hard work, there were many days I spent crying, wanting to give up. I didn't! I went to group therapy 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 4 months. I worked my ass off, I opened up to strangers, I gave it my all and it paid off. I am proud of myself.

She continues in the song:

People like us, we've got to stick together,
Keep your head up nothing lasts forever
Here's to the damned, to the lost and forgotten
It's hard to get high, when your living on the bottom

If you're feeling lonely, feeling like there is no one in the world can feel like you do having HIV, depression or any other disease, it's not true. There are other's like you, there are support groups, online forums, therapists and more. An important thing I learned is only I can change myself. My friends, my family can show me unconditional love, they can tell me how they just want me to be happy, that they will do anything to help me, but the thing is, that can only go so far. If you aren't willing to help yourself then how can others help you?

It's makes me sad and angry to think about the stigma that still surrounds HIV. When I was first diagnosed I felt dirty, tainted. I felt like no one would want me. That's not true, there are wonderful people out there, you just need to put in the effort and time to find them and weed out the bad ones and hopefully educate along the way. Don't get me wrong, I have come along way, I am not perfect. I have my days still when I feel down, but group therapy allowed me to be honest with myself, which has allowed me to be honest with those close to me. I am able to talk my issues out most of the time, which allows me to get out my depression quicker.

The next time your feeling alone, feeling damned and forgotten, throw some People Like Us on, belt it out and remember your not alone!