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Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Even Harder Coming Out

Happy Pride 2012
Thanks to a dear friend I've been sitting here in one of the first three cities to hold the first gay pride parade, in this city San Francisco it was a referred to a the gay sit in. So thanks Virgil for this trip which inspired this article about Coming out, not once, not twice, but for a third time.

Coming out or coming out of the closet is a gay persons right of passage, their journey, their choice to no longer feel the need to keep their sexuality private.  For me it was on Mt. Katahdin, located in Maine. I was a freshman at Unity College and my lesbian cousin drove up to visit me and she popped the question, she was the first person I told, the year was 1978.

My next coming outs plural was in 1996 when I diagnosed HIV positive and also Bipolar, the first one that hit me the hardest was human immunodeficiency virus infection , HIV.  I felt stained, I myself was unable to reach out for help at first as I was crippled, I stayed indoors for close to two months, minus the treatments I would go for, labs (blood work) to see how weak or how healthy my immune system was. I'm happy to say that thanks to new class of medications I've been healthy, good numbers, but the trauma of all this and the stigma of it all set me back.

You see I was a volunteer in the gay community around AIDS, HIV as a negative gay man.   So I've asked it, and I'm sure others ask it, if I/he volunteered in his community on prevention, on a help line, fundraising for AIDS walks and later AIDS rides, then how did I/he contract the HIV virus, the answer was the other diagnoses of Bipolar-manic depression

All my life I felt different, I felt charged, lots of energy, required little sleep, able to do so many things at once, and then I would crash into a wall and into a deep depression and not knowing why, and not on the medications I'm on today, I was self-medicating  due to psychological trauma that I got addicted to drugs and in that time period I contracted the HIV virus.

This isn't the same journey for everyone but for myself it was mine and I went back to connect all the pieces which brought me to my third and even harder coming out, that being an out spoken Consumer Advocate for both HIV and Mental Illness.  It's my choice, it's easy when writing, when speaking out, but it is very hard do to the double stigma from the very community I've embraced and continue to embrace, my community, the Gay Community.

So yes coming out a third time is the even harder coming out for me and I'm certain for many others living with HIV as today one in five HIV+ person is dealing with depression or like me a mental illness.  I'm the lowest in the hierarchy of the GLBT community, but it's progressing like everything else in the gay community, gay liberation, AIDS/HIV and the very much needed activism that opened the doors for generations down the road like me who are living with HIV/AIDS and today as I write this, 49 GLBT Community Centers offer Mental Health short-term care, support groups, and it's getting better as very soon in Manhattan long term mental health care will be offered, a trend I predict will continue as there is a need.

P2P, you are not alone, me the Bi Polar Bear wishes every one a very Happy Gay Pride.  I can be found wearing my Bi Polar Bear T-shirt (seen on my homepage) tomorrow at the San Francisco Pride Parade/March. 

Additional Resources:

NAMI-GLBT

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

CDC on Mental Health and MSM


Monday, June 11, 2012

Returning to work part-time, Social Security Disability Insurance

Quick, without thinking too hard, answer this yes-or-no question: If you were faced with an unexpected $2,000 emergency expense in the next 30 days like a medical or dental bill -- could you come up with the money to cover it?
 Findings of a recent survey by the National Bureau of Economic Research, about half of you answered no.

Okay so what does this have to do with HIV or Depression / Mental Illness. this entry addresses those who are living on a fixed income, yes people with HIV are living longer, a good thing, but are you saving money? 

When I diagnosed I'm sorry but I wasn't thinking retirement, if you are HIV+, working, have good company insurance then I'm hoping that 50% of you, or greater who may not  have families have assets so you  could cover a $2,000 emergency expense. 

For those unable to work due to a disability like Bipolar or another mental illness classification, the message to you is possible and this is how:

Returning to work part-time, if you are living on Social Security Disability Insurance and are able to work part-time please know you can, just don't exceed a few hundred dollars per month, but please test the waters first by volunteering, see if you can handle, identify what works and what does not. Maybe you can only work 10 hours a week, well the extra money and the returning to work--a bigger plus as it will get you out of the doom and gloom feelings you may be experiencing.


Volunteering is a foot in the door, once you are in, able to show up 4 hours a week, let it be known that you would be interested in working part-time.  They would be inclined to hire you as you have on the job training.  Be careful who you disclose to, use your judgement, especially if you are volunteering with the hopes of picking up a part-time job.   Once hired you can let your hair down.

Work with your case worker where you receive your medical care, discuss it with your therapist, also read the latest on returning to work at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/redbook/eng/returning-to-work.htm.


More on personal finance, SSDI, savings and inheritance on my next post.