Peer to Peer, the writings of a Consumer Advocate for both LGBT mental health and HIV/AIDS issues since 2004.
Please visit my homepage at www.bipolarbear.us valuable resources on HIV and Mental Illness
Wow, long day full of both volunteering, working, just getting home reflecting on how all day I was raising awareness with everyone I talked with.
My day started at 10:00 am training to seniors computer skills, wearing my AIDS Life Cycle hoodie, with the large ORANGE AIDS CREST so all knew, this day is a special one. The day continue as I switched hats volunteering as one of four servers at a Frank Sinatra Luncheon that started at 11:45 and ended at 2:00 PM. All my neighbors, you see I live alone, but am am seldom alone, thanks to both my job and my volunteering.
Today we served 85 lunches to seniors, all knowing of my HIV and Bipolar diagnoses, as these are my neighbors. Several have lost Nephews to AIDS, other always thankful of what I do and in that process comes the education and awareness of World AIDS Day today, but year round on HIV and Bipolar, the reason we are neighbors as I live in HUD housing. Awesome feeling to be welcomed, no stigma what so ever at 500-550 Gorge Road, nor all of Cliffside Park as they now me, and the work I do.
Wearing Red and Green in the image is special project 2015-2016, sequel to my POZ Op-Editorial on those of us, 20-25% of the 1.2 Million living with HIV-AIDS who are also diagnosed with a chronic mental illness, for me it's Bi Polar Bear Consumer Advocate Peer Specialist.
Through out my day all my POZ friends, all aging with HIV touched base by text, by calls, many sharing about new jobs, new partners, just sharing and reflecting, happy to be growing older together.
Before I end how I spent World AIDS Day 2015 I thought I'd share this song by Michael Jackson, "You are Not Alone" for any of you living with HIV-AIDS and or Bipolar or depression who celebrated in their own way, but alone. Know you are never alone.
Examining Our Challenges, Healing for Our Strengths
Thursday, October 8, 2015
First Conference for LGBT People of Color on Mental Health and was I happy to be in attendance, see some familiar faces and meet many new ones, especially younger LGBT people, or what I like to think up and coming community activist, all with a story to share, all with big hearts full of compassion. I was happy at age 56 to be among them.
Half way through the article it started to address, "today more people are living with HIV than ever before, but socioeconomic factors like poverty, discrimination, stigma and homophobia can limit access to health care. They serve to discourage individuals from seeking HIV testing and treatment. Additionally, language barriers and concerns about immigration status present additional barriers to accessing care, treatment and prevention services. In part, due to social and economic challenges including discrimination, communities of color have higher rates of HIV. The African-American community faces the most severe burden — though only 14 percent of the population nationwide, 41 percent of people living with HIV are African-American. Latinos — 17 percent of the U.S. population — account for 21 percent of the new HIV infections."
This pulled me in as it reminded me of the October 8, 2015 conference on LGBT people of color, and more recently, during one of my own story telling sessions sponsored by The Urban Justice Center's, Mental Health Project's Open Mic Night. I speak about my bumpy road to recovery, my dual diagnoses of Bipolar and HIV both at the same time and also my substance abuse recovery, recoveries plural.
I end my story telling session by handing out my card, which has on it, If I Can Talk About Mental Illness, So Can You and then my email address firstname.lastname@example.org
In my inbox, I'm changing name to protect the privacy as not everyone is outspoken like me, also I touch on that, that it's no ones business unless you want to share your story. The email started, with thank you for sharing your story, it went on to say they to have a mental health diagnoses, that Spanish was their first language, and that they were gay, and had questions on safe sex, at which time I shared resources on PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis ).
Story telling is a joy to me, sharing resources, looking up helpful links, all of what I do is self-help, it's how I educated myself , as education diminishes fear, also found on my card,
So back to the conference of LGBT people of color, to the article by Alberto Cortes and my own personal account, I know first hand about minorities and poverty and how it can prevent you from all services, HIV and mental health.
Next Tuesday, December 1st is World's AIDS's Day, on Wednesday, December 2nd, I will be on hand attending: For More Information and to RSVP call 718-802-3530
Although never homeless, I did experience being told to get out being shouted at me when I was 21 by my dad who was just angry, the news daily was on AIDS and here I was coming out, thanks to mom who spoke up I remained.
Today I see many homeless people, not just homeless veterans, but younger people, with signs about being HIV+ and homeless, and although I wasn't HIV+ when my ordeal happened, I could easily see it happening and although not a remedy to these young homeless people I do what I can, which is giving them half of my lunch, water in the warmer months and hot beverage in the colder months.
Homelessness dates back as 1640, fast forward 1980's, 1981 the beginning of the National Coalition of the Homeless and my shining light on LGBT youth who are homeless, that and donating when I can, as I'm a resident in HUD housing and know the importance of permanent housing is to my own mental illness and substance abuse recoveries, as to tackle these one needs a safe place to live.
20% of homeless youth are LGBT. In comparison, the general youth population is only 10% LGBT.
While homeless youth typically experience
severe family conflict as the primary reason for their
homelessness, LGBT youth are twice as likely to experience sexual
abuse before the age of 12.
LGBT youth, once homeless, are at higher risk
for victimization, mental health problems, and unsafe sexual
practices. 58.7% of LGBT homeless youth have been sexually
victimized compared to 33.4% of heterosexual homeless youth
LGBT youth are roughly 7.4 times more likely to experience acts of sexual violence than heterosexual homeless youth
LGBT homeless youth commit suicide at higher rates (62%) than heterosexual homeless youth (29%)
There's less then a dozen non-profits in the USA today, mostly on the West Coast and East Cost, today I'm putting a donation in the mail to The Ali Forney Center, and writing this small piece raising awareness and to also ask you to donate through their website www.aliforneycenter.org
or by mailing a check payable to; The Ali Forney Center
and mail to:
224 West 35th Street, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Reprint with permission of BP HOPE November 5, 2015
Pets & Bipolar: Friends with benefits
Dogs — and cats, birds and other critters — boost well-being in many ways. Not least is how animal companions help us cope with stress.
By Elizabeth Forbes
Whoever coined the phrase “man’s best friend” was on to something. Dogs—and cats and birds and other critters—have well-documented properties for boosting our well-being.
When psychologists from Miami University in Ohio and Saint Louis University in Missouri compared pet owners to people who did not own a pet in three different studies, people with pets scored higher on self-esteem, were more physically fit, and tended to be less lonely, less fearful and less preoccupied.
One of the experiments showed that thinking about a beloved pet is as effective as thinking about a human friend in helping someone feel better after experiencing rejection. In fact, research shows that the bond people have with their dog can be as strong as the bond with their closest relative.
“A third were closer to the pet dog than to any human family member,” says Sandra Baker, PhD, who co-authored that study. “Wherever I speak around the world, dog owners aren’t surprised by that.”
Barker is director of The Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, where she holds a named chair in psychiatry. She’s been involved in a body of research documenting the power of even 15 minutes with a therapy dog in cutting levels of stress, anxiety and fear for both psychiatric inpatients and hospital staff.
That reduced stress response, whether with therapy dogs in health care settings or pet owners “in the wild,” has been documented across a range of physiological measures, including brain waves, blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.”
That unconditional sense of love gives people a sense of hope that they can persevere.
Aubrey Fine, PhD, editor of the Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy and author of several books on the benefits of human-animal ties, notes that dogs are very attuned to nonverbal behavior and therefore responsive to emotional distress.
In his most recent book, Our Faithful Companions, he writes about how the comforting attachment of a golden retriever named Magic helped his wife through breast cancer. Like many people who study or have companion animals, Fine talks about the emotional boost from a dog’s faithful devotion—the excitement on seeing you, the total acceptance without judgment.
“That unconditional sense of love gives people a sense of hope that they can persevere,” says Fine, a professor at California State Polytechnic University-Pomona. “I remember my wife said, probably a couple months post-treatment, ‘Magic is the hope that I need to get on to the next day.’“
Cats and dogs don’t have exclusive bragging rights, though. Fine first got intrigued by “pet power” in the 1970s when he saw how children he was treating responded to a gerbil named Sasha. Clients in his private practice engage with his cockatoos and other birds, and even his bearded dragon (a type of lizard).support-someone-with-bipolar
“Fish are very relaxing,” he adds, referring to research that shows watching fish tanks decreases stress hormones.
A goldfish in the cardiac unit was the catalyst for People-Animal Connection, a volunteer program based at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. “People noticed that it had an effect not just on the patients, but on the staff as well,” explains program coordinator Stephen Goldstein.
Now People-Animal Connection has therapy dog-and-owner pairs visiting almost every unit of the hospital, including the psychiatric institution. The organization also arranges for people to spend time with their own pets, which combats loneliness and raises spirits.
“Words can’t quite describe the effect,” muses Goldstein. “The dogs provide something that medicine cannot.”
For his part, Goldstein has a cat waiting in his condo when he gets home after work. He finds solace in stroking Athena’s fur.
“There’s scientific evidence that petting, whether a cat or a dog, reduces blood pressure,” he explains.
However, getting a pet isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Some of us just aren’t “animal people.” Others may have issues with health, time, money, or housing that make having a pet problematic.
“We can’t make a blanket recommendation that everyone should get a dog. It really depends on the family’s circumstances and their ability to care for the animal,” notes Megan Mueller, PhD, a research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.
She also points out that the emotional benefits of animal companionship depend on the quality of the connection between human and animal. In one recent study of children in military families, she found a deep attachment to the family pet is associated with greater resilience when a parent was deployed—“an acute stressor,” she says. The simple presence of an animal in the home wasn’t as important as “what kind of relationship someone has with a pet,” Mueller says.
The deeper the bond, however, the more painful it can be when it’s broken. When we invited readers to share the ways companion animals add to their well-being, several alluded to the destabilizing effects of losing a beloved companion. As with so many triggers, having a coping plan in place can moderate the fallout.
“Most people are surprised and shocked by how intensely they feel grief after the loss of a pet,” says Barker, who is known for her work in supporting bereaved owners. “Pets don’t live as long as humans do. It’s important to remember that and prepare as the pet ages.”
She suggests thinking in advance about ways to commemorate the pet, such as planting a tree or writing a poem.
Of course, we also received many heartfelt and heart-warming accounts of how animals contribute to our lives. We present some of those stories here.
"It is with great sadness that we recognize the passing of Dr. Beny Primm, a stalwart leader in our national response to HIV from the earliest days of the epidemic. Dr. Primm died on October 16, after a long battle with kidney disease. His legacy in both substance abuse treatment and HIV/AIDS is profound and will continue to have a positive impact on our responses to both of these issues for years to come.:
Biologist and sex researcher Alfred Kinsey published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Kinsey concludes that homosexual behavior is not restricted to people who identify themselves as homosexual and that 37% of men have enjoyed homosexual activities at least once. While psychologists and psychiatrists in the 1940's consider homosexuality a form of illness, the findings surprise many conservative notions about sexuality."
"With Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) just concluded, I wanted to share highlights of the awards made under the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF), which are supporting many activities that will unfold during FY16. A total of $52.2 million was awarded to support 31 initiatives across 10 HHS Operating Divisions (OpDivs) and Staff Offices to prevent new HIV infections and reduce drop-offs along the HIV care continuum for racial and ethnic minorities who bear a disproportionate burden of HIV disease."
Soutce: Ashton P. Woods From TheBody.com October 6, 2015
"The importance of a gathering like the Positive Living Conference, and many others like it, is that a safe space is established for people to be more than their HIV status. The Positive Living Conference -- which happens each year in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., and took place from September 18-20 this year -- is the largest gathering of people living with HIV in the U.S. When safe spaces are created, the true humanity of participants can be seen. In seeing that humanity, many of the problems in relation to being HIV positive are exposed."
Source: The Goodman Project: October 1, 2015: By Sean Swaby
"Claim your crazy. Your mental health may be stronger when you struggle.
"Stigma is never a good thing. We do it with race, gender, sexuality, religion, and mental health. Go ahead, tell your friends and coworkers that you are crazy. At first they will laugh and then they will ignore it (and maybe even you). That is how stigma works.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. To help others their mental illness, he created the Brandon Marshall Foundation. He compares the stigma of mental health with cancer and HIV."
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF BP HOPE MAGAZINE October 13, 2015
Learn more about bipolar depression, including strategies that challenge lethargy—like the “good enough” theory and word choices that can help you build momentum and get yourself unstuck.
By Robin L. Flanigan
When he’s feeling low and the couch is the only place he wants to be, Jim might choose to work on his motorcycle or take a walk with his wife, children and dogs.
Distracting himself with tasks that require physical movement has been a critical tool for dealing with bipolar depression.
“I can’t emphasize too much that it’s a very difficult thing to do,” Jim says of resisting the pervasive lethargy, “but I can feel the mood lifting. By the time I’m finished, the depression is not nearly as deep or dark. … It’s not a cure, but it does reduce the suffering.”
The Indiana resident taps into a list of coping skills he first learned in therapy during a five-month depressive episode in 2001—an episode that eventually led to his bipolar I diagnosis.
Bipolar is actually much easier to diagnose during manic episodes, since behaviors like talking unusually fast, taking on multiple new projects, and plunging into risky activities tend to catch the eye. Without an obvious “up” to clue in clinicians, the down side of bipolar mood swings—with symptoms like dragging slowness of brain and body, social withdrawal, and hopelessness—often gets (mis)treated as major depressive disorder.
Bipolar-Depression Part of the problem is that individuals who have bipolar disorder spend, on average, far more time in depressive states than in elevated ones. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego calculated the ratio of time that people with bipolar II spend in depression versus hypomania at 40:1. Even in bipolar I, they found, the depression-to-mania ratio is 3:1.
There are individual variations, of course. There are people whose mood tends to swing upward more often than down, or who begin to have severe depressions only as they get older. Others rarely feel the bump of an elevated state. When episodes follow a seasonal pattern, depression can set in this time of year and not lift entirely until spring arrives.
Though it’s often overshadowed by mania’s expansiveness, bipolar depression can create a heavy burden of disability. Whether it’s characterized by bone-deep fatigue or agitation, apathy or irritability, insomnia or oversleeping, the “black dog” (as Winston Churchill famously dubbed his depression) takes a toll on family life and social relationships, makes it difficult to keep up with work and school responsibilities, and slices away at the pleasures that enrich existence.
Jim takes pride in what he is able to accomplish in the face of bipolar depressions marked by lassitude and trouble concentrating. After being on disability for years, the 53-year-old has decided to return to school and work toward a new career as a certified medical assistant. (One of the draws: The job should be much less stressful than his former position as a computer system administrator.)
Jim expects the two-year degree will take at least six years to complete as he manages his bipolar along with his studies, and he’s fine with that.
“Having a purpose in life will get you up in the morning,” says Jim, who is also active in the National Alliance on Mental Illness and facilitates support groups on occasion. “Instead of sleeping, I go to class and study. I just decided that I was going to have a life that continually improves.”
Starting from zero
Once the smothering blanket of bipolar depression drops, it often seems as if nothing will lift the gloom. That’s when accomplishing any action, as tough as it may be to do and as seemingly useless as it may feel, makes all the difference.
Trapped in a cycle of bipolar depression, Joe of New Jersey had barely left his house in nearly two weeks. He’d ventured out only for weekly therapy appointments and a trip to the library.
His therapist explained how increased activity of any kind creates momentum for more activity, and how over time that decreases depressive symptoms and aids the return to a normal routine. So Joe decided on a trip to the beach.
“I had a very small goal, to get out to the ocean and put my feet in the water,” the 34-year-old recalls.
He got a slow start, walking out the door three hours later than he’d planned. He took two buses to get to a free beach an hour away. He reached the boardwalk, looked out over the ocean … and turned around.
He lives on a fixed income, so thinking about the money he was spending for the bus ride made him feel guilty. Then he started thinking about how he overspends when he’s showing manic tendencies.
“That made me feel bad and I didn’t want to be there anymore,” he admits.
Joe may not have felt the sand between his toes after all, but he does consider the trip a launching point.
“It was a baby step,” he says. “I accomplished something today, and maybe tomorrow I’ll accomplish something a little more.”
That pretty much defines the “good enough” theory—the idea that you don’t have to go all out on a goal right out of the gate.
“You want to get out of the depression, but you want to do it piece by piece, little by little,” explains Washington, D.C.-area therapist Kathleen McNulty, LCSW.
Practically speaking, she explains, that might look like this: Instead of going on a hike, walk around the block. Instead of starting a garden plot, buy a basil plant. If you’re too depressed to brush your teeth, put water with dental rinse into a spray bottle.
“The more you pile up those ‘good enough’ experiences, the faster you’ll find yourself in the flow of day-to-day life and coming out of the depression,” McNulty says.
Taking the reins
When her psychologist told Amy she was reverting to a childlike state of avoidance, she was initially both embarrassed and offended. But that insight was a breakthrough for Amy, who says talk therapy plus medication helped usher her out of a depression that lasted about 18 months.
Amy, who lives in British Columbia, saw that she hadn’t been taking the time to deal with stressful situations in her personal life and on the job.
“I was encouraged by his explanation because I saw that I had a choice,” recalls Amy, 37. “I was like, ‘Suck it up, cowgirl!’
“You really do have to decide to put yourself in a different head space. And you can’t do that unless you’re getting medical support. It has to be a package.”
According to Virginia therapist Ted Petrocci, LPC, the best way to get into that better head space is to recognize and accept what is—and is not—within your control in this world. “And most of it is not,” he adds.
To promote recovery, focus on what you can control. Something as simple as switching up your vocabulary can be surprisingly powerful in shifting your perspective.
Bipolar-Realtionships“Absolute” words such as “must,” “should,” “always,” and “never”—as in: “I will never get better,” or, “My life will always be like this”— can keep you trapped in a place where you feel powerless to change, Petrocci points out.
“These kind of words are reflective of your belief system and affect how you emotionally respond,” Petrocci explains. “They set your body and mind in motion and contribute more to the helplessness.”
Whereas “should” sets us up for failure, “could” implies we have options.
Transitioning to a lexicon with fewer boundaries can take a while, Petrocci says. After all, ingrained patterns of thinking have developed over years. He suggests writing down one or two “absolute” watchwords in the morning and then checking in with yourself at different points throughout the day to see how often you’ve used them.
“The more we practice something, the better we get at it,” he notes.
It’s important to remember that looking for areas where you can take charge doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. Sometimes the truest sign of strength is letting others lend a hand—or a bit of encouragement, if nothing else.
Marisa of Quebec, 29, volunteers as an online content manager for Stigma Fighters Canada. During a months-long depressive episode that required a leave of absence from her fast-paced job in media relations, she turned to the peer organization’s online support group as well as to her therapist, who was willing to correspond via email between sessions.
“My husband, my friends and my therapist are kind of like the buoys in the ocean,” says Marisa, who blogs abut mental health at Mad Girl’s Lament. “They keep me oriented and help me know that I’m not going to be lost at sea forever.”
Tips from the trenches
Recovering from bipolar depression is a team effort. You should work with your prescribing physician to adjust current medications or consider some of the other meds that target bipolar depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy and other psychotherapeutic approaches can be crucial in addressing underlying issues and patterns that fuel depressive episodes.
Peer support— encouragement and insight from others who’ve been where you are—often helps, too. Here’s a sampling of advice from those with experience:
Accept where you are. “Don’t let yourself feel guilty for not being able to take a shower,” notes Amy of British Columbia. “You need to remember that you can be happy. Let [the depression] ride and know that it will pass as long as you get help.”
Hold on to hope. Faith that things will get better keeps you moving forward. Buffeted by persisting bipolar depression, Joe of New Jersey didn’t give up even when he was homeless for two months earlier this year. “You may have to look very hard for hope, and you may need a magnifying glass to find it,” he says, “but it’s there somewhere.”
Stay connected. Meghan of Arizona has gotten better at letting people know when she needs their company – even if it’s over the phone. “Some days, when it’s really easy to isolate myself, I make sure to call at least one person,” she says. “I’ll say I’m not feeling well and just want to talk to someone, or just listen to someone talk. It makes me feel like I’m not sitting here all by myself.”
Which depression is which?
In recent years, the field of psychiatry has come to recognize how serious the depressive phase of bipolar disorder can be. The challenge now is how to distinguish bipolar depression from “unipolar” depression more quickly in order to treat it more effectively.
The spectrum of depressive and bipolar disorders are grouped as “mood disorders” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Clinicians use a set of symptoms (known as criteria) to diagnose major depressive disorder—and the same criteria for depressive episodes in bipolar disorder.
If someone seeks help for depression, therefore, arriving at a correct bipolar diagnosis typically relies on probing for past occurrences of hypomania or mania—which tends to be more successful when a partner or other close relative comes along to share observations—and sifting family history for relatives with bipolar.
Research has yielded some other possible clues, but they’re far from clear-cut. When depressions arise early in life or in connection with pregnancy, there’s a higher likelihood that they’ll turn out to be part of a bipolar disorder. Psychotic symptoms are another strong marker, says James Phelps, M.D., a national expert on bipolar disorder and a staff psychiatrist at Samaritan Mental Health-Corvallis in Oregon.
Some early evidence suggests that “atypical” depressive symptoms—oversleeping instead of insomnia, overeating rather than loss of appetite, increased sensitivity to rejection—may be more typical in bipolar.
Bipolar depression often proves more resistant to treatment, especially when standard antidepressants are prescribed due to misdiagnosis. In some cases, taking an antidepressant alone (without a mood stabilizer) triggers a switch to hypomania or mania, leads to more rapid cycling of mood episodes, or results in a “mixed” state when depressive and manic symptoms occur simultaneously.
In the misty future, bipolar may be diagnosed based on physiological markers that can be quickly seen in the blood or brain. In one project, scientists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota are collecting DNA samples, blood tests, brain scans, and other clinical data in an effort to find bio markers that identify bipolar depression versus major depression. Neuroimaging studies at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and elsewhere are seeking the same elusive goal.
A small study by Chinese researchers, published online July 14 in the Journal of Proteome Research, reported promising results based on variations in metabolites found in the urine of people with the different diagnoses.
At the same time, however, some studies have identified genetic interrelationships among the major mental disorders. That’s more in line with a new model for psychiatric research that encourages an overarching “dimensional approach”—giving weight to the array and severity of an individual’s symptoms instead of adhering strictly to diagnostic categories.
“By using a dimensional lens, as well as the DSM lens, we can see the full spectrum of depression’s variations,” explains Phelps. “This is a tidal wave shift in the diagnostic process.”
Robin L. Flanigan is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in People magazine, US Airways Magazine and other national and regional publications. She lives in Rochester, New York.
"KING OF PRUSSIA, PA--(Marketwired - October 07, 2015) - The image of staid psychiatrists trying their best to help their patients find a solution to their mental health concerns without the benefit of the latest technology is becoming as outdated as the slide rule. Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct. 4-10 and World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10 provide important opportunities to share the latest about advancements revolutionizing patient care."
Mental Illness Awareness Week declared in Manitowoc
"The National Alliance on Mental Illness held a candlelight vigil at Lakeshore United Methodist Church Monday, Oct. 5, to kick off the week. Barbara Stohl, LCSW of Phoenix Behavioral Health, spoke on “Mindfulness.”
"In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week in recognition of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness.
This year, the theme is “I am Stigma Free.” Being stigma free means learning about and educating others on mental illness, focusing on connecting with people to see each other as individuals and not a diagnosis, and most importantly, taking action on mental health issues."
During the first full week of October, NAMI and participants across the country are bringing awareness to mental illness. Each year we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care. Each year, the movement grows stronger.
We believe that these issues are important to address year round, but highlighting these issues during Mental Illness Awareness Week provides a time for people to come together and display the passion and strength of those working to improve the lives of the tens of millions of Americans affected by mental illness.
If you or someone you know may need a mental health assessment, anonymous online tools are available. Learn more and help yourself or someone you care about."
By Stephen Karpiak Ph.D., Meredith Greene, M.D., and Richard Havlik, M.D.
From AIDS Community Research Initiative of America
"Although we are seeing new HIV infections in people over 50, the main reason for the rising number of older adults with HIV is better HIV medications. In 1985, a 20-year-old with AIDS might expect to live only to age 22. Today, that 20-year-old can look forward to an almost normal lifespan. This year, half of those living with HIV in the U.S. will be over 50. By 2020, that number may rise to 70%."
“Strut is a revolutionary new model for San Francisco and one that addresses a clear need—I expect that we will get between a third and half of gay and bisexual men in San Francisco coming through the doors of Strut in the very first year,” said Tim Patriarca, executive director of Strut. “Co-locating our services in a beautiful, larger, central community space will help us serve even more people with the sexual health, substance use,mental health and community programs we are known for. With the opening of Strut, we absolutely have the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of so many people in our community.”
This image is that of a person in a choke hold. Although no one has
hurt me in this fashion, there have been more days in bed from
depression this year, then in all the years I'm living with
substance(s) abuse and mental health and multiple traumas that stem back 50 years, age 6
to be exact, a young boy.
Could it have gotten worse, yes.
Has it gotten better, yes, but it took reliving some of that trauma. Why did I go there,? Know it was out of desperation as I'm an aging gay man--dual diagnosed with both HIV and Bipolar disorder, experiencing real fears of life alone, as with age comes hospitalization, and tests that I have put off for the last two years, possible dementia, as I'm experiencing some of the symptoms of HIV-AIDS Neurological Disorder.
The question, does depression and substance abuse still haunt me, well the depression
does, the loneliness does, and today I'm clean, the secret, old fashion, pick up the phone and talk to each other, talk therapy OMG, can it be that simple, yes.
Thank you Noah who I just hung up the phone, another friend, we call them chapters, when I call him, thank you Marc for each time you talk with me, for each time you don't judge me, for having you into your home, trusting me. Thank you Virgil who I met on my first ALC ride in 2006, your texts, Skype calls, friendship.
I love my friends who get it, who do call, as talk therapy is what's missing today. That and eye contact, no one looks at each other. You wonder why massage therapy and chiropractors are booming, every one's necks are extended down.
I'm clean today, thanks to me, thanks to those mentioned above, and others. I'm alive today drawing on all that I have taught myself, read in self help books, trying all that is available to those seeking recovery.
Is all of this manageable? The answer, yes, as I have staved off death multiple times now.
For all of you who know me, those of you a handful who are part of my
story of drug use, and those who don't know me that well, those from
ALC and Braking the Cycle AIDS rides who may live with what I got. The choke hold is no more, you all know now .how deep the roots go. Not even my family, my brother, cousins, nieces and
nephews didn't know what I just revealed here today,, except two. Thank You Jan and Peggy.
Many people have gotten me here, more then you can imagine, I've never judged, nor should you, as that's the root of stigma and multiple stigma's, words that didn't exist when I was a boy of 6, if they did I didn't know them, but I experience first hand, being alone, being alienated, being different, not fitting in.
Above where I say, "many people have gotten me here, more then you can imagine."and that I never judged, know that I'm talking about substance abuse. Substance abuse is an illness, and like any illness, people are inflicted, I'm inflicted, we have family, friends, from all walks of life. Don't judge us, show compassion. Look up from our devices, look at those who don't have them and wonder why, what's their story. what's yours?
Do me a favor after reading this, reach out and touch someone, talk therapy is key, it helped me, continues to help me a consumer of HIV-AIDS, Bipolar and Substance Abuse, Also, if you are like me, a consumer you to need to reach out, ask a friends to call you, especially if you are alone like me.
Deanna Troust, my Mentor , I'm so happy I decided to go back be honest and not drop out.
Thanks to all of the 2012-2013 Voice Awards Fellows who support me and inspire me,. Story Telling is the best therapy, I think you all would agree,
Thanks to Jeff Bell Co-Founder of the A2A Alliance, and all the Advocates, some I know personally, others I've had the pleasure to listen to, and many others I look forward to meeting at our first conference.
I recently attended a one day conference presented by Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey, www.cspnj.org , and the Institute for Wellness and Recovery Initiatives, www.welltacc.org
living in New Jersey with a mental illness I never new both these
existed and was happy that this year I was able to attend via my 2012-13 Voice Award Fellowship.
Before the conference I experienced most of the eight in the diagram but
never understood the over all connection. One of the questions on the
"2013 Wellness Conference Evaluation form," 2. Name 3 ways in which you
will apply what you have learned from this conference in your life and
or work." One of my responses was to add it to my blog and share it with
Emotional, "Coping effectively with and creating satisfying relationships."
Intellectual, "Recognizing creative abilities and finding ways to expand knowledge and skills."
Physical, "Recognizing the need for physical activity, diet, sleep and nutrition."
Social, "Developing a sense of connection, belonging and well-developed support system."
Environmental, "Good health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that support well-being."
Financial, "Satisfaction with current and future financial situations."
Spiritual, "Expanding our sense of purpose and meaning in life."
"Million Hearts™ is a national initiative to prevent 1 million heart
attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts™ brings together
communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies,
and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart
disease and stroke."
SAMHSA's Wellness Initiative
"Through its Wellness Initiative, SAMHSA pledges to promote wellness for
people with mental and substance use disorders by motivating
individuals, organizations, and communities to take action and work
toward improved quality of life, cardiovascular health, and decreased
early mortality rates.
* Source Peggy Swarbrick (2006). A Wellness approach, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 29(4), 3311-3314"
Mentally Ill Consumer Finds Lost and Return $450 to JP Morgan Chase
Open Letter to my Readers:
August 6, 2015
Mr. Eric Timmerman - Media Relations
JP Morgan Chase & Company
270 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017-2070
This started Sunday, August 2, 2015. I put in my card, no pin and out comes $450 (4 $50's and 10 $20 bills), this is at 111 8th Avenue, NY, NY 10011. I asked for a simple letter that I'm there and that I'm here to do the right thing. I was told no such letter can be given, I said may I have your card and I gave her my card. "I said I'm now going to hold the money, the Assistant Branch Manager response to my amazement, "Its like you weren't even here."
I head out, find a larger Chase and ask if there is a Vice President and I had pretty much the same conversation, I asked what's the policy if no one claims the funds. At this point its about two hours of my day. I met with Vice President-Branch Manager at 230 Park Avenue South.
Again I like, I'm not giving this money, but along as I live with bipolar 1, as a child my parents always telling me never to steal, so I turn around, give $430 and said, "today $20 Chase is buying me lunch, it's been almost two hours of my time. I also added, "you have my card, if the customer steps forward, contact me and I will return the lunch money.
Sir, I'm disabled, trust me, to find $450 and making the decision to do the right thing was very hard, but I did.
On 8-4-15, I was told they are still looking into and as of 8/6 still no call, I did after writing this letter receive email that they found someone who made deposit, my reply is deposits you put money in, to find money in the dispenser where the cash comes out makes no sense.
As a bipolar Consumer Advocate, I then say lets ask Chase to spin a positive story as the media is always quick to do negative stories on people who are mentally ill.
Sir, I'm asking not for myself, but for two charities, $225 for AIDS/HIV and $225 for Mental Health be presented to my by the Vice President-Branch Manager from the 230 Park Avenue South Branch in Manhattan, along with a photo as I want to wrap up the day and make this a Positive Blog Story for my Blog, found on my websitewww.bipolarbear.us ,my contact information is at the bottom, as are my accolades. Please visit my PRESS page, nothing would make me happier then to see a story...PRESS Release from JP Morgan Chase sharing my story, showing two checks handed to a man living with bipolar and HIV who wanted to do the right thing.
I found JP Morgan Code of Conduct slogan, "It Begins With Me,a" I hope this is you.
Thank you for your attention on my story. If I can speak about mental Illness, so can chase.
I'm not feeling suicidal, this is true story of my fascination as a 56 year old man living with bipolar, keeping up with technology and sharing with you. If I can speak about mental illness, so can you.
I recently purchased an I-phone 6 plus. Like all new smart phones I was quick to learn, using You Tube how to videos. The one I found amazing was on Siri. Like the instructor said you can ask "Siri," almost anything, for me one day I said, Siri, I'm feeling suicidal and to my amazement, this is what I got, not once, not twice, but several times asking me would you like me to call, "If you are thinking about suicide, you may want to speak to someone at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are at 1-800- 273-8255, Shall I call them for you NO or YES.
As someone who lives alone, lives with bipolar disorder, just hearing a voice was as a very positive experience and of course I said, "No Siri, I'm fine, thank you, and Siri said OK.
credits: The Goodman Project
This is the topic of today, smart phones, Siri from Apple and many other, apps. So I did a search on other apps and found, the following which I will list the links below each.
So why do I still feel isolated from my Queer Community
From SAMHSA's: Leading Change A plan for SAMHSA's roles and Actions 2011 - 2014.
"Recovery is a unique journey for each individual, and each person in recovery must choose the range of services and supports ranging from clinical treatment to peer services. To facilitate resilience, recovery, and social inclusion, persons with mental health and substance abuse use disorders will also need to receive treatment for their co-occurring health problems. Access to services must be paired with shared decision-making process between people in recovery and providers to determine how best to select, structure, and delivers services. Like other aspects of health care and unless adjudicated by courts of law, people have the right to choose and determine what services and treatments best meet their needs and preferences. Self-determination is the foundation of person-centered and consumer-driven recovery supports and systems, including such approaches as person-centered planning, shared decision making , and peer-operated services. People in recovery should be meaningfully involved in all aspects of behavioral health services, including planning, policy development, training, delivery, administration, and research."
A mouthful for sure, but me me as a person with mental health and substance abuse use disorders while receiving treatment for my being HIV+, while being disabled I often question is my recovery 100% or half way or held back do to being on social security disability insurance that keeps me feeling isolated from my own queer community after following the goal of recovery that is exemplified through a life that includes:
Health----Overcoming or managing one's disease(s) as well as living in a physically and emotionally healthy way;
Home----A stable and safe place to live that that supports recovery;
Purpose----Meaningful daily activities, such as a job, school, volunteerism, family, care taking, or creative endeavors, and the independence, income, and resources to participate in society; and
Community----Relationships and social networks that provide support, friendship, love and hope.
I've mastered all of these things, managing my health, through disability as both a bipolar and HIV+ aging gay man secured affordable housing. Secured through volunteering a job in itself, to that of a part-time job thanks to social security who has a model that supports part-time employment with hopes of full time employment, a joggling act in itself as you need the Medicare and Medicaid if you qualify to pay for health care expenses and medications that exceed some $56,000+ a year, most of that costly medications. Then lastly as a gay man who's aging, soon to be 56 years old, shunned by my peers do to the combined multiple stigmas from within my own LGBT community who if I'm on disability, managing my health, have a home, then why is it so hard to find community, relationships, social networks, love and hope and friendship.
It's my GLBT community that causes me to struggle as I don't meet their expectations of someone who's not just housed and has purpose, but in their eyes living in poverty as the model keeps you in poverty to have all of these things and be fully recovered is where I'm at soon to be 56 years of age.
Much is written on disparities and poverty, low income and I will pick up on this topic and look at what's being done for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community over all health and those of us living in the commmunity living with both substance abuse and behavioral health care and co-occurring HIV+ diagnoses, all three each a hurdle in itself, combined I'm often told when out speaking, sharing my story what are you doing as a consumer of all of the above to survive.
If this is you, if you feel have followed an excellent model, one that I advocate for as well as advocate for treatment for both, and are aging and feeling isolated, I'd love to hear from you.
I also want to share with you a story that happened recently. I ran into a friend, fellow HIV/AIDS cyclist from years ago, we exchanged our hello's and quick catching up when an articulate panhandler approached, this was on ninth avenue in Manhattan, 10:30 AM. He showed us a $1 and said he was short $.50 cents of which both myself and my friend each had a quarter and gave to him. He said thank you and then added, what' the best nation in the Country, I said not the United States, can it be France...his response was a donation. That was both funny and for the short time this individual was talking to two others, he felt socially connected (social inclusion), not social exclusion.
Moral of this story, be safe, I know it's hard, but if you don't have change a simple hello, or acknowledgement that there is a person asking you will go a far way in his or her day. And if you do, even a quarter or dime will help. Social inclusion, not social exclusion has to start somewhere.
Wow my mind is throwing stones at me today, sitting in silence almost daily isn't living, it's living among the dead. To not be held or hugged, I see pets that get more attention and affection.
I'm told I'm strong, but today I feel so weak, like throwing in the towel at the end of a round of a fight, my fight daily, the bell which ends each round isn't loud, it's silent.
To those who know Bipolar, please know I wish I could rip it from my mind, but I can't, all I can do is numb it daily. Another long weekend approaches, another long weekend alone with my illness and and the only recourse medication that numbs the pain, medication that affords me to sleep as I'm so tired, exhausted, the thought of climbing into another, another fight only to hear that closing that ends the round.
The round is over, did you hear the bell.
This is an expression of where I am, it's writing, it's sad, please know I am strong and I will be climbing into another ring today, that I will be fighting another day, that I'm not throwing in the towel.
Today's post is an open letter asking for support for the Rainbow Heights Club Summer Fundraising Campaign
Dear friends and colleagues,
As we await what could be history making news from the US Supreme about marriage equality AND we celebrate LGBT Pride week, can you take a moment to consider a donation to help underwrite our support group program?
If you make a donation to our Summer Fundraising Campaign in support of our programs that serve low/no income LGBT New Yorkers who are living with serious mental illness, an anonymous donorWILL MATCH ALL DONATIONS DOLAR FOR DOLLAR up to $2,500.
For our clients, who are overwhelmingly poor and alone, the loneliness they face is sometimes even harder to deal with than their psychiatric symptoms.
That’s why at Rainbow Heights Club we provide over 25 support and activity groups per week, and our Peer Specialists conduct dozens of short 1-on-1 interventions with our clients every day. When you’re in recovery, you take things one day at a time, and for our clients, having a sympathetic ear to listen, or being able to talk about an experience that others in the group have shared, can make the day easier to get through.
Our clients report significant decreases in isolation and the depression that comes with it when they attend Rainbow Heights Club. This leads to over 90% of our clients remaining free of inpatient psychiatric hospitalization each year, as well as many other positive recovery outcomes – more hope, more social support, and more self esteem.
Can you please take a moment to go to our secure donation processing site and renew your donation to Rainbow Heights Club in any amount you can?All funds raised through our Summer Campaign will be allocated to our support groups. You will be helping us to ensure that we will be there for our clients when they need us most.
Happy Pride from Stephen Puibekllo, the Bipolar Bear. I have been traveling, recently returned from the 2015 AIDS Life Cycle event where we once again raised a record breaking $16.6 million dollars. It was at AIDS Life Cycle I went to prove the statistic that 20% of HIV/AIDS patients live with Bipolar and a major mental illness. I went there in 2006 as the shear number of attendee's 3615, 3000 cyclist and 615 roadies. Each year I return more and more riders and roadies approach me and also disclose that they were dual diagnosed Bipolar and HIV.
I'm soon off for another event, as Summer is officially here, I will be posting one post per month, minimum. For other source of queer mental health articles check out www.QueerMentalHealth.org.