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Monday, December 12, 2016

Ask the Doctor: Holiday Stress Strategies


EPRINT: Permission BP Hope Magazine

Enjoy the gift of peace and health through careful planning ahead, avoiding triggers, and monitoring your mood before, during, and after this year’s holiday season.

By Melvin G. McInnis, MD

With the holidays approaching, there is a childlike anticipation of good times: the parties, the jingle in the malls, the shopping, the food, and—my favorite—snow. But challenges abound. Routines are out the window. Sleep is disturbed. Alcohol flows. The treats brought into the office are just so tempting … Living with bipolar during the holidays is often not easy.

What is it about the holidays that makes this such a difficult time?

There are two main challenges I see my patients struggling with around this time of year: One is impulsivity—the tendency to do things on the spur of the moment, often with limited regard for consequences; even when manic or depressive syndrome is not present, sometimes sub-syndromal or mild symptoms persist and drive actions. The second is reactivity—the tendency to respond with extreme intensity to external stimuli; good things take one “over the top” and bad things do the polar opposite.

What can I do to stay well yet still have some fun?

First and foremost: prioritize your health. Avoid changing your medications without talking to your health-care provider, and contact him or her right away if you feel a change in mood coming on.
Plan, prioritize, and avoid impulsive activity (this includes spending!). If there are things that can be done in advance, do them. Gifts? Create a shopping list and a budget and stick to it—don’t procrastinate and then panic and overspend at the last minute. A whole new outfit? Fine if you can afford it—but even an inexpensive new scarf, tie, or earrings may be enough of a treat to satisfy that “something new” urge.

Can you recommend some survival strategies?

Plan for minimizing a reactive response by using the following tips:
Plan for fun events. Look your best—it feels good! Think carefully about what you actually prefer to do, and whose company you truly desire. Identify the “required” duties and plan to seek common ground in the conversations, avoiding controversial topics that invariably lead to arguments. Compliment your host and family. Ask about the kids. Smile.
Don’t overdo it. Carve out personal time for yourself. If you need a break, say so: “I really need an hour or so on my own to recharge.” Have a rational reason handy for declining or leaving an event early; discuss your strategy for extricating yourself, if needed, with a trusted family member.
Have a “Go To” list of activities that relax you, such as movies, music, or a book. Find a new coffee shop in another neighborhood. It is often restful to sit and relax in a calm, neutral environment after a stimulating activity.
Tell your family and friends how much they mean to you. Find a new board game to play with a willing child, and play it over and over (and again) with him or her. You are making memories!

Once the holidays are over, now what?

After the holidays, many feel a sense of letdown. Credit card statements start appearing, the grim reality of winter sets in, life feels flat and stale, somehow a few extra pounds have found their way to your bathroom scale … It can be hard to know if one is headed for a full-blown depressive episode or just a few difficult days.
Develop a post-holiday strategy, and talk it through with a close friend or family member. Do they think you are getting depressed? Invite them to go with you to your health-care provider.
It is a good idea to have an appointment scheduled for soon after the holidays, simply to review how you are doing, identify needs for the current month and year, and set some new goals. If you did overdo it, forgive yourself and take the appropriate steps to move forward.

Printed as “Ask the doctor: Holiday strategies,” Fall 2016

Has 12 Articles

Melvin G McInnisMelvin G. McInnis, MD, FRCPsych, is Thomas B. and Nancy Upjohn Woodworth Professor of Bipolar Disorder and Depression and professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan School of Medicine. He is also principal investigator of the Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fund and associate director of the University of Michigan Depression Center.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Medicare Privatization, SSDI 19% Cuts and the Ripple Effects

Just off the Press

"Trump Signals Big Health Policy Changes are Coming" (see full story below)

Our elected officials, Democrats and hopefully a few of our Republicans who support social equality,  both in the House and Senate are going to need our help.  The Republicans to the left by way of getting those whom they represent just as active as I am today.

To mess with Medicare and possible SSDI, Social Security Disability Insurance, isn't the right thing to do, it will have ripple effects on those on disability, the aging and our mental health population and their over all mental health recovery and wellness.

Listed here:  Eight dimensions of Wellness (Adapted from Swarbrick, M. 2006.  A Wellness Approach. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal)

If any of you don't have your elected officials on your cell phones, look them up, and

Those of us who sit in traffic, on lines waiting for mass transit, all the down time to and from work, this is a perfect time to call our elected officials in Washington.  Thanks to a friend RH, for this idea, it's one way we keep up with one another.

"The incoming Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer of New York, said he's urging his Democratic colleagues to give Mr. Price a thorough vetting."

Senate Minority Leader Schumer, "Go Chuck," also adds that, " A lot of Republicans have been dancing on the head of a pin because they know the hard right of their party wants it but they know it's unpopular with the Public, he said."

The whole thing is a mess, Medicare Privatization, the Affordable Care Act and SSDI recipients are facing 19% cuts in benefits. ( Read Full Paper - NAMI below)

"SSDI provides monthly income to individuals who are limited in their ability to work because of physical or mental disability. Currently almost nine million individuals receive SSDI, and as of 2013, 35.2% of recipients qualify for disability based on a mental health condition." (For full story read NAMI's paper below).

Everyone needs to get involved in whats going on around them, to become proactive on these issues, so that all Americans are being taken cared of, not the Republican...survival of the fittest mentality.

We have two years to stall, slow down the attack on Medicare and Social Security, just long enough so that reinforcements can be deployed by way of the next mid-term election in November of 2018.

Until then start calling.

References & Resources:

"Trump Signals Big Health Policy Changes are Coming" (source: Wall Street Journal-Politics 11/29/16) by Louise Radnofsky

NAMI, Learn more Mental Health Public Policy / Social Security Income (SSI) and (SSDI)

NAMI-News- /President-Obama-Proposes-Plan-to-Ensure-the-Future

A Wellness Approach

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I love Hillary, But I would have Voted for a Stick Figure

By: Stephen Puibello  Award-winning Writer, Educator and Presenter
      on Mental Health, HIV and Recovery

Who doesn't have the election on their mind today, if you are HIV+, if you are a women, if you are Bipolar (Mental Illness), Can't afford health care, and scared that decades of civil unrest in our Nation can be reversed by who's appointed to the Supreme Court."

I love Hillary, voted Hillary, but would have voted for a stick figure as I voted issues, as I'm an activist on mental health and HIV+ and Recovery.  I also am dual diagnosed Bipolar and HIV+ now twenty years... And I've said to my Therapist, and many of my friends jokingly:

"I feel like the Six Million Dollar Man."

The costs of my therapies, my labs, my follow-ups, my psychiatrist, the medications alone, well over a million dollars.
In a way I'm fortunate that I'm bipolar, I wish I wasn't, but I'm disabled and it qualifies me for Medicare,  public housing, assistance with buses and subways and 80% of all the costs of keeping 1/6 of the Six Million Dollar Man working.   

Imagine the greed to charge $50 - $54 thousand dollars per year just for HIV medications, so yes I'm very afraid the outcome of this election.

I'm having to make choices as some medications aren't covered by Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage.  The thought of a hospitalization frightens me.  You see I don't have Health Care for the other 20%.  I'm 58 years old and too young to purchase it.  I also require specialist.  

I agree our health care needs fixing, it needs to encompass all HIV/AIDS consumers, you see we are susceptible to cancers, strokes, dementia, all the co-morbities and for myself and others whom are dual diagnosed HIV+ and with major depression, chronic mental illness.

Recovery as a Mental Health consumer,  using the eight dimensions of Wellness, I've picked myself off the ground to where I am today.  To lose the ability to pay for med's,  the anxiety of a hospitalization, the loss of my part-time job as the debt collectors will place a lean on my wages...all of that eradicates my work and could cause:

                                    "This Humpty Dumpty to have another great fall."


The 8 Dimensions of Wellness

Bipolar, watch the video
For a comprehensive list of Resources for both HIV/AIDS and Mental Health Services.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Story telling, It's how I Connect and Grow

I'm a story teller, I skip through life telling stories about the people I meet, the places I go, and for the past twenty years of my life, these stories are connected around mental illness, you see I'm bipolar.

For more on bipolar disorder and other related links that I learned from today's story telling, sharing my story, with my friends and neighbors please check out the resources at the end.

This morning over coffee with friends and neighbors we started talking about stigma, the question I was asked was "how does it feel when you hear someone say you are crazy?"  My response, as an educated consumer living with bipolar, and as an advocate, was that it rolls over my me.  But it can open me up, depending on the situation, prompting me to educate the person who said that to me...To explain the harm it can do, I also talk about the stigma of mental illness.

In sharing today, I learned about Fragile X Syndrome.  I learned about it from one of my friends whom I heard talk about their grandson before, but who never discussed to the same degree what it was.  Their full story came about today when we were talking about "crazy", about being different, and about early childhood development.  I shared more about my own situation today.

Like anyone learning something new, I have a learning curve, so I asked if she could write it down by the name of the condition for me, as it's one of the ways I connect and grow as a person. I got home, Googled Fragile X, Cliffside Park, Charlie Evert and started reading the story.

"Charlie Everett started life with the odds working against him.  Born with Fragile X Syndrome, which causes significant intellectual disability, Charlie has an IQ of 70, well below the average of 100.  His parents had their own major problems, and at the age of 8, he and his younger sister were adopted by their grandmother."

Afterwards, I caught up with my friend and neighbor.  I asked are you Charlie's Grandmother. When she said she was, I asked if I could give her a kiss. She said "yes" and that's how today I grew from sharing.

Meet Charlie Evert and his mentor Bob Relay, an inspirational story.
by Lisa Ung, Staff Writer, the Record (source:

Sunday, October 9, 2016

World Mental Health Day

World Mental Health Day 2016 and other links

World Mental Health Day, What is It and why is it so important
"Every October 10 is World Mental Health Day – a time to educate and raise awareness of mental Illness and its major effects on people’s lives worldwide."

World Health Organization - Mental Health Day 2016
The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day, observed on 10 October, covers “psychological first aid”. Efforts in support of the day will focus on basic pragmatic psychological support by people who find themselves in a helping role whether they be health staff, teachers, firemen, community workers, or police officers."

Time Date: World Mental Health Day 2016
"Mental disorders affect nearly 12 percent of the world’s population – about 450 million or one out of every four people around the world – will experience a mental illness that would benefit from diagnosis and treatment. WHO statistics for 2002 showed that 154 million people globally suffered from depression, which is a form of mental illness. According to WHO, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which people realize their own potential, can cope with normal life stresses, can work productively, and can contribute to their community."

"Mental health services lack human and financial resources in many countries, particularly low and middle income countries. More funding is needed to promote mental health to increase people’s awareness of the issue. In response to making mental health a global priority, World Health Day was first celebrated in 1992 as an initiative of the WFMH, which has members and contacts in more than 150 countries. Each year the UN, through WHO, actively participates in promoting this event."

World Mental Health Day 2016
 Here at Home, Local
In the News and Other Links
"World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10 every year, raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.  In honor of World Mental Health Day 2016, the campus community is asked to work together in taking a step toward decreasing mental health stigma at Montclair State University."

Monday, September 19, 2016

10 Common Warning Signs if Mental Illness

10 Common Warning Signs if Mental Illness
Source: National Alliance on Mental Illness

1.   Excessive worrying or fear.

2.   Extreme mood changes, including uncontrollable "highs" or feelings of euphoria.

3.   Avoiding friends and social activities

4.   Changes in sleeping habits or feeling tired or low energy.

5.   Changes in eating habits such as increased hunger or lack of appetite.

6.   Abuse of substances like alcohol or drugs.

7.   Multiple physical ailments without obvious causes such as headaches, stomach aches or
      vague ongoing "aches and pains."

8.   An intense fear of weight gain or concern with appearance.

9.   Prolonged or strong feelings of irritability or anger.

10. Confused thinking or problems concentrating and learning. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Urban Justice Center - Mental Health Project - Open Mic

Please pass along anyone whom you feel 
can benefit.

I have attended these open mic night events.
awesome experience.

Thank You

Monday, August 29, 2016

HIV and Depression

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.

Serious mental illness includes diagnoses which typically involve psychosis (losing touch with reality or experiencing delusions) or high levels of care, and which may require hospital treatment. Here we look at two of the most common severe mental illnesses: schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (or manic depression).

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.


8 dimensions of wellness

Friday, July 15, 2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rebuilding Your Life After A Manic Episode

Reprinted by Permission of BP Hope Magazine
See my own feature in BP Hope Magazine  This Is Me

Damage Control: Rebuilding Your Life After a Manic Episode

Fixing relationships with those you may have hurt during a mood episode is never easy, but believe me: it is possible. And you can!


By Julie Fast

Many of us with bipolar disorder make terrible decisions when we are ill, and rebuilding our lives afterward is naturally overwhelming—especially after a massive episode, when extreme mania and psychosis might have put you in the hospital, or jail (or both). Talking with creditors, school, work, and those you may have hurt is never easy, but I can say from personal experience that life can be even better than it was before if you face the rebuilding head-on, no matter how much it might hurt.
Bipolar is such a selfish illness: My depressionmy suicide attempt, my massive manic episode. But if your own personal experience is your sole focus, rebuilding will be tough. I learned this the hard way. I lost husbands, careers, friends, and a whole lot of money because of bipolar episodes. I cried, complained, and told anyone who would listen, “No one understands my pain!” This went on for years. The day I finally turned the focus off myself and onto other people and their needs, my life changed for the better.
The day I finally turned the focus off myself and onto other people and their needs, my life changed for the better.
Massive episodes—like the time I dumped my partner and took off for China on my own with basically no money—deeply affect the people around you, and it takes a lot for them to get over it. Expanding your vision to think about what other people in your life went through when you were ill and what they need during your rebuilding is critical. Even if you’re feeling fragile or ashamed, opening yourself up to the experiences of others and letting them know that you understand their perceptions can make all the difference. Here’s an example of what you can say to loved ones if bipolar just threw your life—and as a result, theirs—upside down:
I’m tired and worn out from these mood swings. I have no idea how I’m going to get through this, but I want you to know that I’m going to give it all I have. I have a diagnosis now and some answers. I know you went through something as well, and I promise that when I’m feeling better, we can explore how it was for you and what I can do to make things better. For now, I could use your help in getting this illness under control. I am thinking of you and your needs as well as my own.
Rebuilding a professional relationship takes guts, when all you want to do is hide under the nearest rock and stay there. Here’s an example of what you can say if you’re trying to salvage a career after a particularly nasty episode. Once again, acknowledge what it was like for the other person and put yourself in their shoes:
I know that my illness and the behavior it caused was very hard on you. I left work in a way that was probably confusing and very upsetting. I said things no one would choose to say to someone in a business setting. I finally have answers for why this happened, and I am open to any questions you may have. Please know that I understand that it’s now my job to keep myself well, and I have a plan in place to make sure this happens. I would like to talk with you about how we might work together in the future if I can show you through my actions that I’m getting the help I need.
In terms of relationships, especially with family and partners, people want and need—and deserve—to know how you’re going to take care of yourself when you say you want to rebuild your life. For myself, I watch my lifestyle closely, especially regarding sleep and relationships, and I understand my triggers and avoid them.
Saying the right things matters, but unless words are accompanied by action, people will tend to stay away. Whether you were just diagnosed or you need to rebuild once again, be bold and approach this with your head high. Build your self-awareness, and also your consideration of others. A life that seemed destroyed by bipolar can become a life where people want to work and be with you because you know who you are, what you need, and how to take care of yourself. This is your gift to the world, built out of your pain.

Printed as “Fast Talk: Damage Control,” Spring 2016

Please visit my site at

Sunday, June 5, 2016

How I Celebrated National HIV/AIDS Long Term Survivors Awareness Day

Sunday, June 5th is the third annual National HIV/AIDS Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. it was same date, the year 1981 of the first reported case of the disease, now none as AIDS.  This day raises awareness for people living with HIV, now 35 years later. It does this by opening up a conversation between ourselves,and our providers,in support groups, fellowships for those who are in recovery, also family and friends, and if you are open and accepted about your status, then from all walks of life. 

Sharing life stories and shared experiences around aging heals, it does this by normalizing your new diagnoses in that it’s not just you who had oral surgery, had to see a neurologist, had an abdominal ultra sound, gone to hospital for surgery and have had to disclosed my HIV status.   It’s not easy, but know it’s happening everyday as we’re growing older in the health care system that’s not the 95% gay clinic where you went for your quarterly labs decades ago.

I'm happy to share that today integrated care is being offered, that you are asked hows your mental health and visa-versa, as many are there for both my physical and mental health.  But now I'm outgrowing the comfort of an LGBT Clinic as I'm requiring specialists as I'm needing tests and treatments outside the clinic.  Thank God for the network of medical providers outside of the clinic who accept medicare and don't charge the 20% not covered, I'm able to receive the care I need.  

You see for me, I’m disabled living on SSDI, on Medicare,  and in public housing.  It’s here that I’ve learned from my three dozen Grandmothers, Aunts and Uncles,  all accepting of my being gay, my being HIV+, my being bipolar.   I learn from them and they learn from me, there lies the awareness.    

I call bingo, and this past week on May 30th I shared on the microphone, that as we say good-bye to mental health awareness month, this weekend I’m celebrating National HIV/AIDS Long Term Survivors Awareness Day.  What a joy at age 57 to be that open and accepted on so many levels, the common denominator is we are all aging and all are on Social Security Insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance, (SSI or SSDI).

I hope my day to day story has helped you see how I make it work for me, sharing your story heals.

Happy Birthday


Lets Kick Ass, AIDS Survivor Syndrome

Aging With HIV/AIDS

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Better Then The Med's I Take

Better then the Med's I Take

Like the Title of his Blog, "the Peers Life" Please welcome a fellow Peer, a reader and new friend whom met while reading my Op-Ed re-print in the National Alliance on Mental Illness this past December 1st, 2015, Worlds AIDS Day.

Like I say when I receive emails from readers, "Better than the Medications I take," is why I'm a Consumer Advocate for mental health, HIV and substance abuse, raising awareness and eliminate the STIGMA of all three.
A tease from his Blog. "I’m an American/Australian man who has relocated from Lismore NSW Australia, a regional city centre to Tucson Arizona. I’m a recently Certified Peer Support Specialist. I volunteer at NAMI Southern Arizona providing NAMI program and information regarding mental health held at various resource fairs throughout Tucson. Prior to living in Tucson I left a wonderful mob of people called Grower’s. With the help of the GROW program I changed my life and I haven’t looked back yet. Thanks mates!"

Please welcome James Chapman, "The Peers Life"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Living, Coping, Aging with HIV among People over 50

Living, Coping, Aging with HIV among People over 50
by James Chapman, Southern Arizona Certified Peer Specialist

How aging with HIV affects our brain function, our social support
networks and mental health

For people living over 50 with HIV, whether you are a long-term
survivor or recently diagnosed, we are the first group of people who
live with HIV/AIDS and many co-morbidities as we age which are being
studied and given considerate thought in accessing what our needs are
both physically, mentally and socially.  It’s ongoing.  It would be
helpful to them if we give them the opportunity to understand us
better.  The more we can share the more they have to work with.
Living with HIV in later life presents the opportunity for doctors,
psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists and social workers to
better understand how they can best serve us.  We are the first
amongst people living with HIV/AIDS to be studied.  We can experience
changes in our mental health, our neurocognitive abilities can change
and our fine motor skills could become affected.

HAND or HIV AIDS Neurocognitive Disorder has 3 disorders with
different degrees of impairment. We could have trouble with attention,
memory, language, problem solving, decision making.  We will
experience none, some or many of the known symptoms which can and does
affect our lives, emotional and spiritual well-being, our social
support network, and family.  It can come all at once or slowly.
There is no set way for HAND to occur.

Symptoms of HAND can include confusion, forgetfulness, headaches,
changes in the way you behave, problems with cognition or movement,
pain due to nerve damage, and a gradual weakening and loss of feeling
in the arms and legs.  The only way to be sure is to seek an
experienced neurologist who can eliminate other possibilities or
causes.  They may conduct neurological exams, perform brain MRI scan,
possibly a lumbar puncture to analyze the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Depending upon the results a change may be needed in the type of HIV
drugs prescribed.  Please speak/consult with your doctor about changes
to drug treatments.

There are other areas of our lives that it can impact.  It can affect
our ability to seek enjoyment being with people and lead us to isolate
out of the stigma and discrimination we may face, how well we continue
to stick to drug treatments and following our doctor’s advice.   Our
family and community support is important to maintaining physical and
emotional wellness and connection to others.  Finding people who can
see past what we are experiencing and to focus on what our needs are.
Having a good spiritual or religious belief(s) has a known positive
affect on our well-being.  Learning mindfulness and applying it into
your daily life as a way to focus on activities we are able to do, not
focusing on what we cannot.

So you think you may be experiencing HAND or is it just depression?
You may or may not be aware of it happening.  This is where your
doctor may wish for you to be assessed through neuropsych testing.  It
will provide the psychologist with a detailed assessment of your brain
function/capacity.  It can be followed up with time if your symptoms
are remaining or have progressed.  It’s an important tool to have in
allowing people who treat us to have a bigger picture of where we are
at.  Because we are entering into uncharted waters there are no easy
answers or that they have figured out how to treat us.  All of us can
experience similar symptoms with different needs.  No two people are

I would like to share with you my personal experience as a way to help
you understand this important topic that is affecting people living
with HIV/AIDS over 50.  I have lived with HIV/AIDS for 33 years this
past March.  In early 2007 I was diagnosed with AIDS (HIV

In late 2006 I was working in a high stress job as a receptionist at a
company who processes insurance claims.  I talked on the phone every
day, initiated new claims for the assessors to inspect damage claims.
I was the beginning contact point, follow-up progress of claims, and
filing of claims once completed.  6 months into my job I began to
notice small things.  Dismissible things like not remembering how to
spell someone’s name while on the phone with a customer.  I would lose
track of my thoughts and keeping all of daily tasks in order.  I live
with a spinal injury and my left foot began to drag on the floor while
I was walking across the floor.  Over time I was finding it difficult
to talk on the phone either losing track of what I was talking about
or who I was talking to.  My speech became noticeable to other people.
They could see that I was changing from the person they recognized but
not being able to put a finger on what it might be.  My employer was
unaware of HIV status.  I hadn’t disclosed my status.
I stopped working abruptly.  I wasn’t able to function.  I was finding
everything too hard.  I didn’t understand what was happening to me.  I
knew I lived with depression and this was way different.  I felt like
a shell of the man I was.  No self-esteem, a good support system and
medical team.

After consulting with neurosurgeons for possible neurological problems
due to my spinal surgery, I was assessed by Professor Bruce Brew
Director of Neurology St. Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney Australia.
Based on his assessment I was advised that I had HIV Brain disease
(HIV Encephalopathy) and spinal cord involvement.  He gave my HIV Dr.
a list of new drug treatment options and offered this as a way to
begin my treatment.  I was given all of the known HIV medications at
that time (2007) that would stop the virus from crossing the blood
brain barrier.

I began to see a psychologist who gave me ways in coping and learning
new strategies to deal with such a radical change in my life.  I
learned mindfulness.  I practiced it every day.   My ability to think
had stopped.  I was losing the ability to say what I was thinking.  It
would get on the tip of my tongue and then disappear.  I spoke with a
slur/slowness.   I began to use a walking frame.  My cerebellum had
been affected.  It’s the part of the brain that affects walking,
talking, thinking and speaking had been affected.
My whole world changed overnight.

I currently live with peripheral neuropathy of my hands and feet with
an unknown cause.  Possibly HIV, drug medications, or long term nerve
damage.  I manage through diet, exercise, mindfulness and being gentle
on myself.  I had a counselor available to talk about what I was going
through.  It helped me overcome what I was living with.  Emotion can
both lift us up and also create for tense feelings which can increase
pain, increase Blood Pressure and Depression.

One of the reason’s we are on disability is so that we have the time
and ability to educate ourselves on our disability(s).  Learn to take
care of us so we can begin to lead a self-directed life.  I have spent
many years learning how the body functions because of my disabilities
(physical, mental).  When we know what is happening to us it can help
reduce our fears of the unknown.  Reducing our stress and anxiety
about the unknown.  Take one step at a time.

It was hard living with HIV Encephalopathy and thought I was going to
die.  My doctors hadn’t seen this before and were at a loss of what
could be done.  I took my meds and did the best I could each day
trying not to fall apart emotionally.  My relationship with my partner
began to change.  Our communication was difficult.  I was reliant upon
him to take me to doctors’ appointments, picking up my meds from the
pharmacy, nearly for everything.  I was given a visit by an
occupational therapist to review what could improve my daily routine
in my home making changes that were necessary.  I learned a whole new
way to live by dealing with the physical problems I was experiencing.
Allowing for change is hard and so worth it for me.  It brought me new
insights and possibilities.

When we come face to face with death we find out what we are made of.
In time I was able to change my HIV drug treatment.  I had a new HIV
doctor who had a different approach to how I was being treated and
with a reduction in the number of HIV meds, I improved.  My new HIV
drug treatment consists of 2 pills taken once a day.  It was a huge
psychological change from taking my meds 2x day every 12 hours for
many years.  It was a godsend and welcomed.  How something so small
could create a big impact just by switching my HIV meds.  I’m glad I
made that change.

As I get older living with HIV/AIDS I am well informed about my
disease(s) and how to stay well by being proactive about my life.  I
am concerned primarily about the normal old age problems.  Each day I
take steps that will help me further down the road to stay well.  Part
of going through horrific medical experiences for me is to learn from
them.  By taking steps in making good food choices & plenty of water
each day, taking my medications each day as directed, going for walks
staying active, having family in my life, connecting with people by
volunteering and being a part of the community, whilst maintaining a
good working relationship with my medical team gives me peace of mind
that I am doing what I need to do to stay happy & healthy.

For me with all that I do for myself each day, allows me to know that
I am doing the best that I can, to enjoy each day as it comes, dealing
with my life’s problems using the coping skills I have learned along
the way.  I smile from knowing I’ve done what I can and accept that
which I can’t.  I am optimistic about the future.  I have already come
through the eye of the storm.  You CAN too!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

courtesy  of Tumblr 
snapped by me:  05-02-16 

"Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed in May in the United States since 1949, reaching millions of people in the United States through the media, local events, and screenings.[1]
Mental Health Awareness Month also comes to the United States via the Mental Health America organization. During the month, National Health America runs a number of activities which are based on a different theme each year.
In 2010, the theme was 'Live Your Life Well'. [2] 'Live Your Life Well' was a theme designed to encourage people to take responsibility for the prevention of mental health issues during times of personal challenge and stress. The message was to inform the public that many mental health problems could be avoided by striving toward and making positive lifestyle choices in the ways we act and think.[2]
The theme for the 2014 Mental Health Awareness month was “Mind Your Health”. A focus of that year's theme was to create a motivational effort that will put toward the goal of building public recognition in regards to the importance of mental health and to the overall health and wellness of those around us. The association hopes to inform United States citizens of the connection between the mind and body; and intends to provide advice, tips and strategies that will encourage people to take positive actions and protective measures for one’s own mental health, and whole-body health.[1]
Mental Health America is not the only organization to run campaigns throughout May. Many other similar organizations choose to coincide with Mental Health Awareness month. National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day is one such campaign. This event is sponsored by the American Psychological Association (APA).[3]
Many other months are also recognized for similar mental health awareness programs. For a list of some in America, see:
Its purpose is to raise awareness about mental illnesses, such as depressionschizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. It also aims to draw attention to suicide, which can be precipitated by some mental illnesses. Mental Health Awareness Month also aims to educate communities about psychological disorders, while reducing the stigma that surrounds them. The month came about by presidential proclamation.[4]"

Source: Wikipedia  

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Out of the Blue - Into the Green.



Out of the Blue - Into the Green
By: James Chapman, Arizona Certified Peer Specialist

In a recent article in POZ Magazine April 4, 2016 - Out of the Blue
authored by Mark Leydorf shares recent findings by Mary Ann Cohen, MD,
a clinical professor of psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York
who identifies that people living with Depression, Substance Use and
Violence can lead to higher possibilities of contracting HIV/AIDS.

First let us break a few things down to make it easier for us to
understand what is known.

Mental Health as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of
April 2016 is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes
his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life,
can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her

Depression is the single leading cause of disability worldwide (WHO).
WHO has identified Depression as the single most Mental Illness
diagnosed.  It costs the economy of the United States approximately
100 billion dollars a year.

For people aged 18-35 which includes high school students and college
students, during the course of 12 months 25% will have a diagnosable
mental health condition of depression or anxiety disorder.  10% will
be diagnosed with substance abuse.  75-80% of people that experience a
mental illness and substance abuse will never get any form of
treatment as stated by Michael Schafer of Arizona State University.

I have lived with HIV/AIDS since I was diagnosed in 1983.  I have
lived with Depression for over 2 decades which later in my life
(August 2013) was re-diagnosed with Major Depression.  It can be a
very disabling, difficult, chronic condition which limits our daily
life, work, and well-being.  It is treatable and manageable with
medication and used in conjunction with therapy(s).

We have come very far in how we treat depression.  The biggest
obstacle can be ourselves in not wanting change, not believing we are
depressed, feeling hopeless in knowing I have HIV and all of the
things I have to do to stay well is overwhelming to say the least.  It
all can seem too much.

Living with HIV, Depression, and Substance Use leads to a revolving
door I have gone through.  For me living with HIV/AIDS & Substance Use
was a way of coping through adversity and for many people in the LGBTI
community, a norm.  Everyone does it, it must be okay.  When I was
able to step out of the revolving door and decide to make change for
myself, by myself with the help of others, I learned to understand
depression by identifying my life stressors or feelings of
hopelessness, loneliness and began to put in place ways of changing to
overcoming my depressed state into one of empowering myself to do what
I need to do to stay well.

It was hard work and for me a new lease on life.  A chance to live.  A
chance to participate in life.  To consider going back to work.  To
have new friends in my life.  To finding happiness in my daily life.
To love myself.

I have said over and over to myself and to others who would listen,
until I am able to understand mental illness myself it’s difficult to
address other physical/sexual/emotional problems that occur.  If I am
mentally unwell it’s difficult to have the insight needed to deal with
other issues that affect my daily life.  Exercise, diet, well-being,
employment, volunteerism, being part of family or community.  Being
mentally unwell excludes those opportunities.


Eight Dimensions of Wellness

Wearing Red & Green, Statistics on HIV/AIDS and Mental Illness

Working While Disabled, How Can We Help

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

HIV and Depression

So what's the importance of a brochure you may find in the waiting room while you wait to see your HIV specialist and if necessary while you are waiting to see Psychotherapist and Psychiatrist .

From my home page  you will read that not so far back 2004, you couldn't find brochures discussing the two.  It wasn't until 2005 - 2011 that more and more scientific studies were being published.  

One quote also from my homepage, "Dr. Glenn J. Treisman, MD, Ph.D., who is Director of the AIDS Psychiatry services at John Hopkins Hospital estimates that at any given time 1 in 5 HIV'ers is suffering from a major depression and require psychiatric treatment." (HIV Plus Magazine March/April 2009).

So what does that mean for you?  Well possible you been diagnosed HIV, like any diagnoses like Cancer or some other illness where you became depressed.  Depression is a natural experience, but long periods of depression is not, possible you are like me, 1 out oft he 5 HIV'ers suffering from a major depression that requires psychiatric treatment, why to get better, to go on living a productive life, to be able to return to work, even if it's a part-time job as you may require going on Social Security Disability Insurance because you are overwhelmed, or experience side effects from your medications.  Some of these are sleepiness, unable to focus long periods, there are many others (please check the resources at the bottom of this blog entry) that make it hard for you to work a full time job, but you can work part-time, another topic down the road.

So if you are reading this, you are not alone, it's not just you and that means others are out there and in GLBT community, that there are resources that can help you both at a doctors office, and in the form of self-help, peer to peer support groups.  
Please visit my website which lists 49 centers through out  the United States where you can get assistance, also visit the the home page for some valuable links.

IF YOU FEELING SUICIDAL CALL 911, I did, there is no shame, I'm here to tell you this and to tell you that it does get better.

Get involved, one organization which I've been on the GLBT Leadership Group as a Consumer Advocate.  Consumer = Someone like yourself living with an illness in recovery.  Advocate = an activist, some one who is pro-active in helping others by blogging, sharing my experiences, so that again I can't say it enough you are not alone. 

Other Resouces:

living well with HIV and Depression , reliable up to date treatment news    "The Trevor Project is the leading national
organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth."  National Association on Mental Illness, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Mental Health Resources page.

Tip of the day 

Now two hours of sunlight left, this blogger like to ride his bike, take a bottle of water and get some excerise.  Go for a walk--find that boring, help an elderly neighbor and offer to walk to the grocery store for her--turn it into both exercise and a good deed, from the heart that's X two feel good and good for you..