Open and honest or just plain nuts?


I wrote this today, in a Yahoo! group I belong to, in response to kudos for being “open” and “honest”.

I have had a lot of experience being “open” about myself – different issues than my bipolar diagnosis in the last nine months or so (what a relief THAT was!) but issues that, in groups (be they A.A. or HIV-related), trained me to risk being open. Too bad I self-medicated over the past couple of years, particularly recently with my brother’s death, but now I can compare how that worked (it did not) with how I stayed sober through my Dad’s death five years ago.

I am absolutely devouring “The Bipolar Advantage” by Tom Wootton.

My brother’s death has brought up what would, by most grief counsellors, be classified as “survivor guilt”. In a nutshell it seems like if life was fair (which I acknowledge it is not) I would have been the one to die. Despite also having AIDS, as I do, Craig had a loving partner (I do not), a very active life (mine is only now on the rebound after a bad accident of my own a few years ago), etc. I do not think such guilt is unnatural but it is absolutely useless, that is for sure.

It points to older issues of what I have always felt about my right to occupy space on this earth…stuff I never really articulated but “acted out” from very early years onward.

Did I mention (to use a “B-P Advantage” phrase) that I thought, even before diagnosis in 1989 that “if anyone DESERVES AIDS I do!” To unpack that statement takes a while – as if ANYone, including me, “deserves” AIDS (or any other illness).

While my family has been extremely accepting of both my brother’s and my homosexuality – for which I am very grateful – the whole coming to terms with my own sexuality was done in a vacuum, with “gaydar” unoperational between my brother and me. Plus I went away from the family’s liberal, and ultimately accepting, church and, for a brief time, joined a fundie Xian church…as if that might help me(!) So sure, there was guilt galore about that and I feel like I missed a few good years with Craig while we were on such different paths with the same ultimate destination – coming out.

When I came home from Mom’s, after we had spent a couple weeks together following Craig’s funeral last month, I crashed big time. Having suspended my drinking (which had started slowly again in 2005) I went overboard with it from the moment I got on the train back here the third week of May until June 20.

Careful not to combine Seroquel with drinking, I dropped off Seroquel. Naturally. Not only that I spent a few thousand dollars (about $800 a night) on $20 dances at a gay strip joint – where everybody was SO happy to see me come in, don’tcha know? It was so non-sexual that I just kept going and going with massage and the like…man, did that all add up!

So, yes, I admit I feel guilty and stupid (as pointless as it is to whack myself with a sledgehammer).

I must say, however, that I am definitely emerging – on the surface at least – from the worst of this despair.

I have gone back to A.A. meetings, both gay-identified and more ‘mainstream’. I have seen both my family doctor and my HIV specialist. They agree that priority number one is to stay sober and take my Seroquel. We have put myself on an HIV meds “holiday” because my sporadic compliance, with the twice daily regimen of handfuls of pills, fell off the rails and it is better to be off them altogether for awhile than to be taking them willy-nilly.

My HIV doc said “I’ve almost lost you before (in 1993-94) but you survived. You can get through this too.”

I agree.

There are a few HIV meds options, both approved and in trials, should any of the ones I was on fail now after being off them. I’ve been a drug trials guinea pig from the days when AZT or DDI were the only things available.

Not that I can take my “nine lives” for granted.

I just need to stay on the beam, coming back to life while being treated simultaneously for my physical and mental conditions.

I can affirm, for myself, that my survivability over the years has inspired people – even if I wasn’t one of them. I need to claim some of that strength as my own.

One last thing, which I know is common among those of us bipolar. Having been accustomed to mainly treating the depression over the years – beginning when diagonsed HIV-positive 18 years ago – the manic part was not caught.

Mania? Yes, now that I recognize what it looks like, I can see the beginnings of it go way back. I have little or no respect for the value of money, and have spent (or gone in debt) accordingly (including recently).  After being sexually abused as an adolescent, which followed a tyrannical teacher abusing me in many other ways in early school years, I had no appreciation for the value of my body either, sexually or looks-wise. Promiscuous? You betcha.

Worth the trouble of feeling guilty?  No way.

Then I drank, as soon as I went away to college. (Academics has never been a problem for me, by the way, although I dare say I would have done much better in school had I been able to actually discipline myself to study.)

All of which, incoherent as it may be, is to say that I am a survivor. I just keep bouncing back – even if I fear my chances may well be running out. This has a motivational edge to it. The more I dodge the bullet, whatever that may be, the more I realize that I cannot take such good fortune for granted.

That’s why I am going to try, with everything I’ve got (including a lot of help) to make this big comeback – and I am confident that, putting one foot in front of the other, I will come back!

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11 thoughts on “Open and honest or just plain nuts?

  1. I can`t even begin to tell you Kenn how much you inspire me.
    I remember reading the article on your family(Faith in the Family) quite a few years ago when it was given to me by a family member.I was going through a rough patch and I remember discussing it with a United Church Minister that had come out to speak to me.
    I remember thinking that what I was going through paled in comparison to what you and Craig and your family were dealing with.I did do a search for Craig Chaplin at some point and then I just let it go.I wish I had also googled Kenn Chaplin at that point because your blog would have come up.
    You`re much more than (the whole Gay,HIV,AIDS) etc but you have so opened my eyes on these subjects.
    Someone just said to me this morning at Tims,”Boy you sure have become a little preachy(?) on the subject” and I said “No,not preachy(?),I`m just not silent any more and I`m learning more thanks to a cousin that happens to be gay”.
    Maybe changing attitudes is a “one person at a time” mission.
    I think I`ve rambled here but I`m not the writer in the family,you are!So forgive me.
    I think you`re well on your way to being back.

  2. Oh and by the way and I`m sure you know more about this than me.Statistically,I m sure you(and Craig) are not my “token” gay cousins.The others just don`t have a blog yet! 😉

  3. Hi,
    I am new to this… HIV, blogging, and everything that goes with the two. Just came across your blog a few minutes ago while randomly surfing HIV/AIDS related google blogs and I can’t stop reading. It’s been just over two weeks for me since I learnt I was HIV+ and it’s been one heck of a fortnight. I am trying to move on now, very hard, but I will keep trying till wherever it takes me.
    Thanks for your blog, it’s given me some extra energy. Besides it’s material, the main thing that caught my eye was the shared name (MyJourneyWithAids), only that yours is wordpress and mine is blogspot.
    Thanks again.

  4. ((Juanita)),
    May whatever God is bless you!
    As you will read here, living with HIV has its bad and good days – whether directly or indirectly related to the disease. But I cannot tell you how touched I am that we have reached across the oceans and found each other.
    Please continue to comment and read my long history of living with HIV.
    My hope for you is that you will have access to the best possible treatments so that your experience with HIV will be as a long-term survivor like me!

  5. I think it’s really interesting that your as healthy as you seem to be, yet your taking both HIV stuff and seroquel.

    I would have thought that mixing seroquel and HIV drugs would be a disaster waiting to happen.

    I only take small amounts of it myself and it knocks me right out about an hour after I take it.

  6. Hi Josh:

    The same thing happens to me, which has been really important to me since my accident in ’03 and the PTSD which followed. Back then I was taking Remeron, which also sedated well, but which was an anti-depressant only. Seroquel (100 mg), of course, helps me at both ends of the bi-p spectrum.

    As for mixing it with HIV meds, there’s no problem. The only thing they watch for is my blood glucose levels which I haver already been treating with Metformin.

    The diabetes-2 is likely a long-term result of my HIV meds (it’s been easier to control while on the HIV meds “holiday”) but may also be genetics as my mother developed Type-2 in recent years.

  7. Well, keep in mind that there is some evidence that also shows that type two diabetes may in some cases be brought on by use of seroquel.

    It doesn’t sound like your taking a whole lot and it also doesn’t seem like you’ve been taking it for long enough to really have developed those sorts of side effects, but if nothing else, it’s something to ponder.

  8. When I started Seroquel seven or eight months ago I had been type-2 for a couple of years already but it was the safest of all possible meds so we are closely monitoring the effect on my glucose (which has been fine with the Metformin).

    Having also been on Glyburide when my HIV meds were going full tilt the balanced approach seems to include keeping the Seroquel going. 100 mg each night is not a very high dose but it’s working for now.

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