The flight was brief, the landing less than graceful


I was on my way for a hair-cut this morning when, at the corner of Sherbourne and Gerrard Streets, I momentarily took flight. Picture Peter Pan on his worst day. While still airborne I thought of Craig, of the 24th of April, 2007. But I was still conscious. I managed to land without breaking my wrist, as had happened in 2003 when I was struck by a cab. I rolled to the sidewalk on my rain parka and didn’t damage my femur,as I had in the same incident. Still thinking of Craig, but recognizing that my head was working, I yelled.

A man dragged me to the steps of the pharmacy and applied an oversized gauze bandage to the right side of my forehead. A nurse practitioner on her way to Mount Sinai Hospital on her bicycle rushed to our side. 9-1-1 was called by a female by-stander. The n-p took my pulse (100). The pharmacist came out and, with the others, helped me into a chair in the lobby of his business.

I laughed when I was asked if I was on any medication. I widgeted out a used blister-pack from my jacket which had labels of all my meds taped to the cover. (Medic-Alert in long form.)

The ambulance arrived, siren silent, and the interviews began anew. Had I eaten? Had I checked my blood sugar (it was now a whopping 24.3!) Where was I going? Day and date? A pain inventory was taken. My head, yes. Skinned knuckles, yes. A bloody knee under torn jeans. My civilian helpers said their goodbyes as the ambulance attendants strapped me into a chair in the back and rode off, again sirens quiet, traffic lights being obeyed like all the other morning rush hour chumps. This underlined how lucky I was.

Another indication that I was a low-priority arrival came as I waited to be seen by a doctor. It was not, notes this enthusiastic lover of Canada’s health system, an unreasonable wait.

I was given a couple of extra-strength Tylenols, when offered, and a tetanus shot was administered (“cuz you never know what was on that sidewalk”.) The attending physician, the son I never had, repeated all the interview questions and examined me from head to rolled up jeans, dabbed my head with a combination disinfect and adhesive.

“So I’m good to go?”

“Yes, pay attention to any lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea – but I think you’ll be fine.”

With the help of two of my own Tylenol-2s I have been.

Grateful. But thinking of Craig.

And I walked to get my hair-cut.

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It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day – let’s review


It is a measure of self-compassion on this Bell Let’s Talk Day when I can slow down and remind myself of where I am and where I’ve come from.

I have a long history of, and recovery from, substance abuse – chiefly, but not solely, alcohol – begun shortly after a period of sexual abuse in my adolescence – which followed an elementary school teacher experience with hell.

Since I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1989 I have been treated for depression, and later bipolar II which is treated with medications and talk therapy.

I have been through a lot but I’m always gratified to hear of other people’s struggles on days like this.

Let’s Talk!

The ever-present question: Now what?


I describe myself, rightly so I think, as a long-term survivor of AIDS and HIV.  I offer as evidence my being diagnosed with HIV in 1989 and my long, slow recovery from AIDS-related Cryptosporidiosis in the early 90s – the effects of which shadow me to this day.

Over the years, due to a serious accident and other incidents, I have also been treated for major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar II.

My mood has been mostly stable, arching towards a bit of depression after Christmas.

With the approach of Bell Let’s Talk I find myself taking stock of my mental state and wondering, what’s next?

While the good folks at the University of Toronto Faculty of Dentistry work on my smile in a major . long overdue way,  I feel optimistic, not having realized how isolating broken teeth have affected me.

But now what?

I sometimes still tie my survival, and my right to pull the plug, to my mother’s life (no pressure, Mom!), having made a commitment to myself to live as long as she does.

But if I get a nice set of teeth after all this oral surgery is over, I won’t want to squander all that with a shortened life – certainly not of my own doing.

Let’s Talk.

Thank you Rosemary Barton and MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes


Celina Caesar-Chavannes appeared tonight on CBC Power and Politics with host Rosemary Barton.  She was there to discuss her experiences with depression, before and since becoming MP for Whitby and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Parliamentary Secretary.

Rosemary’s thorough, careful questions brought out responses I could relate to in my own experience – and even in present circumstances.

Sitting around in my “lounge pants” and t-shirt, unwashed.

Recognizing the signs of depression in these and other ways.  Maybe I’ll do something about it, rather than wait for my scheduled psychiatric appointment.

It doesn’t seem like it’s enough to know what’s going on.

I do not feel like I am a danger to myself or anyone else. That’s probably important to note.

I really want to thank Rosemary and Celina.  In this approaching season of “Let’s Talk.”

1,013 followers – questions?


I don’t know who you all are, but the blog machine tells me there are 1,013 of you following me here.  You can also find me, Kenn Chaplin, on Facebook.

You’ll know that I haven’t been writing much lately so, might I ask, if you have any questions for me?

No offence to ‘black dogs’ but I got real today


Bright and early this morning, before I could slip into dishonesty, I volunteered to my diabetes specialist that I was depressed.  Actually it was more like joining in conversation with her as she wondered aloud if any ‘black dogs’ were about.

There’s always something cathartic about admitting this after circular self-arguments about whether I am or am not.  What’s with the shame? Jeez, I’ve been treated for major depression for over twenty-five years – what’s the big deal if I have a flare-up that meds, at least temporarily, don’t seem to be helping?

She asked if I had a friend I could talk to when I’m feeling down.  Several came to mind.

Not unrelated, my diabetes is not controlled at this time (it would help if I did what I was told).  I promised her I was already back on track and showing positive results. That’s true.

My weight is down about three kilograms.  This is not good as my bony ass feels tremendous discomfort in typical meeting chairs.  I can’t find a good cushion.

I’ll see my HIV doc on Friday when more of my blood test results will be revealed.  I can’t say I’ll be surprised if there’s a problem.

Affirmation: I deserve to take the best possible care of myself.

Another important day for self-acceptance


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If I have learned nothing else about my bipolar II today, it is that I am certainly not the only one in similar circumstances who has found photography to be a healing past-time. Facebook is teeming today with some of the creative works of the bipolar support community.

Scrolling through various blogs and web sites I have also seen confirmed that we face many of the same risks to ourselves as my fellow survivors of childhood abuse, sexual and otherwise, most pointedly suicide. Which doesn’t make me suicidal. Just so you know. It’s just one of those options I have kept in my back pocket since it seemed clear, however wrong, that I would be dead of AIDS-related illness before the 90s were finished. Of course it’s also a tragic reality among those who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), as we have heard about too often in connection with soldiers returning from Afghanistan or other battle-weary countries.

To be frank I am feeling very optimistic about my process right now. My p-doc is closely monitoring me as I add another “head med”, as I call them, to my cocktail of HIV, diabetes and bipolar medications. Spring has, for many years, been a time of hypomania which I used to refer to simply as an absence of depression. But it got much worse than a passive absence. When the cat (or black dog) is away, well…I played alot. Absent of depression, present with feelings I thought I could control, a deception of self that alcoholics often talk about, too.

I have often described the feeling of hearing the Bipolar II diagnosis, and the ways it fits me, as a day of sweet relief.  It was difficult enough to live with a lifetime of, let’s say, ultimately poor decisions; I was glad to hear a biological explanation for them  It doesn’t absolve me of everything but I have more compassion for myself and others.

Anyway the new med seems to be helping a lot. There are fewer sleepless nights, especially deliberately sleepless nights and I’m back on an even keel that I have experienced many times before on this journey.

Here is a series of three recent photographs taken here in Toronto, Canada, which I call Walking past colours

 

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