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.

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Txt, telephone or…blog…let’s talk about mental illness!


This is Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Multiple Olympic medallist Clara Hughes, lead spokesperson for the campaign, was on CTV News in Toronto today. From among the calls she fielded came this articulate gem, “To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.”

However, and this was Clara’s message, help and hope are available to those who reach out.

Citing Bell’s initiative today, St. Paul’s (Toronto) MP Dr. Carolyn Bennett, in a Member’s Statement in the House of Commons, called on the federal government to move forward with an anti-stigma campaign. I won’t hold my breath.

To kill the pain too often means to kill oneself.

Something else important to point out is that mental illness is on a spectrum. Major depression, bipolar or schizophrenia are examples of the most serious forms of mental illness but there are plenty of gray areas, too – usually the first signs of something more serious.

My first meeting with a mental health professional came around the time that I was diagnosed HIV-positive, nearly twenty-two years ago.  I was put on the lowest dose of a common anti-depressant and it was only when I took myself off it a few years later (unsupervised, such as I did it, is never a good idea) that I realized how much it had been helping.

Then, years later, what I identified as a distinct lack of depression led me down a path of behaviour quite out of character.  Only at the bottom of the deep hole of my own digging did I again seek help at which time I was diagnosed, over time, with bipolar-II – a variant of the more extreme bipolar or manic-depressive.

Listening to a description of the condition and its symptoms I recognized myself and felt much relief. It explained much about recent feelings and behaviour but also put historic episodes into better perspective.

A change in medication once or twice, trying to minimize effects on my lipids, has resulted in a recent period of stability.

I cannot take my moods for granted, certainly not the good ones.  Yet I feel that, so long as I take my medications (“head meds” or those for HIV/AIDS), I have hope.

Social contact cannot be over-emphasized either.