Crawling Out of a Hole
I can not yet make any promises, nor can I necessarily offer any explanations. I simply apologize for the cessation of my writing and hope that I can find it in myself to begin again. Perhaps this post will be a start. Perhaps not. I owe this one new post to my friend José Ferreira who linked to this blog from his new site in French. He also has published an English version.
For those of you who wondered, yes, I am still alive. I passed the twenty-fifth anniversary of my first and only HIV test on the 25th of August, 2010. I find it hard to imagine that I am still here after 25 years and sometimes wonder if my own interactions in this physical world are not just illusions to keep a ghost amused or worked up. Nonetheless, I am writing these words and seeing them show up on my screen, so something real must be occurring. I write, therefore I am? Would that mean that when I didn't write, I was not? I haven't even taken the time to read my blog again to find out where I was when I stopped writing.
There are some factors that have played into my silence of the past few years. First, my mom fell ill a few years ago causing me and my siblings to rally around her. She ultimately passed away from a stroke in 2008, but the passing of her body did not end the activities of her world. We had to resolve the issues of the estate after her passing and it had its own emotional toll on us all. She provided nicely for all of us, from her children to her grandchildren, but I can bet you that not one of us wouldn't trade in all that we own to have her back in health again.
In 2008, I became heavily involved in the election, supporting candidate Obama for President and any Democrat who ran against any Republican in this country. It was thrilling to me, a man who lived in a segregated North Carolina as a child, to see us go Blue and elect Barack Hussein Obama as President. However, I am disappointed in America. I have seen this country continue to live with and foment a more divisive ideological split. While sitting at home watching the Democrats shoot themselves in the foot over and over and the Republicans seem only to be able to start a sentence with the word "no", I have fallen into further dismay with the two party system in the US. I do not see an alternative that is viable within my lifetime and I feel very jaded politically. Despite this, I will continue to support the Democrats as they are the lesser of two evils, in my humble opinion.
I have lived through health care nightmares and am thrilled that this administration has been able to get health care reform through a Congress that seemed determined to defeat it. However, I am saddened by the slow pace of reforms that would benefit the LGBT community and the number of social manifestations of the hatred toward gay and lesbian citizens of this country. How many teen suicides will it take before those who spout hatred toward their "other" will realize that their hatred will come home to their own? When will they realize that they are killing their own children and grandchildren? Is that a family value worth holding?
It is election time again and I find myself reluctantly dragging my bony little ass out to volunteer for Democratic candidates yet again. I have to do it. They are the most accepting option within the system that exists and I have to work toward the goal of a tolerant America that values all of her citizens and all peoples of the world. I urge each of you to vote. Not only that, I urge each of you to find at least three other people whom you know and make sure that they get out to vote. The media seems to be telling us that the Republicans are going to take back the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. If we want two more years of stalemate in our government, then we just have to sit home on our asses and let it happen. If we want to see progress, we have to make it happen. WE have to make it happen, not the people who are running for office. They can't do a thing until we select them. Get out and support your candidates--we have only about 30 days before our lives will be affected again.
Health...oh my. In the past few years, I have lived through a bout of mild pancreatitis that caused me to lose 25 pounds in a two and a half week period. It was brought on by a change in my HIV medications and a nearly simultaneous shot of cortisone to my shoulder to ease pain that I had been experiencing. The combination of the drugs for HIV apparently had started a slow simmering bout of inflammation in my pancreas that was exploded by the addition of corticosteroids. When everything had settled out, I was thinner and weaker and had a healthy fear of ever taking corticosteroids again.
The cortisone shot not only triggered the pancreatitis, but it caused me to experience "roid rage" as it is called. I had a couple of unfortunate exchanges with individuals that can only be characterized as having taken place when I was "not in my right mind." I do not like it that it happened, but it did. If you are reading this and you were one of the people with whom I clashed, I apologize to you publicly now. I still stand by my view that any platform for self-expression is something that I will protect and if we disagree about an issue, then you have the right to find your own platform to express your views. I cannot allow anyone to force their agenda into my self-expression. Find your own and I will do my best to support you as long as we agree in principle.
Having given up on steroids as an option for my treatment, I had to resort to surgery to remedy the problems in my shoulder. I had surgery on my right shoulder in October of 2008 and then worked for months to recover mobility and function. Not long afterward, I started having other problems with my arms and hands. One morning, out of the blue, I awoke to find that my left shoulder was causing extreme pain. The muscles were cramped from my neck to my shoulder and down my back. After weeks of additional physical therapy, it was determined that I had cervical stenosis and required neck surgery. I went in for neck surgery in January of this year and have been recuperating from it ever since.
While sitting in the pre-operative area of the hospital in January, a doctor appeared and announced to me that there was an irregularity in my electrocardiogram. There was talk of delaying my surgery, but ultimately, it was determined that if they provided extra diligence, we could proceed. I went through the surgery without any problems, but had to schedule a cardio-stress test for a few months out. I dreaded the thought of having to hop onto a treadmill and walk, then run until my heart gave out. The time finally arrived and I had the test, apparently passing with some colors, flying or not.
This past Friday, I got outside and planted three azaleas. It didn't seem like much effort, but for me, I guess it was. Later, I joined a friend for a movie and then came home. When I climbed the stairs to check my email, I noticed my heart rate increasing and becoming unstable. There would be 3 beats and a skip, then 5 and a skip and then 2 and a skip and then 6 and a skip. All the while, my pulse rate was climbing higher and higher. My first thought was that I was having a panic attack, so I tried for quite some time to breathe the problem away. It did not get better. I tried again and it still did not get better. Eventually, I became concerned enough that I realized I needed to call the paramedics. All through this event, I was sitting here in a kind of cold calm, thinking that this could be the end I had expected for 25 years. I never did panic and I knew it was not a panic attack after the first few minutes. I was amazed that I faced the potential end of my life with intellectual curiosity and calm and remembered my therapist's words that "most people die in the same way in which they live their lives." I am not always calm and objective, but I was proud of myself that I was when it seemed important to be. I would rather face death in this manner than to go out screaming in fear.
Having been through this kind of event with my mom, I knew that I needed to get some things done before I called in the paramedics. I put my dogs in their cages and gathered up my medications. I then called 911 and reported my problem. Within minutes, the EMT and Fire Department had sent two vehicles to my house, sirens blaring and lights flashing, at 1:30 in the morning. My neighbors must have been thrilled with me. I was waiting outside when the EMTs arrived and I sat down inside the EMT van expecting to be sent to the hospital with a heart attack.
It turned out that I had a very irregular ECG, but nothing of the nature of a medical emergency. My heart rate was around 115-120 beats per minute and it was as irregular as it could be. The EMTs told me that I was most likely dehydrated. They offered to transport me to the hospital (not one of my choice, by the way), or suggested that I could arrange my own transport, or even that I could just drink some water and go to bed and follow up on this issue later. I chose the latter option and have been ok ever since. One nice thing did happen when I was sitting in their van. When I was giving my medical history, I was asked about my age and I reported that I am 51 years old. The med tech did a double take and then said to me that I "didn't look a day over 35!" I thanked her as best I could and wished that my pounding heart felt that young again. I will be following up again with my doc when I go in for my next appointment later this month.
Now, for the most difficult thing I have faced in years. I was in relationship for the past four years with my best friend and partner. I think that the effects of living with me through all of my health issues, and living with his own issues of work and life, he and I grew apart with time. When time came for him to pursue his bliss elsewhere, he did as I would normally encourage anyone to do, only we were not in a place where he could pursue his bliss without leaving me in the dark about what he was doing. I was left to learn the truth after the fact of what had happened and it was such that our relationship had to end. The end result was an abrupt departure of my support group, my lover, my partner and my best friend. It left an immediate void in my life that was painful to experience. I suffered through anger, frustration, a sense of betrayal, loss, grief, loneliness, fear and finally acceptance of my being single again. I started trying to date again and found it demeaning to reveal my age and HIV status to people only to find rejection and a dismissive tone.
It seems to me that the state of HIV in this country has taken a step or two backwards. People are mostly unwilling to engage in relationship with others who have HIV and the majority of those who do have HIV seem to want to practice unsafe sex almost exclusively. It has been very trying to find people with whom to share a meal, much less to find someone with whom I might want to share my life. I have found some very nice people and I am continuing to seek out a new group of friends to help me fill the voids left by my breakup with my partner. Dating is a big challenge at its best. I am finding some fun it it, but I know that I can not replace someone who is irreplaceable and that I have to redefine myself again in order to find someone new who will be good for me and I for them.
So, that is where I am and that is partly why I have been silent for so long. It is questionable whether I will continue to write this blog or if perhaps I might start a new one with a different perspective. It would be useful to me if you, my readers, could offer me some feedback about how you feel about my work. Please do. I am not sure that my opinions matter any more, but I am willing to share them if you will engage me to do so.
At any rate, I wish you all peace and hope that you will follow your bliss.
Categories: HIV AIDS HIV/AIDS anniversary testing José Ferreira