Category Archives: HIV

You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

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Silva Mind Body Healing

I’ve blogged several times about how much the Silva Method of Mind Control has helped me in my life. Recently, I came across this very comprehensive website –   and yes its goal is to sell something, but please check out its content.  http://www.silvamindbodyhealing.com/

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Exploring Healthy Sexuality

 

“O Body swayed to music, O brightening glance how can we know the dancer from the dance?”   — W.B. Yeats

Sexuality is not something we do, but its part of whom we are.  We are physical, intellectual, emotional, sexual and spiritual people, and all parts are equally important.  To consider sexuality as energy, a state of being, and not a state of activity, helps us bring our sexuality and our sexual expression back within ourselves.

Part of my challenge with sexuality is to explore what healthy sexuality is and to decide what my values and behaviors are going to be.  I am responsible only for taking care of myself; it is not up to me to decide sexual issues for others or for society.  It is more than enough to know my own needs and how I will meet them.  I can give myself permission to put sexuality in its rightful place.  It is an important part of who I am, but only a part, not the entire sum of my personality and being.

 

Death in the Abstract

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“It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”   — Woody Allen

Even after a recent near death experience, I tend to think of death in the abstract, as a fact rather than a reality.  I know that everything passes and that we are bound to die, but I rarely allow myself to accept the reality of dying and being dead. 

Is this my way as well as that of others who refuse this fact our way of avoiding the reality of death?  It may be that we can only think of more worldly, mortal acts as a new beginning, a false sense of perpetual renewal, even a kind of rebirth.  Especially in fantasy and maybe even in our relationships, we are always “falling in love” all over again.  Always young, always beginning again, always keeping our options open.  Never settling into the contentment of a commitment. 

As we begin to mature and develop through our efforts of personal growth, we can learn to integrate our thinking and feelings about death into our daily lives.  We can sense death as an integral part of life, and not just as an abstract finality.  This can become part of our process of learning to experience reality in all its stunning diversity.  Life can become more precious as we realize that we must leave it. 

 

Gemini ~ Naturally Bipolar and Anxious

 

I am bipolar and within the last year or so, have begun to experience severe anxiety and panic. In late December I had meltdown of incredible proportions. The extreme anxiety disorder is new for me; haunting me for a little more than a year now. Anxiety so strong, and triggered by the actions of my partner. For several years, he has promulgated a new behavior, “Babe, I’m just running up to the 7 Eleven to get some cigarettes; I’ll be back in twenty-five minutes.” As he walks out the door I always say, “Take your cell phone with you,” which he already has in hand.

That promised “twenty-five minutes” turns out to be days that he is away from home, not answering his cell phone or even calling. I refer to it as my partner “going missing.” My reaction begins with worry. Then I may happen upon something on the computer exposing the person he would be meeting and what they would be doing. A friend of mine has a husband who has nearly same behavior. She calls this type a “player” explaining that these types of men want to still run the streets, cheat on their partners or spouses. The “player” behavior is incongruent with the committed relationship my partner and I have. This friend’s advice to me was to be proud that it is me he eventually comes home to, giving me parts of himself his hookups never see. To this I say, “bullshit.”

Player my ass. My worry then turns to anger. I can’t sleep. I start calling my partner’s phone over and over. He calls it “psycho dialing.” The anger then turns to tears. I cry as I wander through the house, “What did I do wrong? I didn’t do anything wrong.” My speech becomes so slurred and difficult to understand that it has been described as though I had a stroke. Lately, I noticed a pain in my chest along with a rapid and what I describe as “fluttering” heart. Irritability for me is a sign that I am swinging toward the maniacal part of bipolar. Then deep depression, laced with that wicked anxiety and panic. I began taking a prescribed anti-anxiety medication called Ativan. I was eating it like candy.

This most recent December meltdown grew so out of control I felt as though the only way to be free of it would come through ending my life. I have been in this cold place before and placed a call to the behavioral health crisis line associated with my health insurance. I was referred to the Maricopa County Hospital. There I was checked out and cleared medically and it was suggested I sign myself in to St. Luke’s Behavioral Health. I’ve been there before too. St. Luke’s worked for me before. Back in 2005 I nearly ended my life with a mantra in my head, “I hate my life, I hate my life.” After two months they helped me see the world differently and I left there with a new mantra, “I love my life, I love my life!” I felt safe returning there.

I worked hard over the next three weeks, finding that each time I told my story, I felt more at ease and could see the flaws in my relationship. I realize the degree of my co-dependency and made a commitment to attend CODA (a twelve step group for co-dependents). I was placed under the care of the psychiatrist who followed me last admission. He wanted to take my treatment further than I agreed to last time. In my first admission, he suggested ECT (Electro Convulsive Treatment.) I refused it then because of the loss of one’s short-term memory as a side effect of the treatment. But this time felt different to me and I agreed to begin the treatment.

Hello World!

My first blog on Blogger! I am so excited to be able to share my blogs with a whole new audience. I’ve been blogging for almost two years now on my 360 page on Yahoo! as well as to an even larger audience on WordPress.com (http://christophersmark/wordpress.com). My experience blogging has been very positive. I started blogging on Yahoo! after my partner, Christopher created my 360 page as a surprise to me. He did all the initial “setting up” of the page, and added as much of his own creativity as he possibly could. I had been telling him for months how intrigued I was by the concept of blogging. I’ve always been a conscientious one to journal on a daily basis. For my journal, I must have the most luxurious of bound papers and I treat myself to the most expensive pen I can afford. Journaling to me, is a release. It’s a way for me to look back on feelings, experiences and emotions. It’s a valuable way for me to review the lessons I’ve learned, and a chance to discern what I could have done differently in a given situation. When I journal, I write as though no one will ever see those pages but me. Honesty comes forth easily.

Honesty has become a theme in my life. I haven’t always been a person of integrity or honesty. It’s taken me a long time and its been a very difficult journey to get to the point where I am today. My blogs are all about honesty. My honesty. The lessons I am learning in this life, the fears I face, about my willingness for greater spirituality in my life, about my addiction to methamphetamines, my experience with mental illness and much more. There are individuals who may read this and find the level of honesty to which I subscribe well, unbelievable! Unfortunately, I have either run out of chances with them to prove myself, or they are unwilling to let go of the resentments they hold on to so tightly. To them, I shall always be “guilty until proven innocent”. I know the commitment I make each and every day when I first get out of bed; I commit to being rigorously honest in this new day, honest in every thought, word and action. I realize of course that I am human and prone to error, but by making this simple promise each and every day, I have grown into making honesty a habit and part of the under girding of my life.

The sharing of my honesty and my path of personal growth began on Yahoo! I quickly began making “friends” around the globe, all of whom were sharing such valuable feedback regarding my blogs. Eventually, I realized that I was nearing 700 “hits” per day on my 360 page! I yearn for ways to be more creative with my blogs and take my writing more seriously. I began taking a look at my options, and none seemed better than WordPress and now Blogger. Blogging has helped me grow in my writing, as I have even stretched a bit through my first attempts at writing poetry and short stories. Through WordPress and Blogger I have an even greater audience, still from around the world, and still offering that valuable feedback. I look forward to building a following of readers who are perhaps on the same path as I am, or maybe considering making changes in their life. I don’t set out to change anyone with my blogs, but rather show myself for who I really am. I’m no different than you…

AIDS virus is a “double hit” to the brain: study

Dementia

I’ll soon be having a NEURO/PSYCH EVAL because it is expected that I may have some of the early stages of AIDS related dementia. I found this today on the web:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The AIDS virus damages the brain in two ways, by not only killing brain cells but by preventing the birth of new cells, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

The study, published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, helps shed light on a condition known as HIV-associated dementia, which can cause confusion, sleep disturbances and memory loss in people infected with the virus.

It is less common in people taking drug cocktails to suppress the virus, and why HIV damages brain function is not clearly understood.

The virus kills brain cells but it also appears to stop progenitor cells, known as stem cells, from dividing, the team at Burnham Institute for Medical Research and the University of California at San Diego found.

“It’s a double hit to the brain,” researcher Marcus Kaul said in a statement. “The HIV protein both causes brain injury and prevents its repair.”

The cocktail of drugs known as highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART that treats HIV does not infiltrate the brain well, allowing for a “secret reservoir” of virus, said Stuart Lipton, who worked on the study.

HIV-associated dementia is becoming more common, as patients survive into their older years.

Working in mice, the researchers found that the virus directly interferes with the birth of new brain cells from stem cells.

“The breakthrough here is that the AIDS virus prevents stem cells in the brain from dividing; it hangs them up,” Lipton said. “It’s the first time that the virus has ever been shown to affect stem cells.”

The culprit is gp120 — a protein found on the outside of the AIDS virus, the researchers found.

“Knowing the mechanism, we can start to approach this therapeutically,” Lipton said.

“This indicates that we might eventually treat this form of dementia by either ramping up brain repair or protecting the repair mechanism,” Kaul added.

The Risks I Took and the Risks I Take

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The Risks I Took

“One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar.” —Helen Keller

The risks I took in my two previous relationships were profound. I look back at my behavior in each of those relationships, and I am absolutely horrified; ashamed even. I took the chance in those relationships that my partner or any other loved one would discover the truth about my promiscuity. I juggled multiple relationships; multiple lives even.

I gambled that I wouldn’t pick up a sexually transmitted disease (STD). I gambled that I wouldn’t pass on an STD to my partner.My life in those relationships was built like a house of cards. Without either of my partner’s actively investigating me, my schedules, computer histories or personal items, still found out about my activities. The data would somehow present itself to them. It would appear to them through some freak action it seemed. I may not have gone so far as to label myself as a compulsive gambler, but in retrospect, I was. I risked our very own lives for the thrill of living dangerously.

Both relationships ended similarly; the expectation they had of honesty was not respected and my behavior presented them with risks they did not choose to take.

By the time I had finally hit my own “rock bottom”, I could claim two failed suicide attempts and a hospitalization of more than a month and a half for recovery of an addiction to crystal meth. During that hospitalization I was diagnosed as being HIV+. The deadly STD had silently infected me, thrived even, within me. A viral load of close to 2 million and a CD4 count in the double digits began to make me aware that my body felt differently than it had in the past.Infections and malaise became the norm for me.Eventually, I was classified as being in “full blown AIDS” and was told by one doctor that I would be lucky to be able to live out my life for another two to four more years.

The Risks I Take Now

In my life as it is now, I am part of a relationship that allows me to channel my willingness to risk into constructive change. For the first time, I am experiencing true love and respect – both as a receiver and active giver of these feelings. I am, for the first time in my life, mastering the attainment of rigorous honesty with my present partner and loved ones; something that eluded me in the past. I can trust that what I am able to do now will help me grow; I can act and then let go of the outcome.

I try to make choices that result in the healthiest outcome possible. However, I am human and imperfect.Overall, I wake each day grateful to be happy and alive.Although in the past, it was my willingness to take risks that got me into trouble; it is this same willingness that has given me the platform from which I can grow. I am still taking risks, but these risks are now risks of love which keep me in this healthier form of life and relationship each and every day. The ghosts from my past still drift through relationships, hurting their loved ones and fooled into a shallow, misguided sense of happiness by their risky behavior. Those images are held in my mind as a touchstone to remind me of how I choose not to be. Today, I feel proud to take risks in order to enlarge my life.



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Where Is My Light?

 

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It seems as though my Light went out on or about the twenty-first of June, 2005. That was the day that my partner of 11years ended our relationship. From that day forward, and for many days thereafter, I could no longer stomach my life, or even my own existence. I wished I were dead. And with that thought in my head, a dull, constant pain in my heart began in my chest, My Light had gone out.  That bulb blew so hard, that I haven’t found a way to turn it back on again. Everything changed after my Light went out. No more jokes from me, and no more smiles either.  The way I look or the way that I live. I began hating myself so much, that all I wanted was to die. I wanted to be dead, or dying. One of the two. It didn’t matter. And then my wish came true. The first suicide attempt. Botched. The second attempt, failed. An admission to a psychiatric facility for management of my bi polar disorder and rehab for my addiction to crystal meth. I began faking my progress through treatment. I said all the right things that were expected of me by the staff at St. Luke’s.

And then I found out that I was not only HIV+, but in full-blown AIDS. At last, I was at least dying. My Light was really gone now. Everything I knew in my life began to fall apart and fell away from me. I couldn’t grasp anything that mattered to me. I couldn’t go back to the home Joel and I shared for ten years. Our pets were to be split up between us. Our furniture sent to be auctioned off. I would move in with my sister, apply for welfare assistance and hope for the day when I might be able to live independently once again. There was to be outpatient treatment, and twelve step groups. There would be no using of crystal meth, and no consuming of alcohol. I was watched as though I were an escapee from an asylum, someone on the verge of committing some terrible act of harm against society. Without my Light, I began feeling lost, alone, and afraid.

The only echoes of my previous life were those of the hurt, pain and suffering I inflicted upon those I claimed to have loved. There were dances in my head, of lies, deceit, cheating and manipulation. Without my Light, there was no life for me to love or for me to feel was worth living. How could Joel ever forgive me? I beat myself mentally until I felt that I was worthless, almost subhuman.

Then there were small sparks. An apartment. My independence. Welfare and food stamps. Friends to support me emotionally and to help me feel at least somewhat loved. A bigger spark still, I met my present partner, Christopher. Things moved quickly. We stated our love for one another the very first night that we met. He never left after that first night. We decided he would move in. This was my love at first sight experience. A glimmer of light. But not Light.

Something was wrong though with this relationship with Christopher. Our dreamy beginning suddenly turned cold and dark, as his temper flared, outbursts we eventually would call them. Physical harm. Hurtful, hateful words that still sting like a nerve pain. Without Light, life was in chaos. I couldn’t manage my life, Christopher couldn’t manage his, and neither of us could fully support the other. Our lights were shut off by the power company and for nearly three months we lived in darkness until we were evicted from that apartment. We lived in disarray. Whose fault was that? Why even bother to cast blame. Joel turned his Light upon me and I saw the way in which I was living, and it was not the way I have ever lived in the past. I could see it all, but only for a few moments. My ex-partner stretched out his arm and said he’d help me out this one time. This one time only.

A new apartment and a fresh start, but not the best choice. Close to the home I had with my ex-partner, and in my old neighborhood, but not safe. Still, life was not managed well. The car is lost, stolen, towed. Who really knows? We got caught driving it with a suspended registration and no insurance. I had to go before a judge and I still have not yet dealt with the fines. I should be filing for protection under bankruptcy. I can’t manage my money at all. And Christopher will spend it faster than I have ever imagined anyone spending money. My ex-partner remained by my side for a time, with ideas to make life manageable. He helped in many ways. His Light shining on me confused me then. I found myself fantasizing about being back in relationship with him. With every crisis in my life, I called him and was there. Shining some more of his Light so that I can see a little better than before. His shining Light revealed strange pathways of mine that appear when I make choices and decisions. I began to become aware that I wasn’t on the path that I should have been on.  Sadly, my ex-partner has completely severed all ties with Christopher and I, apparently having gotten in touch with some latent resentment and anger, for which he claims he will never be able to come to any form of forgiveness, the forgiveness from before, he says, wasn’t authentic.

Without my own Light, I feel that death is near. Surely without Light, my life shall end. I prepare for my own transition. Memorial service and the entirety of its music is selected, Last Will and Testament complete, disposition of the animals noted, Health Care Power of Attorney chosen. Now why won’t death just come? I’ve got to wait here in the dark? This isn’t even funny. I already feel so lost, alone and afraid. Christopher seems to be getting somewhat better though not really committing to taking his meds or going to therapy.

In my darkness I can’t see. Even my glasses are gone most of the time, worn by Christopher. I find a new area of discomfort in my gut. It’s vile and poisonous and comes through my darkness in the form of mean, hateful, hurtful behavior. Words that I know will cause equal pain and suffering to mine are hurled out against Christopher. And following these waves of anger grew despair and deep depression. A depression so deep that I can’t even move. Nothing looks good to me. I see no positive to my being here or my existence. My body feels as though each day, it is shutting down just a little more. I experience chest pain so severe that I have to stop and catch my breath and to rest until it subsides.

I take many, many pictures of myself. Christopher takes many as well. In these pictures I try to smile, as though I would be filled with Light, but each photo reveals a face that is contorted or in pain with each attempt. I look at these pictures and think to myself, “There is no Light living here”. I begin to edit each picture making each look even more gloomy, and dark.

With each day comes greater waves of anger and loss of self control. “I want Joel” I tell Christopher. “Joel will help me. He’ll rescue me. He always does. Joel is always there for me”. Christopher hears this many times over, and eventually begins to doubt my love for him. He believes it is Joel that I want. And if that’s the case I should go to him. But Joel has moved on. I have not. If I had my Light, maybe I could see my way clear, and move on from Joel. Or is that just an excuse to hang on to something familiar and someone who forgives and gives generously? My Light doesn’t even come on when I’m in the house we once owned together. It’s all so different and it doesn’t feel like my home any longer. All I hear are the echoes of the life we once lived there. Echoes of family gatherings and parties with friends. Of projects and crafts. And of course the things I did there that ruined the Light. Shameful, disrespectful, deceitful acts.

I miss the life that I had when I also had Light. Life was Spiritual. Life had a rhythm and a cadence. Life to me now, has a loud bullying voice that embarrasses me. Which of course I retaliate with my own viciousness that is sure to hurt. This life is filled with loss. The loss of things that was once dear and valued by me. Destroyed by someone who had no regard for their meaning and felt there would be a better use for them as an art project. The actual loss of a pet (Precious) and the impending loss of Cinder. I still grieve the loss of Pepper, Blue and CeCe. All of this is what I believe put out that once beautiful, shining, glorious Light that I had been filled with. Now, I have nothing. My writing this will certainly not please my partner. But it is the truth. I can’t go on living a life without Light. It doesn’t even matter how many days I may have left. Even if it’s just a few days of life yet to be lived, I would choose to have it filled with Light than all of this darkness.

I would like to know the steps I must take to reclaim my Light. How exactly do I get it back? Where do I begin? I wish to laugh again, and make jokes. I want a smile on my face to come naturally. I want to feel the love I have for another, and in turn the love one has for me. I want to turn to my God when I feel my Light begin to dim, to talk things out the way we used to. I want to enjoy the routine of life, and respect the entire world around me. I want to be responsible to the pets in my charge and give them the best care possible. I wish to cry less. I cry so hard that my Soul begins to hurt. And Souls aren’t supposed to hurt. I want my Light to return. It has taken much of my strength to cry out for help. But I did. I welcome feedback and feel assured that help will come. And so will my Light.


 

A Process of Learning Life’s Lessons – What’s Up With Those Incredibles?

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ere we are, Mark and Christopher. Two individuals, who are very much in love with one another and who for the most part, began our relationship treating one another with respect, compassion, and empathy.  Between us there is a vast amount of education, street smarts, creativity, persuasiveness, and many more qualities that are just too incredibly numerous to mention here in this blog.  In the beginning of our relationship, some friends and acquaintances started referring to us as “The Incredibles” from our outward display of confidence when facing such an abundance of adversity. Our calm and confident exterior merely masks our inner insecurities and anxieties.

We define our union as one which consists of a unique love; a love that can be honored as that “once in a lifetime, love of your life” experience.  With this intense love comes also a naiveté that creates an expectation in each of us that has us making up in our heads that by simply having found one another, making a commitment and by living a life which , though somewhat complicated, would at least afford us an easy rhythm.  But that is not what we have created up to this point in our lives.  We have created our own drama.

Each day, we face the remnants of our previous lives, misdirected anger, domestic violence, our battle and recovery to our addiction to crystal meth, financial setbacks created by our inability to budget, medical issues associated with our HIV+ status, mental health issues and our all around poor choices.

Since our path isn’t “revealing itself” by screaming, “Hi! Here I am!” we are striving to stay open to finding our path for ourselves. Once we feel we are on the right path, we plan to figure out how best to stay on it. The correct path will lead us through life and the lessons we are destined to learn and we will grow.

Through my blogs, I hope to share all of the drama and all of the challenges we have faced, and are facing now.  For some, the experiences that I share will be difficult to understand because our life may be very different from others and may leave the reader feeling unsettled, uneasy or uncomfortable.  Hopefully, readers will be able to discern a process of awareness, attempts to rectify or improve the situations by using new and more effective tools for coping. The rewards for facing our issues and choosing healthier solutions have so far included a raised and more heightened sense of awareness, an evolving definition of our own spirituality, a growing feeling of balance and stability, an easier rhythm to life, financial stability, less of a feeling of being “lost, alone and afraid”, synchronicity and a trust in the Universe’s ability to care for us.

As promised on my primary introduction page on WordPress, the posts I make will be nothing short of a pure and rigorous honesty. Pure honesty about the lessons I am learning and a life I feel I am beginning to master.