From Being Gay in Gang Life to Dealing With HIV and Mental Health
An Interview With Michael Storm -- Part of the Series This Positive Life
October 14, 2012
Michael Storm is a Latino immigrant who moved to the U.S. when he was only 8 years old. The youngest of seven kids, and with an older HIV-positive brother, he did not always feel he had the strongest support system. Though he struggled with chronic depression, he chose to ignore his mental health -- which led to an eventual mental breakdown shortly after his diagnosis in 2007.
Michael had to realize on his own the importance of mental health, starting with seeing a therapist, and then eventually attending a weekly support group which he still attends to this day. In this edition of This Positive Life, Michael guides us all through his journey and reminds us that health -- mental and physical -- is a delicate dance, and that you must, first and foremost, self-care if you plan to live a healthy life.
So let's start from the beginning. When did you know that you were HIV positive?
I was diagnosed in 2007, July 2007.
And did you think you were at risk?
Yes. Yes I did.
So, when you got the results, what was your reaction?
It was still a shock. You know, I'm sure it always is. I don't think there's ever any time that someone is given news like that and takes it lightly.
And where were you diagnosed? Was it in Illinois?
Here in Illinois. I tested regularly and, incredibly enough, I was actually able to pinpoint who infected me. That's how frequently I tested.
So, were you mad at yourself?
Mmm hmm. Yes. I have to say I was. I don't know if I should preclude this. I have a history of depression, which I was not dealing with at the time. And I think the depression helped in this bad behavior, this "self-destructive behavior," as I like to refer to it. And so that's something that I knew that was happening but I didn't choose to address.
Why didn't you choose to address the mental health stuff that was going on with you?
I knew it was self-destructive. I just didn't see it as a priority. I had school, I was in graduate school. I was graduating, I was looking forward to my new career. Everything else was more important than my mental health. In retrospect, if I had just taken the time, I don't think I would be positive today.
Well, you know, that's not rare. A lot of people have so much going on in their lives that the mental health stuff always kind of takes a backseat. So, once you were diagnosed, what did your linkage to care look like? Was it immediate? Did you take some time to talk to a specialist?
My doctor who I've been with for almost 20 years is an HIV specialist also. So he gave me the options -- which was the standard procedure back then, I think, for doctors to say, "Well you can start treatment now, or, given your current health, you can wait a little longer to decide." And, of course, being in the mode that I was at that point in my life, I chose to delay treatment. Because again, I had just graduated and I was pulling into my new profession. And I put my health aside just like I did my mental health.
And when was it that you started treatment?
It was about two years later, when I was actually having a breakdown. I couldn't work anymore. I couldn't function anymore. And this was a mental health breakdown. And in trying to work with my doctor for treatment for that, he also looked at my CD4 count and the viral load. And he said, "You know, I think it's time we started treatment." So that's when I said, "Well, I guess it's time to go on disability." One of the reasons I was delaying treatment, too, was that I was afraid of what the side effects of treatment would be and how they would affect my profession, my work. And so I chose not to get treatment just yet because of that, too.
This article was provided by TheBody.
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