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
So what is your treatment like on the HIV side? What are the adherence issues that you may have or you know, how do you deal with taking your meds for bipolar disorder and also HIV? Is that hard for you?
It's become a daily routine for me. I incorporate it into my morning routine of having coffee. You know, you get up, you do the "shower and shave" bit and then when I'm about to have coffee, I always make it a point to be the first thing I do with my first sip, take my medicine. As far as adherence, I find that one of the medications I take I have to take twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. The majority of the medications, the other medications, are all at once in the morning. So that's easy. The hard part is that last one at the end of the night. Because, sometimes, I forget. I go to bed, and I'll be in bed already and the medicine is only like three or four feet away, right next to my bed. And for some reason, I just won't take it sometimes, you know I'll be like "Oh, whatever." And then there are times that I kick myself in the butt, and I say "Get up, it's only three or four feet away, go and take your medicine." And so what I've learned is to dry swallow [laughs], cause I won't have anything to drink and that's usually a good excuse. "I don't have anything to drink," or, "I don't wanna go downstairs to get a glass." And so, now, it's like: get up, take it, dry swallow and forget about it. You know?
I just forgot the question I was gonna ask you. Love life, I was gonna ask you about your love life.
What has dating been like since you've been positive?
Well, dating -- I don't date. I haven't gone out on a date in a long time. I don't think about it too much, sometimes I do. I'm sort of comfortable right now where I'm at with myself. I'm happy about where I've come, but to the point I've come because of where I've been. I certainly have seen worse times in my life to date and so I'm not content, I'm actually happy. I'm in control of my health. I'm in control of my income, you know I'm working my way out of disability and back in the work force. That's very important to me, because I've always been independent. And then to have that not work for you for a while, you know it's something to be happy about. And I found that I have these two incredible pets that they're just so loving and I like that. I like that relationship I have with them and while I know it doesn't replace a person, it certainly helps. It makes me okay with not being with someone. Beforehand, I was a relationship oriented person. I was most of my life in monogamous relationships, long term monogamous relationships. And I'm grateful to have had them; a few of them have passed away from AIDS already. But I'm grateful to have had them and at the very least you can look back and say well it's better to have loved than never loved at all. And so that's kind of where I'm at right now.
Do you see yourself in the future being open to love? Open to dating?
Oh yeah, sure, sure. I am, always. It's just that it's not a priority and again, I'm grateful to have already experienced and I guess I look at younger people and what they're going through and what I've been through that, and say yeah I remember that, that was fun, that was interesting. Now, I think I would have to, it's so different. It's a different world. You know, and in looking at who could possibly be a match for me, well they have to be open to being HIV positive or be HIV positive themselves. I have some standards that I go by, like health is important, you need to take care of yourself. Looks, you know, that's not that important to me, so much as health is, and independence to some point.
I just want to talk a little bit more about the support group that you're in. Can you tell me a little bit more about it? You're still in it?
Okay. Is this the same one that you've been in the whole time?
I've attended a couple of different support groups. But the one that I'm attending right now is the one I started with, and the one that I see a stronger connection to, just because I've gotten to know some of the members of the group -- both employees and people that rely on it. And you know I'd like to think that we've established a decent relationship where we can co-mingle and get together here and there.
And how often does it meet?
It meets once a week, on Wednesday night, and the attendance is usually anywhere from 15 to 20, 25 people, depending on what's going on. The facilitators are very generous. They provide a meal to start the session. And then, as the dinner goes along, we each give our report as to what's going on in our lives, what's going on with our health during this past week that we've been out, and we all get to hear about each other and also give each other feedback, if necessary. There are rules to the support group, as far as behavior, and confidentiality and things like that, but sometimes they surprise you, like, for example, the conference that's going on here in the city today, they actually decided to have one of our support meetings that meets on Saturday as well, have it here. And it was a pleasant surprise. I just found out about it last minute.
I had to trek across the city to get here, but it's a fun surprise, because it gets me out of the house.
Mmm hmm. And so how has HIV changed you? Cause you've been diagnosed not too long ago. Do you think you ever would have sought mental health care had you not been positive?
Yes, yes because I saw, I just saw my mental health deteriorating. I could see how it was affecting everything around me. You know -- my work, my family and my friends. And I don't know that HIV has affected my life so much as the mental health part has. All I had to do really was talk about it with people. I haven't, I've been fortunate that I haven't had any health issues, physical health issues to deal with so when I started treatment, I had very little if any side effects to the treatment. I'm still on the same treatment.
And you're doing well.
Yeah, I haven't had to change. So I, in that aspect, it has not affected me, which is great, because at least it's let me concentrate on the other part. And it's let me make new friends. It's let me share perspectives. I respect other people's perspectives. It's not the same as mine, but it hasn't impacted me, I don't think, that way. HIV has impacted me more personally in my personal life -- with my friends that have been impacted by AIDS -- than it has personally in my life. So for that, I guess, I am grateful.
And so my final question is what would be your words of advice to people who are just diagnosed?
I would say reach out, definitely reach out and, if you really care about yourself, just start looking at some type of network, creating a network for yourself of support. These are things that I don't think a lot of people ever think about if they're healthy. So, it's really hard to do, especially when you're at that point that you're in need of it. But, I would say, get yourself a network of support. Reach out to your family, reach out to your friends, reach out to the community and get it established and the stronger that that network is, I think the stronger you become in being able to deal with your diagnosis.
Great, and with that, we're going to bring this interview to an end. Thank you so much.
You're very welcome.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Copyright © 2012 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.
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