I write a lot about mental health because my mental illness has shaped my life into what it is today. I hear people say all the time that they wouldn’t change a thing in their past. I can say without skipping a beat, there are things that I would change. I can go back and revisit my past behavior and my past mistakes, and I can see how they are heavily influenced by mental illness. And I could honestly do without many of those memories and experiences, I really could. But this is, of course, a double-edged sword. Because of those experiences, I am who I am today. But I wonder if I had gotten the help I needed early on with my bipolar, would I be HIV positive today? Does it matter? I’m here now, with bipolar and HIV. So, what do I do?
I share because if life has taught me one thing, it’s that we are never alone and if my story hits close to home, let’s be friends. If you’re struggling with mental health (and HIV), hit me up. If you know someone who is hurting with mental health (and HIV), listen up.
Here's some information on the correlation between mental health and HIV. I just read a paper called HIV/AIDS and Mental Health Report by the Secretariat that was published by World Health Organization in 2008 (I know 10 years ago, but it’s really good). “Mental disorders, including substance use disorders, are risk factors for contracting HIV,” “The prevalence of mental illnesses in HIV-infected individuals is substantially higher than in the general population.” “Mental and substance-use disorders affect help-seeking behaviors or uptake of diagnostic and treatment services for HIV/AIDS." So what can I tell you that might help. GET HELP NOW. If you’re depressed, suffering from anxiety, mood swings, suicidal thoughts, and any other mental health issue, you know it makes basic care even harder. Tell your doctor or any healthcare provider that you’re not okay, and that you need help. Tell a family member, tell a friend. I had a family member close to me tell me I needed help, I knew I did. I just didn’t know where to start. We went to the hospital. I was honest, I disclosed my mental state, and I was admitted to a behavioral health facility. It was one of the hardest and bravest decisions I ever made. I was there for 2 weeks, and I worked hard with my doctors and staff to figure out what I needed. Taking control of your life and mental health requires courage. But it can be baby steps too. Open up, start advocating for yourself. Once you start your path to mental and physical wellness, things become easier. I can manage my HIV much better now. It’s not the daily struggle it used to be. I’ve started sharing what I’ve gone through because I want to stop the stigma associated with mental health. Getting help for yourself and admitting you need help isn’t a weakness, it’s courageous. I AM Woman, Hear Me Roar!!! (That’s a song, right?)