In considering the combination of gay men, sex, and crystal meth, a number of considerations come to mind for mental health professionals and researchers. For the first part, discussing gay men and sex, care must be taken to avoid generalizations, just as care would be taken to demonstrate cultural competency and absence of prejudice in discussing any subgroup of the general population. Why is it that gay men (excuse me, “men who have sex with men”) are still subject to a certain scientific, distancing condescension that is widely recognized as off-limits (rightfully so) for any other American minority?
The release of the latest installment of “The Exorcist” film franchise, “Exorcist: The Beginning” is another variation of the now classic theme of exorcising an invasive supernatural demon who has taken possession of an innocent young person – in the original film, a young girl, in the latest installment, a young boy. What is it about this story that fascinates us so much that Hollywood re-tells it every few years? Perhaps it is the classic battle of good versus evil, or perhaps it resonates within us the age-old mythologic struggle for us to identify and drive out the most nefarious aspects of our own personality. For many, the struggle with their own personal “demon within” is that of anger.
For the previous article to this, click here for Express Yourself, Part I
Last month, I related a story of a recent study from Dr. Kevin J. Petrie at the University of Auckland (New Zealand) of how 37 people living with HIV were studied in two groups: one group who expressively wrote about their feelings for 30 minutes a day on 4 consecutive days, and a comparison group who wrote objectively about how they occupied their time.
A friend of mine recently was telling me about an article he read about a study where people living with HIV who were shy – socially, emotionally reserved – had significantly worse overall health than people who were not shy. This story seemed to underscore the old adage about how “it’s not good for you … Read more
Recently someone very close to me had surgery for a health issue not related to HIV. She had the surgery, went home, began to recover for a days, went to the mall, and then suddenly had a fever and post-operative infection and had to be re-admitted to the hospital for a long course of intravenous antibiotics. This kind of setback made me think about the roller-coaster ride that can be our health status, physically and emotionally, as people living with HIV.
In my first column for A&U in August 2002, I wrote about how everybody is a therapist these days – from massage therapy to aromatherapy. I wrote then about how the term “therapist,” as I use it, refers specifically to professional providers of counseling and psychotherapy, who are appropriately trained and licensed by the states in which they practice. By having objective credentialing standards and standards of care, consumers of mental health services are protected from the modern-day equivalent of snake-oil, cure-all hucksters.
I recently saw the legendary drag performer, Miss Coco Peru (Clinton Leupp), do a wonderful homage to Disney’s now-classic musical animated film, “The Little Mermaid,” in her superb stage act. She poignantly and comically draws many parallels between her own life and the life of the fairy tale’s heroine, Ariel, the mermaid who “sells” her beautiful singing voice to the evil sea witch, Ursula, in exchange for getting legs to visit the sea surface, meet, and marry her land-lubber prince. Her identification with Ariel made me think of another analogy: How many people living with HIV “sell” their voice to get the things we need?
One of the sound bytes I remember from my days in elementary school was the phrase, “Everyone line up: boy, girl, boy, girl!” For teachers and school administrators, this was an easy of way of doing crowd control for groups of rambunctious kids. But I remember this was also rife with very predictable, homophobic and sexist jokes, where someone inevitably would say, “Hey, [fill-in-the-blank], which are you?”
I’ll be honest: I never did like math. I always thought numbers were generally a necessary evil, and much preferred words – that’s why I’m a therapist and a writer and not a mathematician or engineer. But for people living with HIV, it’s inevitable that we have to deal with numbers, and lots of them. … Read more
Living with HIV and being in a domestic violence relationship often bring up similar issues. Domestic violence, like HIV, is something stigmatized and often hidden, with many people suffering in silence and isolation when what they really need is human contact and specific help. Both HIV and domestic violence are related to human interpersonal relationships, and both have high emotional stakes. The damage done by each is gradual and insidious, and gets worse with time if it is not stridently addressed in a comprehensive plan for help. Women are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence, but it’s important to note that men can be victims, too, and it can occur in opposite- and same-sex relationships.