WHAT WORKS FOR ME :: Since publicly disclosing for the first time several weeks ago on the CBC that I was diagnosed HIV-positive in 2005, I find myself getting asked a multitude of questions. One of the questions I’m most asked is: “how is it that you are HIV-positive and so healthy”? This is often followed by: “You seem so robust and energetic – I would never have even thought you were sick!”
Isn’t it funny after all these years, the place we’re in on the issue of HIV? On one hand you have an often misinformed general public (to clarify: I’m not “sick”, I just tested positive for a virus, and for years since have continued to test “undetectable”; I can’t spread the virus) – and on the other hand, as I write this, my publicist, as we promote my World AIDS Day Special, is actually hearing back from some mainstream media – most people’s trusted source of information – that HIV is no longer relevant.
If people are walking around thinking that HIV = sick, such ignorance is newsworthy, methinks.
Or maybe this is: Earlier this week I had the honour of acting as MC for the Ontario AIDS Network’s annual Honour Roll reception. It was a lovely evening of heart and humour in which I shared a bit of my story. After, a woman came up to me and pulled me aside. “Thank you for being so inspiring for having come out. I’m HIV-positive and no one knows.”
If she had breast cancer, MS or any other of the multitudes of ailments one might have, bet you she wouldn’t be carrying the burden of a secret. But HIV? Still so misunderstood, and still so much stigma attached.
But I digress. The fact remains, I am not sick and I don’t get sick – aside from a couple of fairly forgotten undramatic bumps in my health along the way. Not even a cold in winter.
I attribute this to many two things. First I am blessed to live in Canada and in a modern age. I have access to meds that keep HIV virus at bay. I also have an incredible medical doctor with whom I can discuss anything; I’ve seen him for two decades now.
The second thing I attribute my long-term solid health to is my mindset and my openness towards new ideas when it comes to general well-being. I believe it’s about four pillars: mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. Keeping these pillars strong can cost money (but I believe I’m a good investment). Some options are not expensive, though, and others are free.
I didn’t suddenly one day begin practicing and incorporating all of this into my life, I just began to integrate what felt best to me in the moment, one thing at a time, over time, and still continue today.
- I detox every morning via oil pulling, and hot water with apple cider vinegar (or lemons, but I have a sensitivity to them) before having a coffee and food.
- I meditate and journal religiously.
- I drink a truck-load of fresh juice each week.
- I dry-skin brush before every shower at home.
- I practice hot yoga (super sweaty) at least once a week.
- I eat organic and free-range and local. This is more expensive but it tastes better and is better (I’m forever baffled by people who can’t live without the latest in phones but who want what they put in their bodies – food and drink – priced as cheaply as possible).
- I recently had my food sensitivities tested and so had cut some surprises (eggs! tuna! lemons! cheese!) right out of my diet once I got the results.
- I use a service like FitOrganix who provide healthy meals delivered to your door. Delicious and not much more than buying and preparing it yourself.
- I take a full range of vitamins and use products like Bio-K and UltraInflamx to create optimum gut health (HIV lives in the gut).
- I drink two shots of aloe juice daily.
- I drink at least one cup of green tea every day. I’ve been addicted for over a decade to this mega-healthy tea.
- I go on cleanses a couple times a year. Watch GGN in January for some post-holiday examples, including a social media cleanse I just did.
- I get a B12 shot monthly and am regular about getting my blood work done (this wasn’t always the case). I have my testosterone levels monitored (HIV can deplete your testosterone, I have learned the very hard way, and it’s awful).
- I also see a naturopath, a chiropractor, an acupuncturist, get regular massages, and have seen colonic therapists, energy healers, psychics, a yogi and an angel reader. I carry three particular healing crystals with me. It’s about having an open mind and heart about your life experience.
- I use the hot tub, steam room and sauna every time I’m at the Y. (Insert joke here.)
- After I publicly disclosed my HIV-status I went through a lot emotionally, for several days. I didn’t feel myself at all. I was taken really aback by how awful I felt. I was very despondent and paranoid about what people thought of me. After a week of that nonsense I got myself into counselling, which helped tremendously. I realize I was carrying around a lot of issues about being HIV-positive and I’m enjoying working with a great man at ACT to deal with them. Mental health is important for all of us to take care of – HIV or not – and I have never hesitated in my adult life to see a shrink when need be.
- I stay informed about new treatment options. This year a new single table regimen became available (I take four pills before bed) – so I made an appointment to talk to my doctor about it. I have no complaints about the cocktail I am taking, but I like the idea of reducing my medication from four pills daily to one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, med adherence is important to the success of one’s treatment. Sometimes I will run out of one of my four pills and realize it too late and have to skip a dose. Secondly, I noticed that I liked the idea of taking one pill because it felt more like taking a vitamin or supplement. When I mentioned this to my doctor, he said he knew of studies that show that when you don’t feel like you are taking meds, you actually don’t see yourself as sick. Anyone who knows me knows I’m all about the power of the mind. It feels empowering to me to have investigated these new options and be making a decision about choices.
- Even though I’m in media I am usually on a media fast or at least a strict diet. The information I need always trickles down to me.
- I do the things that bring me joy. I refuse to do anything I don’t want to do. That makes me seem difficult to some but it’s about your happiness, no one else’s.
- I’m super-careful about the company I keep, and who I allow into my circle. This is about looking at whether someone is an uplifter for you, or drags you down.
- I’m careful about how I speak to myself. Someone I know the other day described herself aloud as “slow” and not even in a light-hearted way. I would never do that, and if I did I’d catch it and re-frame what I meant. Your mind believes what you tell it.
Lastly, I am gentle on myself when I fall off the wagon on all of the above, because I do. Some days are better than others. And it’s important for me to also say that once a party boy, always a party boy. I still like to over-indulge, to party, to fall off the grid, and throw caution to the wind and I think I always will. I don’t beat myself up about any of this, but instead move back to balance as soon as I’m feeling I’m too far off.
I’ve come to understand that when I do any of this, that I’m just someone always trying his best to feel happy. And staying happy – no matter what – is, as far as I’m concerned, the #1 way I have maintained long-term health.
* This is not medical advise. Consult your doctor before trying any of the health practices described here.