|Me frolicking at La Rocca (organic) Vineyards|
Wednesday, June 5, 2013
How I “treat” myself (living well with HIV for 20 years and with no AIDS drugs!)
The first question everyone asks me, when I share I have been living with HIV for 20 years now and without “AIDS drugs” or regular “health care”, is: “How did you GET it?! “
Depending on my mood, I will respond:
“Well, while I was prostituting with my bi-sexual, African heroine dealer/boyfriend, in Bangkok, in the 80’s, I got in an accident, lost some teeth, and needed a blood transfusion. But between you and me, I think it was from the dentist’s office.”
But usually, I tell them the truth: “Well, at the age of 19, I was exposed to HIV by the same needles used to treat me for malaria, while doing volunteer work in East Africa. Yeah, I know. Isn’t it ironic?”
The second question is “You don’t look like someone with HIV. How do you keep so healthy?”
Unfortunately, people (especially medical professionals) generally do not approve nor believe my answer: “Well, I do whatever the hell I want—in ALL aspects of my life. And that includes NOT going to the doctor’s office!”
When I was diagnosed with HIV in the early 90’s, there were NO treatment options; basically, it was a death sentence. So I had no choice back then. I was told I “may” have “10 years-ish” to live. The medical establishment (meaning well) proceeded to recite a long litany of things that COULD kill me--you know, like sushi, sex, smoking, alcohol, raw cookie dough, bad water, AIR, contact with sick people, etc. *Thank you, Doctor! I would much more prefer to die by raw cookie dough consumption (preferably with ice cream!), then slowly, painfully decaying alone, hiding my “loathed” disease, over the next 10 years!
My official response: “Well, if the Titanic is going down, I will be dancing in the ballroom with a martini.”
In other words, I chose QUALITY of life over QUANTITY of life. I did NOT stop smoking, drinking, devouring sushi, eating raw cookie dough whenever I got the munchies, having sex, traveling, you know…Living! I figured death is inevitable, I might as well enjoy the ride while I can!
As soon as I could, I returned to Africa to help set-up community-based health care systems, with special focus on HIV, TB and Malaria, in areas where there was little to no public health care infrastructure (read: no doctors, no nurses, no medicines, no clinics, no RULES, etc.) I imagined I would heroically die out “in the bush” doing Mother Teresa stuff. Well, as usual, the joke was on me—after a decade of such life and several continents later, I married a (HIV negative) DOCTOR and ended up back in the States! Isn’t it ironic (again)?!
We had no access to AIDS treatment options in Sub-Saharan Africa until 2004-ish, so the only health care options for people living with HIV/AIDS at the time (throughout most of the world, I might add) were a mixture of limited “band-aid” drugs and some antibiotics; holistic therapies by local traditional healers; the prayers of family and shaman/church; decent nutrition; and improved living conditions—if we were lucky. So, basically, I had no choice but to take care of myself those “exciting” years with limited access to drugs, limited choices in food (they don’t have Trader Joe’s out in the bush!), poor water and sanitation systems, poor living conditions, and high levels of stress—ranging from full-on WAR to ghetto/slum/township style-living.
Generally, I was too busy with work (and play!) to even THINK about my own health issues. However, early on in my experience, I noticed one of many clear patterns: Whenever I get stressed-out, I get sick. It took me a few years, and lots of trials and errors, but eventually I figured out that if I ignore, neglect or repress a “negative” emotion (like anger, hate, resentment, bitterness, depression, exhaustion, “stress”) it will ALWAYS show up as discomfort in my body and its severity is always directly relative to the level of stress in my life. *It was not until recently I discovered numerous medical and psychological studies confirming this conclusion.
My “early warning system” shows up as a common cold, allergies, fatigue, a mysterious ache or pain, maybe a rash. Nothing big. But now I know this is my body telling me, “Hey, Kelly, you are NOT happy about something. You are out of alignment. Stop and look into this immediately or we, your body, are going to take you down!” And I have learned the hard way, my body is not fuckin’ around. So I immediately STOP everything and listen to my body.
For example, if I have a toothache, I immediately go online and research the SPIRITUAL meaning behind my toothache for a clue as to where this pain is REALLY coming from. I am a believer that all our illnesses/dis-eases are emotions trapped in our body, even our cells. According to Louse Hayes, tooth pain indicates “indecisiveness”, not being able to make a decision. The suggested affirmation for tooth pain: “I make my decisions based on the principles of truth, and I rest securely knowing that only right action is taking place in my life.”
No, of course, repeating this affirmation for toothache is not going to instantly stop my very immediate tooth pain, but I do believe it does quicken the healing process, *even if it is only serving to distract me from THINKING about the pain, and brings me much needed clarity. Next, I research holistic therapy options for tooth pain—which can range from herbal ointments to acupuncture (and then some.) I ALWAYS try holistic therapies (in combination with turning inwards/meditation) first. Going to the doctor’s office/Emergency Room is my LAST resort!
Unlike most people living with HIV (or any other chronic illness), I no longer go to the doctor’s office. I monitor my health and well-being by how I FEEL. I don’t need lab work to show me how I am doing. In the event of an obvious emergency, like a burst eardrum due to island-hopping in the Caribbean, I go straight to the Emergency Room because, well, it feels like an ice-pick being slowly, constantly drilled into your skull.
I subscribe to the philosophy of Law of Attraction, which states: “You attract what you constantly THINK about—good or bad.” Thus, I rarely even THINK about living with HIV, much less WORRY about being sick. Haven’t you noticed that the people who are always TALKING about their disease/illnesses, well, are ALWAYS sick?!!! This is NOT a coincidence; this is the Law of Attraction.
But essentially, most of my HIV treatment is all about HOW I treat myself:
1. I do daily positive affirmations, meditations, and keep a regular Gratitude Journal: I THANK my body, sometimes in great detail, EVERY day!
2. I look for the positive in EVERY situation. I try to make all my experiences fun, meaningful, zen, or a learning experience—even the mundane stuff like running errands and laundry.
3. I surround myself with fun, positive, conscious, generous, loving people. I avoid “negative” people/situations and emotional vampires.
4. I eat whatever the HELL I want and when I want it! No special diet. I don’t want to live 500 years just eating nuts and berries--BORING! I just happen to be “pescatarian”, which means I eat fish and dairy, but no mammals or fowl. Note: I LOVE sushi and raw cookie dough!
5. I pamper my body whenever/however I can. This means pedicures to massage to watsu to luxurious bubble baths to naps to SEX! Yes! Lots of sex!
6. I do not waste time, energy or words being bitter, angry, boring, critical, or unhappy. If I am unhappy, I change my perception of the situation, change the situation, or leave the situation entirely. *I have learned that if I allow myself to be depressed, self-piteous, or angry too long, it will ALWAYS show up as an illness in my body.
7. I practice self-awareness constantly, daily; basically, when I am not sleeping, in order to monitor my FEEL GOOD factor and make adjustments when needed.
8. I practice SELF-LOVE. I speak only loving, empowering, positive words to myself (*well, most of the time, still working on that!)
9. I am constantly learning and trying new mind-body-sprit healing modalities—examples: listening to binaural beats, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), Reiki and other energy work, chanting, Ayurvedic therapies, different kinds of yoga, Qi Gong, sound therapies, etc.
10. Having a good time, trying new things (learning), making new friends, loving myself, family, friends, and even strangers are MY PRIORITY. Period.
So, how do I TREAT my HIV? It all comes down to how I TREAT MYSELF, every moment of the day. In my 20-year personal experiment with living with HIV, without meds, and with no health care, my conclusion is that when my HAPPINESS is my priority, it is clearly reflected in my good health. So my health plan is simple: Be as happy as I can and then die.
But as I always say, “Don’t listen to me (or your doctors or the “experts”), do your OWN homework!”
LIVE your bliss,
Kelly N Patterson (aka, the Goofy Guru)