Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Tipping Point

tip·ping point
  1. the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.

In the past month or two my Doctors, Nurses, friends, etc. have definitely noticed a change in my mood and over all outlook towards life, they all have the same question.  "when do you think this change occurred?"

Well we would have to go back to January of 2013 when I reached one of the lowest points in my depression.  After my suicide attempt in November of 2012 I realized I could no longer afford my rent, bills, etc.  Friends decided it would be a good idea for me not to live alone, and a friend happened to have a room for rent with all utilities, etc included. So I moved into his place in January.  That's when the low point began. I stayed in bed for days at a time, some days I wouldn't even eat, I rarely left the house, I hadn't lived with roommates for almost 15 I had 2-3 roommates. It's extremely difficult for a person like me to adjust to other peoples "stuff" and over a year later Im still trying to adjust,  It was a HUGE time of change for me, I was still grieving the loss of my mother just a few months prior.  I completely stopped taking care of myself.  Meaning I was only taking my anti depression and sleep meds.  I quit taking my HIV meds, because frankly I just didn't care if I lived or died.

Over a period of a full year I was slowly deteriorating, it began with my energy level declining, I was walking at a snails pace, I would occasionally be short of breath.  Then it escalated, all the things mentioned before increased and then I started having dizzy spells and occasionally stumbling when I was walking. I would take a shower and I would immediately have to lay down because I had no energy. The stumbling while walking turned into major falls, the last one was when I couldn't get myself out of the bath tub and fell numerous times.  I went to see the Dr the next day and was sent to the Emergency room where I was admitted to the hospital on January 10th 2014

They tested me for what seems like everything.  I had biopsies of my lungs, x rays, blood drawn daily sometimes multiple times for further testing.  They kept me for 11 days, I believe just because they couldn't figure out what was wrong.  I did unfortunately have another little fall in front of a nurse so that may have extended my stay.

I truly believe the only reason I was that sick was because my T-Cells were 32 and my viral load was over 4 million.  I would imagine that would affect every way your body works and supports itself.  In other words I was slowly allowing myself to die.  I also had some pre cancerous lesions that required surgery and the recovery from that has taken a while.  Im sure that added to my overall health issues,  but Im almost healed up from that surgery, just in time for a new surgery in June or July.

So here is the good news.  I have been on all the proper medications since January, and although my t-cells haven't gone over 250 yet my viral load has gone from 4 million+ to just over 2200.  I am back to seeing a therapist weekly.
When your body is working properly your mind is also in sync.   I'm not nearly as crabby as I was before, I let (most) things slide right off my back,  I'm back to volunteering at The Center interacting with people and I have found a new passion in the Mental Health/Mental Wellness field trying to educate and advocate.  I've been very busy helping with a friend that is extremely ill and has been in the hospital for a couple of months, although that doesn't make me happy it does make me realize how fortunate I am to have my health and to be given yet one more chance at life.  I must be like a cat. I figure I'm down to 6 lives now.  

Will this change be a permanent change?  Let's hope so.  Depression and anxiety are always going to be there but they are manageable.  Right now I seem to be managing perfectly well.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What My LGBT Center means to me...

The San Diego LGBT Community Center has has been a part of my life since I moved to San Diego in 1992. The first time I remember going to the Center was on 4th Avenue behind the Brass Rail.  It wasn't the nicest location, it was by no means the lovely buildings that subsequently came along later. But it was ours and we weren't hiding, it was there for everyone to see.

Over the years I have both been frustrated with the Center and also applauded them for the wonderful way they would put out the call for us to gather to empower us, help us mourn, celebrate our victories and comfort us in our times of struggle..  The frustration came in the early days when the Center was in a beautiful brand new building that the LGBT community was so proud of on Normal Street.  To me it had the feel of an "elitist" social club.  You had to be buzzed in by the front desk and given the third degree as to why you were there.  It just didn't seem like a welcoming place for everyone. Back then the "drop in" center was part employee kitchen, part area to disperse information for the community and a pay phone.  It was a very sterile and cold environment.   There were nice meeting rooms which we most definitely utilized. The "auditorium" was a decent sized room however any larger rallies, etc had to be held in the parking lot to accommodate everyone. Most of the time who ever was speaking would have to stand on the stairs above the crowd for everyone to hear.  I remember the candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard.  I remember just holding on to my friend Tomas and both of us crying our eyes out.

We held our March on Washington meetings at the Center on Normal Street, Usually upstairs if I recall.  I was a National Delegate so I would meet with the San Diego group to take their ideas and concerns back to the national board.  Jim Cua was the President of the San Diego group, and I remember him fondly.  Thanks to Jim a lot of good ideas came from those meetings.

A chapter of GLAAD was formed in San Diego by the handsome and sexy David Hill (can you tell I had a thing for him) I was a founding member of the organization. and the group elected me fundraising chair as well.   We held most of our meetings at the Center in one of the smaller rooms downstairs.  That is until GLAAD/LA asked us to close our chapter and absorb into theirs. Still today I think that was a mistake, but it was out of our hands.

 We have certainly come a long way since those days. We allow everyone to walk through our doors and offer a  friendly hello.  Our auditorium today is beautiful!  We have a wall honoring LGBT Veterans, a wall of Honor for all the LGBT "pioneers" in our community, and more wall space to fill to honor more beloved members of our community.

When the Center moved to its current location everyone was so excited, it was a great big beautiful building only one block away from its former location.  After getting somewhat settled in, the real work had to begin,  there were many structural changes needed to the building to accommodate the needs of the community.  When we found out how much money was needed for repairs. The community began to push back a little.  I guess we didn't have the vision of how wonderful the finished product would be. There were rumors the Center might have to close and, and all kinds of other nasty things started being said.  But instead of being angry, the community rolled up its sleeves and help build The Center "brick by brick" through sponsorship and corporate donations, some city funds earmarked for community centers.. Heck if there was a spot on a wall for a tile or a staircase, or hallway to be named after someone it was done.

The Imperial Court raised tens of thousands of dollars for The Center back in those days.  I remember at the beginning of my reign as Empress, the Board President, Nicole "asked us" to pledge to raise $25,000 during our reign.  My Emperor wasn't always the most pleasant of people so he bitched and moaned about how much money the organization had already given them so Nicole raised that figure to $50,000.  Between the three monarchs and the Board of Directors that year we reached that goal. Even before reaching that goal  we were honored at the Center Gala with a very nice award.  Nicole snatched it out of my Emperors hand and gave it to me.   I still have that award and it means a great deal to me, it represents pride in my community, pride in my center, and pride in myself for obtaining the goal with the help of the entire membership of the Imperial Court.

I was so excited when I became part of the planning committee for the next Center Gala, I attended a few meetings but unfortunately a new job conflicted with meeting times and I had to bow out.   That really bummed me out.  But then a great honor was presented to me.  I  (Summer Meadows) was asked to be on stage at the Gala with Center Board member, and a dear friend, John Laird to do the live auction.  My Center called ME and asked for my help.  WOW that meant a lot to me.  I never had felt like a bigger part of the community as I did then.

Today the Center has grown into a community center for ALL.  There are programs for seniors, women, LGBT families, Transgender groups, AIDS WALK San Diego, there is a free food distribution each month for the entire community, not just the LGBT community, Latin@ Services, sports groups, HIV Services including free testing 5 days a week Organizations of all kinds utilize the many meeting spaces.  There is a very successful psychological counseling program, we have a wonderful lending library with hundreds of LGBT themed books, a computer lab where people can use computers for free 5 days a week. we have  Sunburst Youth Housing, a housing project for teens that have been living on the streets and/or kicked out of their home because of their sexual orientation.   Not only do i participate in the Center's counseling program, I also attend rallies to motivate us to fight for our basic human rights, Town Hall type meetings, celebrations and even memorials.

So, What Does My LGBT Center Mean to me?
The Center continues to be a place where people come to feel like they are in a safe haven.  I know when I walk through those doors I feel empowered and protected and a part of a group of people that truly care about the community. Ive been volunteering at the front desk of the center off and on for 2-3 years now, Ive worked with Family Matters, and the monthly food distribution.  Currently I am working on other projects that will benefit the center and the community, because The Center is always growing and changing to accommodate our communities needs.  I am proud to be a part of it, no matter what capacity.

Friday, April 25, 2014


A few weeks ago I was talking to my therapist about how excited I was to begin volunteering in the Mental Health field.  She stopped me and reminded me how in the past few years I was always mentioning my lack of passion for anything in my life.  She also recognized how eager I am and the excitement I was showing for this new endeavor.  Yes, she sad I found my passion again.   It reminded me of a blog post I wrote just over 4 years ago, there is an excerpt below.

I used to be passionate about stuff. Now I dont even care.

I used to be passionate about causes, I used to have a passion for my work, Ive been passionate about people at times. Now I dont care much about anything, Ill go days without getting off the couch, showering, or at times even brushing my teeth.

Sometimes I take the worlds problems on as my own, I start to get in this thought process that I hate the direction the country or the world is going and it really starts to get me down. It can be triggered by something as small as people not using a turn signal to something as big as a national election. So rather than get myself going on a downward spiral of hating stuff, i chose to just not think about it. But that brings me to the place I am now.. Not feeling anything at all. Or maybe its all these pills the Dr has me on right now. Whatever it is its not working.. This entire week Ive been down in the dumps, not wanting to leave my couch and do anything..

Im going to give myself a big pat on the back because even though I have encountered MUCH larger obstacles like the death of my mother, and my major health concerns since writing this blog I have have made it through all of it.  Looking back at some of my old blog posts is very difficult, those were some very dark days.

I now have things to look forward to, my self esteem and confidence still isnt as great as I would like it to be.
But its obvious Im getting there.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vanity, thy name is Kurt

I didnt always have the "perfect" smile, for whatever reason i never had braces even though I did have spaces between my teeth, they were uneven in size but still not awful. When I was 16 I became a summertime nanny to three children who's father was a dentist. He asked if I would be his guinea pig for a process he had never done before called "bonding". "Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin material (a durable plastic material) is applied and hardened with a special light, which ultimately "bonds" the material to the tooth to restore or improve person's smile." (from WebMD) Its a temporary fix that lasts about 10 years.

Unfortunately over the years the seal on the veneers splits apart and plaque, bacteria, moisture, food, etc gets behind the veneer and rots the small amount of existing tooth the veneer is attached to, so at some point the tooth will break off, This has happened to me twice now, both times right in the front of my mouth.

I looked up the definition of vain and vanity and neither one are particularly attractive definitions

vain [veyn] adjective
1. excessively proud of or concerned about one's own appearance, qualities, achievements, etc.; conceited: a vain dandy.

2. proceeding from or showing pride in or concern about one's appearance, qualities, etc.; resulting from or displaying vanity: He made some vain remarks about his accomplishments.

Of course I realize there are HUGE problems in our world and in the big scheme of things my tooth falls way below the level of importance to most people. But for me its part of who I am, it greatly effects my self esteem and my self confidence. My smile is a HUGE part of my personality. I don't smile like i used to, if I laugh I look like Misss Celie and cover my mouth up with my hand, and I never smile for photos, I even try to avoid photos if I can. If you look at my Facebook photos, the albums of me with friends in particular you know what a ham I am and how BIG i like to flash a smile. IM at a loss of what to do next, my insurance has already paid for everything up to now. The rest is up to me. They need to do a "build up" because there is nothing to attach a crown to, then there's the crown. Total cost $679.00

Over the past years I have had friends hold benefits to pay their medical bills, or at least help them pay them pay a portion of their bills. I always kind of thought that was odd.. I have a bill from a 2009 hospital stay for about $13,000 before I had any insurance. I never expected anyone else to be responsible for it but me. But now I understand why people ask for a helping hand.

When my tooth first fell out it was during one of my depressed episodes and I wanted to just give up, I definitely wasn't going to go out and be seen in public with a missing tooth. Well of course I have gone out into the world and even enjoyed myself. I have so many medical issues I am dealing with right now and I look at my tooth as one of those issues. I cant imagine what you as a reader are thinking when you read this. I'm sure parts of this I come across as an extremely vain person, but Im being honest when I say this issue truly gets me down on a regular basis.

So when I saw that some woman did a Go Fund Me Campaign for a boob job i thought, what the hell have I got to lose? Ive waited a while to post this because I had to make sure I was ready for the criticism and snide remarks some people might make. So here it is my plea for financial help.

If you would rather pay directly to my dentist Im sure that can be arranged just message me for contact info.

UPDATE.  Im currently looking into a dentist in Tijuana so the cost could come down considerably.  Ill change the amount when I get an estimate

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

You're My Best Friend

How do you "chose" a best friend?  Or do they chose you?  Maybe you chose each other?  Can you have more than one best friend at a time?   Is it automatically the person you've known longest?   Ive never figured out a formula for this.

When I was in K-3rd grade my best friend was Tommy Fitzgerald, Tommy always liked to remind me of that fact.. "we're best buddies right?"  We were mostly at school friends but we did things outside of school too, like I would watch him play baseball, we went to Judo class together and summer school. He was always bugging me to go to church with him.

4th and 5th grade I didn't really have too many friends at all, let alone a BEST friend, that was the beginning of the years I was bullied.  I remember trying to have friends but I never really connected with anyone.  I spent a lot of time cleaning the chalkboard erasers for the teachers during recces.  At lunch time I enjoyed chatting with one of the playground supervisor mom's named Doris.  Even at that age I knew her foundation was too light and her lipstick was too dark.

Middle School wasn't too different than before except maybe a wider pool of people to be bullied by.  I had plenty of classmates that I was friendly with but that usually ended once we walked out of the classroom. My neighbors were all mostly older than me so they couldn't be seen with a 6th grader.  I wanted to be cool, I wanted to fit in with the popular kids. Instead I tried hanging out with the "not so nice" crowd.  In their minds I was just a rich kid so they just wanted me to steal jewelry from my mom for them.  Cari Joseph taught me how to smoke clove cigarettes behind the gym and how to ditch classes.  Lunch was tough, until I started hanging out with Priscilla Ponce and Paula Gregg, and Dana Cline.   See the pattern?  All girls except for Tommy when I was real young.  But still in middle school no best friend.

High school was a little different, there were certainly more students to choose from for a best friends, but that also meant more bullying.  I certainly had all my girls at lunch time to hang out with in the quad at Huntington Beach High School.  Mynde, Tammy, Cindy, Grace, Debbie and Im sure others Im forgetting, but that was my core group of girls.  Id have to say they were all my best friends.  We would tease each other, laugh, talk and talk (some of us did more talking than others  ahhhhhem Debbie)  We would hang out constantly outside of school, listening to music, cruising and racing in mom or dad's car.  I also found great solace in photography class, sometimes even ditching PE and stay in the darkroom or our on campus taking photos.  Mr Morehouse my photo teacher turned the other cheek often when he would see me in his class up to 3 hours a day.

Then comes adult life, friendships become more complicated and at times a little less lengthy in their existence. When I first moved to San Diego I found a group of people that seemed very interesting and very much like I felt.  Glamorous on the outside but a bit of a misfit on the inside.  I have made some friends through the The Imperial Court that have lasted over 2 decades.  Including yes, the one and only Nicole.  Ive never considered Nicole a best friend but always a mentor, a family member, he is like a father to me.  Along the past 22 years Ive made so many friends that I love..  Scott and Jim, Dave Z. Fina, Cheri, Eric, Sasha, Courtney, Michael Mack, Gabor.  I hesitated to even list people because of course Ill leave people out and Im constantly meeting new people and building friendships.  Even at 45 years old it still feels like the school playground at times.

Best friends can come and go, for various reasons, people move, they start dating someone, priorities change, people change, people even die etc., etc. but the ones that come in and out of your life seem to be my favorite, because its a natural flow of life.   Im lucky enough to have some of the same friends I did from Ethel Dwyer Middle School,  Im super fortunate to have some of the people I considered bullies back then to be friends now.

So when I say You're My Best Friend and you are wondering if Im talking about you, I probably am.