Monday, March 30, 2009

All I have power over is myself

[a LifeLube interview]

Who are you? Scott Grannan

What do you do? Write.

How did you wind up in Chicago? Good taste?

What is different about your life now as opposed to a few years or months ago? I now live with (very) Aggressive Coronary Artery Disease and numerous complications you don’t want to hear about.

What or who motivated you to make a change in your life? Triple-Bypass Surgery following a heart attack in March of ’07, coupled with a nasty C-diff infection contracted while recovering at Illinois Masonic.

What is one key issue for you that needs addressing in terms of gay men's health? Sometimes it feels like the community has forgotten that you don’t have to be HIV-positive to have major health challenges. It’s absolutely wonderful how the HIV community has coalesced since this awful plague began. As a still-negative person who has buried over 30 good friends (many close and lifelong), I applaud the work of TPAN and organizations like it with all my heart. As someone in far worse health than many of my surviving positive friends, I find myself often envying the number of programs and organizations that are available to them for which I’m simply not eligible. Navigating some way to pay my bills has been a nightmare, and all the more confusing due to the side effects from the 23 drugs prescribed for me to take each day. Yet I’m not “sick enough” for case management assistance from groups that work with the disabled, and almost two years later I’m still fighting the good fight with Social Security to get disability.

How do you educate, motivate and inspire others who might be going through a similar situation?
I think the most important thing is to make them aware that they’re not alone. Without community, you get no reality checks and it’s all too easy to succumb to society’s propaganda saying your disease is somehow your fault or that there’s got to be something obvious you could be doing that you’re overlooking that would make it all just go away.

What are some of the assets in our community that we overlook? Well, speaking for myself, I know I seriously underestimated the potential of human compassion. When you’re trying to navigate any bureaucracy (particularly government programs), it’s all too easy to lose sight of the world beyond that labyrinth. I had to be reminded that there are still living, flesh and blood people out there who can actually sympathize with my dilemma.

Do you consider yourself a spiritual person and, if so, in what respects? Yes, I believe strongly in God and Karma and treating others as you’d want to be treated. Just don’t get me started on organized religion.

Do you have a support system? Who do they consist of? I have many wonderful friends and my doctors are great. The deacons at my church were also a huge help immediately after I (finally) left the hospital.

How do you keep yourself motivated? I just look into the eyes of my dogs and cats.

What makes you happy? Love, Butterflies and Change in Washington.

On a sunny day, I.... take the dogs for extra walks.

On a cold, rainy day, I..... hibernate as much as possible.

In overcoming your addiction, or dealing with HIV, or finding a healthy and balanced lifestyle, what role did finding "meaning" in your life play a role? Well it’s everything, isn’t it? Problem is, it’s just not possible to watch It’s a Wonderful Life enough times to not forget, on occasion, that we all have meaning all the time. Being sick means you’re often going to feel exhausted. When you’re exhausted, even breathing can seem like an impossible task. It’s an immense world out there and it takes energy and faith to avoid feeling like just another grain of sand sometimes. I know that for me, constant reminders are necessary. I’m thankful to get mine from my pets and from the humans I love as well. They give me the faith to believe that whatever strength I need will be available to me when I truly need it, even if at that moment I find it hard to imagine.

In a few words, can you offer a bit of advice for someone who may be struggling with a similar issue? Despite what may seem like overwhelming evidence to the contrary, try to believe that some power greater than yourself has put you on this earth for some purpose. Life’s biggest challenge for most of us can be accepting that we might never know ourselves what that specific purpose might be. All I have power over is myself, so simply working on the best “me” I can be is challenge aplenty.

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