Thursday, April 9, 2009

How is David Phillips healthy?

photo - Todd Franson for Metro Weekly Magazine

For me, "being healthy" consists of three key elements: living unashamed regarding my sexuality and my relationships; having intimate connections based on consent, trust, and the pursuit of enlightenment; and staying on top of my physical condition "according to the numbers."

As a poly Queerman with a deep interest in the union of body-mind-spirit, I recognize that compartmentalizing my being into "sex life," "professional life," "romantic life," and a "medical life" deprives each of those aspects from accessing experiences, knowledge, and feelings from other facets of life. Sex, love, livelihood, happiness, and health are tightly bound; and attempting to parse them can be problematic, while acknowledging the connections is very rewarding. For instance, when I embarked on pursuing a graduate degree at 41, I had no reservations about bringing my Leather/fetish experiences into the classroom--my first major term paper required a sufficient working definition of a leader, and the best example I knew was from a speech at Leather Leadership Conference in 2005. I cited the source and leveraged it a manner that fit IT management; and the professor gave me a rare A+ and asked to use the paper as an example for future classes. An integrated life: priceless. Just as priceless are the people who love me not only when I'm good sex, but also when I'm an jackass.

An un-integrated life: not so healthy. I can say that on good authority, too. The Closet and a bunch of brain surgery early in my undergraduate career led me into abusive, drug-driven relationships and commercial sex work at the same time I ran with a fundamental Christian crowd. My life was highly compartmentalized until my senior year when a violent rape by my supposed lover brought the walls crashing down. I came out, changed my faith perspective, and stopped using, but I still flirted with chaos and consorted with very conflicted older men for several years. Only over the last few years, as all of the pieces have come together, have I felt complete, happy, and healthy.

Lastly, after almost 27 years with HIV, most of it blissfully ignorant, I am acutely aware of how important it has been to be an equal partner with my health care providers and to know how to interpret lab numbers, clinical research, and MRIs, and to take reasoned choices about what I allow my physical body to experience in terms of nutrition, activity, alcohol, stress, emotions, medical treatments, and energies. Recently I was labeled a "long-term non-progressor" and asked to abstain from HIV meds, as I have two gene variations that keep the virus in check and allow my CD4s to remain high. My doc said that, even if I was on meds again, I was more like to die of cardiovascular problems or cancer like the average American, just as other HIVers experience from current meds both life extension and some heart-unhealthy side effects.

My life has thusly become about living by the numbers in a variety of ways--keep the blood pressure under 130/80, the total cholesterol under 175, and body fat under 12%.... the viral load, CD4s and CD8s get checked every six months, but they take care of themselves as long as I keep clear of other bugs. I've become one of those all-day grazers on lots of protein and high-fiber foods with little refined sugar and white flour--I target 55 grams of protein and 25 grams of fiber by noon. At least 120 minutes of intense cardio, 90 minutes of strength training, and 90 minutes of yoga a week--that's 5 hours/week well-spent! Cardio-vascular health maintenance is "good for the wood" too. Alcohol and caffeine are rare--the former might as well be sugar and the latter isn't pretty when you take stimulant ADHD drugs.

As a lively Queerman, my health is about more than the sex I have--it's about all of the choices I take, consciously or not.

-- David Phillips (happy birthday!)
Arlington, VA

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