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Positive Voices

EPISODE #205 - HIV and Substance Use and Mental Health


“I’m A Survivor, Not a Pity Party:” Real Talk On Mental Health and HIV

January 8, 2024. 46:02

“Folks, we’ll be real, this is a heavy one. But not a hopeless one. This week, we’ve got Philip Sain and Dominique Anthony on the couch to talk about their experiences with the intersectionality of mental health and HIV. We’re getting into their stories about HIV diagnosis, mental health, substance use, and their actions and consequences. But, spoiler alert, we also get into their healing, aspirations and happy endings.

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This program contains language and subject matter that some audiences may find triggering or sensitive. Our purpose is to encourage engagement in care and treatment; however, please consider your well-being before continuing.


Speaker 1: Me, being in and out of mental health in the past, I lost custody of my children.
Speaker 2: Hello, everybody, to the DMV and beyond. Welcome to Positive Voices. I'm your co-host Malachi Stewart.
Speaker 3: Hi. I'm Tei Pearson-Hall.
Speaker 2: Today, we are excited to have, really honored to have this conversation. Today, we're going to talk a little bit about the intersectionality or the connection, if you will, between mental illness and HIV.
This is a really interesting conversation. I'm so glad to have our guests, honored to have our beautiful guests, Phil and Dominique. Thank you so much for being here.
Speaker 3: Welcome. Welcome.
Speaker 4: Thank you.
Speaker 3: Thank you.
Speaker 2: I want you both to introduce yourselves to the audience, and tell them a little bit just about how your experience lends to the topic of mental illness and HIV.
I'll start with you, Phil. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you relate to the topic.
Speaker 4: I'll start in 2016. Well, 2013, I was diagnosed with HIV on World AIDS Day at my church. Right? At that point, it was pretty hard where I had to go straight to work after that.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Speaker 4: The person was just like, "Yo, this is what it is, and I'll just send you to ..." My church is down in Virginia, so they're like, "I'll send you to the Department of Health in Virginia, Alexandria," at whatever point, and so, thankfully, when I went to work, my manager, I was like, "Yo, I'm not working out in the front." I was in retail, at the time, and I told him, I disclosed to him the situation that was going on, and he was like, "Okay. Thank you for sharing. I'm also HIV+."
Speaker 3: Wow.
Speaker 4: He's also married, him and his husband, but his husband is negative. Shout out to Brandon. They are a great couple. Sorry. The diagonal thing.
Speaker 3: I think they [inaudible 00:01:56].
Speaker 4: Okay.
Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:01:56].
Speaker 4: Yo, I'm not your traditional therapist. I do the same thing in my sessions. Honestly, Brandon was just like, "Yo, come with me to a support group." [inaudible 00:02:11] and I went and that's where I met the late, great Dr. Ron Simmons, and a few other of my peers and colleagues.
Ever since then, I remember we had this one session with ... There was a mixed group. We had our seasoned brothers, and, for me, I grew up in a situation where I'm an '80s baby, so I remember when my grandmother passed, the pastor, at the time, was evil, per se. Just very hateful. We didn't understand why but come to find out just a month later he passed from AIDS.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Speaker 4: Honestly, that situation, that's what I saw growing up. To see these brothers grow up to live through all of that, up to this point in 2013, 2014, that was amazing. That gave me hope, at that moment, because, for me, all I knew was like, "I'm going to die."
Then to carry on to 2016, for me, I attempted suicide. That was my 13th time. My 12th time was in college, undergrad. At that moment, I ODed, and woke up in the bed. I was strapped down. My mother was there. Apparently, they called my mother and we both lied.
Speaker 3: Right.
Speaker 4: We told the doctor it was my first time. Of course, she knew what the deal was, but like anybody else, we keep everything here in the house. It was either, "Yo, you're going to go into the psych ward or see a therapist." I said, "I'll see a therapist."
I went to Hampton, so it was a private institution, so I didn't know, "Am I going to get kicked out or what?" I did what I had to do. Didn't do much of anything. I was like, "I'm just going along with the whole ride."
I still had my own demons and things that I was dealing with. Mind you, in college, I was drinking and smoking weed every day while doing homework, still active on campus but still just self-medicating, and not knowing what's going on, being promiscuous and so forth. It was a goal of mine to sleep with everybody. If you talked to my friends, they know I ran the Hampton Roads area, if you get what I'm saying.
Speaker 2: Not to interrupt you, Phil, but when you say you were medicating, what were you self-medicating? Was it mental illness?
Speaker 4: It was just feeling depressed. I was engaged twice, I was engaged to a drug dealer, a stripper. I was in another relationship. It was just being in pain of growing up without a father, who left on my fourth birthday.
At the same time, when I first got really depressed was when my grandparents passed when I was eight years old, same year. Those were my best friends, my confidants. My grandfather passed around Easter of '92. My grandmother passed a day or two after Christmas that same year. I was the last person to speak with her.
All these things, we call them adverse child experiences, ACE. I was molested as a child. I started drinking as a child. A lot of things nobody knows. Even in college, a point where I would try to sell my body to get money. Even in 2012, I caught a DUI charge, went to jail, because when my close uncle passed, went drinking with my brothers, wanted to go home, and here I was, caught that case.
Just blacking out, going to work drunk, sleeping in the store. No one knew about that. So many different things. I've been raped numerous times. In my twenties, that was a blur. Even went to grad school, still partying.
There was just so many different things. Even when I was homeless in 2012, that summer, sleeping in my car, and even in Virginia, I was across the street literally from my aunt's house and no one knew. I wasn't even talking to my family at the time. There would be times, even when I had a little money from unemployment, I would get a room from a motel, even times sleep for money. Family don't even know that.
There is a lot of stories, things that I've dealt with that no one knows, so there's trials and tribulations but, at the end of the day, it's a blessing for me, because being diagnosed with HIV led me to identify my diagnosis in 2016. That 13th time was my last resort. I said, "Let me go to the psychiatric hospital."
I had a bad experience with a social worker at that time during the intake. She looked at my stature as a Black man, and was questioning me how I acquired HIV. Here I am, I was not only suicidal but homicidal. This is a short white woman from Prince George's County, and so I told the doctor. He took care of it, but ever since then, I told myself I would never let that happen again to anybody. Didn't know how that was going to happen. I just never let that happen.
Needless to say, I went there twice that year, but that Saturday before I was discharged, I spoke to the behavioral health tech. His name was Fred. He's a blessing. We had a conversation about our faith, and he said one thing that one of his ministers growing up told him was to stand still. That was that Saturday. That Sunday, my pastor preached a sermon titled Stand Still.
Ever since then, for those months, dealing with my case manager and stuff, that's all I did was just stood still. Didn't do anything. Just prayed, meditated even when I got home ... Just mind you, this is another grief, while I was in the hospital, I had to say goodbye to my dog via FaceTime, I had to fight for that, before she was put to sleep.
So many things was going on. I had an anxiety attack when I got home that day. It was just a lot of just darkness for me, but through those months, I came across a lot of friends who were social workers, friends of friends who were social workers, so I was like, "Yo, this must be a sign."
Prayed about it. Applied, went to school, knocked those two years out, graduated with my second masters, got licensed, and here I am today, becoming an advocate, got into the field, and I'm walking with my purpose, man. It's a blessing.
Speaker 2: We definitely celebrate that as a success story.
Speaker 4: I know it's a lot. I'm the worst storyteller.
Speaker 2: No. [inaudible 00:09:53]. We are here making space, holding space for your story.
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 2: There's some things that you mentioned that I want to unpack, but, first, I do want to hear your story, Dominique-
Speaker 3: That's what I was going to say, the same thing-
Speaker 2: ... and just hear how does your story relate to the topic of mental illness and HIV?
Speaker 1: Well, my name is Dominique.
Speaker 3: Hey, Dominique.
Speaker 1: My friends and family call me Domo.
Speaker 3: Okay, Domo.
Speaker 2: Can we call you Domo?
Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:10:17].
Speaker 3: Hey, Domo.
Speaker 1: Hey, everybody. I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I'm a Washingtonian.
Speaker 2: Period.
Speaker 1: I grew up uptown. I went to Cardozo.
Speaker 3: Okay.
Speaker 1: I'm 42.
Speaker 2: And you look good.
Speaker 1: I have a 21 year old son going to Maryland U.
Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:10:40].
Speaker 1: I have a 14 year old, and I have a 10 year old best friend. His name is Kenneth.
Speaker 3: Okay.
Speaker 1: What I have to say about the topic is I was diagnosed with HIV when I was 25 years old. This was back in 2007. At the time, I only had one child, so my child was about six or seven. I got diagnosed, I was with someone that I grew up with, I've known him since I was 15, I didn't know he was on the DL until the person that he was sleeping with called my phone to tell me to go get tested, because-
Speaker 2: For people who don't know, what does DL mean?
Speaker 1: DL means on the DL, sleeping with gay men or-
Speaker 3: Down low.
Speaker 1: Down low.
Speaker 2: Down low.
Speaker 1: Or some men are bisexual, and don't tell the women that they sleep with gay men.
Speaker 2: Got it.
Speaker 1: I didn't know he was bisexual, but we were friends. I grew up with him. I'd known him since I was 15. We went to high school together. It didn't run across my mind. I was just young, I was 26, I was working at Starbucks on U Street, I had a son, and I wanted to expand my family. I wanted to get married. I was in love. This is the person that I didn't like in high school, and now we are together and everything is going good.
We were in the process of applying for our marriage license. I kept getting sick. I stayed home for about a week. I just wasn't feeling good. I started coughing, I started coughing up blood, and then the next day, I said, "Well, I think it's a cold. It'll go away."
I went to work, and I passed out at work. They took me to Howard.
Speaker 2: Wow.
Speaker 1: The people come in, talking about, "Hey, such and such and such. This is the people from [inaudible 00:12:55]. Would you like to get a HIV test?" Of course, I say yes, because I haven't been tested in, what? Three or four years. I was young, I was doing me, made a lot of mistakes.
Okay. I take the test. Back then, they do the swab of the mouth.
Speaker 3: Right.
Speaker 1: I think they still do the swab. Am I correct?
Speaker 2: Yes. OraSure.
Speaker 1: OraSure. Okay. I take the OraSure. Okay. The guy comes in from [inaudible 00:13:31] was like, "Hey, Miss Anthony, I have to talk to you about your test results." I said, "Okay. Just give me my piece of paper, and send me on my way."
Speaker 3: Right.
Speaker 1: "I can get out." He said, "No."
Speaker 3: Don't say-
Speaker 1: "I need to talk to you." I'm like, "Okay. Spit it out." He was like, "Ma'am, you are HIV+." I looked at him and asked him to test me six times.
Speaker 2: Wow.
Speaker 1: Because I couldn't believe it. I felt like I was a female Tupac, that I couldn't get nothing.
Speaker 3: All eyes on you.
Speaker 1: All eyes on me. See, I was the young girl that chased after the older guys with money and looking at how, "Oh, okay. If I can talk to this [inaudible 00:14:20], let me see what I can get from him."
Speaker 3: You was outside.
Speaker 1: Let me get this money-
Speaker 3: She was outside.
Speaker 1: Yeah.
Speaker 2: You was a city girl.
Speaker 1: I was a city girl.
Speaker 3: Before Jay-Z-
Speaker 2: ... the original. Okay.
Speaker 1: I felt like, "Okay. Well, hey. Me and him the same age. He about to be a ..." You know what's scary? He was about to be a police. But he died.
Speaker 2: He died?
Speaker 1: He died in 2008 from chronic alcoholism. He drunk himself to death.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Speaker 1: Because he couldn't deal with the fact that he gave me HIV.
Speaker 3: Mental health.
Speaker 1: We were all close. He died. It devastated me for about a whole two years. I wouldn't come out. I was so depressed. I felt so bad, because I'm like, "How you going to give me something and then you going to leave me? You really lost your mind. You don't do that to a person."
I went to places like the Women's Collective with Pat Knowles and I started going to Us Helping Us, and that's how I met Phil.
Speaker 2: Okay. Shout out to Us Helping Us doing the work.
Speaker 1: I started going to HIPS.
Speaker 2: Okay.
Speaker 1: I'm a part of the chosen few for HIPS. I'm also going to be a part of the Sex Workers Coalition, working on a decriminalization campaign for sex work and drugs.
Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:15:50].
Speaker 1: My dream job is to work at the Department of Health. I would like to get my degree in health administration, and get my certificate in project manager.
Speaker 3: Okay. School.
Speaker 1: Yeah. I attend Academy of Hope in DC.
Speaker 2: Congratulations.
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 2: I love that both of your stories end in a positive note.
Speaker 1: I also have a mental health diagnosis.
Speaker 2: Tell us about it.
Speaker 1: Well, when I started having mental health diagnoses when I was 15. I had ADHD. When I turned 21, I had my nervous breakdown. I was in and out of the hospital before I was 20, because I had my son in 2002. He's 21 now.
I've came a long way. I lost my mental health, because of me being in and out of mental health in the past, I lost custody of my children.
Speaker 2: I'm sorry-
Speaker 1: It's nothing to be sorry about, because I did it to myself. Every action has a consequence.
Speaker 3: Come on, somebody. That's what I tell my children.
Speaker 1: I'm a survivor. I'm not a pity party. I'm not going to sit here and keep throwing myself pity parties. For what?
Speaker 2: I hear you taking accountability.
Speaker 1: How do you come back from it? Well, I went to school. Well, let me tell you something else. Due to my mental health, I got incarcerated.
Speaker 3: Talk about that.
Speaker 1: 2016, I was incarcerated. Guess what? When I came home from jail, I had a job, I went to school, I had several jobs, I was a peer educator for HIPS. When I became a returning citizen, they told me when I left the jail, when they released me, they said, "You coming back?" I ain't ever been back.
Speaker 3: Come on now.
Speaker 4: That's right.
Speaker 3: Come on now.
Speaker 1: Because I learned that I'm a returning citizen, I can be a part of the solution and be a part of this community, because DMV, we need it the most.
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 1: We have the highest rate of HIV and AIDS out here. It's people dying from fentanyl. You know how many people we've lost? We're at a crisis in this city. It's places like Department of Health and HIPS and Women's Collective and Us Helping Us, and SKL, all those organizations, they make a difference, because if it wasn't for-
Speaker 3: Shout out to the organizations.
Speaker 1: If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I am stronger, I take the Cabenuva, I'm in treatment, I'm in treatment for my HIV and my mental health.
Speaker 2: It's so important for you to say that, because I was hearing your story, and I want to ask this to both of you. I'll shoot it to you first, Phil, do you feel that in the time where you weren't acknowledging and treating ... Let's be Black for a minute.
Speaker 1: Yeah. We can be Black.
Speaker 2: Let's honor the fact that in the Black community, there is stigma. It's not just stigma around HIV. There's stigma around mental illness.
Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:19:04].
Speaker 2: There's stigma around getting treated for it. People would rather see you out here using a substance, drinking, having sex, engaging in what we would call high risk behavior than saying, "I'm diagnosed with bipolar, and I need to get treatment." There's more stigma around that, than it is to say, "I'm an alcoholic," even sometimes in the community. Do you feel like because in those moments you weren't engaging in treatment that that encouraged you or that you felt like you were exposed to more high risk behaviors that led to you contracting HIV?
Speaker 4: I would say yes. It wasn't until after being diagnosed and learning and being educated about my diagnosis, that I put things, two and two, together.
Speaker 2: Right.
Speaker 4: As far as risky behavior, being promiscuous with sex, the substance use and so forth, in my manic episodes and things of that nature, so it all makes sense. Then I was like, "Okay, this makes sense."
Then, of course, having blackouts, and like Dominique said, taking accountability, I'm a survivor. I didn't say it's okay to rape me when I'm blacked out or under the influence, just pissy drunk, but, at the end of the day, I was drunk. I did what I did. I was high.
I accept my part in the situation. That's why even when people say, "When you're diagnosed with HIV ..." I'll tell people, I don't care or think about how I acquired it or who did I acquire it from. That's the last thing that I'm thinking about, and I shared the same thing with clients, "We're focusing on you. Let's not even think about that. How can we move forward and take care of you?"
Speaker 3: Can I mention just thank you? I want to say shout out to the churches that's doing testing events, because I heard you say that earlier. When you got your diagnosis at church, I can imagine knowing that you had to go to work was really like, "I really got to go to work." Was there a thought in your head, though, to not go to work and seclude immediately? Was it like, "I have to still try to keep myself busy and I'm going to keep just going forward and go to work"?
Speaker 4: The thought of not going to work wasn't in my mind. It was just go to work.
Speaker 3: Okay. Work ethic.
Speaker 4: I've always been a workaholic.
Speaker 3: Okay. Work ethic.
Speaker 4: I was just in shock. I'll say that, because the first time, he said, "Look, what do you see?" I was like, "Two dots? What's your point?" He was like, "It's reactive, so we're going to do it again." I said okay.
At the same time, sitting out in the hallway, everybody is leaving-
Speaker 3: Those be the longest 15, 20 minutes ever.
Speaker 4: I go back again and he's like, "Okay. It's reactive again, so this is what we're going to do." Same situation as anybody, our first story is no empathy, nothing, it's just like, "This is what it is," blah, blah, blah, and keep it moving. No one is consoling you.
I was just, again, in shock. You're speechless. You don't know what to say, like how you feel. When anyone is talking, it's like Charlie Brown's teacher, like, "Wah wah wah."
It wasn't until I got to work, until I had that conversation with my manager, who was also a friend of mine, so-
Speaker 3: Divine intervention. Right? Shout out to you, and thank you, and you, Dominique, for sharing your stories, because you guys are sitting real raw and transparent with us. We all appreciate it. Right? Okay.
Dominique, for you both, and I think you had another question too, Malachi, did I step on your toes?
Speaker 2: No. You go ahead.
Speaker 3: Okay. Sorry. Dominique, I heard you say you have two children. Right? You had the 21 year old, when you-
Speaker 1: HIV+.
Speaker 3: Right. Then you had another child after that. Could you share with us, if you're open to it, what that decision looked like? Because when you came back from incarceration, you had to come home and deal with reconnecting with your child. Did you have both children when you were incarcerated?
Speaker 1: No. My oldest-
Speaker 3: Just the oldest one. Right?
Speaker 1: Just the oldest one. My 14 year old was tooken the day I got [inaudible 00:24:03]. He was at foster care already.
Speaker 3: Wow. Okay.
Speaker 1: He's adopted by his cousin, so I still get to talk to him and see him.
Speaker 3: Okay. That's good.
Speaker 1: Yeah. The choices I made led to me losing my children, coming home to nothing, and I take accountability for my actions, because I knew that I needed mental health and I was in denial about a lot of things. I suffer from childhood trauma. I was molested when I was little by my mom's neighbor's son, who his mother was my babysitter, so her son was always at the house. I was 11, he was 30 years old at the time.
Back then, when a child is molested in DC, they do an investigation, they did an investigation. They do a rape kit but they do not ... Back then, 1992, they didn't have the sex registry, no sex offense laws, they were not tough as they are now. They didn't have that back then. I had to go to trial. I had to testify.
Speaker 2: Which was traumatic. It's almost a retraumatization, having to go back and tell that story [inaudible 00:25:24] people.
Speaker 1: I'm okay with it now, because I've came a long way.
Speaker 3: Shout out to being empowered enough to speak your voice. That takes a lot.
Speaker 1: Okay. Dealing with that, I also was a domestic violence survivor. I was with somebody, I had met someone, and, at the time, me and my parents were not seeing eye to eye. I moved out of my parents' house, because me and the person started getting close.
I knew in my heart that the person had some demons.
Speaker 3: Yeah.
Speaker 1: But I overlooked it, because everybody deserves to be loved, everybody deserves a second chance, so I started staying with him. He was an alcoholic. He was a drug user. He would treat me so terribly.
One night, I was asleep. He got mad because I didn't want to have sex with him. Next thing I knew, he was on top of me, inside of me. He forced himself on top of me.
Speaker 3: Wow.
Speaker 1: Then when I fought him, he called the police and had me locked up.
Speaker 3: Wow. Wow.
Speaker 1: Then we would fight, I stayed with him for ... I was being abused. When the pandemic was going on, I was being abused.
Speaker 3: Yeah. I've talked about that with other people. The pandemic made things a lot worse-
Speaker 1: [inaudible 00:26:59] somebody that I was dating, I was being abused while everybody was in the pandemic, worrying about money, I was worried about my life.
Speaker 3: Yeah. It's the real stuff-
Speaker 1: Because it got to the point that he abused me so much, and I came before my mom and my stepfather, I came before my family, because if I would have told my uncles and everybody else, they would have went after him, but I said, "No."
Then my son, who just turned 21, he was still in high school, and my son kept telling him, "You have one more time to do something to my mother."
One day, I have a sister, who I call my sister, she was like, "When is enough is enough, Dominique? When are you going to get [inaudible 00:27:52]?" What I did one day was I went to his house, I packed all the stuff I could take, my laptop, because I'm in school, a few medications ...
Matter of fact, I didn't even have no medicine and I was on Biktarvy back then. I left the medicines, I left everything, I took my wallet, my cellphone, my charger. I didn't pack medicine.
Speaker 3: We thank you.
Speaker 1: I had some medicine-
Speaker 2: You was like Tina Turner [inaudible 00:28:25] "I got to leave."
Speaker 1: I left and I stayed at my girlfriend's house, and I stayed with her for a year, and I moved back ... I'm with my family now. I live with my mom and my stepdad.
Speaker 3: Okay. Family.
Speaker 1: Shout out to mommy and daddy.
Speaker 3: Shout out to mommy and dad.
Speaker 2: Shout out to mommy and daddy. Dom, I'm glad ... First of all, I'm proud of you for being able to find the strength to be able to choose yourself, and I'm glad that you are somewhere safe now.
This is a question for you both, and I'll share an experience to lead to the question. As an adherence specialist, in my days when I was an adherence specialist, one of the things that I found with patients who have mental health diagnoses and have mental illness diagnosis is that sometimes if they weren't in a space where they were navigating that well, it affected their adherence to medication, meaning their ability to take it as prescribed by the doctors, their adherence to appointments.
A lot of the program that I was in was made to go to people, because sometimes people couldn't go to us. Sometimes they'd wake up and they're in the depressive state and they don't want to come out of the house and don't really want to live or take their medications. We would have to go every day and just sit with them and help them take it or they would be in a manic state and just want to be out here in the streets, and so we would go out in these streets to wherever they were [inaudible 00:29:44].
I'll start with you, Philip, did you ever find an intersectionality, that there was a connection between how well you were doing with your mental health and how you engaged in your HIV care?
Speaker 4: I would say yes. Even to this day, it still happens, I'll be honest, and I'm honest with my clients. To the point where either I'm depressed or just tired. It doesn't have to be anything, just tired. Right? I'm like, "I don't feel like doing anything. I just want to go to sleep."
Because not only am I taking a one pill regimen for HIV but I have a plethora of pills for psychotropics. You're thinking about all these things you have to take and it's like, "Damn, I just wanted to chill."
Speaker 2: I never thought about that. I've always heard medication exhaustion, but I've always thought about it from the perspective of HIV. You saying that is the first time I've ever thought about, "Oh, wow. You have a lot more pills to take." Even if you're on a one pill a day regimen, you're not, because you have other pills to take.
Speaker 4: Right.
Speaker 2: Got it.
Speaker 4: Oh, go ahead-
Speaker 3: No-
Speaker 4: Go ahead.
Speaker 3: After you. [inaudible 00:30:59].
Speaker 4: No. That's real talk. Thankfully, the one that I'm on for my heart med is what we call the forgivable, the forgiven med, but it's okay. I tell people it's okay if you miss a day or whatever but I'm still on top of everything. There's just sometimes if I'm ever manic and things, my family, they stay on top of it. They know if it's my attitude, my moods, or whatever, they're like, "Yo, when's the last time you took meds?" Or whatever, because it's a drastic change.
Especially even if I'm out of my psychotropics, people don't realize it but there's a thing called withdrawal symptoms from your psychotropics, and that's real. Within the first two or three days-
Speaker 3: It's over.
Speaker 4: Oh, it is a wrap. That is the worst feeling. When I tell you about nausea and just-
Speaker 3: It's like coming off of hERG.
Speaker 4: hERG. Thank you. Yes.
Speaker 2: Like a withdrawal?
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 4: It's really a withdrawal.
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 4: Go ahead. I'm sorry.
Speaker 3: I was going to say that. Yeah. You just said what I was going to say. I do understand. Shared experience. Right? I had diagnoses too, that make me go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Right? [inaudible 00:32:30].
I, too, have the household is like, "She going off about smaller stuff." My wife is just like, "Did you take your medicine last night?" Then I had a situation where I ran out of my prescription, but it's like, "I'll call the doctor tomorrow." Tomorrow became two months.
Speaker 4: Right.
Speaker 3: I didn't know it was two months, because the days seem like they come together when you start that spiral. Right? Then I spiral. I was like a curly fry. I be up in there. I was twirling, and Tasmanian Devil-ing. Right? The manic side.
My question to you is when you feel yourself now get into that spiral, because we get to the point of understanding what our triggers are and sometimes what it looks like when it's starting to flare up. I can feel myself getting anxious or angry about the smallest stuff. I'm like, "Let me go in the corner." Right? Versus what I did before.
When I heard you speak, you were saying things that you were doing before in your manic situation before you recognized and understood the diagnosis. Now that you understand all of that, the manic still come. Right?
Speaker 4: Right.
Speaker 3: They still come knocking at the door. Right? When they come to knock at the door and want that hawk to come out, what do you do now to suppress the urge. Right? Because we know what makes us feel good when we spiraling. How do you now suppress that and do something more healthier to protect yourself?
Speaker 4: Honestly, I'm just getting back into working out.
Speaker 3: [inaudible 00:34:12].
Speaker 4: My therapist said it's bad for me to do this one I'm about to tell you is I do isolate at times. I do like my peace. As I'm getting older, I'll be 40 next year, sometimes I just like to be at home chilling with some music and smoking my hookah. I ain't going to lie. Just let me chill. That's peace for me. Just in my own space.
Speaker 2: Healthy isolation.
Speaker 4: Healthy. Yeah. Ain't nothing wrong with that. I just realized they got nicotine-free shishah. Friends, they got me into hiking. We'll just do things for fun. Yeah. I'm mainly a real chill person. I just like my space.
Speaker 3: I respect that. Thank you.
Speaker 2: What about you, Domo? Do you find when you're in a bad space mentally that it's hard to engage in care?
Speaker 1: No, because I bug all the case managers and nurses and case workers and bug the ... I have a therapist who has really been helping me and I really like him, so I blow him up. I've called him at 12 o'clock at night going through a crisis and he's picked up that phone and stayed on the phone until three o'clock in the morning.
Speaker 3: Okay.
Speaker 2: I love that, though.
Speaker 3: Yes.
Speaker 1: I have my nine year old best friend. He keeps me on my toes. My 10 year old ... I'm sorry. He's 10 now.
Speaker 3: Oh, yeah. You going to get in trouble. You take that one year.
Speaker 1: My 10 year old best friend keeps me on my toes. He likes that song Calm Down. He plays that for me. I have my mom, my stepfather, of course. We don't say step. My dad.
Speaker 3: Bonus dad.
Speaker 1: Bonus dad. Yeah. Shout out to my bonus dad Lonnie, my mommy Carrie, and I have all my uncles, I have my brother, I have a brother on my father's side. I have a best friend. Shout out to him.
Speaker 3: Go best friend. That's my best friend.
Speaker 1: Yes. He's been riding with me through everything I've been through. I've been through a lot this year. The person I was going to marry was sleeping with my best friend. I didn't even know. Hey, sometimes I take the bitter with the sweet. She showed me her true colors, he showed me his true colors, and I was hurt but guess what? I'm still here. I'm still standing. I'm on this platform-
Speaker 3: Hello.
Speaker 2: You are.
Speaker 3: Hello. You a positive voice. Get with it.
Speaker 1: God is blessing me with ... Since I got rid of the toxic people out of my life, God has been blessing me with so many opportunities, so many things I have going on in the DMV.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to go to ... Because I'm a returning citizen, I did an open house with Georgetown Business Center, and they have a big entrepreneurship place that they provide for returning citizens to start their own business.
Speaker 3: Come on now.
Speaker 1: I got an opportunity to meet a lot of people that went through the program, so I actually signed up for the program. I'm just waiting to see if I got accepted.
Then I also met some people that were returning citizens, like me, who were in the paralegal program for Georgetown. I didn't know that with so many ... Learning that life, the things that we go through in life, sometime could be the best thing that happens to us, because we can get so much positive things out of it, and I never knew. Who would have thought me, a returning citizen, a Black woman, let's keep that upfront-
Speaker 3: Hello.
Speaker 2: Let's talk about it.
Speaker 1: A Black woman, HIV diagnosis, mental health diagnosis, returning citizen, I could have still been locked up. I could have still been being promiscuous and still just running through guys.
But I'm not. I've learned from my mistakes and I try to tell all these young girls and these young girls and these little girls that that's not cool. Running through guys is not ... You don't let everybody in your temple. Your temple is your jewel.
Speaker 3: Your temple is your jewel.
Speaker 1: You don't let everybody in your temple. It's not cool to sleep with this guy, this guy, because you getting pregnant is not too bad but what if you get HIV? Are you going to take pills like I do?
Speaker 2: Right. I appreciate that.
Speaker 1: Do you want to take pills? Do you want to die of it? Because you can die. What if you sleep with the wrong guy and he gets obsessed with you? I did seen a couple of females that I was cool with. One of them got actually murdered when we were young, because a dude got so obsessed with her.
Speaker 3: Yeah. The DV is real, stalking is real.
Speaker 2: I appreciate your message. I was going to ask you and you gave the message to the people out there listening. I just need to say, before Tei closes, that I mean this like genuinely, no condescending at all.
As a person who has worked in the field and have seen they have lost so many people who were battling mental health as well as HIV, it's inspirational to me to see your stories, to see you as a provider, to see you as somebody ... Domo, you are so optimistic. You have so much positive energy. To see the way you both navigated that, using community, using your resources. It's inspirational to me, and I know it's going to be inspirational to people who are watching in the same situation.
Speaker 3: Yes. I definitely agree with that. I have one more question as we close out. If you both could go back to yourself at the time that you received your diagnosis, go back to that very, very moment of shock and fear and all of those things, what can the healed version or more healed, I don't even know if that's a word, more healed version, it is now, what can you, as the more healed version of yourself, say? What would you say to that person, your younger self, in that moment of encouragement?
Because I heard you say 14, I have seven, so I understand. I heard you say that you struggled with just trying to process and move forward and collectively but you have done so well. What do the so well, done so well person, Philip, excuse me, Phil, and Dominique say to the younger version that just received that test result? Because someone is going to be watching this and they're in that moment right now. What do you say to them?
Speaker 1: Well, what I would say to them is learn about your status, learn harm reduction techniques, safer sex practices, learn and talk to someone. Connect with a support system. Link to Care is very important. This is how we're going to get rid of this high rate for HIV and AIDS in the DMV, we got to link these people to care. With the ones that don't want to come out, we got to go to them. We got to have the old Department of Health, when they used to knock on your door, because I've heard the stories, when they used to come and knock on your door, put the suit on, and drag you out the house.
See, this is what DC needs, because we have these young men and young girls, they are so promiscuous, because I hear them talking on the bus, I hear them talking on the train, I hear them down Gallery Place, I hear them everywhere, because I ... Remember, I got a 21 year old son about to go to college. He about to be wild. Guess what?
Speaker 3: He going to be outside.
Speaker 1: He can be wild. He's going to be wild. He's going to have to learn but I am going to give him the tools to make sure he has what he needs.
Speaker 3: Absolutely.
Speaker 1: I am going to go get him a bag of Magnums and say, "Look, don't tell me about it. Just use them. If you need some more, let me know."
Speaker 3: Phil, what about you?
Speaker 4: For me, I would say the best is yet to come. One thing I took from the nurse when I went to the Department of Health, the day after my 30th birthday, she said, "This is a new life."
Now I look at it as it is a new life, because nothing but many doors has opened. Blessings has come from since then. Many platforms. It's just been blessings on blessings on blessings. That's why I would say the best is yet to come.
I'm able to be vulnerable and free. I'm just not your traditional therapist with my clients to where I disclose but to a certain point, to where ... I thank you guys for this platform, because it's like saying, in our community, we don't see enough of this where the reason I share certain things with my clients is let me break this ice where it's like a lot of times in our community, we see providers up here and we're down here and I'm like, "No, bro."
Speaker 3: We the same.
Speaker 4: We the same, because just a couple years ago I was just in your shoes. Come next month, September 19th, I'll celebrate a year of sobriety.
Speaker 3: Come on now.
Speaker 2: Congratulations.
Speaker 4: Thank you.
Speaker 1: Congratulations.
Speaker 4: Thank you so much. We the same. Don't ever think a provider is better than you, because they got their own stuff going on just like you do. Life be life-ing.
Speaker 3: Hello. I was going to say that too.
Speaker 4: Yeah. Regardless of what diagnosis or diagnoses or whatever, the best is yet to come.
Speaker 3: Hey. What better way to end with that, so thank you for that.
There you have it, folks. Another great episode of Positive Voices. I'm one of your co-hosts, Tei Pearson-Hall.
Speaker 2: I'm Malachi Stewart.
Speaker 3: We were here with our wonderful guests, Miss Dominique, Mr. Phil, we appreciate you. You want to see more. We know you do. We know you want resources. Malachi, where can they go for resources? It's somewhere they put their zip code in and all of the stuff comes up?
Speaker 2: Listen, I'm sure if you're watching this, you're wondering if you can get resources that were talked about today as far as mental health resources but, listen, for any resources, visit us at You can just put your zip code in to find any resources in your area.
Speaker 3: Absolutely. Then to watch more episodes of Positive Voices, to connect with folks on social media, head over to-
Speaker 2: Www.DCEndsHIV/org/podcast.
Speaker 3: That's it. We'll see you guys on the next episode.
Speaker 2: Bye.

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Meet the Guests

Philip Sain

Philip “Phil” Sain, self-proclaimed Ambassador of the YOUNG WORLD, is a psychotherapist, speaker and HIV activist. As a licensed social worker, Phil has extensive experience assisting youth and adults with improving their mental and sexual health through education, activism, and treatment. After working in entertainment marketing and public relations for over a decade, Phil changed careers and believes he is now walking in his purpose: Social Work. He is currently a school mental health therapist at Sheppard Pratt, where he provides individual and family psychotherapy to high school students with adverse childhood experiences. He is also a psychotherapist at For Us Therapeutics Counseling and Consulting Services.Prior to this, Phil participated in grant writing, developed curriculums, and designed and oversaw programs to support the goals of community-based organizations. In the community, Phil is the vice president of the HIV/AIDS Ministry at Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria,Virginia, and an appointed commissioner on the Washington, DC, Regional Planning Commission on Health and HIV. He is also an HIV ambassador for Gilead Sciences. Phil is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and a member of the Washington, DC, chapter of the National Hampton Alumni Association. A heartfelt champion of Black excellence and member of the 2022 class of Hampton University’s Forty Under 40 Alumni Recognition Society.

Dominique Anthony

Dominique Anthony is a 42-year-old DC native. She is proud to have received an education from the DC Public Schools system and the Academy of Hope. Dominique has two children, one who is now a freshman at UMC college and the other who is 10 years old, who she describes as her “special little person.” Dominique was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 and has learned how to maintain a healthy lifestyle while balancing motherhood. She attributes her success in managing her diagnosis to community-based organizations such as: Us Helping Us, HIPS, The Women’s Collective, and Family Medical Counseling Services. She now serves the community with HIPS, a program called “The Chosen Few.” Dominique is a strong advocate for teaching people about harm reduction techniques when it comes to sex work and drug use and practicing self-care for their mental health.

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