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The outbreak of “Gay Cancer” in 1980’s Southern California

Growing up in SoCal, where the initial major outbreak of HIV occured centered on the bath houses of West Hollywood, I watched the news coverage as the disease progressed over the first year. For a few months, HIV took on the name “Gay Cancer.” There was no name for the virus or disease yet. That’s what the media landed on. Gay Cancer.

The new epidemic had all the best components for the making of a rigid hateful stigma. The prejudice of homosexuality as an immoral, hedonistic activity was already in play. Disneyland cast members (as everyone who works there is named) regularly split up gay couples slow dancing at the Tomorrowland dance floor, as an example of how homosexuals were treated in SoCal. So when a new deadly disease killing gay men rolled in, the already existing stigmatization of homosexuality was amplified a billion-fold.

This immoral lifestyle has brought down upon us a New Black Plague! That right there is how the AIDS outbreak was perceived.

So here’s a story from my high school years about how goofy things got with the AIDS outbreak, at the very beginning in “Ground Zero” sunny SoCal.

Vintage clothes rock. I’ve always liked hitting thrift stores for vintage surf threads. One day back in high school (mid-80s) while visiting my best gal with my new stash of Hang Ten shirts, her dad warned me not to buy used clothes because of AIDS. He asked me to leave my Goodwill bag outside.

Never mind that most infectious viruses break apart when exposed to light. It’s why getting herpes from a gas station toilet seat is so hilarious. Not possible. But this is how much of a public scare AIDS was, laden with misinfornation and fear mongering. My best gal’s dad was not a hateful or unintelligent man. He was caught up in the fearful hype of a new deadly disesse.

Used clothes could be carrying the Gay Cancer. Amazing.

The misconceptions and misinformation… it created a culture of fear, prejudice, and mistrust in SoCal… I remember it well. It sucked.

Things are much better now, in terms of stigma and fear. AIDS isn’t associated with homosexuality by default. AIDS affects everyone, and anyone can contract the disease.

It isn’t immoral. It isn’t caused by any “lifestyle.” It isn’t a mark of societal shame. It isn’t a death sentence. It’s a disease.

So, for World AIDS Day, that’s my story to share. Compared to mid-80s Southern California, things are better. I am confident things continue to get better.

Stigma this. Stigma that.

There’s this dude on Facebook I greatly respect who shared his thoughts on mental health stigmas and their lack of impact on how he views himself. In better part, I agree fully that how a person might feel about me or how they might treat me knowing I have bipolar and CPTSD doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m very comfortable with who I know I am . . . even with those tiny demons tugging at tiny insecurities inside my mind.

Still, it’s one thing to be affected by others’ personal opinion of those with mental health conditions. The issue with stigmatization comes when these opinions deny peers opportunities and when these opinions define policies and statutes that affect only peers. Hurt feelings versus violating constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is where confronting stigmatization holds importance.

Sometimes, stigmatization has real-world consequences: renting an apartment, applying for a job, acquiring security clearance, interacting with law enforcement. When stigmatization becomes unavoidable in how a peer lives their life, this is where standing up to stigma is both crucial and essential.

Yes, most narcissists are annoying. No, not every narcissist is abusive.

A flurry of articles on narcissism have been popping up the past few weeks. More specifically, these articles detail everything wrong with the narcissist, paying focused attention to how innately abusive and dangerous narcissists are to empathetic peers. The way the articles are presented, the claim is all narcissists are abusive and dangerous.

I’m not an apologist for the behavior of personality disorders. I was married to a narcissist for a decade and live with PTSD symptoms so near the surface always. My choice of being married to Susan fucked me up something powerful.

Truly. She gifted me a lifetime of emotional osteogenesis imperfecta. Ripping cool metaphor that is.

About this flurry of seemingly critical articles of late: What I’d like to see is a more measured account of narcissistic behavior, and the insinuated absolute that “all narcissists are abusive and dangerous” be tempered in the same way the absolute “all mentally ill people are violent” is being debunked . . . as all stigmas should.

If I’m not apologizing for the narcissist and I’m not embracing the narcissist, what precisely am I carrying on about? Look, what I’m asking is to be careful not to create an unintended stigma around narcissistic personality disorder based on this flurry of articles being passed around.

Recall the wisened utterance of Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi:


“Only the Sith speak in absolutes!”


If you understood that reference you have betrayed you’ve seen THE PREQUELS and I weep for your sullied, tormented soul as I weep for mine. We can never unsee THE PREQUELS. Never. Never.

To be fair, I have great difficulty having any sort of meaningful relationship with someone displaying narcissistic behavior. They’re really flipping annoying and draining. It’s like having a relationship with a mirror. Thank the stars for low hanging fruit or I’d have no wit at all.

Fast Times at Bipolar High

Hello and welcome to the introduction to a new blog series: Fast Times at Bipolar High! In this series, I, Payton, will be explaining how I made it through highschool in Albuquerque, New Mexico while battling to understand and cope with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder while still attempting to grow up, have friends, be a good student and above all else, not lose my mind. This series may get a little intense for some readers so be warned: IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE INTENSITY, STOP READING THIS BLOG! Although, for this intro blurb, I will keep it pretty reasonable. I plan to cover topics such as what its like to be afraid of one’s self, how to positively spin being a totall coocoo weirdo, stigma in public schools and how I survived it, dealing with intense urges as a teenager, leadership, choosing the right school for myself, reconciling being a potential danger, shame of mental identity, the importance of a support system and much more so stay tuned! Without further ado, here is my first entry!

Hi. I’m Payton. Growing up, I wasn’t your typical student. No, I was a slacker. Now, I wasn’t a slacker because I hated school or because I thought it was beneath me, no, I was a slacker because while the other students were studying for finals, I was traversing a world of visitors, visions, hallucinations, harbingers and so much more. The only way I could get through my early life was to live through my madness. It wasn’t an option to just shut it off. The only way to do that would have been to shut everything off because my madness is a part of me and that’s called suicide. Although I often considered it and to this day, I can’t begin to comprehend the miracles that led to me remaining on this earth, suicide is no longer my eventual goal. Despite my…ahem…unique brain being a part of who I am, I do not choose to identify with it. I am not Bipolar. I have bipolar disorder. I have a cold. I have a bad back, but these things are not who I am. I am a poet, an athlete, a smartass and so much more but I am not my vices. I am not defined by what ferocity hold me down but rather by the grace with which I rise against it all.

Due to my constant escapades into the other world, I was not always mentally available to complete assignments, remember birthdays or pay attention to traffic signals but I was never idle. Nay, when my parents would receive calls about their son not taking school seriously and being disrespectful, what my educational professionals failed to realize and mention was that instead of this, I was busy respecting the Otherworld and taking my own subconscious seriously. The two were not mutually exclusive. Like I said, I lived through my hallucinations. They were not random (as bizarre and flippant as they often were). They had a purpose and always…always, they wanted to tell em something. My pseudo-scientific understanding of these visions is that when a brain is wired improperly wired and it’s conscious and subconscious are failing to properly interpret, communicate with and respond to the surrounding environment, an anomaly occurs. Things that would typically be handled with grace and time like reacting to love interests, dealing with rejection and handling trauma are instead processed by the subconscious and then violently & dramatically foced upon the conscious mind without warning. You see, the typical brain’s conscious and subsconscious are like two employees working the day and night shifts. They trade notes between shifts and the work of one impacts the work of the other but they don’t really directly interact very much. Ah…but my brain is far from typical. My day and night shift workers were constantly fighting for more hours because they lived in an unstable enclosure and the costs of rent, security, utilities and food was staggering, not to mention all of the creative aspirations they had to fund (which were all inspired by their unstable lives). Eventually, the boss decided to just let them work at the same time! This is when I dreamt while awake. This is probably also the reason that from age 10 (right before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 with Psychotic features) every single dream I’ve had has been a lucid dream. This meant that I had the responsibility of not only manually sorting out my processing of my day to day life while I was unconscious but also that I had to tame the subconscious beasts that everyone else’s subconscious naturally tames while I was awake! You see then why it was difficult to be a straight laced, 5 minutes early, B+ or better sort of student, no?

But I was not totally innocent. I slacked intentionally. School didn’t seem to be a very friendly environment for me. It certainly wasn’t onein which I could explore my mind. No, as I later realized with the help of my Kwa’a (Hopi for grandfather), American Highschool isn’t about learning meaningful information or how to think (that’s what college is for), American Highschool is about learning to follow directions. I was literally incaple of following the directions of the first school I attended. So, I took to the wind and with the help of my mother, father and some friends, found a school that worked for me. I didn’t even end up graduating from that school, but it taught me the importance of finding the right fit for my own needs- not the needs I’m supposed to have. As users of the mental health forces that be, we are consumers! We cannot always just take what is given to us, sometimes we must find what it is we need in order to heal and prosper. We cannot be ashamed of seeking help and we must realize that it is our duty to seek help/treatment if for no other reason than to not be a scourge on society. Hopefully we find other reasons like wanting to make our families proud or better yet ourselves proud but prison is real! And so is death. For a long time, the fear of those two things was the only thing keeping me from succumbing to them and at times, I didn’t even have that. It is an absolute miracle that I am not dead, in prison or on the run right now even as I write this. How about a round of applause! I am a student from the graduating class of We Made It! My dear friends, my loving family and my stellar mental health professionals helped me cope with the fear of harming myself and others and helped me not let it come to that but lets talk about that for a second- fear! Fear divides and often conquers us if we let it. There are six natural behaviors. Fear is one of them. Disgust is one of them. Hatred is one of them. Love is not. Compassion is not. Understanding is not. All of those things are taught and learned. Thankfully, joy is also a natural behavior. Lets capitalize on joy. Also, lets become more than what we are made of. Lets become unnatural- unnatural in the sense that our behaviors are chosen, not natural. We are born with fear. We can seek understanding. We can seek enlightenment. Lets seek enlightenment together. I have seen so much fear in my attackers that the only person I pitied more than myself was them, but no more. No more tears. Let’s fight back. Lets wise up. Join my side and lets Stand Up To Stigma.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.

F*ck you Kl*nopin

Remembering when I used to have a life. I do this all the time. My friend gets mad at me saying I’m always speaking of the past and showing older pics. But, it’s these times I remember since the loss of me. I guess it’s a reflection on the good times. Like an old man/lady who sits on the porch telling their grand-kids about the good ol’ days.

I remember traveling, going to concerts, comedy clubs, movie premiers, out dancing, going to school to get an MBA, dating, etc. Nothing made me upset, depressed or anxious, except the normal stuff that would cause anyone to feel this way. Everything was impromptu and everything made me excited, especially swimming, hiking and biking.

The best memory is never having to use an alarm clock; in bed at 10, up at 6 and then for a long bike ride before the sun came up. No meds in my cabinet except for a multi-vitamin.



This pic is when I was in Mexico with my girlfriend. We just hopped a plane and went to Mexico and had the absolute best time, even though the hotel was cheap and I slept on a block. It just didn’t matter. I went with the flow on everything. I always laughed at shitty situations and found the good in the bad, the silver lining on every cloud.

Well, now, I just want to die. Every day I feel like I have the flu, am burning on fire, movements in my body, SI, anxiety off the charts, etc. I have no real friends/family anymore. Nobody understands and nobody cares. The world is a fair-weathered friend. I guess it’s a survival of the fittest theory.

I want children, a nice husband, nice friends (the ones I have are utter shit), a safe home and to wake up at least feeling 75%. This is no way to live. I honestly don’t see how people do it. Some doctor destroys our lives with a shitty Big Pharma drug and we must resign to the fact that we will be sick/bedridden for a decade, if we even make it. I’ve lost my looks, my personality and my will to live.

I very much miss the good ol’ days.

F*ck you Kl*nopin.

Spirituality vs. Psychosis Perception

If a psychic/medium or spiritual person hears voices they are invited to shows and people reveres them. They are held to such high regards. “Can you please tell me what the voices are telling you about me?”. “Pastor, what is the holy spirit telling you?, “friend, what message has God sent you?”

If someone is diagnosed with psychosis they are seen as “scary, evil, monsters, creepy” although they too hear voices and see things that aren’t there, just like the psychics/mediums or spiritual people.

Why does society accept one but looks down on the other?. Is it because one identifies as spiritual and the other as a medical condition?. Is it because a person with a diagnose may not have full control of their experience?. They both have very similar experiences and yet society values one over the other.

Letter to the Psychiatric Times editor: Mania and Hypomania: The Latest Thinking on Duration of Episodes and Other Features

Dear editor,

In response to the October 29, 2019, article by Dr. David Osser, I would like to share insight into diagnostic modeling from the patient perspective.

https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/article/mania-and-hypomania-latest-thinking-duration-episodes-and-other-features

I’ve got bipolar. Both I and II. And schizoaffective disorder. And . . . anything else diagnosed in that 15 minute span of presentation at the ER, which is where I received each of these diagnoses.

For me, an initial diagnosis is a great place to start deciding how to treat my symptoms. After that, the game plan is to treat my specific symptoms and not the diagnosis. Providers sometimes miss this essential progression in treating peers because of adherence to diagnostic criteria.

My significant issue with bickering about manic durations is that showing symptoms for too short a span (it appears 7 days for mania and 4 days for hypomania) serves the primary medical rationale “We might treat it wrong if we don’t have the proper diagnostic definition.”

I’ve been riding this rodeo since 1987, diagnosed in 1999. I’ve had rapid cycling with frequencies every hour and not days. Some providers question the existence of mixed episodes. I’ve had a provider insist I treat psychosis first because of the schizoaffective diagnosis, when the psychosis is consequential of severe depression. Treat the depression, the psychosis goes away.

In all this time messing about with treatment, there is one constant:


All mental health treatment is trial and error.


So, does it really matter about the duration of mania in treatment? I’m showing mania-oid symptoms that happen to last three days. Try me out on some LiCO3. If my mania-oid symptons abate, bam, good job. It’s mania. If not, then . . . let’s trial and error other treatment options.

Being practically cynical, adhering to a minimum episodic duration means peers like me won’t receive the proper treatment of mania because I don’t meet the diagnostic criteria. This is exactly the contrary argument being debated for a revised two day episodic duration . . . even with the proposed revision, my true treatment needs again fall outside the diagnostic capture zone.

Being fully cynical, I often believe the DSM is a billing manual more than a diagnostic treatment manual. This is borne primarily from years of trial and error treatment efficacy frustrations and probably isn’t a reflection of actual purpose.

All said, my sincere recommendation for providers is treat the person and the empirical symptoms and not the diagnosis and diagnostic criteria. This is what works best for me in my recovery journey.

Kindest regards

Steve Bringe
Founder, Stand Up To Stigma

Opinion: Behavioral health services for New Mexico peers FIRST

As an involved mental health peer & who has served advisory and leadership roles
in the New Mexico community for 10 years, I question currently proposed immigration policy and its impact on our peer services.

New Mexico is a “Border State” and a large influx of undocumented immigrants will greatly strain already negligently supported programs in the state. It is reasobable to project this influx will endure funding stretched beyond a social Hooke’s constant and generate longer waiting periods for the limited number of providers in New Mexico.

A typical waiting period for an outpatient behavioral health appointment is three to six months. Our homeless population is underserved with an ever growing population – obviously, housing needs are a HUGE issues for our community. Inpatient stays are revolving doors because inpatient treatment is about immediate stablization and not sustained outpatient success in recovery and wellness.

Why? Funding. Or more specifically, lack of funding. New Mexico doesn’t have a lot of money. Providing every behavioral health service needed for our community takes money. We don’t have enough.

This is an entirely unpopular platform and I’ve been called “heartless”, “racist”, “anti-immigrant”, “white supremicist” (my ancestry makes me one quarter Chinese and one quarter Tahitian – first generation born in America), and a number of other rhetorical barbs designed to shame me for my strong beliefs on social services in New Mexico.

This is an unpopular platform – I openly own this – and I have zero qualms sharing my belief.

With underserved peers and families who are citizens of the United States of America, our citizens’ behavioral health needs must come first. These peers are our priority and our responsibility. When our peers’ behavioral health needs are fully provided, only then should we consider offering services to a significant foreign immigrant population.

We have such a limited amount of funds. I can name a half dozen essential services in Albuquerque who turn away peers because of being underfunded. This is completely wrong.

In an ideal world we could afford to welcome all needful people to benefit from our services. Sadly, doing so would divert services away from our citizens and our peers already underserved. Our peers are our prioirty. This is the reality. Humanitarian support must be offered to our peers at home to ensure all their behavioral health needs are fulfilled.

It’s an unpopular platform and someone has to say it.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Police kill themselves, too – Insight on police suicide

By Steve Bringe
Founder, Stand Up To Stigma

A very sad and troubling article came across my feed concerning police officer suicides in New York City.

NYPD suicide problem grows as eighth officer takes own life this year

I’d enjoy sharing an insight on the great need for safe, protected mental health services in the law enforcement community. Trust me. This is good stuff. It’s useful information gleaned from a firsthand perspective.

When I was developing CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) for the Albuquerque Police Department, part of what was created was internal mental health services for the officers AND their families. This is an excellent service tbat carries an amount of unrecognized cultural complexity.

Having given numerous CIT presentations for APD and having been tasked with recruiting peer presenters, I’ve had the unique opportunity to speak openly with police officers on the crucial conversation of mental health in a safe, honest, and vulnerable setting. And, having been invited to participate in the full 40 hours of CIT training, I’ve gained direct empathetic understanding of the police perspective in crisis situations. This is because APD officers shared their law enforcement stories with me and our peer presenters.


Observation: Being a cop is a rough and high-stress job and cops aren’t proactive in seeking out mental health treatment.


The issue – as I see it – is there’s a self-stigmatizing critique in the law enforcement culture that to seek mental health services is a weakness and shameful. By making the services internal to APD the hope is more officers will get immediate help with the support of their colleagues.

As a peer who has bipolar and severe PTSD, as well as a history of trying to kill myself, if I didn’t have the excellent services I have now, suicide as a mental health treatment solution would continue to be part of my life. It’s no different for cops who experience horror on the job.

As said, I was also invited to take the full 40 hours of CIT, and not only the two hours I developed. The insight I’ve shared – redacting specific officer stories which were shared on a personal level – speaks from my understanding of the training and ingrained responsibilities officers hold in mental health crisis situations. As their job description requires, cops are placed in environments most folks can’t appreciate as unavoidably emotionally rattling. This happens at crime scenes that aren’t pretty or heart warming. As a layperson, some of the stories officers shared with me are terrifying.

These unimaginable on-the-job life events and the psychologically damaging consequences don’t clock out at the end of the shift. The jolting effects follow the cop home and are there when the cop wakes up the next day and the next day and all the next days to come.


The inherent mental
health-impacting job stress in law enforcement can be crippling and exhausting day after day, and suicide is one natural conclusion to untreated PTSD.


Purposely, I saved the PTSD acronym for the last.

Here’s the insight on the law enforcement culture I want people to realize and understand. My feeling is suicide shouldn’t be exasperated by cultural competency. The law enforcement community is incredibly loyal and tightly insular, and the law enforcement community contends with its own internally propogated stigmatization. Police officers both need and deserve specific and special services for their mental health wellness. And, seeking out these critical services must be accepted, supported, and destigmatized to be effective.


The Albuquerquue Police Department is providing these services. Let’s see what happens with the culturally internal stigma about getting mental health services.


I applaud with both hands and both feet – as well as the hands and feet of the (occasional) make believe people in my head – the forward-thinking and active-solution of the Albuquerque Police Department. I applaud the department’s dedication to the officers’ and the responsibility shown in dispensing the permeating self-sigmatization in law enforcement culture. And, in talking with officers on the street whom I trained, these services are being openly utilized. Score.

As a closing comment, I’ve spoken primarily of the mental health needs of law enforcement officers as being consequential of their employment. It’s equally important to address bipolar, schizophrenia, DID, depression, and any other mental health issue with the same considerations as everyone else on the planet. These mental health needs are also part of APD’s in house services. Just so you know. Score.

By the by, I aced the CIT exam. 100% is my score. Bonus.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.