Living Well with HIV When It’s Cold as %$&#!


“No, I just can’t anymore.”

I’ve said it a million times during the winter and the coldest months of the year. I have always hated cold weather. I have never been a fan of snow. I call Uber one hundred percent of the time when there is snow on the roads, because I do not know how to drive in that mess. I have never been snow skiing, and sitting outside in the cold weather around a bonfire is way less Kumbaya to me, and much more Thank You, Next.

Why do I have such distain for the winter? Who knows. It could be Seasonal Affective Disorder, although it’s not diagnosed. I just googled it, and the symptoms sound about right to me. Winter definitely makes me SAD.

But since I am also living with HIV, staying positive during the cold months takes a lot of extra work for me mentally, physically, and emotionally. But, after six years of living with HIV, I think I’ve finally figured some things out.

Here are some things I've learned that help me get out of my apartment and live my life during the cold winter months.

It’s important to talk to my doctor about my mental health.

Sure, lots of people get a little down during winter, but it is imperative that I make sure that something else deeper isn’t happening—like depression or worse. The lifetime prevalence of depression for someone diagnosed with HIV is 20-40%, up to two times higher than someone negative making the risk of suicide 3-5 times higher.

So, I never take a chance that it’s not just me being an old scrooge during the winter months. I think it’s important to communicate with my doctor about any potential symptoms. It may be uncomfortable to discuss, but there are treatment options.

I keep track of the weather so I don’t get stuck without my HIV meds.

What if it snows and I can’t get to the pharmacy? I need to make sure that I plan ahead so I don’t get accidentally thrown off my regimen. I’ve had this happen before. Not having access to my medication is dangerous for me—both physically and mentally—so, this one is always a priority for me, and should be for anyone who is HIV-positive. Keep tabs on where you’re at with refills. If a snowstorm is coming and you’re in danger of running out, refill the prescription early!

I eat as well as I can, and am always trying to improve.

“Stay Healthy by Eating Healthy” is a phrase I’ve always heard. It’s easier said than done for me, and I think for a lot of other people, too.

Why? For the longest time, I couldn’t cook anything more than simple spaghetti and lemon pepper chicken on my George Forman grill. Last winter, I discovered a bit of a solution. Chicken pairs well with lots of different flavors, so I searched for other options besides lemon pepper seasoning. I found that barbecue sauce is great.

Ok, I know barbecue sauce isn’t always the healthiest, but I found a great article that helped me eat chicken like never before... 60 different ways, actually. I’ve been trying out these recipes and it’s helping me feel more confident in the kitchen.

Cooking for yourself feels great, and it’s usually healthier to eat a home-cooked meal than to order a takeout version. If I eat well, or at least fool myself into thinking that I’m eating well, I feel good. Fake it ‘till I make it? Maybe so.

I’m going to go on a bunch of dates.

This is my new strategy for 2019’s winter months—to actually go back to old school, on a real date, with a real person. I use to find that perfect group of people to choose from. The colder it gets, the warmer I’m going to try and make my dating life this year.

Will it work? Who knows, but at least I’ll meet a bunch of new people and be forced to look good during the winter.

And I’m making only ONE new year resolution.

I am tired of always being late everywhere. 15 minutes late used to be my norm, but it’s turned into 25-30 minutes late everywhere, all the time. I can blame it on the traffic or even my HIV slowing me down, but my plan going forward in 2019 is to make the conscious choice to stop being late.

Hopefully, having a singular goal will give me something to focus on instead of using my energy to lament the drag of winter’s coldest months. By only having one resolution, instead of my usual laundry list of items for self-improvement, I think I will be more likely to get it right.

More than anything, I’m going to trust my instincts and stay positive.

I am going to listen to my own voice and not get overwhelmed or frustrated by being cold. I am going to choose to keep my heart warm and my attitude positive. Living with HIV has taught me the physical result of choosing to keep my mental health in focus and staying positive.

Ultimately, winter will end, and the hot boys will shed all those clothes sooner rather than later. With that, I need to go do some sit-ups and pushups. 2019 will be MY year. Hopefully it’ll be YOUR year, too.

Happy New Year!

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