Starting 2017 with a smile, let’s hope it stays that way

Against all odds 2017 seems to be going well for me so far, perhaps this is the year things finally turn around for Tom? 

I just want to prefix this blog by saying it’s not specifically about HIV,  but more a general ramble and update about what’s been going on in my life since my previous post back in 2016.

Those of you who know me, or follow my blogs and social media, will know that 2016 was far from my finest year. Right at the start of 2016 I became single, and had to find somewhere to live. There were also a number of times I struggled to make ends meet, and even feeding myself was at points a challenge – but I endured, with a little help from my friends, because I love the work I do in HIV, and I think giving back to our community is so vitally important.

I’d also like to take moment to thank our advertisers and sponsors Freedoms-Shop.com and MyHIV.org.uk for their continuing generous support – without which running beyondpositive would be even more of a struggle. If you’re looking for a great range of condoms & lube at incredibly low prices please do head to Freedoms-Shop.com, it’s a lovely NHS health initiative, and if you’re looking for online support, chat and training around living with HIV in the UK be sure to stop by MyHIV.org.uk which is manned by some incredibly dedicated volunteers.

Speaking of communities, 2016 was not a good year for either the LGBT+ or HIV communities. We saw services repeatedly cut or even closed. We watched as hate crimes rose exponentially following the EU referendum and we looked on in horror as a demagogue was elected to the highest office in the world – promising sweeping attacks on healthcare, LGBT+ rights and a whole raft of xenophobic policies and promises.

None of this was good for my mental health. I sunk low, very very low. At one point I didn’t get out of bed for three days. I attempted to seek help from my local NHS Mental Health Foundation Trust only to be ignored entirely several times. I eventually managed to get some crisis support counselling through my HIV clinic and was put on anti-depressants for a number of months – just to help me keep my head above the water. 2016 was not a good year.

But with a new year comes a new start, a blank slate, a clean spreadsheet.

I’ve started seeing a lovely guy who makes me smile from dusk to dawn, even when I don’t realise it I catch a reflection of myself and have to force myself to stop grinning like a loon. All because I somewhat cheekily gave him a kiss at event we were both attending. Who’d have thought it?

Things are looking up work wise too. We have new offices in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, it’s a little spartan but we’re sure with a little time we’ll be able to make it our own. And whilst it may only be January I’ve already confirmed projects and speaking events as far as May including: Romania, Bangkok, Stockholm, Netherlands and up and down the UK.

beyondpositive will continue to run our #PositivePubCrawls in Birmingham, and we hope to return to Manchester this Spring and possible an event in Scotland with the support of some of the local charities up there. I feel it’s so vitally important to provide a supportive social environment for positive people to meet others in the same boat, that doesn’t involve going to a support group – sometimes you just want a drink and a chat. Our next one in Birmingham will be on Friday March 24th 2017.

I’d also like to thank all of you that continue to come along with me on this journey. My friends, my family, my followers on twitter & facebook, those who donate to beyondpositive, those who attend our pub crawls or share our articles online. I, we, couldn’t do this without your love and continued support – so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

2017 isn’t going to be an easy year for any of us. The British economy is going to suffer, our NHS is at breaking point, and the USA is about to enter a scary period also. As always when the world enters times of hardship it is those who are different that are the first to suffer – people of colour, people with disabilities, LGBT people and people with HIV.

Make no mistake, be under no misapprehension, 2017 is going to be hard work. We will have to fight for our rights, for the rights of the people we love. But I’m going into this year with a smile on my face and a spring in my step – and I couldn’t be more ready to take it all on.

Tom Hayes (@PositiveLad on twitter)

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