World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day, held for the first time in 1988.
Too many people are thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, when they need just to water the grass they are standing on and know their status. To date, more than 30 million people have died from AIDS, and some 34 million are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. 1 in 5 people with HIV doesn’t know they have it. Get tested & know your status! #WorldAIDSDay
Currently, only 30% of Americans who are infected are virologically suppressed. Identifying HIV-positive persons and improving the administration of care will increase the number of persons retained in care. Someday soon, we may be able to welcome a new generation into an AIDS-free world.
WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?
Make a goal to educate everyone on the importance of getting tested for HIV.
Educate your family, friends, students, children, and patients and reduce stigma. Stigma and discrimination prevent people from getting tested and receiving treatment. Educate individuals about the disease, risk factors, and available treatments, and explain what it means to be infected.
Keep negatives negative. Even after someone has tested negative for HIV, ensure that they understand how to maintain a healthy, low-risk lifestyle.
WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE?
To find out more about HIV/AIDS, visit https://www.apa.org/pi/aids/resources/exchange/2012/04/hope-program.aspx
If you are need of HIV and mental health training to your staff (social workers, psychiatrists, medical doctors, nurses, school counselors), and students, please contact Michael D. Gatson, (318) 663-1068 (C), or (240) 706-7187 (H)
From: Michael & family
I was asked to write a blog to my younger self about the changes I would make in regards to my career, personal relationships, family, love life, and things that I am thankful for this holiday season. My advice is whatever you think you’d tell your younger self, say it to yourself now: There’s a lot you still can do.
I’m grateful for many things….I wanted to send a note to share some of the many things I am thankful for this year. I’m thankful for my power in the present, and my unwritten future, and a past that’s forever behind me. I am grateful for the people who are in my life.
Some people come into your life to teach you a valuable lesson, and others are a blessing from God. A few individuals that I was dealing with taught me some valuable lessons this year. Don’t forget to tell people you care for that they are special. That affirmation could be the difference between the sunshine and a rainstorm. Don’t be afraid to be transparent with the individuals who have your best interest at heart. The people who are not concerned about you then it’s perfectly fine to guard your heart against them.
The thing about an experience is once you learn them, you don’t have to revisit them again. Through my experiences, I am constantly encouraging myself to live boldly and love hard because it’s an amazing experience. Residing in the here and now is ultimately the best thing we can do. Errors make you human, and you don’t always have to be strong to be strong. Sometimes our strength is expressed in being vulnerable. Give everything and have no regrets. Everything happens for a reason. Don’t stress the could haves. If it had, it would have.
We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude. When it is recognition that makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Now we have one month left to finish the book of 2016. Make the last chapter a good one.
This holiday, if you are thinking about what’s missing, feels overwhelming, try to find what’s present. As always and during this Thanksgiving holiday, Remember your blessings and thank God for them all.
Michael D. Gatson
On yesterday, it was full of obstacles but I made it to my destination and accomplished the initial goal. I used to pray for opportunities to travel and get paid for something I love doing. I like being around genuine people and finding new ways to love the same person over and over. It is important to expose ourselves to different parts of the world and to new experience and cultures so that we can change out our lenses. It’s important to surround ourselves with people who help us grow and bring out the best versions of ourselves. In this life we can’t take anything for granted. Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others. Even when the odds are against you. Fight for your dreams. Even if you have to invest a lot of time, and your income. Do whatever is necessary to achieve your goals. On your personal journey, you will face many obstacles along the way. Your family and friends may turn against you in the process. Those you love will think you are crazy but don’t give up on your dreams.As we are approaching Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Valentines. It seems appropriate to think about what and who are we committing to in the new year. Are the people in my life helping me become a better person? Are they helping me grow to my full potential?
Dr. G’s advice:
Yesterday, I was on the plane, and I met this guy named, Micah. We talked on the plane from DC to ATL. During our conversation, I found out that he was an Engineer originally from Memphis. He has lived in New York, Washington DC, and now residing in Clinton, MS. He also expressed that he has been trying to get his family to leave their hometown and branch out to new cities, cultures, and meet new people. We also talked about some of our similarities and how we love to travel and respond to new people.
I remember when I turned 18 I felt like I was an adult. One day I told my grandmother that I was grown. She looked at me and asked me, “what happens to a rose when it is fully bloomed?” I replied that it opens up beautifully and it eventually dies. She reminded me that we are a lot like a rose and when we are fully bloomed then it is time for us to die. Until that time comes we are constantly growing and in transition to the next phase of our lives. If we are not growing, we are dying. It is important as humans that we are always in the form of construction. I want you to start stepping outside of your comfort zone and take a chance in getting to know someone new. Start new conversations you normally would not. Having the conversations, we’ve never had so that we can build a relationship we’ve never experienced before.
A few weeks ago I was talking with one of my good friends, and colleagues about traveling beyond her regular destinations to meet someone with a different mindset and ready for a serious committed relationship. Traveling doesn’t necessarily mean going overseas. Maybe traveling means venturing off to the west coast, or the east coast, and exploring new activities, and adventures while you are on vacation. In the days to come, and new year I challenge you to challenge yourself to explore new adventures, destinations and become curious to the unknown. To not just react to what is being presented, but rather to try to understand a person’s story, and their logic about things before judging them.
I want you to focus on the many different aspects of wellness and look at areas that you have room to grow. As a professor, and therapist I hear all the time from individuals about their frustration with their family, friends, or partners about them telling them to pursue their dreams or passion. Examine the different parts that make up you as an individual. Let’s connect to the parts that bring us joy.
1. Who are the people in your circle?
2. Do you have quality people in your circle?
3. Do they bring out the positive attributes within you?
4. Do they challenge you for greatness?
5. Do they lift you up?
6. Do they bring out the better side of you?
Shift your group around so you are aligned. We should be inviting people in our circle to enhance and advance us as an individual.
As a marriage counselor, I am always challenging my couples to be active and present in their relationship. That means their relationship is a job and they are making sure to devote time and emotions into it.
Ask yourself on a monthly basis how can I show my love for my partner.
Am I working on being a supportive partner?
Am working hard as an individual to inspire and motivate my partner?
How are my communication skills in my partner?
Remember we were created to share our gifts and talents. Also, you have been set up to make somebody else’s life better. Somebody needs what you have- your smile, touch, love, support, and encouragement. Committing to loving our partners over and over again and finding new ways to support, cheer, and stand by their side.
The biggest lesson that I have learned this year is being mindful of how much I give of myself. There are givers and takers in every relationship. The best friends and partners understand the importance of balancing the two. To be able to fill someone else’s cup when yours is overflowing is a beautiful thing. If you never set boundaries with family, friends, and your partner or find someone that recognizes when you need to receive you will just end of empty and shattered.
Happy holiday’s from Dr. Gatson & family
The holiday is a time to gather with family, friends, fun, and food: Holidays can be a lot of fun or produce a lot of stress. We have to meet certain deadlines, and several demands to prepare for the holiday. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the holiday may produce more stress. A few of tips are listed below for anyone who might be struggle during the holidays.
1. Plan ahead. Social situations or large crowds can be stressful for someone with PTSD, anxiety, or depression. Find out ahead of time who will be there and how many people will be attending the gathering. The more information you have the less unpredictable the situation will be for you.
2. Manage Your Time—Make a list what needs to be accomplished, & make plans for addressing issues, and stick to the plan as best you can.
3. Be part of the solution—Learning problem-solving skills. They can improve your ability to cope.
4. Seek out support. Take a friend or relative whom you trust with you when you are planning to go to a social gathering or shopping. Social support through a friend, family, support group or therapist can also be useful in coping with symptoms.
5. Preparation-Practice your coping strategies that you have been learning with a group or individual therapy when you are relatively relaxed.
6. Personal Time-Take time for yourself. Get physical—Take a brisk walk or be physically active in another way. Take a ride on a bicycle, or motorcycle.
7. Positive Self Thoughts—Stress often is associated with negative, self-critical thinking. Focus your attention on positive thoughts about yourself and others.
8. Expressing yourself—keeping your thoughts bottled up can increase stress. So speak up in respectful ways. Sharing your ideas and feelings in a polite yet assertive manner can help reduce your stress level. To the extent that you trust family members, discuss with them things that may be triggering or stressful to you about the holidays. Be open and honest about what you need to enjoy the holidays.
9. Spirituality-The holidays are a time when many people place more emphasis on spirituality. Focusing on spirituality may be one way of connecting with the holiday season that is not stressful or uncomfortable for someone with PTSD, anxiety, or depression.
10. Redefine what the holidays mean. The holidays are a time for celebration, and this can happen in some different ways. Celebrate your way. For example, volunteering your time at a homeless shelter or a hospital. Giving back and helping others can be an effective way of recovering from trauma.
11. However you celebrate the holidays, make sure you take the time to enjoy them. These are just a few strategies that may be effective. Take a chance to come up with your own so that you enjoy the holiday season to the fullest. Example: Several years I would take trips out of the country during the holidays, and explore new cultures.
12. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year.
13. The Vet Center Call Center 1-877-WAR-VETS is an around the clock confidential call center where combat Veterans and their families can call to talk about their military experience or any other issue they are facing in their readjustment to civilian life. The staff is comprised of combat Veterans from several eras as well as families members of combat Veterans.
14. How do you manage stress around the holidays and year round?
I hope you enjoy Thanksgiving whether at home, or wherever you may find yourself.
Michael D. Gatson
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
It has been a while since I have posted but I have been busy doing some amazing things. I am planning to start back writing once things settle down. This week has been rough for many reasons. I have been working nonstop since October 31st. Today, as I am leaving the office, I am totally drained from dealing with my patients, students, soldiers, and dealing with my personal feelings. Tomorrow will be my first off day since October 30th. It’s taking me a while to absorb the news coverage of our presidential election.
This week I had several patients, each of whom spent the entire session discussing their personal grief, fears, shock, and concerns about the future of our country. Each of the vets explained how they experienced racism during Vietnam, and after returning from the war. I also had several students who shared their opinions and concerns after class on Tuesday. This week several people expressed that everything has been compromised so badly, and their hearts are breaking, and crying and feels hopeless at the thought that everything we stand for, and all the people are now at risk.
I have distracted myself with my daily activities, but I can’t ignore it any further because we still have so much more work to do to regain the wholeness of our lives. I explained in detail about micro-aggressions during sessions. Micro-aggressions are intentional or unintentional brief slights that communicate derogatory messages toward individuals based solely upon their marginalized group membership. Micro-aggressions can and do occur everywhere and anywhere including work environment, group therapy, neighborhoods, public transportation, classrooms and other public spaces.
It was difficult, but I was forced to bring up and model healthy strategies to get them through this week, including focusing on what we can do to promote values that are important to us. Things you can do as an individual if you find yourself grieving during this time.
We need to continue to be politically correct which is behaving in a way that will gain you approval from others. It makes you look kind to those in power (voters, friends, family, parents, social media outlets, peers) so that they will think favorably of you. We need to focus on being inclusive to other people. Being inclusive is a mindset and commitment. Not all medicine needs to be ingested. Some are heard, some seen, and some is felt. We have to pass through where others are stuck.
To help us during these times I reminded of Maya Angelou’s words. Perhaps her words will help everyone through the healing process so that we can get ready to continue supporting our communities, fighting to maintain civil rights, dealing with everyone who is disenfranchised, poor, unemployed, as well as how we teach others how to treat people with respect and learning to accept people who are different from them.
Michael D. Gatson
Still, I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
Cause I walk like, I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high
Still, I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Digging in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak, that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Each year our birthday comes around & we began reminiscing about the past, the ups & down, and relationships that ended and began. This year has been about change, growth, heartbreak, closing and starting new chapters, and discovering what I truly deserve but not knowing or fearful of what the future holds. I will admit it can be scary when you come face to face with our reality that we are in a place; we don’t want to be in anymore. That can be a feeling, a situation but don’t fear them because it is a good space to be in because we are about to make some changes. So, often the next step in our growth is letting go so we can continue to evolve and expand. Friends and family are included in this.
The year has been a transition, but I am thankful for the growth in my career and personal life. Sometimes, you are the one who has to leave situations, feelings, and people behind. When it comes to friends, family, and significant others, sometimes we need to allow them to work on themselves because they won’t do it while you are providing everything for them in their life. It is a weird place praying for someone to change and reach their full potential and grow up, and year after year it’s no change. Maybe it is because they don’t want to make any changes, or they are not ready to admit they are not good at some things, and maybe us leaving is exactly what is needed for them to be in space to grow. When we consistently stay and neglect our happiness, we are enabling their behaviors. They will tell you I will see a therapist and start missing or canceling appointments. The excuses start to become more frequent and no movement from them.
We can’t change people. They have to want to make some change. They have to demonstrate that they are taking the actions that indicate a change. Words do not have value if they are not supported behind actions. Trust me, if people want something or someone bad enough they will make the necessary changes. I know so many individuals who are in love with people and dating them based purely on their potential and not who they are being. They see endless possibilities in the person, and yet, that person has never shown a glimpse or desire to change and grow in that direction. You cannot motivate, and convince anyone to become anything that they are not moving towards. They can talk all about it, but our choices reflect our priorities, so look at what they’re choosing.
Just make sure you are not asking them to be someone else to be with you because that type of request has a short shelf life and eventually the real person will show their face or some people spend their entire life mirroring each other fakeness and becomes very exhausting over time. If we let people sit in the gap of ambivalence, we give our amazingness away to people who will never know our value.
It can be tough to become AWARE when we are in a relationship. We can never limit our growth for someone else. We can invite our family, friends, and significant others to join us on our journey of growth, but it is impossible to sustain a dead space for another in the long term. It will lead to resentment and pain, and we began to shrink ourselves to meet them rather than inviting them to grow into us.
As I continue on my journey to empower and encourage others, I am learning the true meaning of the favor of God. The more you give and strive to help others improve their life, the more your life improves. My life has been enriched with a new love, endless opportunities, adventures, and experiences. Today I am celebrating another year of life and starting a new chapter in my personal memoir but excited about what God has in store for me on my journey and the feeling of accomplishment.
Thank you for all the birthday cards, wishes, gifts, calls, text, emails, and social media post.
Yesterday, Sophia Jones and I were having a broad discussion about love, life, growth, and evolving. The conversation was so good the time slipped away, and the next thing I know I was receiving a phone call that my date was downstairs waiting and I wasn’t dressed and was going to be late for dinner and Brian Mcknight concert lol. A brief summary of the discussion on how it is confusing that individuals continue to choose people who are unavailable, or consistently picking people who will never love them, and realizing that it will never be a happy ending if we continue to select the same individuals.
Therapist Corner: As we mature on this journey of life we began to understand that our wants and needs should be evolving as we grow. In reality with maturity, our lives should be shifting toward new directions, people, and priorities. Change isn’t something that is easy, but its necessary to evolve. The key to love is finding someone who can love all of your imperfections, and allow them to love you.
This morning I was reading my daily word before starting my day at work. I haven’t blogged in a few months because I have been busy enjoying life. Before I went to bed, last night I thought I am exhausted and I have to be at work in the morning, but I glanced over, and I felt a great feeling coursing through my veins. I felt happy, love, at peace, and excited about a lot of things and what the future holds.
My patients ask me all the time “How do I find peace, joy, love, and happiness in my life?” Changing yourself is a skill, a decision, and a process, and all three usually takes time. Continuing to remove old, negative feelings, and outdated beliefs. Stay committed to healing and discovering your souls, even when you question if it is worth it. Loving yourself. Love others. Self-love comes from understanding even the deepest and most painful parts of our story, and loving it. Self-love is important because when we fall in love with ourselves, we allow other people to love us because we deserve it. When we choose us, we meet other individuals who choose themselves, and they make our lives and our mornings ever so much brighter even if you are not a morning person like me.
Stay committed to your personal growth process until you can smile at night before falling asleep and ask yourself, What is that strange feeling? Then know what the answer is. The answer is joy. We are all entitled to more fulfillment, joy, love, and meaning in life because they’re in a minority of things that are limitless in supply. Happiness is the seasoning; fulfillment is the meal~MDG
This week I celebrated my 7th anniversary from when I submitted my first research proposal and presented at NASW-LA in Baton Rouge, LA. This week I presented at the NASW-MD Conference on Suicide Among Active Military Personnel and War Veterans. My first time I was introducing the information from my article I published with NASW, and I was very comfortable and not feeling nervous at all. I had an altercation to happen between two of the participants. I feel that I handled the situation very well. During my presentation, I provided a group assignment. One of the participants would play the therapist, and the other member would be the patient. While they were working on their task, I met a lovely retired neuropsychologist who greeted and congratulated me on passing my oral defense. We had a pleasant exchange of the work I have been doing with the VA and in the community.
After the group assignment was over, I had everyone provide their feedback. One of the participants was a newly licensed social worker and MSW graduate who expressed being nervous and not confident in the role of a therapist. I provided her with a little feedback. I explained it is important to speak with authority and conviction when you are speaking to people. As a therapist, it is important to know when to be silent. There is a great wisdom and illumination in both. When you are confused and nervous, ask your heart which is the best approach for that moment and proceeds with confidence. Practice being present with others. Listen, rather than just thinking about what you’re going to say next. People can sense when someone is listening to them. Being grounded and present is a gift to yourself and others.
I finished presenting and met with a few people afterward and exchanged information. The newly licensed social worker came up to me later and had several questions about my journey as a social worker. I explained to her that I have a strong support system and great mentors. She wanted to know how to gain confidence and getting her career started as a social worker. I explained to be generous in the giving of yourself. Even if it’s just for a moment. You could be the person who makes all the difference.
Trust the process of your life. On the journey, there will be some bad things happen along the way but having faith that something good will always come out of the situation. It may take a while to see the blessing, but eventually, you will. If I appear to be strong, it is because I have been weak before. If it seems as I am fearless when I am answering questions from participants it’s because I have been afraid in the past. When I am in front of other medical professionals, colleagues, or students, I always take the time to recite “for in him we live, move, and have our being.” I shake out all the fear and nerves that I am currently experiencing, and take a few deep breaths, and remember who is in control, and I began to feel myself returning to my center.
Life is a journey, and as we will all travel along, and we will run into several challenges along the way. When you run into those challenges along the way, it is important to have a strong support system, and mentors to help provide support, encouragement, inspiration, and insight. It will come a time you don’t have a clue of the destination, but if you trust God, follow the desires of your heart, remain humble, and believe the desires of your heart then each step will lead you. You will begin to realize that the steps you are making in the right direction on your personal journey.
No worries every heartbreak, mistake, or experience will teach you something valuable. It will be your trip that nobody else will travel, and no one can judge. Friends and family will accompany you part of the way, and you’ll walk the rest by yourself, but you will never be alone. You will learn that people will want you to do good but never better than them.
Trust the process. Act as if you already the person you dream of becoming courageous, self-expressed, and compassionate. When you get anxious, nervous, or fearful, ask yourself, “How would the ‘I’ whom I want to become an act in this situation?” Then do it. You will be amazed how much you already are the person who you desire to be. As I continue my professional journey, I am learning that real success comes in small portions day by day.