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From CONSENTING TO INFECTION: HEP C AND THE PANDEMIC

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“Un-hinged”

I was hell-bent on enjoying myself as much as possible those first few months of the pandemic. I believed it was a never-ending parade of delicious in-home cooking and wild, passionate sex with bare contact without using condoms. I wanted to experience the best sex high if the world was genuinely ending. I wanted to feel life on life’s terms before my ride in this universe was over. In my eyes, then, I figured COVID-19 was a pretty awful death. I also figured, given how at risk I was and my lifelong relationship with unfortunate turns, it was probably only a matter of time until I got sick and was on a ventilator. Is it all shocking that I wasn’t worried about contracting Hep C?

But as more time passed, Felecia’s negative, ugly, and loud behaviors revealed themselves. And as more and more time elapsed, the frequency and intensity of these behaviors increased, especially the drinking and everything else that came with it. The sloppiness, the loud cursing, and the worst, the paranoia, fear, and suggestions that my family, and friends, were out to harm me in some way she could never explain or articulate or even dare to suggest if she wasn’t so drunk.

One evening, it dawned on me, Felecia had a severe drinking problem. I realized this first as a therapist, then as a person who has been on the other end of things and been loud, ugly, and hostile towards his ex-girlfriend, Dorothea. I also realized this after the last five or six liquor bottles disappeared or I found the trash empty.

Oh my God, I thought to myself. This isn’t going to work, not like this, I said to myself as I began thinking about how serious her problem was and how our relationship wouldn’t work. Felecia was a full-blown alcoholic. Look, I’m no saint. But Felecia didn’t only have a
problem with drinking. She made a problem for everyone else when she drank, which was my big issue. I didn’t mind that she liked to drink. My biggest concern was that I didn’t feel safe around her while drinking. Safety wasn’t my only issue. She was downright insensitive, mean-spirited, and hurtful when she got very drunk. That’s when the conspiracy thoughts and her anger came out, and it was clear how wounded and unable she was to articulate her feelings or deal with her emotions in a healthy way. It was hard to watch, sometimes, but even harder to be around, especially when she got vulgar.

Felecia’s alcoholism became more apparent when people started talking about vaccines. That’s precisely when I began getting nervous about my future and health if this relationship continued. Felecia and I began to argue about her drinking, as it only seemed to get more and more out of control as our relationship advanced. I started noticing she was drinking almost all day, from the morning to when she finally passed out from living an active life as a full-blown working alcoholic. The only thing that wasn’t working was our relationship, around the same time the vaccine rollout was underway.

We would get into these silly little fights that became so outrageously out of hand I was worried about my safety. The stupid little arguments made me think about her insight. Did she have the same lack of sense when taking her Hep C meds and adhering to treatment? After all, mentally ill people habitually stop their medication a lot. Even if they are just medical meds, can I trust her? Can I trust her for the long term?

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in New York City. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a ‘2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10’ award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes about his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

‘I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,’ Guttman says. ‘After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.’

‘In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity, and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and Recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.’

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J. Peters

J. Peters

Max Guttman is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice in New York City. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist, and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a ‘2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10’ award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association. Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes about his lived experiences with schizophrenia. ‘I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery,’ Guttman says. ‘After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my ‘break,’ I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others.’ ‘In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity, and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and Recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients.’

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