New Beginnings - Part 1
My name is Colm Holmes and I am from Windsor, Ontario. I was born in Dublin, Ireland and my family and I immigrated when I was very young. I am currently the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Program Coordinator at the AIDS Committee of Windsor and have been there since 2010. As part of the Education and Outreach team I am responsible for developing and providing HIV prevention and support services for gay, bisexual, trans men, and other men who have sex with men. I am a graduate of the University of Windsor in Family and Social Relations and am also the Rainbow Health Outreach worker in my area. During my spare time I am the Vice President of Windsor Pride Community Education and Resource Centre. Last year, I was selected as the Youthline Provincial Ambassador for my area and I make an effort to do as much as possible in the Windsor-Essex region.
As the year came to an end, I found myself doing more and more self reflection. A new year brings new opportunities and a chance to envision new goals and ambitions for myself. A great tool for me to evaluate myself is the Wellness Wheel here on ouragenda.ca. I’ve used it twice before with different results and now with the 2014 upon us I am going to utilize it again; I invite you to share in my experience.
Part 1 – Community
I have selected Extremely Supported, I am grateful for all the different sources of support I currently have in my life. My family, friends, colleagues, and community are very supportive and that will prove to be instrumental to me in achieving the goals I want to set for 2014. Being a gay male sometimes we can feel isolated and in need of support, I know in the past I experienced it greatly especially around the time I was coming out. With that being said the fact that I feel extremely supported now leads me to belief that a goal for 2014 should be to be to return the support to those who support me as best as I can. Also not everyone has easy access to support systems for a number of reasons. Creating a strong social support is important for our overall wellness. If you find your support systems lacking try to build some new ones; join a club, volunteer, attend an event, try and introduce yourself to some new people. Having a strong social support system takes work and is critical in the overall health of our mind and body.
Part 2 - Your Mind
I’ve selected Mostly Managing; the winter can be a challenging time to manage stress and combating depression. Growing up I found myself utilizing substances to combat depression and deal with life’s hardships. As I matured I found much healthier alternatives to managing my stress and combating the depression I had been experiencing. Getting the right amount of sleep, exercising, eating healthy, and ensuring to experience the outdoors were all ways I tried to combat stress and depression. Drinking and enjoying the company of our friends is important to our mental health also, however being mindful when an addiction could be forming or when alcohol or drugs is being used as a coping mechanism is imperative to avoid the problems that can be associated with addiction.
Part 3 - Sexual Pleasure
I’ve selected Moderately Satisfied. Do I feel hot, horny, happy, and satisfied with the sex I am getting? Let’s be honest I am satisfied with the sex I am having, I know I am practicing safer sex and reducing the risks I am taking, I feel in tune with my sexuality and what turns me on. Growing up finding a balance with regards to my sexuality and shame proved to be difficult, but as I matured and pride in myself became more common I gained a sense of self-importance. There were times over the course of the last year where my sexual pleasure wasn’t my top priority, busy times and responsibilities such as starting a new job, looking at new homes, other things took priority and some weekends finding the energy to engage socially was unattainable. For the New Year I am going to be more cognitive of my sexual pleasure and ensure I do not overlook my own needs. So overall an increase in the amount of time I spend on Grindr and cruising at the club.
Part 4 - Spirituality
I’ve selected Mostly Connected. I have several sources for spiritual guidance in my life. My mother is a practicing yoga instructor and we have discussions regarding a sense of belonging and feeling connected and grateful on a regular basis. She is constantly encouraging me to attend one of her classes and personally I think it is to meet some of the men at her studio but I haven’t attended. Maybe 2014 will be the year. Another form of guidance I have available to me is from some senior gay men in my community who are always willing to guide me or advise me in dealing with life and the issues surrounding it. In the work I do there is also an emphasis on self-care, I do use these opportunities to connect with my spirit. My spirit provides me with energy and inspiration and it is important for me to reflect on my spiritual connection.
Part 5 - Freedom
Very Comfortable; I don’t often ask myself how comfortable I am being me. However it is an important question to ask, I do feel very comfortable with myself and know that it wasn’t always the case. Gaining a great deal of freedom to be who I am freely was a process and it took some time and effort. Seeing other confident gay men living happily allowed me to believe it was a possibility for me. I would never underestimate the impact community members had on me. Being a gay man I do feel that there are some societal pressures that I do not prescribe to. This allows me to feel a great deal of freedom in life and contributes to the overall pride I have in my gay identity. There were times in my life where I could not have envisioned being this comfortable with myself, it takes time and effort and some days can be more difficult than others. If you find yourself struggling with your sense of self for any number of reasons consider seeking someone to talk to because being comfortable with ourselves is crucial in achieving a healthy mind, body, and community as well as our sexual health.
Part 2 of Colm's blog will be posted next week. In the meantime, feel free to try the Wellness Wheel out for yourself at http://www.ouragenda.ca/WellnessBegin.aspx.
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