Photo credit: Brandon Willis
Morgan Molthrop, a former Wall Street executive, had the words "HIV Positive / Bipolar / Recovering Addict" tattooed on chest to disclose his bipolar disorder, addiction and HIV.
He had a portrait made of his tattoos, which he shared with POZ. He then asked us to help him spread the word about his disclosure -- and we agreed.
In his own words:
"As a former Wall Street executive with a law degree who taught Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure at New York University, I know something about disclosing bad news. I was one of the first openly gay people on Wall Street, back in the 1980s, when gay was equated with HIV.
"I didn't acquire HIV until later, during a period of bad judgement caused by drug addiction. It was the addiction that ultimately made it increasingly difficult for me to hide. Disclosing all of this to colleagues, family and friends over the years has been no picnic. I had to find a way to deal with treating the addiction at the same time I was disclosing it, which only compounded the complexity.
"When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it was the toughest fact to disclose and not made much easier even when I understood my addiction was in part a self-medicating effort to 'get ahead of my manic swings.' Mental illness is as, if not more, stigmatizing than many other stigmas. But my doctor said by stopping the drugs and alcohol, we could work on my brain, which he called "Touched With Fire," the title of a book by Kay Jamison about bipolarity and creativity that has had a big influence on me.
"Eventually we stabilized my mood swings with medication and therapy. The fear -- that I would lose my drive and creativity -- was counterbalanced by the fact that my life had fallen apart to such a degree, it was at a point where things could only get better. And it has. This year, I have two books coming out: Artist Spaces (UL Press 2014) and Jackson's Playbook, which will be serialized on Facebook.
"Today, I am honest with all brokers, as they say. I'm a proponent of full disclosure, but in a safe and supervised environment. I hope my story can help others understand that ignorant stigmatization should not derail you from your aspirations."