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Knowing the value of self worth, part one: clearing out the past

Friday, 07 October 2016 Written by // Patrick Italo Ettenes Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, Mental Health, International , Living with HIV, Media, Opinion Pieces, Patrick Italo Ettenes

"Sometimes it's the most unlikely person who makes the biggest impact in healing ourselves," says Patrick Ettenes.

Knowing the value of self worth, part one: clearing out the past

So fingers, what do you have to tell the world this time? I'm in London at the moment, in Chiswick. It's beautiful today, the sun's out and the cool autumn breeze hugs you with its chilly warmth. A contradiction, I know, but it suits.

My absence from writing was due to August being my twelfth anniversary and causing such a meltdown that my mother had to fly over to see me. And here is what I noticed: anniversaries really suck!

No matter how far you've gotten or how comfortable you've become, there will be a moment that shoots you right back to the horrible beginning and to simply wishing it had all never taken place.

My moment came as I sat in the nurses' office, getting my blood drawn on the day before my anniversary. It all came rushing back: abandoned by my lover to face the road ahead alone. And now here I was, alone again twelve years later.

Alone is all I felt back then, but I made myself into someone and turned my curse into a challenge and a way to educate others with HIV. I've actually saved some peoples' lives with my work, but that doesn't mean I sleep soundly or that I don't still hurt on days like this one. I'm sentimental, sure; but then, how many of you are not? And how many of us fight each day and struggle to keep a smile on our faces? How many of you pray at night for help; for someone to come do those dishes or to cuddle you, to just be there?

No matter how hard you try to put on a brave face, there is a corner of your flat that you can't sort out, a part of your life that you cannot control and it's those neglected aspects of yourself that you hate.

So you pray... again. And you wish that someone or something would come and just... make you feel better and eradicate the pain.

"Let's face it: if it wasn't for my HIV I would have been a narcissistic cunt."

And when I finally opened my eyes, it was to find that my mom was cleaning out my closet -- this closet, so filled with past memories of self harm, a cupboard I couldn't even open. I was so scared of what lurked there. I watched as she slowly but surely worked her way through all the souvenirs of madness stacked up in there, things that no mother should ever have to see. "You must trust me a lot to let me do this for you," she said.

The truth was that I simply could not do it myself. We all need a knight in shining armor but letting someone into our life to be the knight can be hard. And sometimes it's the least likely person who makes the biggest impact in healing ourselves.

I had felt so ugly for a few years now and I saw no end to drug abuse, to my self-harming or my mini-breakdowns, my hurt and pain from the past. But holding my mom's hand and walking down the street with her after not seeing her for three years -- it all made me feel like a little boy again and that made me realize that trauma really does make you weak and the more you fight it, the harder you heal.

For the first time in years, I had come to hate being positive. As I got older I began to think of it as a curse. Could it be? Or was I finally becoming bitter? Was I going to be a hypocrite and hate this disease, accepting as reality that the nasty fucking thing had destroyed my future and ended me?

No. A few things pulled me back from that brink: my mom reminded me of the work I've done and the help I've brought to others. I saw the care and heard the compliments she was given by my friends, who said I'd helped them and cared for them when they had no one else.

Let's face it: if it wasn't for my HIV I would have been a narcissistic cunt. It stripped me in so many ways, punched me time after time, like in an abusive relationship. And I still tried to find love for a virus that kills. HIV helped me to find myself but I had to allow it to hurt me because I only learn when I get burned. Harsh reality, but that's me.

And for once I am not alone because I saw that there were people around me who actually cared and I allowed the person I least expected into my life to help me clean up my past. Unexpected people I have let in, who have in return given me a home worth feeling comfortable in. And some friends have grounded me spiritually be reminding me of who I already was.

We have to give ourselves a break at times. Love isn't easy. Finding it is hard and loving yourself is the hardest thing. We humans live in our heads and don't even know how we operate.