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I am brave!

Thursday, 29 January 2015 Written by // Patrick Ettenes Categories // Social Media, Gay Men, Patrick Ettenes, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

Patrick Ettenes fnds his spirits lifted by a present received from a stranger who found his story inspiring

I am brave!

First I have to apologize for not being around for the holiday period. I knew Christmas-time would be a really difficult time for me but it was made even more difficult than I was expecting by the sudden passing of my previous partner.  

I’m now nick-named the Black Widow, because it seems as if I have been affecting the mental and physical wellbeing of any male I happen to get close to. I fell into a deep depression, unable to acknowledge anything or anyone for weeks. I felt it really wasn’t a good time to even discuss this with anyone, as I still cannot put a finger on it without feeling phsyically sick. 

So, I decided to put a period of time behind me and not forget, but maybe wait a little until I can gather my thoughts. Yes, there were some other interesting stories I could have written about but none were uplifting or encouraging, either for myself or for any of my readers. I felt, and I noticed a pattern, my work was becoming a little negative. 

Now I believe that none of us wants to have to pick up the vibes of a disgruntled human bleeding on and on about his own life with yet more tales of woe, so I waited (like the spider in the web), waiting for something to shake my emotions and remind me there is more to life than sad, depressing stories. 

So at the start of January, on a cold winter day I was on one of my social media sites, pottering around, when someone messaged me. It was a health official in Thailand who had come across my profile and decided to ask me a few questions about my experiences of HIV. 

You see, in my Scruff profile, I have said "Trying out a new idea for online help, so any of you who are positive, or worried about your sexual health get in touch."

Now I have to first of all thank Scruff, because that’s how I managed to get a column to speak to you guys. Someone found me on here and liked my work and forwarded it on to the guy who is now my Editor here at 

Previously, I was also found on here by  a guy called Marten Weber who posted two of my articles in the Huffington post.

After such positive responses and recognition I thought that I would wait for another good sign that my value and worth were still being noticed by the Gods above (or whoever moves things around in the universe, so it affects us down here). So while I’m lying on my bed, a message from Thailand appears. 

The guy was a little down in the dumps and asked me what sort of help I could offer him regarding his own HIV-positive status. I quickly understood that within the Thai culture being HIV-positive isn’t accepted and that ridicule, dismissal and prejudice within the health industry could make you very scared and feel very alone. 

To save some time I asked him to read up on some of my previously published articles. After some time the gentleman returned with a reply I didn’t expect. 

He said that I was ‘brave’. Now brave isn’t a word I would use to  describe myself at the moment, (more like battered, scarred, lost and messed up)  but it was really nice to see that didn’t come across through my work!. To this guy, I was brave for coming out and brave for speaking about my HIV and the issues that have  come along with it, the good the bad and of course the ugly. 

This was really encouraging for me to hear and I soon realised that my spirits were beginning to lift.

Now the discussion with my Thai acquaintance slowly moved towards design, I wanted my new apartment to be a holistic home, to embody my culture, Hindu and Buddhism. Oddly enough I had been looking at some beautiful art work from Thailand, painting, statues all of which were beautiful and I could so see them fitting in my new home really well. 

I’ve done quite a bit of traveling in my time, but this is the first place that I can truly call my own. The gentleman asked me what countries I liked, and I complimented his culture, the food, the people, the art I had seen and the overall beauty I found in Thailand. What happened next I could never have foreseen. 

He offered to pick a painting out, and have it sent all the way from Thailand to me, here in Manchester, UK.  I was completely taken aback as I couldn’t have ever imagined someone would ever do something like that for me. So in a few weeks the painting will finally be on its way. 

The guy asked if I would please accept this gift as a thank you for all the work that I have done, for all the ‘Brave' things I have published, as a thank you.  Still in shock, I asked why, and his words were. ‘It’s about time you get something back for helping others ‘

You see, I love my writing, I love what  it does for me, but I cried so much. Lttle did he know, because never in my life has someone from so far afield expressed such appreciation and sent a gift of any kind to say or show their gratitude. Well, who would expect it? I’m a sentimental creature, and after previous issues in my life I’m more fragile now than I have ever been, so this act of kindness just made me cry. It’s not every day that someone you don’t know sends you something from so far away as a token of their appreciation. 

When I asked again why the gentleman was sending me such a gift, the postage alone would be a small fortune, he told that he had received a gift from someone that thought he was doing a good thing, so he wanted to share it with me. 

Remember the film ‘Pass It On’? A young kid did an act of kindness and so someone else passed it forward to someone else? And it got me thinking.

My parents are always right, a good deed done for someone else might be returned in a form of Karma; give something good out to the world and the world will give something back. Yes I’m aware that not everything seems so bright, but you have to look for and believe that what you do can good. 

The more that someone saw good in what I did, the more I remembered what I did was for a good reason and encouragement and support can come from the most unlikely places in life. But you must be open to receive it.

You would never have known  that I’ve been scared to death to go into the clinic for a few months now, I’m due for a biopsy and an ultra sound on my liver as my previous meds caused some damage and there are a few things I’ve noticed on my body that are  just not right. Unfortunately we know there can be a link between HIV and some cancers. When you are HIV Positive we all need to be aware of these things. Not alarmed or frightened, but aware and we have to get things checked out. 

I’m saying this for good reason, what would happen if I got some bad news? Would I fall apart, would my love/hate relationship with being able to talk about my HIV status increase? No I don’t believe that. Because I found my support, and it comes from the most unlikely place.

Being HIV+ isn’t easy, it is a work in progress as we all know. When someone tells me ‘it’s OK’ and ‘I’m fine’, I really want to believe that they are and good on them. But for those like myself and others who I know face depression and other life changes and illness I know there is regret. 

I never knew four years ago, what I wanted to do with my life, and now you are here reading my work, and I have been told from people from the other side of the world that I AM BRAVE! 

What I’m trying to say is, this is my support, knowing that maybe just one of you can read this and it may just help in some small way.

So, look around you, don’t dismiss the guy next to you, or woman, smile and say hi. Speak to the man on Grindr that you don’t fancy and have a chat, because you might find out that you have something in common. Encourage someone you don’t know, because maybe like this kid from Thailand, you could do for that person what I did for them - supported them in a way that you didn’t know you could. 

We are all human; we are still all family are we not? The world’s getting colder, help to warm it up a little.