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Articles tagged with: gay


They taught me to survive

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 Written by // Patrick Ettenes Categories // Gay Men, Patrick Ettenes, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

Patrick Ettenes pays homage to family and how much they mean to him and how they have helped him survive the hard times

They taught me to survive

The journey to find the inspiration for this article has been a deep one. I’ve dug deep into my archives and came across an article I wrote discussing how much my family meant to me. 

The story behind this piece was an interesting one, I was asked to write a piece about ‘Heroes’, to tie-in with the commemoration of a group of people that did something wonderful over in the UK. But being the rude bitch that I am, I responded that these people did nothing for me, and I cannot write about people that I don’t know about and did nothing to change my life back home in Barbados. But I did say “give me about 10 minutes and I’ll think of something else!” 

So I went into a corner and thought; “who are my heroes? Who do I look up to?” And then it hit me: my mom and dad. 

Now it’s a while since I wrote the article so I’m adding to my original thoughts, so make yourself comfortable while I start to dig into the farthest reaches of my memory bank.  

I recently told you all that I’ve been recovering from just over a year of really bad events. However I’ve just got my own flat and my life looks like it’s on the up. I’ve started dating someone who is a good influence on me and all in all people would look and think my life is fantastic, perfect! What more would you want? 

Well, even I thought the same. But then why has it taken me two days to get out of bed, why was I showing signs of having another breakdown?

Around this time last year I was recovering from a full physical breakdown. I had gone to bed and woke up a different person. I couldn’t, talk, walk or do anything. I was hunched up in a corner dribbling. That’s when I needed round-the-clock care because I would have ended it all then  if I didn’t think I would get better.

I was absolutely contorted. Everything felt like it was being ripped from me. I had zero confidence; it was horrible and I don’t want to revisit those feelings or that time. But recently I was worried that I might be going back there. But why? Why with all these good things going on in my life, why was my life showing massive cracks? 

This is why this article is so hard to write. Because if I go over it again I will start to breakdown. When I look out of the window of my apartment and see the world where I live, I see people driving by or walking with their families, I’m constantly reminded that everyone here has family, and I don’t. 

I went home last year, after my breakdown, the last time I actually hugged my mom and dad, the last time they saw their son, and  - well -  it was actually a shell of their baby boy, broken, bruised and battered. Times have moved on and I’m nearly back to being my former self. But that’s only through contact with my folks via Facetime and Facebook. 

I’ve had to hug myself and repair myself, without their company, their support or their comfort. When you come from such a close, loving family like mine, and you have been fighting to survive on your own in a different country, you will understand how important it is that you don’t fall into the trap that I have. 

These are my top two survival tips: 

1. Don’t forget who you are 

 . . . or forget where you have come from. Events in your life can change you for the worse, but you try to hang on to the good memories of the past so tightly that you fight to come out happy and positive in the end. The truth is you will never be the same person again, and it’s just a matter of trying to find how the events that are happening to you now, no matter how bad, can be used to help you in some way. 

2. Don’t go without a hug 

To go so long without a hug from those who really understand you and love you is just awful. So let yourself be held by someone close - your mom, dad, aunt or uncle, cousin or brother, niece of nephew. Or by anyone who has ever cared for you whatever family you have, biological or otherwise.

When you get that hug, for that brief moment it reminds you that everything can be OK. You will be safe and brought back to that place where you were cared for. And if you are apart you don’t just have to look at a picture of them on the wall to remind yourself that you aren’t alone;  they are just an email or phone call away. 

Back In the Room 

So, that’s when I realized right now in this moment reading that article from the past about my family being my heroes, that is what is affecting me hard. Now this forum is about HIV and all that ties into it. But it all boils down to my family, for me. 

My family were there for me when I became positive. The words from my parents echo through my head whenever someone tells me they aren’t going to tell their mom and dad: “If you never told me you were positive, I would have been very upset, because no matter what happens in your life, we are your parents and we love you/ You not telling us this would feel like you didn’t love us or thought that we didn’t love you“. 

This is why family, whoever you consider them to be, is such an important part of all this. 

If my HIV is detectable at the moment, it’s because I stopped taking my medication. One of the side effects of my meds was being depressed; I cannot even be bothered to pop a pill that keeps me alive sometimes. In my head so much is going on that it becomes overwhelming at times. 

So sharing my thoughts with you now is very personal. Whoever reads this, please look around you and find the person that means the most to you, who is closest to you - and then hug them. Do it as soon as you can because one day, when the shit hits the fan and they aren’t around, you’ll realize how important they were. 

My mom is the one that taught me what HIV was, as I had no idea what I had contracted, and she told me about my medication, she educated her son about a disease that has killed so many. She knew her baby boy would have a hard life and made sure I took my meds each day. When I was ill, they held me. 

Now if I feel that I cannot be bothered to take my meds, I look at their picture to get the strength. And yes I still wonder what my life would be like right now if I didn’t have HIV but I cannot ponder too long on that, as I just have to deal with the way it is playing out right now. 

So what you are waiting for? Ho and hug your hero today.