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Articles tagged with: personal stories of people living with HIV


Beauty in the breakdown

Thursday, 02 July 2015 Written by // Patrick Italo Ettenes Categories // Gay Men, Patrick Italo Ettenes, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

UK poz guy Patrick Italo Ettenes says it’s OK to fall apart sometimes. Holding it together is not always the answer. “Why not allow yourself to break apart?” and then climb back on again.

Beauty in the breakdown

"I’ve decided to give up what brings a lot of us together. Drugs. In order to achieve my ultimate goal, to be a published writer, because let’s face it; even I wouldn’t hire me right now!"

My birthday this month wasn’t the best and as much as I added fuel to my own fire, I always come out the other side with a bit more knowledge and understanding.

This time I didn’t want to just understand each months struggles, I wanted to remember what it is to sacrifice and want something so much that you are willing to do anything to get it, because in my life, doubt has always fuelled me.

You are the person you are today because when you were younger you were told you wouldn’t be able to do some things, or you looked at those around you, and you wanted what they had. It's only human nature to strive for that, so you worked hard or begged mom and dad for whatever it was that you wanted. As time passed that need to get stuff changed to other areas of life. That need to fit in, to show off, whatever it is that drove you was still there.

But soon you lose that drive, the fuel to better yourself because life isn’t easy! I believe the building blocks of mental and psychological progress are how you overcome your battles and continue.

So what does this have to do with HIV? HIV crushed a lot of my life and gave me other challenges but how many times can you as a person face so many challenges before you snap? How long does this war continue? Will it end? When will I get the confidence, passion, get over the drug abuse? We all have to have an escape, be it alcohol, drugs, smoking  or whatever.

When do we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and get back that thing we lost? What was it that slipped between our fingers that we cannot see?

Every month I write something I’m proud of. It seems to follow a pattern though: I rise, I fall. I found what I needed  and shared with you my pattern in life, my hope for recovery, for finding my older self.

But all that time I was struggling to hold myself together, while I should have just done the opposite. Bera with me while I break down my thoughts into three points.

Point one. Holding it together

When we fall apart for the first time in our life  - and it might be small but I’m talking about big events that change us - we may self-destruct. It’s normal. But that bomb feels so big and what ever the aftermath of that collapse we never want to go there again. HIV never leaves so every day it’s a mini earthquake - but the tremors  do get smaller.

When something else happens we hold it together because we don’t want another explosion. But that holding it in makes it worse.

Well this is when I have to say "no, who gives a fuck?" Because after the month I’ve had this is where Point two comes in, I’ve been judged so much and looked down upon that I was so worried about what others thought that it made matters worse, I tried too hard to hold it together that I fell apart longer and slower instead of one big fuck up!.

Point Two. Getting sentimental

I’m so sentimental it’s the only thing that keeps me human and believing that this world has beauty. When you become positive you  want so much to be that person you once were, you look for your younger self, and the times you lived in because you feel you didn’t appreciate the people you were with and you push to try to make those memories remain current.

Here’s what I've learned! Get the hell over it as quickly as you can! You’ll NEVER get those memories back, but what you can get is new ones! Remember the good and say, OK what’s dead is dead, what’s done is done and move on.

If you have memories, good! Keep them, cry about them, but don’t do what I did, hold on to them so much for fear of losing control, I held on to mine for dear life, because after my breakdown I realised I lost a lot of my memories, but I was living in the past. Because the past was so good, I hated myself for what took place.

I allowed my HIV to get the better of me, I got sucked into a world where I wanted to be accepted, where I was sheltered from the darkness that I ran away from.

Potted history

I left London because I realised everyone I knew who contracted HIV either became sheltered, or went head-first into the drugs and sex scene, so I went back home to Barbados because I knew I was going to end up killing myself.

When I moved back to the UK after many years I ended up facing my demons. I allowed myself to slip. I hated myself for all I had lost, but acceptance was important! Fitting in, achieving what I wanted to but the drive started to fade. I got what I wanted but felt less motivated because ‘ I was great  and fabulous’  but the second you take your eye of the goal and you feel you have it all that’s when your demons come back.

I’ve clung onto my memories for months and while I face judgement from others, from people I really don’t honestly give a shit about their opinion means a lot because no one wants to fall from grace and be seen falling flat on their face. So hiding in my flat and sticking around others who did the same just to feel accepted so I didn’t face judging eyes made my breakdown and recovery so much harder because I wanted to hide it.

I always said I had nothing to hide, but the minute I realised I did I started to find myself disgusted with who I was turning out to be. Here is what broke me this month.

I have no family around, and I miss and crave them, so I tried to go around making new friends, and treating them like family, like good friends. 

Wrong!  Just because I treat you as family, doesn’t mean you treat me the same, doesn’t mean you treat me with respect.

I had no respect this month, I sat and watched people who I cared for, out of my own need to feel accepted and regain the life I once had, abuse my trust.

It got me so angry and I’ve not felt such anger in over a year, an emotion I hold deep down inside.

Point Three: Realisation

I allowed myself to just fucking do what the hell I wanted. I said fuck it, fuck everyone I’m going to just allow myself to feel and do what I want, because after the first time life through me this bomb I  lost control I felt guilty, but I have to give myself credit, I feared that if I break down again that I  would hurt myself and those around me.

We need to see that it’s OK to fall apart and not be judged, Please go ahead, because when you hit rock bottom, you realize what you have lost and what you have missed. YOU’RE DRIVE! Your motivation to get up and dust yourself off and that takes a lot of getting back.

How do you say you will change and not face those who doubt you? You hold it in for a few days, and you really think hard and get angry and you figure out what you want and then you make it public. That public knowledge is the first step in saying Fuck You! I will succeed; I will get what I want!

I will change!

Now in life in order to get something I have to sacrifice something, like a spell, so here is my little spell. In order to get something major you have to sacrifice something big, 

I’ve decided to give up what brings a lot of us together. Drugs. In order to achieve my ultimate goal, to be a published writer, because let’s face it; even I wouldn’t hire me right now!

It takes a lot for me to say that I’m not good enough YET! I have to invoke a little hate and anger, and so I have, I remembered what it was to get angry so much that the room felt like it was shaking. I remember it’s that anger that fuelled me to get everything back that I once lost!

And it will now be what I will use to keep me on track! Sometimes you have to use all those emotions you hate so much and say aren’t good and do all those things you are not meant to do to get to this stage.

But not all of us can do this when we really need to, so hopefully reading this will give you a little bit of that drive, the motivation to get back to where you felt better. 

It’s OK to break down. It’s ok to hold on to memories, but don’t let them rule you. Make new ones, and say fuck you and get angry just enough that it’s a reminder that you will win this war and regain your life! 

Sacrifices must be made in every battle and so I have made mine!

Choose your lamb to slaughter, choose what you will give up and for how long you will do that in order to achieve your goal because you’ll realise how bloody amazing that achievement will be in the end.

Now, I love me more!