Love is all that matters
Patrick Italo Ettenes on dementia: "I know now that no matter what I hear in my head, I will go out and reclaim my life."
Well, guess who’s attempting to get back into the swing of things! Brace yourself – it’s going to be another bumpy ride. 2017 has emotionally marked me forever. For those who believe in coincidence, I have a few that will cause the hairs on your back to stand up.
Allow me first to say that no matter what life throws at me, I have come to realize that I cope or manage however I need to. I fight without knowing it, and I slip down loops of self-destruction like anyone else.
So what has HIV brought to me this year? Some opportunities that I haven’t achieved yet, but some dreams that will be completed.
On Jan 14th 2016 I was told I have brain damage, and in Jan 14th 2017 my best mate went into hospital. Weeks later I was diagnosed officially with dementia and on that day I was told that my friend had a tumor on his liver.
I don’t think shock can explain what I’ve been through and am still going through.
He was terminally ill and I watched him deteriorate within weeks. The memories of our time together lit up in my brain. Isn’t it funny that when someone is sick you start to bring out the photos? I stood by his bedside as much as I could and watched him put a picture of us both on WhatsApp -- the last picture he ever posted.
He wasn’t one to say I love you, but that small gesture still tears me apart. He was HIV-positive also. We don't know what caused it, but he was 14 years positive, I’m 13. Cancer and HIV may not be a good mix, and so it brings me down to saying that I just couldn’t imagine how others must have felt when they saw so many of their friends and lovers deteriorate when the AIDS outbreak first started.
Please be kind to those around you. My friend and I fell out more than apples on a tree. My last words to him were “Don’t talk to me for 2017’, but when he was ill I was by his side.
"I have those little voices in my head now as a result of my dementia, the ones who told me a year ago that I had brain damage. Four months later I found out that it was true. That’s more than a bit spooky isn’t it?"
Listen, this epidemic isn’t over, we may find pills to prevent illness, use what protection we have at our disposal but the truth is, we will be affected by ill health. My reason for saying that is that when you are HIV+ things can just tend to go wrong.
It’s not confirmed that my friend’s HIV caused the cancer but a lot of cancer patients are HIV-positive.
It’s not confirmed that my dementia is a result of my HIV, but there are studies to show it affects us and so do our medications. HIV is still evolving and it affects each of us individually and uniquely.
I have fallen apart, and I still do. I have those little voices in my head now as a result of my dementia, the ones who told me a year ago that I had brain damage. Four months later I found out that it was true. That’s more than a bit spooky isn’t it?
But not all I hear is good; I have to battle with a lot of hate from some of those voices in my head. I try to believe that I am a good person, but in my head I’m not.
What does this have to do with what I’m saying? We all must take the time to appreciate these moments that we have now. My friend had a lot of regret, I could see it in his eyes. I asked him not to feel that way. I told him that ‘You have been the one person who helped change me, for better and worse and I love you for it’.
I never stopped telling him I loved him. I’m proud that no matter what, I didn’t wait till the end to say that. And I know in my heart that I’m not perfect but I am good.
How many of you really say that to your friends? To your family? To yourself? Have you thought how you might go and what you would like to do before you go? He didn’t have time to write a will or to sort things out. I tried my best, but I ran out of time.
I know now that no matter what I hear in my head, I will go out and reclaim my life. It will be unorthodox but I know that, however distracting the may become, I won’t let these voices ever take away from my achievements.
HIV isn’t going to destroy me, mentally anyhow! It might have caused emotional and psychological issues, but I will close my eyes with a smile! Watch me.
I hope you all come to the same conclusion. Make your memories today; don’t take advantage of those who help you.
Love strong and love who you are and who you want to be.