My anniversary

Published 10, Aug, 2015
Author // Patrick Italo Ettenes

Not settling for second best, Patrick Ettenes on the relationship insecurities that can come with living with HIV – and how to be rid of them

My anniversary

August is a memorable month for me. On the 17th I am reminded that this is the day that I sat with a stranger and was told that my life will be different for the rest of my life. I was alone and 11 years later I will sit alone and face another reminder that I’m single and still havw a battle ahead of me.

But it’s not all bad. I just had a reminder that I am better off single and that the issues I face are my own and not anyone else's. So on 17th August I will have a lovely meal for one and respect the day that changed my life, think of my ex who gave ‘it’ to me and remember the good times, and make the date special for myself.

Last year I was in pieces but I don’t fall apart these days like I used to. I don’t have recreational drugs around me, I’m not even going to smoke anymore. I am turning into Saint Patrick (rolls eyes )

So I’ll start off with emotion. This is something that creeps inside us like an unwanted demon from a horror film. I find it amazing what people who are HIV-positive will put up with, accept or ignore in the name of love!

This month I began to like someone and it was amazing. I’ve not liked someone like this for a long time, and unlike some I don’t hide my heart. So while liking this guy, I really thought we would get along (because he was positive too) and sure enough everything was great  - for a day. I started to analyse him after he started to go cold. By time I got home I felt the demon crawl into me, and before I knew it a friend called me with relationship issues and I knew what the demons name was. Insecurity!

I tried to address my emotions. I realised a similarity with my situation and that of my friends and generally that of most positive people I know. We settle for the status quo or we turn cold.

Here I was worrying about a guy imagining what I’ve done wrong when, to be honest, what I should have been doing was moving on and really seeing that this person wasn’t right for me. I should have moved on when the first thing they said to me was “everyone else rubs your ego so I’ll never give you a compliment”. Nice!

So what does this have to do with HIV? Well, I saw something familiar in my friend. He has a partner who makes him feel horrible: he blackmails him and says he will tell everyone my friend’s status. My friend lives in a small town - lovely guy, kind and gentle and easy going, but is petrified and would rather stay with a man who cheats on him because he is afraid to recognize that being poz can be very lonely. Not for ever, but for a while. You will have to face the fact that you cannot settle for someone just because they want to be with you and you’re grateful for that.

Insecurities are horrible feelings. They start with every nerve around your heart that sends an emotion like an echo up your body through your nervous system to your head that makes you feel something is wrong, something is going to happen and that you are feeling scared and alone!

I take them as a sign saying “get the fuck out and run for your life”. The guy I saw for those few days said he felt lucky he didn’t have an issue with being positive, but I didn’t believe him. He became cold; he forgot what it was to be passionate, showing emotions or feelings. He did have issues with being positive, he looked great but was numb to the touch.

So . . . on the 17th of August 2015 I will have dinner on my own! I was planning to see a friend but I doubt that will happen, as around this time of year people always fail me. It’s like the Gods above are trying to tell me that I cannot rely on anyone but myself.  So I will have dinner and celebrate. Why? Because, I have not fallen victim to any lack of emotion; if anything else I feel more now than I have ever felt before.

I will celebrate that since becoming positive I’ve become a writer, I’ve become stronger, and I’ve appreciated what the situation has given me. For all those demons that once entered me I will make a toast, because they made me the person I am today.

 "I realised that doing drugs was a result of my insecurities."

I once sat down and wrote what I was afraid of and I made a point of dealing with things one by one. I realised that doing drugs was a result of my insecurities. I am a good guy who is complicated and weird, passionate, loving and caring but no less sharp tongued and cynical as the next person. The only difference is I don’t hide my failings anymore

Insecurities will always be part of our lives, and when you become HIV-positive, you will get more of them. Write them down, write what it is that you feel and as you do for a large hedge, get a trimmer and cut the fucking things down. One by one look at your issues and address them, understand them, but also give yourself time to grow so you know what the real issue is.

If you want to change something, it doesn’t mean just stopping that one thing in your life, it may mean CHANGING YOUR WHOLE LIFE!  It takes months, years to build something, but seconds to destroy it and your mind is just like that.  It takes strength and courage but when you stop what upsets you, and start to change that which causes those insecurities, I promise you, it does become easier. The burden starts to seem lighter, and you see your insecurities go away, this time ONCE AND FOR ALL!

My demons are my friends though; they have always been there to help me even in the worst situation. Now I can help other people to see their demons. I notice what’s making them sad, what’s hurting them and how and why they are affecting them so much.  It might not be a super power, but you will see people like the guy I met and notice that they really aren’t the ones for you and you will see behavioural patterns that you don’t agree with. Yes, you may be more alone for a little ‘cos you realise you cannot settle with the people you used to rely on.

All this means that your flag will fly higher. You will stand up straight and the man or woman who is right for you will SEE YOUR STRENGTH. Trust me!  Don’t forget that building something in life takes time. Your mind is like a great structure; even though sometimes pieces break off, just remember it will take a little longer to build it back. People will start to admire that structure (YOU) from the minute they see you starting to change and rebuild.

So what are you going to do with this new self you are going to build? For each of us on the 17th please have a drink or cup of tea with me! Because this has taken 11 years of my life. Shouldn’t you have a drink and celebrate who you are too, however long it might take?

About the Author

Patrick Italo Ettenes

Patrick Italo Ettenes

I was born and brought up in sunny Barbados. I come from a very loving family whom I still to this day adore with all my heart. I'm a very happy go lucky kinda guy. I'm pretty well traveled. I've lived and studied in different parts of the world which I think has made me understand the human race just a tad bit better. My friends are fast from traveling but my heart will always remain where they are. In the Caribbean.

At 15 I received a Scholarship for psychology where I lived in Cuba for about a Year. Moved to England and studied and lived for six years. Lived in Panama for two years and am now back in England, where I've managed to hold a column in OutNorthWest Magazine. I've been interviewed by BBC Out North West Tonight, been on radio with Mike Robinson, been a panelist on HIV matters aired on Gaydio, also in front of a live audience on HIV matters, and was interviewed for Worlds Aids Day for a video.

My blog The Broken Bones

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