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General Health

Mar09

Sweet lovin’ – keep it comin’

Wednesday, 09 March 2016 Written by // Patrick Italo Ettenes Categories // Dating, Gay Men, General Health, Health, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Patrick Italo Ettenes, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific

Patrick Ettenes on the impact of a recent major health setback and how it will impact his life, relationships, work and the supports he needs

Sweet lovin’ – keep it comin’

The reason I’ve not written an article for the last few months and even told my editor that I’ll not write anything until April is because I was shattered to pieces on January 15th.  

I found out that I might have HIV dementia. Basically I have Frontal Lobe Atrophy, and it could be a result of my HIV and my break-down a few years ago.  

What does that mean?  It means I have more brain wastage than anyone my age that my consultants have seen before, and my life expectancy could be shortened.   

Gosh  - what a morbid way to start an article! So I’m not going into that. I’ll write more about that in time, but my editor  - and bless him I agree  -  said "get something out and let everyone know how things are". As I sit in my flat that I’ve not left for nearly seven days, the sun  is shining  behind me like a warm hand on my shoulder, encouraging me to do something I’m not used to - telling the world how scared I really am. 

I once said that there will always be a point that we are shattered right back to the beginning and when you just think that your life is sorted out, something about being positive will send you crashing back to earth. This might not happen to everyone, but I seem to get the extremes. And ta-fucking-da, it’s happened to me. 

Ladies and gentleman, I’m petrified, I’m absolutely scared out of my mind because my case is unique and for some reason there isn't much to read online about my condition, which doesn’t help. The only article I read was from a lady in the USA and a few small forums that advised me to sort my life out sooner than later and enjoy it. And that’s not when I started to panic. 

After this, I met someone in January that I actually ended up going on a date with. As I was dancing with him I thought “wow, what a nice guy”. However when I told him about my latest condition he couldn't handle it. He explained that he's not strong enough to handle the situation, which I accepted and I had the strength to end it. I realised I’m not dead yet, he has his life ahead of him and so do I, plus I had a lot to sort out. 

Many of us will face a time when our relationships seem to be the only thing keeping us sane, and we will watch our partner drift away, becoming distant and we hold onto them because we feel that’s the only thing keeping us here. Wrong! I was once like that. When they drift, let them. Cut the ropes, say your piece and find someone who can support you and be there. If you don’t, you'll suffer more. There comes a point in any relationship that you cannot change anymore or keep accepting stuff you are not happy with.  

Not everyone can handle bad news. It’s another rejection for me but the first as a result of my new condition. It brings back some bad memories, but I decided enough was enough, and that my own self - worth meant more.  

Here is where life has me by the throat at the moment. I am a very sentimental person. All I have are my memories to make me smile, to remind me who I am, and as erratic as this article will be this is what my head is like at the moment. I’ll try  to bring it all together. 

When I was first diagnosed with HIV, I didn’t have much support around me, Throughout my life I’ve had the encouragement of my family but this time I had to dig deep to help myself. The last few years of my life have been some of the worst. 

I have crumbled thinking ‘“How much more can I handle?  Why now? Don't I get a break? How am I going to find support for this now when my family isn’t around me?” And then while writing this I’m realising something, something I have now that I didn’t really have much of a few years ago, and that is friends around me. 

What I’m now realising is there is a network of people who have come out to be there for me. I have some of the brightest and most beautiful souls at work, who don't know how much they mean to me. They are a bunch of young journalists, presenters and producers at a small TV station. Their smiles could light up a room. I sit there many times watching them giggle, laugh, form ideas with joy and respect for one another. I think that if I stray into a dark place  they will throw me a rope to help me climb back up. I run to the office as early as 7am sometimes, just to sit there when my head is filled with hurt and upset, just to be around them and feel like I can be myself. 

It’s a rare thing in life where your place of work is your sanctuary. Working in media means that ideas are knowledge, your conversation could be a news piece, and your stories could be an idea for a show. It’s amazing and it has saved me and opened my eyes to acceptance like never before. 

I have a boss who for the first time always starts the conversation with “I just want to let you know how much you mean to us” Encouragement is the biggest sign of respect and motivation you can get, and I get it from him.  

I have a friend who's like my little brother; we are both Gemini (the twins), so similar and yet so different and we have gone through similar hurts in our lives, and through him I learn a lot. He will sit there with me and we openly discuss our mental health, and when I think I’m the person who has suffered the most, he always makes me smile and makes me realise that I am OK, and it is normal to feel this way. 

I have a handsome friend, who is out of sorts who became so close; he's like my next of kin now. I watched him face the loss of his husband around the same time I lost my ex, and he encouraged me. No matter how crazy I was he stood there always reminding me how proud he was of me. His handsome face is sometimes alI I need to see, to realise, I am OK. He reminds me to be the best I can be. I’ve not felt that from someone for a long time. He's so proud of the work I’ve done and the steps I’ve taken to help myself, as he has seen me in some dark places. 

I have parents who I cannot even describe as they are so amazing! A father who I adore and who loves his son and is so proud of me, and is scared and helpless as his son faces another tough time. My mother too is also my great anchor.  She always reminds me that I am her son.

Why do I mention all this? Because when I was told I was HIV positive I said I’d change my life 180 degrees and make it better. I went back to Barbados and I sorted myself out the best that I could and I embraced my friends and my life.

 

While I’m typing this, I realise I will go home and do the same thing.  I just got a reminder how short life can be, how unpredictable it is. 

I’m so fucking scared to do stuff nowadays, because of all my hang -ups, and I’m tired of it. I really am. I’ve wallowed in self-pity for weeks now with years of mental health issues getting the best of me. I found out  that my HIV medication caused my weight gain, that it increased my mental health issues, and since I stopped taking meds, my schizophrenia has calmed down, depression has eased up, anxiety, twitching etc. and my weight  has also gone down. I was on those fucking meds for nearly a year! 

Honestly it’s been one thing after the other, but I believe there is something or someone that looks out for me. In my dark moments, I pray, just like I did that day walking over a field from saving a guy’s life.  I looked up to the heavens to God and said “I wonder what you’re going to do to thank me for this?” I got my flat that day. 

As I sat on the floor of my flat watching the destruction I caused to myself, I prayed, to whomever and asked for help. The next day something said "check flights to Barbados 13th-27th March" and I found a flight. The best part was the price. Half the price on those dates! 

 So I’m booked, I’m going home after nine years to see friends, embrace them all, see my old house and remember a past that unfortunately I cannot all recall. And I’m so happy, because I broke a cycle, of dreaming by just doing it.  

Here are my final words (this time)  . . .

Get off your fucking arse and tell the person you love that you love them. Say to the idiot around the corner bugger off, you have better things to do, and go do what you always wanted to do.  Life is just around the corner, they say;  play that song you want, cook that dinner you like and be grateful, that you don't need to be told you have a life-altering condition to make you realise that. 

And for some reason I’m going to share a  song I had on repeat while writing this article. Whoever is brave enough to listen to it while you read this, maybe you could feel the energy I did. It'sSweet Lovin - Siqala  (Radio Edit)

 

 

 

 

 

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