First of all, I would like to thank everybody who has been supporting me, my family, friends, colleagues and the most important, the people who helped me get this blog up and online, the Baylor Teen Club Staff. You guys’ encouragement has put me this far, and because of you, I will move forward. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of you…
I want to talk to you about something I have been asked before, something that most people do think about when it comes to someone who is HIV positive, something that is “supposedly normal” but yet risky and a handful, RELATIONSHIPS. Yes, relationships.
Many people have asked, “Do you have a girlfriend?” and my answer changed quite a few times. In a month I would answer yes, no and maybe because I wanted to keep it private, keep it to myself for one reason: people are snoopy. When you have something good going, there will be someone out there trying to ruin it and for that reason, I try to keep my relationship life away from everybody. So often I give confusing answers to that question of, “Do you have a girlfriend?” But in actual fact, my relationships have been very, well, bumpy and rocky.
I started dating at the age of 16! I wanted a healthy relationship, but I was unfortunate because I would fall for older ladies. My first girlfriend was 19, I mean, what did I think, she would in some time want someone mature, her age. But I had hope. We went for a safe and healthy 7months, but after that, things started getting weird, less text messages, less checking up on each other and for some reason, she did not want to see me anymore. I got my investigation going on and found out that she was seeing another guy, a guy who was 21. Wow! That day, things hit me hard as to why she opted for an older guy. I asked myself the question of, “why did she not tell me I am too young for her at first?” I felt I was in love with this girl; otherwise I would not have been the way I was about her. We broke up and she told me she really did love me despite her cheating on me…
I went for about a month without talking to anyone, and by then, my age caught up to 17. I did not involve myself in any relationship; I felt I was not ready. So what I did was flirt around and nothing more. Some of the girls I flirted with fell for me, but I couldn’t be with them because of my situation, I did myself justice by at least telling them what I was going through and for most they understood. It was really hard. I stayed for the whole of year 17 not in a relationship, and then at 18, I decided, I will not find a girl to love, but still flirt around. Was I being childish and not wanting to move on? No! I was just looking out for myself.
At 18 though, unexpectedly, I found this girl, who was also older than me, 2 years older. We started talking and talking and before I could tell her how I feel, she told me that I should not think me and her would ever be in relationship as she is older. I kept quiet about it, I was ignoring it. After about 6months still talking to this girl, I told myself, no, she must at least know how I feel, whether she accepts it or not, I had to tell her. So in August, 2011, I expressed my feeling to this girl. On 2nd September, we went out for movies and I suddenly I heard her tell me that she loves me, too and wants us to be in a relationship. I was shocked; this was the same girl who was telling me a few months back that she and I will not be, wow! So we went on it and dated. The relationship still goes on, I am hoping for the better with it, nothing to come in between.
This will be continued, Thato Chris Ramotswe will be back with Part 2 on relationships.
In life, you will always be faced by challenges;how you chose to overcome them is your choice, and you have to make a very good choice. But one thing I know: we are never right all the time in making good choices.
I want to be honest about something; I have never been pressured to drink alcohol, peer pressured as to say.
I remember the first time I had a bottle of my own–and this was when I knew about my status–I knew the danger of alcohol but I thought: What harm would it really do? But here, take note, I was still young, just at 16 years, when I thought I had to be cool like other boys.
In 2008, a friend was throwing a party after our examinations, so I thought, why not go, there will be girls there hey, especially that one I have been eyeing for long. So the day came. Lots of my friends were there, lots of girls, and that one too was there and you can guess, lots and lots of alcohol. The first few hours of the party, I was that guy who does not drink alcohol, but looking at all of my friends, so “happy” and drunk to the maximum, I thought to myself: Why not one bottle, and of that Smirnoff Storm I have always wanted to have. So I stormed to the fridge and grabbed a bottle. To show that I was new to this, I finished that bottle in two gulps, drank it like it was water. Wow! It tasted so good. I went for another, I mean, it was too sweet and nice, I had to have it again; to me, it was no-longer alcohol but something sweet. In about an hour and a half, I must have had 4 bottles. Oh oh, I started acting funny, laughing, smiling, and saying hi to everyone at the party. And the thing is, I said hi to that girl, she seemed to like me drunk. That night was big; I had my first drink and the girl I liked, liked me back.
Other parties happened, I attended, had few bottles, got drunk and pictures were taken. I saw myself buzzed and thought, “I look cool there, don’t you think?” On and on this habit of me having a few bottles kept going. It was getting out of hand now; at times I would even buy for myself and go drink at home. I was hooked in now. This continued for about a year.
Lots of my friends who knew me were confused. Was this the Thato Chris they knew? They didn’t think so. I have not told any of my friends about my status, mind you, so I did not get lectures from anyone about my drinking, so I figured I was fine. Funny how this happened though. Ok, so one time, I was watching television and saw an advert that talked about dangers of drinking when you are HIV+… it got to me, like seriously. I believed television, for the first time. Still, I did not stop immediately after watching that advert. I kept on for some time. And on and on. Then one night, I thought to myself, “Dude, what are you doing?” one thing I’ve learnt is life is about choices, you just have to make sure you make the RIGHT choices. So a year later, after I turned 17, I started to think about a lot of things, and my being HIV+ and drinking was one of them. 3 months after my birthday, I said goodbye to drinking. And I welcomed a new habit, Facebook!**
** NOTE: I will never leave this new habit, never ever.
I am sorry, but I laugh whenever I see someone smoking. Be it a cigarette or weed. One fact you should know is Thato Chris is just not a smoker, and has never, ever held a cigarette in his hands and smoked. Nope! I just feel the dangers of smoking are very serious compared to drinking. I mean, the way I look at it is that is fire into your body! You see? Anyway, I am also happy to let you know that no, weed has not entered my body intentionally. And I make sure I avoid chances to even be drugged. I pick friends well and I don’t attend funny parties, and even when I do, I am careful in what I eat there and never take drinks from anyone. I do what we call, “bring your own.” Moving forward…
Sex and HIV+
Interesting, wonder how I am going to say this, uhhm…okay. So, it’s a beautiful day isn’t it? Yes, with birds chirping, can even hear the wind blowing, oh my. Ok, to the point at hand here, I want to tell you that being HIV+ has had me thinking about a lot of things, one being not passing it to someone else – especially if they don’t know I have it. And with sex, as one of the main ways HIV is transmitted, I have never thought of taking a risk. I know condoms are there, but I am a smart kid; if it it’s not 100% safe, it’s not safe. There are a couple of times when, yes, I was with that girl and things got heated up. So close to almost everything, I had to “chicken” out (as the girls see it) with no explanation and give an excuse to go. “Uhhhm, I am not ready”…I mean really, that’s a line for girls, not us guys, come on. So yeah, I am afraid of having sex because I am afraid of passing HIV to them, especially when they don’t know about my status, and I don’t know about theirs. Looking at it with thought, it might just not be her I am protecting, I am also protecting myself. She could have an advanced stage of the virus whilst I am still strong as I am. I know right, people might have thought this young handsome guy must have long lost that virginity, but nooo, I am still with it, my friend, till I find her, Ms her, Ms “right”.
Life is all about choices; it’s up to you to make right choice, or wrong choice. I do not intend on going back to what I used to do, but rather focus on how I should live my life.
On that note, would love to say, it is I, the one and only, Thato Chris Ramotswe.
As you may all know, I am one of the founders of Teen Cub and have been involved since its origin in May 2005, I thought I would share with you guys how that experience has been!
When Teen Club started really, it wasn’t that much fun. I mean, we appreciated the fact that we had a place to go, but it wasn’t yet ours. We would come to the Botswana-Baylor Clinic and paint and talk about feelings. Who enjoyed that? Not me – yet! The whole year we would talk about how we feel about coming, how we feel about life, it got irritating, less fun, and BORING! They would try to “spice” things up and give us paints and brushes and say, “paint you happy moments in life.” Hmmm…
But the years went on and we saw a lot of changes, more teens and better activities, and trust me, they were better. 2006 came in and we grew to about at-least 10 teens. As for the activities, we would go out of the Baylor premises, I remember one exciting one that we went to Gaborone Game Reserve, was my first time and I enjoyed it, even though the monkeys stole our food.
In the year 2008, we had more teens and the implementation of teen leaders started. I was elected teen leader by my peers and since then have maintained the post. At first, the role was harder than I thought, I thought it would be me just talking to my peers and that’s all, but nooo, it had other responsibilities. One of the responsibilities I had was to talk to sponsors and donors for Teen Club at meetings and let them know about Teen Club and how it helps me and other teens. At first, it was hard to talk to strangers, but as a leader, I had to do it, not just for me, but for my peers too.
It was hard really, being a leader that is. There were lots of expectations. People wanted me to do well. I knew I had to do well. I had to be a role model. But hey, I did it, I was, and still am one person that my peers look up to.
We had trainings where we were fully trained on listening skills, problem solving and the two major ones that have helped us as leaders were communication and team work. We must communicate well and be able to work together, to run Teen Club smoothly!
So really the years 2008-2010 were the best time of my life. I got a chance to go to Swaziland and facilitate to teens who are also HIV+. It was a fun experience. I didn’t just teach, I also learnt a lot from them. We shared knowledge. But in that period too, I got to meet big people in Botswana; from musicians to judges, lawyers to succeeding policemen, the list goes on. It was a challenge when I started, but a win when I finished, sadly! The year 2011 came, April was not the month for me, I retired! Sigh! I wanted to give other teens a chance to do what I have been doing. I wanted to see if they could apply what I have been sharing with them. And I am happy to tell you that the teens who have taken over are the best and I know they will take Teen Club to the top…
My name is Thato Chris Ramotswe and I love and am proud of who I am. Need I remind you, I am 18(going 19 in November) this year and I am HIV+.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
Life is the most precious gift one can ever get and we should all be grateful for that. Life is an interesting journey, you never know where it will take you, pits and values, twists and turns, you can get the surprise of your life! Sometimes on the way to where you going you may think, this is the worst time of my life, but you know what, at the end of the road, the world of adversity, if you can get to where you going, you need to stop thinking about what you don’t have and start being thankful to what you have. But one thing we should NEVER forget is that, God did not put you on earth alone; he brought you to wonderful people, family, friends, and anybody that you feel close to. It may be your journey but the above people play an important role, the role to tell you if the road is dangerous or not. You are never alone in life.
Towards the end of the year 2010, I went through a hard time. I was missing my aunt who I had lost beginning of the year. I felt alone, I felt worthless and useless, I felt I had no reason to live and really wanted to kill myself!
WHY I FELT ALONE?
In 1996, I lost my biological mother, 4years later it was my father. After my dad’s passing, I was adopted by my mother’s elder sister and she too passed in January, 2010. Now seriously, how would you feel if you lost as much as I did? On top of that, I lost my aunt who loved me whole heartedly, an uncle too. The painful thing was, I felt the whole they were leaving in my heart and knew no-one will ever fill it up. One major thing though played a much bigger role in me feeling alone. I had been living with my dad’s parents till he passed, and the last time I saw them was at his burial, in 2000. So when I started to loose my mother’s family, I felt I had no-one.
WHY I WANTED TO HURT MYSELF?
Inflicting more pain on me was something I wanted to consider because I felt that’s all that’s going to keep happening in my life you know, the more the pain, the better is what I thought.
WHY I THOUGHT I HAD NO REASON TO LIVE?
My reasons were simple here, I didn’t have parents so who was going to provide me with that parental love you know. I often saw children with their parents and I wanted that, I needed that. I get really sad when I hear children talking to their parents on the phone, I also wish I could get a call and be like, “Hi mum!” so I thought to myself, why should I live when I don’t have that special relationship with my parents you know. Parents are the most special people in one’s life that I wish I still had, and without them I feel useless and worthless. It gets me angry when children disrespect their parents you know, they don’t know how lucky they are to still have them.
WHAT I DID?
When your house gets a little dirty, don’t say you’ll it clean later. All you are going to keep doing is saying later till it’s so dirty you don’t know where to start cleaning or even worse, you might just not be able to clean it. My first problem was that, I kept my feelings to myself. I did not tell anyone about what I was going through. I let everything I was thinking overcome the ability to talk to someone. I did not want to tell anyone because I thought, I felt, they wouldn’t understand my problem. I thought it might be complicated for someone to understand. I also thought people wouldn’t care because I thought I might not be the only kid going through something like this, so I felt they would just treat it to that it will pass. But the main reason I did not tell people was because I thought they couldn’t help. I saw what I was going on as a problem that had no solution. But little did I know I was wrong.
When I came to think hard about my life and how I want it to turn out, I knew I had to get help because there was no way I would proceed with all I was going through. My first stop was some place greater than all places. A place I knew all problems had solutions, a place of hope, a place of Wisdom, The place of The Almighty, God’s place. I went to church. Its been 5months now since going to church. I knew one person had been looking over me and knowing what was going through my mind, I just didn’t know how to reach out to Him. I knew He could help. Now I finally was getting spiritual help, now I needed psychological. That’s when I turned to my Doctors for help.
I finally managed to tell somebody about my problems. At last I didn’t have to deal with it on my own. I told my two favourites, Doctors Premal Patel and Brianna Kirk. They were already set to get me help, as they referred me to a wonderful child psychiatrist called Doctor Sandra. There I was, sitting in a room with Dr S, as I call her, and telling her what’s been going on with me. My guardian actually went with me on my first session, for support. It went great, she managed to get to me on the first session, amazing. I thought Thato Chris does not tell anyone his problems but there I was spitting them out with no hesitation because I knew Dr S was my help to recovery. I have had about 4-5 sessions with Dr. S and I will admit it, I feel better. I really thought it would be of no use but I was wrong.
Fellow friends and all that are reading, when you have problems, never keep them to your self. Never think the way I did; there are people there for you. You are not alone, there are a whole lot of people out there for you, and you just have to reach out to them. I went through it, you’ve just read my experience.
I am Thato Chris Ramotswe, I am a better man, I am helped and never again will I keep problems to myself.