What is herpes? It’s a broad question that can be answered in a few ways. Since I’m not a doctor, I’ll leave the clinical herpes info to the professionals, which you can get from any number of sites such as WebMD or ashastd.org. I’ve asked myself this deeper question numerous times wanting to know why me, why herpes? When will a herpes cure be found so I can be saved? One of the qualifiers I use is to look for ways that getting herpes has changed me for the better (it has certainly slapped me around and forced me to reconsider some of my previous unfair judgments — both about myself and others). In other words, how can I see getting herpes as a positive force in my life?

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So what WAS herpes in my life? At first, when I contracted herpes, I would hear people say the beloved phrase “everything happens for a reason” and feel my blood boil, thinking to myself, “well, not THIS thing.” From my perspective, I had one of the only things that I couldn’t possibly use as a learning tool. It was a selfish way to look at things, but I was in a selfish place thinking my sex life was over and that I’d never be truly loved again. I was desperate for a herpes cure.

I have been slowly recognizing that the pain I put myself through slammed me to that “rock bottom” place we hear so much about. I heard about this place first through my father’s experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. You have to hit rock bottom before you can change anything from the bottom up, building from a firm foundation. Hitting rock bottom for me meant that everything I had identified with my “self” either shattered or wasn’t working anymore for me; my past beliefs around herpes that I had identified with were blocking me from my current happiness. It meant starting to build myself back up from the foundation. I had such negative engrained beliefs in me that they seemed to BE me … but they were all just beliefs … and beliefs can be changed.

And what IS herpes in my life? Herpes was the instigator for me to re-evaluate what is true for me. It was (and continues to be) the spark that allowed me to feel so deeply that cavern of pain inside that I thought I would never climb out of. And that cavern that held the pain now holds love and gratitude. Feeling so deeply was the key, even if it was feeling from such a sad place. It was the feeling that began the transformation. And yes, I’m continuing to transform. All of us continue in this constant evolution of self-transformation. But let’s make sure that we’re transforming toward the positive instead of the other way around.

Being authentic with herpes teaches that opening up around something as supposedly shaming as herpes can actually have opposite of the anticipated effect: there is appreciation, trust, loyalty, acceptance not disgust, mistrust, rejection. Then that same opening and authenticity can apply to all aspects of your persona. It shows that sharing in such a raw way can connect you to someone else, through trust and authenticity. It ultimately shows that heartfelt vulnerability equals connection.

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