The herpes talk: What are you so ashamed of?
Scenario: You meet someone. You really like this someone. Definite connection. Definite mojo. The time for the herpes disclosure — “Hey, got a minute? I have herpes” — is here. What is this time like for you? What feelings come up? Fear? Shame? Guilt? Avoidance? Those are all common reactions, but let’s dig deeper as to why these might be showing up …
Are disclosing and shame the same?
It seems that the disclosure itself brings up a lot of feelings of shame. But what is it that you’re actually ashamed of? Is it the shame of disclosing, the shame of herpes … or both? What does herpes disclosure mean to you? Does it mean that you’re “admitting” to something that is embarrassing, dirty, stigmatizing? Has the act of disclosing become synonymous with the stigma of herpes itself? Or is it just the opposite?
Time for the reframe: Another take on disclosure
Try looking through a different pair of glasses. Here, try these on for fit: The disclosure itself is the beautiful part of this whole thing. Yep. How is it beautiful, you ask? Because it’s you; it’s not the herpes, not the stigma. Don’t lump those together. You haven’t magically become the herpes. Disclosure is you acting on your positive qualities, which might just brighten up the whole herpes stigma shadow. Disclosing is declaring “I care! I choose to be honest, authentic, open with you!” If you’ve convinced yourself that herpes is the poison, then disclosure is the antidote. If herpes is the lie about you, then disclosure is the truth about you. If herpes is the part you don’t have control over, disclosure is the part you do. Disclosure takes your power back and shows your true colors.
If you feel ashamed when disclosing, ask yourself … “Am I ashamed of my honesty? Am I ashamed of my courage, my integrity, my authenticity, my strength, my belief in building a trusting foundation for a relationship?” There’s no shame in who you are (reminder: which isn’t herpes). And the right person will recognize that.
It’s not always easy … but it’s worth it
The possible reactions from disclosing that you have herpes are varied, from outright rejection and wild judgment to unconditional acceptance and angels singing your courage and honesty – and everything in between. There are so many factors that go into a person’s beliefs around herpes (what Oprah says, what their parents and friends have said, the Old Testament, knowledge or lack thereof, Valtrex commercials, the list goes on and on). That’s why it’s helpful to remind yourself that there are two parts of a herpes disclosure: you and the other person. Your half you have control over; their half you don’t. And the more you can be cool with that fact, the more you can be cool with disclosure and whatever comes out of it. Disclosure isn’t always easy, but it’s an opportunity to flex those muscles of who you truly are.
Consider this as an alternate definition of “courage.” Courage is feeling the fear, but doing what you feel is right anyway.
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