[originally posted as “Herpes as Transformational Opportunity” on the Coach Training Institute’s (CTI) blog, the leading trainer of life coaches worldwide]

Herpes? An opportunity? Yeah, I get the confusion. How can those two things even be put in the same sentence? But getting herpes was a real life-changer for me. But in a different way than you might imagine …

I got herpes years ago. In short, I saw herpes as a dead end. I wanted to die. Herpes meant a lot of horrible things to me: It meant I was going to be unloved, rejected, alone. It was the physical manifestation of my worst fear: no one loved me. Name all those heavy emotions — I felt them all. Anger. Shame. Self-pity. Disgust. Despair. Loneliness. Hopelessness. And eventually … numbness. Underneath it all was the question, “Am I really worthy of love?” I was terrified of the answer; so I suppressed even asking myself the question. Denial was my key to not feeling. A self-fulfilling prophecy set in.

Fast forward many years …

Numbing my pain had the unfortunate side effect of numbing my joy, too. Feeling, it turns out, is an equal opportunity experience. I had connected to something meaningful.

I turn 30. I’ve only grown more alone and ashamed of myself. A (premature) mid-life crisis lovingly slaps me across the face. What am I doing with my life? Why am I here? I’m emotionally constipated. I scour the internet for possible answers. After a few self-development seminars run by some amazing life coaches, I have an undeniable epiphany: It wasn’t the herpes that was holding me back at all — it was myself! The herpes had become a story that I chose to believe, a physical saboteur, if you will. It became a negative perspective that I found myself entrenched in. As I connected more deeply to my own fear of disconnection, the more connected I felt to what was real. I cried. A lot. I also laughed. A lot. I felt more deeply and fully than I ever had. Numbing my pain had the unfortunate side effect of numbing my joy, too. Feeling, it turns out, is an equal opportunity experience. I had connected to something meaningful.

I came to realize that herpes has been my doorway to greater self-awareness, to greater self-love, acceptance and compassion. This process has been a felt experience of the saying “You only accept the love you think you deserve.” Herpes is a touchstone to those parts of myself that are actually only ghosts of past beliefs. The more I saw herpes as a story I told myself, the more I saw the other stories I had made up about myself. This process allows me to see my authentic core, stripped of the externalities. It flipped my perspective from “herpes as obstacle” to “herpes as opportunity” — or pulling back to the meta-view of “life experience as opportunity.” An opportunity to see our true selves.

The healing process continues for me, only now it includes others. I am inspired to help those who feel alone in their experience of herpes, who feel that they are at a dead end. I am a herpes life coach. I have a blog named Herpes Life and an over-the-phone herpes support group called The Herpes Opportunity.

So yes, herpes has changed my life. It compelled me to find my purpose: to take the opportunity to connect with who we are once the stories are stripped away … and to be in awe of the beauty we are left with.

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