Category Archives: Stigma? It’s All In Your Head!

Article: What It’s Like To Tell Guys That You Have Herpes

Inspiring doesn’t even start to describe how I felt when I read this beautiful blog/article on Women’s Health Mag online.  Written by a beautiful young college student by the name of Ella Dawson, it tells of her experience of living FEARLESSLY with Herpes.

Starting with her diagnosis where she quickly that despite feeling very alone, she was FAR from being the only person with Herpes

When I looked up the statistics on how common herpes is, the math didn’t add up: If one in six people had genital herpes, how was I the only person I knew to do the ultimate walk of shame from the student health center clutching a stack of STD pamphlets? Further Google searches opened my eyes to the powerful and invisible stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases.

To her resolve to push herself to be ok with saying “I have Herpes”

I was sick of making myself small because I had herpes. Six months after my first outbreak, I started dropping the “herpes bomb” into conversations casually. My logic was that every time I told someone, “I have herpes,” the words would get easier to say.

To her favorite disclosure

My favorite disclosure happened when a guy made a herpes joke while chatting me up at a party. He offered me the rest of his expensive beer and said with a wink, “Don’t worry, I don’t have herpes or anything.” I had a choice to make. I could laugh his comment off and pretend it didn’t hurt, but that would mean laughing at myself. Or I could steer into the skid and stop being so afraid of what people thought.

“That’s funny,” I said, with as warm a smile as I could manage. “Yeah, that’s really funny. Because I have genital herpes.” His face crumbled. Not because I grossed him out—I could practically see the wheels turning in his brain as he realized he’d made an ignorant joke at someone else’s expense. The guy started apologizing profusely.

Isn't she a cute as a button? But in reality this girl is one Bad-Assed Chick!
Isn’t she a cute as a button? But in reality this girl is one Bad-Assed Chick!

Ella has hit the nail on the head about why there is so much stigma surrounding having Herpes and why we need to learn that when someone makes a joke about Herpes, it’s not personal (see my blog about Herpes Jokes for my POV on how to handle them)

The thing is, this stranger wasn’t intentionally making fun of me. He wasn’t making fun of anyone because most of us don’t associate herpes with actual people. …….. I had seen in the flesh what a simple “I have herpes” could do when said fearlessly, without shame. Because when a real person—a woman you know and respect—casually mentions having herpes, it stops being a punch line and starts being someone’s reality. The more I saw that understanding dawn on someone’s face, the less fear I felt. I wanted herpes to have a human face, and I wanted it to be mine.

I think I cried a little when I read that, because I work every day with young women (AND men!) who have bought into the Herpes Stigma and who have gone from confident, radiant souls to someone who now believes they have to “settle” for anyone who will love them … and that is soooo far from the truth…

Ella’s last statement echos my own experience with being out and confident with my H+ status

Every time I tell someone that I have genital herpes, I run the risk of it being the only thing they remember about me. But when I tell them on my terms, with confidence and cleverness instead of shaking hands and shame, I am immediately positioned to get a better response.

And finally, I couldn’t have put it better…

When you disclose having herpes, generally whomever you’re disclosing to follows your lead…….

Amen sister! Please, read this blog … it may well change how you look at Herpes – whether you have it, or you know someone who has it ..

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-relationships/dating-with-herpes

Peace Out!

 

Kintsukuroi: Celebrating in Your Brokenness

Brokenness is really an illusion with the purpose of creating great beauty – Dr Habib Sadeghi

I just replied to a post on the Herpes Life forums that sadly is all too common. Usually, I hear this from someone who is relatively recently diagnosed, so they are just reeling from the shock and upset of the diagnosis. However, this member has had Herpes for several years. She has bought into the stigma, hook, line, and sinker, and has yet to find her way out of her her belief that Herpes has irreparably broken her. Essentially, she wrote:

I feel the shame because I am reminded how completely unattractive, how repellent having a virus on your genitals is to other people. It also disgusts me…… I will always be infectious. Its vile.

My response was: Continue reading Kintsukuroi: Celebrating in Your Brokenness

Hopelessness: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

“I encourage you to accept that you may not be able to see a path right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.” 
― Nick VujicicLife Without Limits

One of my greatest sources of inspiration is Nick Vujcic – a beautiful soul who was born without arms or legs. This young man has taken something  that he could have (and did, for many years) seen as something that could make him unlovable and a non-productive member of society, and turned it into a message of inspiration and hope.

I often have people who are coping with a new Herpes diagnosis say: “But it’s not FAIR! I don’t sleep around. All my friends are having one night stands and they didn’t get it! WHY ME???” They can only see the negative. They buy into the stigma,  convinced that they are suddenly dirty, unlovable, a slut, a leper. They can’t see that this virus is, by comparison to what *could* happen to us in life, a pretty minor inconvenience. They become hopeless almost overnight, convinced that their life is over and that they are destined to be single, sullied, and unable to be “like everyone else” ever again. Continue reading Hopelessness: Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

Rejection: It’s All About Perspective

Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on their opinions.  Harvey Mackay

One of the main fears that seems to surface with the people I coach after Herpes diagnosis is the dreaded disclosure talk and the corresponding fear of rejection. Suddenly any other reason that might cause a potential partner to reject them goes out the window and the whole focus of their being goes into the mis-guided belief that Herpes makes them dirty, unlovable, tainted, or whatever, and that NO ONE will ever want to love them.  I can tell you from coaching many people and seeing them grow and face their fears that it’s just not true. We have several  Success Stories on the Herpes Life Forum every week … and interestingly, far, far fewer Rejections! I have yet to ever come across any proof that Herpes will keep you from finding love. Yes, it may add one extra speed bump to the process, but my observations have been that many people feel that when they DO find love with H, it’s deeper, more fulfilling, and better than any love they have ever experienced…but that’s a whole ‘nuther blog! Continue reading Rejection: It’s All About Perspective