Listen to the introduction to one of our herpes support groups:
Here's what's you'll hear in this recording:
Two words: Share yourself.
Sharing yourself in a safe and supportive group of people who really "get" what you're going through and can empathize helps you get that you're not alone (far from it), you're not broken (you don't need fixing!) and there's a whole community of awesome folks to lean on if you forget.
You might just be in the "terminal uniqueness" trap.
When we suffer from shame, we tend to feel like we're the only ones. (Sigh.) We feel like no one understands our unique plight. I've heard it referred to as "terminal uniqueness." As in, "I'm destined to be alone in these horrible feelings forever! And I am the only one. Ahhh!"
Well, I was stuck in that trap for a long time. I was embarrassed. I didn't want people to see me feeling down. I thought if people really knew what was going on, it would just further prove how irreparably broken I was. So I kept hiding and hoping it would pass all by itself if I ignored it for long enough …
Have you ever felt this way?
Unfortunately, this stuff doesn't just go away on its own. It tends to fester until we're about to explode and we just can't numb out or ignore it any longer …
(Inappropriate analogy alert: It's like really bad gas. It's so painful as it builds up ... and the more it builds, the more energy it takes to hold back. And when you finally get it out, it might stink, but it's such a relief.)
And when shame enters the picture, we somehow feel like we need to go through the rough stuff alone. But little do we know, there are many others who are also going through it alone, too. So imagine all of the people who feel so alone joining forces to support one another in togetherness. Connection as the antidote to loneliness.
Why do we hide when so many others are going through the same thing? Well, it can feel quite vulnerable and at times downright terrifying to share ourselves when times are hard. We might get laughed at or rejected, right? But the ironic thing is, on the other side of sharing this stuff with people who understand is connection and relief. Since it takes so much effort and energy to hide, the more fear you feel about sharing, the more relief is available on the other side.
When we can share all of our stuff that we once held so tightly, we start to feel more and more whole. Wholeness is a beautiful thing. It's owning all of our humanity (the good, the bad, the ugly, the everything). It's the antithesis of holding ourselves to an unattainable level of perfection. It's allowing ourselves to be perfectly imperfect.
But there is one very, very important caveat to sharing ...
And if this one thing isn't in place, sharing can backfire into even more shame, aloneness and terminal uniqueness ... And that one thing is safety.
Maybe you've shared yourself before and were judged, ridiculed or rejected? Well that shit tends to stick with you like a foul residue, right? Deep inside, over time, you equate sharing yourself with those past horrible feelings. But sharing is actually the only way out of the shame spiral and into feeling like a normal — and yes, imperfect, just like everyone — human being again.
That's why safety and confidentiality is a top priority in our support group.
When you feel safe to share yourself, magic can happen.
I've been lucky enough to be a part of many safe, supportive and empowering groups in my life. You may have heard about the first time I shared about herpes. It was in a support group that I held in my living room. We would get together every few weeks in a structured environment of support. We created a safe and trusting space to share whatever was going on in our lives. It was a powerful group to experience. A lot of hard and beautiful stuff (and everything in between) was shared there. And we all felt freer and more empowered for it.
It just feels good to share in this way. Just to know we're not alone. And unfortunately, this kind of sharing is so rare in our society.
So let's make it less rare, shall we?
Also ... Sharing yourself helps you get back in touch with your inner badass.
Yes, your inner badass.
You know that part of yourself who knows you got this? It's the part of yourself who takes any challenge as an opportunity to flex those resiliency muscles. It's the part of you who knows you're strengthened by adversity. It's the part of you who knows you're worth it no matter what setbacks you experience.
This is the part of you who is wanting to share yourself.
Because when you hide yourself in shame, you're also hiding your brilliance, your beauty, your badassery. That belief that you're all alone and broken gets to sputter out and ... *Poof* It's no longer needed ... not where you're going. It'll just hold you back from being the awesome person you are.
Now the power is in your hands.
Since you're still reading this, you probably see the value in joining our virtual support group. If you're feeling a mixture of fear, inspiration and/or relief, then you're in the sweet spot. It's a stretch for anyone to share themselves in a group when shame is present, so I honor your courage to do something that may feel like a challenge for you. (It may even feel terrifying!) And this willingness to keep moving forward in the face of resistance is what it takes to grow and heal.
Here's what they said:
"The support group was a judgment-free zone that allowed me to share and be my truest self, surrounded by those who genuinely understand the challenges of living with H. We cried, we laughed, and most importantly we formed a bond that I hope will continue to grow over time."
"Having herpes has been the single most isolating experience of my life. I underestimated the value of speaking with others who have been where I am. For the first time since my diagnosis six months ago, I felt "same" instead of "different." I'm so glad I ignored my skepticism and nervousness and participated anyway. My heart needed what the group had to offer and now I can't wait for the next call."
“Two words: Do it. Totally worth it. The participants I heard from are amazing. I would love to meet them in person soon and give them hugs. You are amazing, too, Adrial. Thank you for this opportunity. I was a little nervous, but I'm glad I participated. I would love to hear from others in the future.”
"It was very inspirational. It's so important to know that we are not alone. And to feel the support of others in the same situation. It's great to get the feedback from peers in the same situation, it was really important that Adrial held the container for all of us to share. I found myself wanting to help others after hearing their stories and was less worried about myself. This virtual support group is going to help many …"