All too often we tend to automatically identify with all the negatives about herpes. All those ways that herpes shows up as a block to our happiness, fulfillment and pleasure seem to automatically bubble up in our heads. So, being proactive around unblocking all those misperceptions is what these four reminders are all about. Use these words to say to yourself with all sincerity “I’m okay. I will be okay.” They will help you change your own relationship to yourself to be more positive and supportive.
1. “Sex is a beautiful, natural act.”
You were just doing what comes naturally: having sex. And there is absolutely nothing inherently wrong or dirty about consenting adults having sex. There is so much beauty in it, so much opportunity for deep connection. And beyond that, let’s admit it: sex is pretty fun. Getting an STD tends to take us away from seeing it as something beautiful and fun; it might twist it into something that's more harmful, dangerous and dirty. We tend to put ourselves in the victim mentality, when there are inherent risks in all of life. We need to be reminded of the connection, beauty and fun of sex. We get to reclaim all the nourishing beauty that sex is.
2. “I am a sexy mofo.”
Too many people feel that herpes dampens their ability to be sexy, but the truth is that it’s a decision you make … are you sexy with herpes or not? Remember that it’s not about the herpes taking your sexy away from you, but how you relate to your sexuality with confidence that is sexy. Partners can also see it as incredibly sexy that you areopen and vulnerable about something that is perceived as shameful to some. You are sexy. You deserve to be sexy. Shout it from the rooftops. Go.
3. “It’s just a stigmatized skin condition.”
Yes, society tends to dictate that it’s more than just a skin condition, but in reality that’s what herpes is. (Yes, technically the Herpes Simplex Virus isn't just on the skin, but it's the outbreaks where the shame tends to manifest most.) So choose the right words to appropriately describe herpes. Words are powerful. The often-cited fact that 80% of people have oral herpes but shrug it off as the common “cold sore” shows us the power of words and perspective. And yes, sometimes these common “cold sores” show up on the genitals. The difference between one and the other is simply location on the body, yet cold sores and genital herpes are perceived as worlds apart. This shows that it might take just a bit longer before we are comfortable with sexuality as a natural human drive. And changing society’s perceptions of what this virus truly is starts with us and how we relate to having it.
It is important to note that this is not to minimize the desire to save your partner from getting it, but once you have it, and all the cultural/societal/media hype is stripped away, it is just a common skin condition, after all.
4. “I won't always feel like this.”
When I first got herpes, I thought that this would be the one thing that would always get me down. I thought for sure I would never get over it. I thought the only way to deal with it was to avoid thinking about it. But strangely enough, I have become truly thankful for how I have grown and who I have become since getting herpes. It is a unique opportunity to be authentic with romantic partners in a way that many people choose not to be (or go into deep denial about); some even outright lie about it to avoid having to face the emotional ramifications. But going through these emotional ramifications are where the deeper opportunities lie. Check out this quote for a summary: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” Beautiful. And true.
In summary ...
So practice saying these four things whenever you start to feel down about having herpes. And really check yourself so you say them in a real, meaningful way. Your relationship with herpes doesn’t have to be a burden. And that relationship starts now.