“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”
— Anais Nin
I would be lying if I said getting herpes was the best thing to ever happen to me. Much like I would not say being divorced was the best thing to ever happen to me — three times. (But that is another article altogether.) What was the best thing to happen to me though was what I learned from those experiences. As painful as they both were to deal with, and as much as I thought “my life is over” after each event, I realized that hidden within those experiences were lessons waiting for me to learn. I learned we are the masters of our destiny and also of our mind. We choose what we think, how we feel, what we believe, and how we are going to react in any given situation. The experience of having herpes is no different.
I remember getting the herpes diagnosis. It was on the heels of my son leaving home, which, to my surprise was a rather traumatic event for me. My reaction actually caught me off guard. As I was coming to terms with the ending of that part of my life, my marriage, my third and the one that I honestly thought was going to go the distance, dissolved before my eyes in a matter of two weeks. I was devastated and was at what I thought was my lowest point. I was to discover there was one point lower … At the end of November 2011 I noticed an irritation that just wouldn’t go away, no matter what I tried. I rationalized, bargained with God and prayed that it wasn’t what I feared it was. A herpes outbreak? You see, I had a partner 10 years previous who had herpes. My fears came to life on December 3, 2011 when I sat in the doctor’s office and I got the verdict: I have herpes. Welcome the bottom of the lowest point in my life. As I was considering my life of celibacy and rejection, I reached out via the internet. Low and behold, contrary to my belief, I was not the only “damned one” on this planet. There are many people with herpes. Thus began my unfolding and blossoming.
My journey had taken many twists and turns until one day I found myself sitting in a meeting room in Raleigh, North Carolina with a bunch of strangers who, after a few short days, would become part of my soul. When I first heard of the Herpes Opportunity, I was skeptical. I had no idea what it was about. I was in Canada on the other side of the country. Honestly, was I going to travel all the way to North Carolina for some herpes weekend? Turns out, yes — and I am so glad that I did. I got so much out of one short weekend. It is hard to describe what it is like but I’d love to share what I came away with …
The experience of the Herpes Opportunity weekend is something that is unique to each participant. It’s like listening to a song. It all depends on where you are in your life and the experiences you have had. The song may mean something different to you depending on what is going on in your life. The Herpes Opportunity weekend is like that. It all depends on where are you in your journey of healing, which makes it such a unique experience for each participant. This is not your typical workshop where you sit and listen to lectures. The weekend starts by you getting to know each other and developing a sense of trust and safety … and then the adventure begins.
I had so many takeaways from the weekend. For me, the biggest take away was learning to become more loving and accepting of myself and realizing that we all share so many of the same feelings, fears, insecurities, and false beliefs. When one person healed, we all healed. There is something about the group dynamic that is so amazing. I also realized there is something beautiful in just being with another person in their grief and pain. And when I realized how beautiful that was for someone else, I was able to extend that to myself. I have learned to sit with my emotions, whatever they are, and accept them as they are in that moment without judgment. By honoring my feelings, I can let them be expressed, heard and then pass.
After the weekend, I was so open to pushing my comfort zone to see what was possible. My heart was open and I was eager to try new experiences and to stretch myself to see what I was really capable of. Upon my return, I took a Nidra class, a tai chi class, a few kundalini yoga classes, attended a drumming circle and a chakra clearing meditation class. I have become more comfortable being uncomfortable and trying to see where my limits really are. I am now challenging my beliefs about “what is possible for me.” I am far more open in telling people I have herpes as well. I used to be afraid to have people know for fear they would judge me and reject me. Now I am doing YouTube interviews! If you would have asked me a year ago if I would do that sort of thing, it would be a definite “Are you insane?” Even now, it certainly pushes my comfort zone, but now I am open to it. I see my discomfort as more of a challenge than a limitation.
This herpes thing can be the worst thing to ever happen or it can be a blessing. The only person who can determine that for you is you. You can choose to be a victim or a victor. You can choose to see herpes as an opportunity or a limitation. It’s all in how you choose to look at it. If you are curious to see if maybe there is a way to loosen the hold that shame has on you around herpes, I would encourage you to push your comfort zone just a bit and come out to the Herpes Opportunity weekend. You can feel the fear and do it anyway, just like every single person who attended the last weekend in January did. Each of us was uncomfortable and unsure of what we were getting into, but we came anyway. And in our discomfort, we found healing, love and acceptance. Listen to that small, still voice within you. If this is an experience that both scares you and excites you all the same, then take that leap and see what is possible. You will be so glad you did.
“It’s impossible,” said pride
“It’s risky,” said experience
“It’s pointless,” said reason
“Give it a try,” whispered the heart
— Author unknown