David Roche was born with a severe facial disfigurement. Through his life he has moved from intense shame to accepting and loving himself. Where are the parallels between this man who has struggled with facial deformity and people with herpes? We all have shame; and it can show up in a variety of ways. Don’t we get used to hiding our self-perceived imperfections from others in order to get acceptance and love? Sometimes these self-perceived imperfections are revealed from behind the dark curtain … then what happens?
“Yet my face is a gift, because my shadow side – my difficulty and challenge – is on the outside, where I have been forced to deal with it.”
When the shame is in your face
David has a shameful thing that’s always visible — in your face, quite literally. He deals with that constantly because we interact primarily with faces; the face is the “locus of the human persona” as Roche puts it. On the other hand, people with herpes have a shameful thing that can be more hidden until we choose to reveal it. Our shameful thing lies just below the surface. But it’s all the same shame: the fear of disconnection, of not being accepted and loved. This shame can express itself in different physical ways.
Our opportunity is to look beyond herpes to who we really are. Who are we underneath our skin, our face, our bodies? What is there inside of us that shines brighter than the perceived problems that herpes poses? Who are we that can meet whatever life brings us? When we start to discover that, herpes becomes less a life-ruiner and more an opportunity for connection rocket fuel.