Life was going so perfectly. I was on my own for the first time; in a state far away from anything I’d ever known. I was making friends for the first time; the kind of friends who I’d been longing for my whole life. I got the job I had worked so hard for; the one I felt compelled to do so I could make the biggest difference for others. My life was everything I wanted it to be, and I had so much to look forward to.
During my “perfect” days of connecting with new friends and exploring my new amazing life; there was something happening in my body that did not feel so perfect. When the discomfort did not subside on its own, I decided to get checked out for what I thought was the worst UTI I’d ever experienced. When the Nurse Practitioner told me it was a herpes outbreak, I was in a state of complete shock. That same day, I found out that someone else got herpes from me. My shock quickly turned into complete devastation …
I’ve never experienced so much shame, guilt, and regret ever in my life. Life as I knew it came crashing down into the deepest, darkest hole; and I was stuck there with no light and no way of getting out. There was no one who could hear my cries. I thought that I would live with self-hatred and regret until the day I died. Society had given me the idea that people with herpes were dirty and stupid, and I started believing this about myself. It’s the first time in my life I’ve felt so worthless that I didn’t even care if I died. I didn’t want to feel this way, but how I could I help myself? I wanted help. I NEEDED help. I desperately wanted to help him. I wanted to help myself. I just had no idea how to.
As I laid stuck in that deep, dark hole, stoned down by hate, fear, sorrow, guilt, shame, regret, self-pity, disgust, and hopelessness, I longed for somebody to hear my cries. The pain from the herpes sores on my body was nothing compared to the pain and despair that my heart was feeling. I hated feeling so alone and needed to see if there was anyone out there who might understand. I googled “Herpes community” and found others who had been dealt this ugly card. Some were badly wounded like myself, and others had overcome the social stigmas about herpes can be so quick to beat you down with.
Within a few days, I received an email from a man who had been diagnosed with Herpes for 20 years. He promised me that my life would get better. He informed about the genital herpes statistics that 1 in 6 people have it. He mentioned names of celebrities with herpes. He recommended books to read, websites to visit, and gave me the herpes facts. He heard my struggles, and told me that I can overcome them. My deep dark hole that I was stuck in started to have a glimpse of light.
As the week went on, I opened up to very close friends about being diagnosed. It turns out that three of my close friends have herpes themselves. Three of them! I couldn’t believe it. I began relating with my friends on a completely different level. A deep level that I never thought I could relate with anyone on. I could see that herpes wasn’t ruining their lives, and started to open my eyes to the possibility of not letting it ruin my life. More light was being shined upon my darkness.
Five months into being diagnosed, a friend shared a link with me about Adrial; a friend of a friend who was getting ready to lead a Herpes Opportunity weekend. I spoke with Adrial on the phone, in hopes of crawling out of this deep, dark hole. Adrial listened to me as I cried my way through telling him someone else got herpes from me. He waited patiently as I searched for air in between sentences of a story I was so ashamed to tell. I had seen myself as a monster for months, and expected him to see me as the same. Instead of seeing me as a monster though, Adrial met me with love, understanding, and compassion. He told me he saw me as a loving, caring person and begged me to open up my heart to the world again. I got off the phone feeling understood and healed on a certain level. I decided to do myself the favor of attending his herpes seminar.
I attended the weekend with 7 other people who felt that same brokenness when it came to genital herpes. Over the three days, we shared our stories, our grief, our ups and our downs. We were all listened to and fully heard by the staff and the fellow participants. There was a lot of sympathy, and also a lot of hope. I realized that I wasn’t the only one in that dark deep hole, weighed down by burdens and doubt. We did different exercises over the weekend, and I connected with people in ways I’ve never connected before. I heard their deep, dark pains that we have all been so afraid to talk about because we didn’t think that anyone would understand.
The weekend was eye-opening for me. I saw things in a different light. I understood myself in a way I never have before. I gave myself the compassion and love that I always try to give to others, but never knew how give to myself. I had so much love for everyone in that room, and I actually fell in love with myself. At the end of the weekend, my tears of pain were replaced with tears of relief.
I realized that my life was perfect. I was in a state far away from anything I’d ever known. I had trudged through dark depths of disappointment and self-hate that I never knew existed, only to come out seeing myself as the light that I am for myself and the world. I had friends who I’d been longing for my whole life. The kind of friends who I could talk to about anything, and connect with on a deep, core level. I still had the job I had worked so hard for. And now that I met myself with compassion and love, my ability to do that as a nurse for my patients grew wider and deeper. Everything is perfect. My life is everything I want it to be, and I have so much to look forward to.