Herpes? An opportunity? Yeah, I get the confusion. How can those two things even be put in the same sentence? But getting herpes was a real life-changer for me. But in a different way than you might imagine …
I got herpes years ago. In short, I saw herpes as a dead end. I wanted to die. Herpes meant a lot of horrible things to me: It meant I was going to be unloved, rejected, alone. It was the physical manifestation of my worst fear: that no one truly loved me and no one ever would. Name all those heavy emotions — I felt them all. Anger. Shame. Self-pity. Disgust. Despair. Loneliness. Hopelessness. And eventually … numbness. Underneath it all was the question, “Am I really worthy of love?” I was terrified of the answer; so I suppressed even asking myself the question. Denial was my key to not feeling. A self-fulfilling prophecy set in.
Fast forward many years …
I turn 30. By then, I’ve only grown more alone and ashamed of myself. A (premature) mid-life crisis lovingly slaps me across the face. What am I doing with my life? Why am I here? I’m emotionally constipated. I scour the internet for possible answers. After a few self-development seminars run by some amazing life coaches, I have an undeniable epiphany: It wasn’t the herpes that was holding me back at all — it was myself! The herpes had become a story that I chose to believe, a viral saboteur, if you will. It became a negative perspective that I found myself entrenched in. As I connected more deeply to my own fear of disconnection, the more connected I felt to what was real. I cried. A lot. I also laughed. A lot. I felt more deeply and fully than I ever had. Numbing my pain had the unfortunate side effect of numbing my joy, too. Feeling, it turns out, is an equal opportunity experience. I had connected to something meaningful.
I came to realize that herpes has been my doorway to greater self-awareness, to greater self-love, acceptance and compassion. This process has been a felt experience of the saying “You only accept the love you think you deserve.” Herpes is a touchstone to those parts of myself that are actually only ghosts of past beliefs. The more I saw herpes as a story I told myself, the more I saw the other stories I had made up about myself, too. This process allows me to see my authentic core, stripped of the externalities. It flipped my perspective from “herpes as obstacle” to “herpes as opportunity” — or pulling back to the meta-view of “life experiences as opportunities.” An opportunities to experience our true selves.
The healing process continues for me, only now it includes others. I am inspired to help those who feel alone in their experience of herpes, who feel that they are at a dead end. I am a herpes life coach.
So yes, herpes has changed my life. It compelled me to find my purpose: to take the opportunity to connect with who we are once the stories are stripped away … and to be in awe of the beauty we are left with.