Valentine's Day & Herpes
This week's icebreaker led us to explore feelings about Valentine's Day, particularly considering the impact it can have on those diagnosed with herpes, especially those who are recently diagnosed. The idea behind initiating this discussion was to recognize that the concept of love can be particularly triggering for individuals grappling with a herpes diagnosis.
Beyond the superficial aspects of the holiday—like cards, chocolates, or roses—I wanted to delve into the deeper realm of love. Love for others, but equally important, love for oneself. Many individuals diagnosed with herpes carry a significant burden of self-blame and grapple with feelings of being unlovable.
Allow me to share a bit about my personal journey with Valentine's Day. At some point, the holiday began to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It wasn't always this way; I have fond memories of celebrating Valentine's Day as a child. However, life experiences took a toll, particularly a devastating breakup in my twenties that caused my heart to harden. This emotional armor persisted through subsequent relationships and culminated with the impactful event of my herpes diagnosis in 2011.
The diagnosis felt like the final blow to my heart, prompting me to close it off as a means of self-preservation. Anger, resentment, and a pervasive lack of joy became my companions during what I now refer to as the "closed heart era." Looking at photos from that time, I can see the sadness in my eyes as I internalized negative beliefs about love, especially my ability to love. Shutting off my capacity for love seemed like the only way to cope.
However, a pivotal realization occurred when I recognized that this closed-off state was not sustainable. If I didn't make a change, I risked repeating patterns that led to my herpes diagnosis or settling for relationships mirroring past hurts. I was at a crossroads and realized that I held the power to make a change.
If you've heard me in other podcast interviews, you may be familiar with this part of my story. I decided to embark on a journey of self-love, understanding that filling myself with love would overflow and attract more love into my life. My initial attempt involved reading Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette while consciously eating to physically absorb love. However, the experience triggered anger, revealing the depth of my unresolved issues.
Years later, I understand that the root issue wasn't the herpes diagnosis itself, just as the challenges with Valentine's Day aren't solely about chocolates or roses. It's about our relationship with love, self-rejection following a diagnosis, and the internalization of stigma and shame.
The first step towards healing is practicing forgiveness—a challenging but essential process that allows for personal growth and the rediscovery of love. This Valentine's Day, I encourage you to find love in small, meaningful moments, whether it's observing nature or indulging in something you enjoy. It's about doing something for yourself, fostering self-love and acceptance.
Returning to my Valentine's story, I now view the day with a sense of blessing. My son was born on the 13th, adding a layer of significance to Valentine's Day. It has become a celebration of love and gratitude, a reminder of how far I've come in my own love story.