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How Herpes affects Women’s Sexuality

aloneHow Herpes affects Women’s Sexuality

Contributing Author: Stephanie

Many anthropologists, sociologists, and feminist theorists have explored the reasoning behind women’s sexuality, or rather the reasoning for the almost absence of women’s sexuality in today’s society.  Because women’s ability to have sexual desires based on their own personal desires, and not those of a man, is frequently discredited by mainstream society, women’s sexuality automatically becomes discredited as a whole.  The idea that sexuality is socially constructed based on things we learn from media, religion, schools, and other great institutions is a common theory.

Scholars in this area have also taken specific interest in the way that an STD diagnosis might affect how a person experiences sexuality based on the social construction and meaning on the diagnosis.  

Women’s sexuality is already invalidated, so an STD diagnosis simply invalidates it further based on her supposed deviation form the female sexual norm (having sexual desires, acting upon them, and being diagnosed with an STD because of those actions).

There are plenty of articles and scholarly works out there discussing this issue from an outside perspective, but I would like to share my personal experience of dealing with my new sexual identity after being diagnosed with herpes. I would like to emphasize that my perspective is very heterosexual, for lack of a better term, but I believe there will be plenty of parallels for those who identify elsewhere on the spectrum.

As I feel many young women believe when they first begin to experience their sexual selves, my sexuality was based solely on what I thought my male partner wanted.

Neither the media, school, nor my parents had ever taught me what sex or intimacy should be from a woman’s perspective.  It was always based on heterosexual male pleasure.

That being the case, when I learned I had herpes I felt I could no longer fulfill those sexual desires for someone else again because I was no longer desirable to men based on my new label as a “sexual deviant.”

I would like to break down my experience into stages that coincide with Dr. Kelly’s “Stages of Grief” in her book Live, Love, & Thrive with Herpes in hopes that many of you can connect to one, a few, or maybe even all of them as you begin to find sexual freedom after your diagnosis.

Stages to Sexual Freedom:

  1. Avoidance
    • Reference Stage One: Trauma and Denial, and Stage Two: Feelings of Rage from Dr. Kelly’s “Stages of Grief”
  2. Settling
    • Reference Stage Three: Profound and Prolonged Sadness
  3. Fear of Control
    • This stage triggers Stage Four of the “Stages of Grief,” Communicating and Reaching Out
  4. Freedom
    • Reference Stage Five: Surrender and Acceptance, and Stage Six: Empowerment

Avoidance (Trauma and Denial/Feelings of Rage)
When I was first diagnosed I had an irrational fear of spreading herpes to anyone I had any sexual contact with at all.  I say irrational, because as I learned more about the transmission of the virus, I discovered there are plenty of ways to reduce the likelihood of transmission as well as ways avoid the possibility of transmission completely.  

Because of my fear, during this stage I completely avoided any situation that could lead to sexual desire, including dating.  

Trauma and Denial, as Dr. Kelly emphasizes in her book, played a huge role in my avoidance.  The trauma of my diagnosis as well as my denial made disclosure impossible at the time.  I was not ready to disclose my situation with someone, and I knew I had to do so before becoming intimate again.

Settling (Profound and Prolonged Sadness)
Looking back on my journey, this stage brings me the most sadness, which directly relates to Dr. Kelly’s explanation of Stage Three in her book.

During the “Settling” stage my mind set was to “take what I can get.”  If a man said he loved me or that he found me irresistible despite my herpes I thought I had to reciprocate those feelings.  This is because I thought it was so incredibly rare for a man to feel these things about me after my diagnosis that it might be my only chance to find love or intimacy again.  

After going through this stage, my blunt advice is that this is NOT TRUE.  There will be many men or women that love you and find you undoubtedly sexy not despite your herpes, but almost by virtue of your herpes and the woman it has created.

Fear of Control (Communicating and Reaching Out)
This stage was by far the longest of the four because it took me so long time to understand my thought process during it.  

As women we already sometimes feel a lack of control with our sexuality and sexual decisions based on the submissiveness we learn from society.  After I began to seek intimacy again after settling for men I did not necessarily desire, I found it… but on someone else’s terms.

I believed that I no longer had the right to share my opinions about what I desired sexually because it was unfair to ask someone to put himself at risk for my pleasure.  What I learned after verbally expressing my thoughts to loved ones was that I have just as much control over how I experience sex and intimacy as I did before.  

I was afraid to take control of my sexuality again because that could mean putting someone else at risk.  What I didn’t realize is that if I had disclosed my diagnosis and shared the transmission risks with my partner I had done my part in keeping him safe.  

This is where Dr. Kelly’s stage on communicating and reaching out becomes so important.  Without my ability to do so, I may not have allowed control back into my intimate experiences.

Freedom (Surrender and Acceptance/Empowerment)
After effectively communicating and finding the ability to reach out and seek advice from friends and family, I am finally able to enjoy my sexuality and be at peace with my diagnosis.

I have accepted that I cannot have spontaneous sexual encounters without putting others at risk, and I now understand how that is not at all a curse; it is actually a true blessing.

I have accepted that I need to be at a more intimate level with someone before I share my sexuality with them in order to feel comfortable and in control of the situation.  Once again, this has proved to be a huge blessing in my life.

Finally, I have accepted that my herpes diagnosis has not hindered or tainted my sexuality in any way, but rather it has forced me to embrace every piece of my self in order to find true intimacy with another person.

I encourage you all, as I always do, to find the silver lining in situations where you feel that your herpes might have given you the short end of the stick.  I can guarantee that once you start searching, you will find all the amazing ways that herpes has allowed you to grow as a woman in every way, including your sexual being.      

Practicing Self-Love

file1551245784283Practicing Self-Love

By Contributing Author Stephanie

As I was beginning to write this blog, I started with looking for articles about self-love. There are so many articles out there telling us how to love ourselves and how to practice as much patience with ourselves as we do with others. Although these are all beautiful and inspiring articles I found that the majority was missing one thing.  What do we do when we feel completely unable to love the person we are today, right at this moment?

This is something I have struggled with my whole life, but when I was diagnosed with herpes it became even more difficult.  As women we are constantly surrounded by messages and images telling us what beautiful is, what the ideal woman acts like, and what our health says about our character as women.  It can be extremely difficult to push those messages aside in order to learn to really love yourself, but I would like to share with you all how I have been able to start to do just that in order to accept myself exactly the way that I am. Over the last year I have made it a priority to really get to know myself.  By that I mean I wanted to know what makes me feel happy, sad, excited, anxious, and what things were really most important to me in my life.  Through my efforts this year I have been able to understand what triggers my emotions, what I really value in my life, and many other things I would have never guessed were a part of who I am a year ago.  

Interestingly enough, understanding myself in these ways has helped me to fall in love with the person that I am. When reflecting on this experience, I like to compare it to falling in love with another person.  As we get to know someone, either intimately or as a friend, we start to accept that person for everything he or she is as well as everything he or she is not.  As we accept a person for all he or she has to offer we can start to really love that person unconditionally.  I believe this is what has happened in my relationship with myself over the last year.  By allowing myself to get to know me I have been able to accept myself for everything that I am, and that has given me the ability to love myself unconditionally, herpes and all. I challenge you all to get to know yourselves on the same intimate level you might imagine you would get to know your life partner on.

If you are struggling with accepting yourself as a woman diagnosed with herpes, understanding deeper traits about yourself will allow you to put less emphasis on such a small aspect of your health and life.  Remember that others will only judge you as much as you judge yourself.   I hope what I have discovered will help you all as you begin the same journey that I started a year ago.  Be your biggest fan, and the journey towards unconditional self-love will be easy.    

Overcoming Stigma and Finding your Unique Path

Overcoming Stigma and Finding your Unique Path

By Contributing Author Stephanie

I watched this video quite a few months ago and for a long time did not understand my connection to Eleanor Longden or her struggle with mental health.  After much contemplation I began to understand my ability to empathize with her and be overwhelmingly inspired by her journey.  Although her experience with schizophrenia is vastly different than my own experience with herpes, the fact of the matter is we both had to overcome societal stigma and as well personal stigma against our conditions.

To me, the most inspirational part of Eleanor’s story is her ability to not only overcome that stigma but to do so in a way that defied the norms of medicine and treatment for her condition.  By overcoming the stigma associated with schizophrenia she was able to work with her symptoms and hardships in order to create a meaningful interaction with her voices.  What she teaches any of us going through the process of overcoming stigma to promote healing is that doing so will allow you to experience your stigmatized identity in a way that is actually beneficial. For those of us dealing with a new herpes diagnosis, or the trauma that comes along with an outbreak after years of living with the virus, it is important to interact with our condition and symptoms in a compassionate way.  My ability, and i’m sure many of yours, to understand Eleanor’s hardships is a perfect example of one way herpes has been beneficial in my life.  Being able to feel true compassion and empathize for others in seemingly completely different situations than your own is a true gift that I may not have today without my diagnosis.

I hope you all find as much inspiration in Eleanor’s story and her ability to overcome stigma associated with her voices as I have; and I hope it inspires you all to find your unique path to health and happiness in your acceptance of your diagnosis.  

 

About Stephanie

Hi Everyone! My name is Stephanie.  I was diagnosed with HSV-2 in April of 2014 when I was 22 years old.  Right now, almost three years later, I am a doctoral student in the sociology department at Purdue University.  I recently completed my MA in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado where I explored the role of stigma in the process of disclosing a genital herpes diagnosis.  With that said, if anyone is interested in reading what I discovered in my project, I am happy to share that with you! I plan to continue advocating for our community, as well as studying the social factors that influence sexual health in order to understand how we can create a world that is easier for people diagnosed with STIs.  I really enjoy writing for the Pink Tent community and am excited to be able to share some of my experiences and thoughts about living with genital herpes with you all.

Prepare for Cold Season and Avoid Herpes Outbreaks

Avoid Herpes OutbreaksPrepare for Cold Season and Avoid Herpes Outbreaks
By Contributing Author Stephanie

As we enter into the beautiful, yet dangerously contagious, fall season I usually have one thing on my mind: avoiding colds.  After being diagnosed with herpes, this concern weighs on my mind even more.  As most of us know, the herpes virus shows up when our immune system has been compromised.  There can be many causes for this including stress, another virus like the common cold or the flu, or perhaps even lack of sleep.

As my body was still trying to build up immunity to the herpes virus, colds had a substantial effect on my experience with outbreaks.  For the first year of my diagnosis, every time I caught a small cold, an outbreak would follow days after the cold arrived.  Because of this, I have found that it is extremely important for me to take care of myself and keep my immune system strong in order to avoid herpes outbreaks. This blog post will go over some simple, yet key points on how to boost your immune system during the cold season in order to avoid herpes outbreaks. The first step you can take to avoid herpes outbreaks by boosting your immune system is take Omega-3s on a daily basis.

In Dr. Kelly’s book, Live, Love, & Thrive with Herpes, she suggests 2000 mg or more a day. Omega-3s are a great way to boost your immune system as well as balance your hormones, and support cardiovascular and brain health. Zinc Chelate is another easy supplement to use to boost your immunity. Dr. Kelly’s book suggests 50 mg a day.  Not only will taking Zinc on a daily basis support a strong immune system, but it will also promote skin health and tissue repair: two benefits that are amazing for herpes outbreaks. Vitamin D3 is also a great supplement to build immunity.  The suggested dose listed in Dr. Kelly’s book is 5000 IU’s a day.

Women are often deficient in Vitamin D3 and new research is showing that it acts as a hormone, signaling cells to boost immunity. If you are osteoporotic, then D3 is required for you to be able to properly absorb your calcium supplements. Probiotics are another supplement to add to your regimen or diet, not only during cold season, but all the time.  Probiotics help the “good bacteria” in your body to thrive so that they can fight off the “bad bacteria.” You may be able to get all the probiotics you need from your diet.  A few of the foods known to be rich in probiotics are yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi.

One last supplement you should always take to support your health and immune system is a multivitamin.  In Live, Love, & Thrive with Herpes, Dr. Kelly suggests a multivitamin that has at least 750 mg of calcium and 450 mg of magnesium. If you are already taking each of these supplements daily, congratulations!  If you are not, now would be the perfect time to start. Cold season is among us, and supporting our immune systems is extremely important to avoid herpes outbreaks as well as for our overall health and happiness.  I hope these suggestions find you well and that you all have a happy and healthy cold season.

Herpes Treatment: Lemon Balm for Herpes

Lemon balm remedies for herpesHerpes Treatment: Lemon Balm for Herpes
By Contributing Auther: Stephanie

One of my main concerns with herpes treatment is my ability to control the virus naturally without effecting other areas of my body.  Lemon balm is used in herpes treatment as a natural home remedy to reduce the replication of the herpes virus.  Here, you will learn many of the different ways you can use lemon balm for herpes outbreak treatment and prevention, in hopes that you will find the perfect remedy for your lifestyle!

Lemon balm, scientifically known as Melissa officinalis, was shown in a 2004 study to effectively reduce the rate of of replication of both type 1 and 2 of the herpes virus (Allahverdiyev et. al 2004).  One precaution the article gives is using anything over a concentration of 100 micrograms per milliliter.  If the concentration is higher than this threshold there could be potential toxic side effects.  This being said, any lemon balm oil or supplement that you buy in the store should be safe for use, but I would suggest checking the dosage on the product just to be sure. As you can probably imagine, go organic whenever possible. While it is beneficial to discuss how this herb can potentially prevent outbreaks, help heal current outbreaks, and hinder the replication of the virus, we will also discuss some creative uses for the herb.  This herb can be used in many applications and it is my intent that each and every one of you will learn how it can benefit you, no matter what your unique situation with herpes is.

Different uses for lemon balm:

If you would like to grow the herb and use it in its most natural form, there are several ways to accomplish this.  The first, and likely most common, is to make lemon balm tea.  All you need to do is to place some herbs in hot boiling water for a few minutes (tea bag is optional), add some honey (raw is best), sip and relax. This tea also pairs well with black or mint tea. You can drink this hot or you can add ice to drink iced tea. This herb touts its ability to relax you and when you’ve sipped to your hearts content, re use the tea bag to sooth any sores by placing the bag directly on them.  If you do not want to grow the herb yourself, lemon balm tea is readily available for purchase.

Another creative and relaxing remedy is to take a lemon balm bath.  If you have the lemon balm plant you can use the leaves  in the bath by making a lemon balm leaf-filled bag and hanging it under the running water as you fill the bath.  This remedy will create a relaxing and healing environment for your herpes sores to heal. A word of caution though, do not take a bath that is too hot as very hot baths and hot tubs can trigger the herpes virus.

You can even eat fresh lemon balm leaves in a salad or with any other meal you have prepared.  Culinary nerds might want to add mint, anise, fennel or lemon verbena to mix with the lemon balm. Eating the leaves allows you to proactively begin to approach herpes treatment with more of a preventative approach.  Having lemon balm as a part of your regular diet could help to decrease the likelihood of having another outbreak.

Lemon balm salve or ointment is also available over the counter.  The salve can be applied directly to an outbreak site to help sooth and heal any bothersome sores.  This is a great option for those of us who might not have the time to get super creative with the herb.

You can also buy a lemon balm (or Melissa) supplement at your vitamin store to get the herb into your daily intake.  This is a great alternative to eating the leaves with your food, and will also act as a herpes treatment for outbreak prevention.

Lemon balm/Melissa essential oils are also available. You can use the oil in the area that you usually experience outbreaks to potentially prevent them.  You can also use the oil for its relaxing and calming properties in times of stress to help control your immune system’s response to hectic times.

These are just some of the many creative uses I have found while researching the lemon balm herb and its effect on the herpes virus.  I for one am planning to experiment with each of them to find which remedy works best for my mind and body.  I hope you all do the same, and successfully find a healing outlet in the herb!

Resources:
Allahverdiyev, A., Duran, N., Ozguven, M., & Koltas, S. 2004. “Antiviral activity of the volatile oils of Melissa officinalis L. against Herpes simplex virus type-2.” Phytomedicine 11(7):657-661.

 

About Stephanie

Hi Everyone! My name is Stephanie.  I was diagnosed with HSV-2 in April of 2014 when I was 22 years old. Right now, almost three years later, I am a doctoral student in the sociology department at Purdue University. I recently completed my MA in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado where I explored the role of stigma in the process of disclosing a genital herpes diagnosis.  With that said, if anyone is interested in reading what I discovered in my project, I am happy to share that with you! I plan to continue advocating for our community, as well as studying the social factors that influence sexual health in order to understand how we can create a world that is easier for people diagnosed with STIs.  I really enjoy writing for the Pink Tent community and am excited to be able to share some of my experiences and thoughts about living with genital herpes with you all.

Genital Herpes And Self Esteem

Genital Herpes and Self Esteem

Dr. Kelly and Self Esteem

Now you might be thinking to yourself….why in the world is this woman with herpes so happy? Well, I am. Why? Because I am still the same happy go lucky woman that I have always been and I do not allow herpes to affect my level of self esteem. If you want to change how you think about yourself and feel about yourself, you must first honor your physical body. This is one of the pillars of self love.

In my book, Live, Love and Thrive With Herpes: A Holistic Guide For Women, I speak about the importance of the Triad Of Health. At the foundation of health is your physical body and the two arms of the triangle are your mental and emotional/spiritual. If you don’t take care of your physical body, your mental and emotional/spiritual wellbeing will begin to weaken over time. Herpes is such a stigmatizing infection, that it is no wonder that many women who are diagnosed with it suffer from depression.

What’s one of the best things you can do for depression? Move Your Body! That’s right…move your body! If you are not moving your body, then you are building up toxins, losing muscle mass, depressing your immunity, and decreasing your potential for happiness and joy. The body is meant to move and for some, a herpes diagnosis can be the perfect catalyst to begin to take charge of your physical health. Moving your physical body will help you to love and appreciate this temple called your body. Instead of disassociating with your body, you need to embrace it. Many women with herpes stop moving their bodies and they begin to disown it. This is the “house” you were given, so it is time to take care of it.

One of the other benefits of moving your body is that you will receive the natural high of endorphins. This always helps to improve your mood. Have you ever worked out and then thought….I just shouldn’t have done that? Absolutely not! Make a commitment to yourself to move your body every day. It doesn’t need to be much, but you must move to grow and heal. Learn to love your body again and it will start to love you back.  

Need additional support? Check out my Amazon Best-Seller, Live, Love & Thrive With Herpes

How Stigma and Emotions Trigger Genital Herpes Outbreaks

How Stigma and Emotions Trigger Genital Herpes Outbreaks

By Contributing Author: Stephanie

The Stigma Of Herpes
The Stigma Of Herpes

As a sociology student who lives with genital herpes, I find particular interest in the stigma of the virus. The term ‘stigma’ was originally used by the Greeks to describe an abnormal or immoral trait in an individual. The term was brought back into context in the 20th century by sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman uses this term to refer to a trait that is deeply discrediting to an individual’s identity (Goffman 1986). I am sure we can all agree that a genital herpes diagnosis certainly fits this criterion.

Because of my background in this area I automatically made a connection between research on stigma in the field of sociology and the section titled “The Impact of Our Emotions on Symptoms” in Dr. Kelly Martin Schuh’s book: Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes. In this section, Dr. Kelly, as she is known within our community, discusses how constantly worrying that symptoms might show up ironically can trigger an outbreak. I have also experienced this phenomenon as someone who is dating with genital herpes. One of the many pieces of research connecting these two topics is a 2009 study by Rao and colleagues. The researchers in this study were aiming to develop a stigma scale for chronic illness, as opposed to short-term illness. Simply put, the study found that when an individual is diagnosed with a stigmatizing illness, he or she goes through what is called the “Self Stigma Process.” A person goes sequentially through Steps 1 through 5 and experiences the Self Stigma Process in steps 3 and 4

How Stigma Affects A Person With Herpes

  1. Enacted Stigma
  2. Felt/Perceived Stigma or Stereotype Awareness
  3. Stereotype Agreement
  4. Self Concurrence or Internalization
  5. Self Esteem Detriment/Psychological Distress

During this process individuals will become aware of stereotypes about their illness, begin to agree with them, and eventually internalize these ideas, which will finally cause them psychological distress (Rao et. al 2009). In other words, awareness of the stigma brings about stress, and as we all know stress can trigger outbreaks. As I reflect on how the “Self Stigma Process” relates to my own experience with herpes, I find it to be a good fit. When I was first diagnosed I became much more aware of the social stigma that such a diagnosis holds. I then began to understand the negative stereotypes that create the stigma, and I even began to believe those to be true about myself. I finally internalized those negative beliefs and began to feel extreme shame and guilt towards my diagnosis, which I believe caused an increase in the physical symptoms I was experiencing. As Dr. Kelly, I, and I am sure many of you have experienced, dating with herpes brings all those negative stereotypes associated with the virus to the surface. The thought of having to disclose your situation with someone can cause extreme distress. The irony of this situation is almost humorous, but I know first hand that it can be very traumatizing.

Although I have begun to reverse some of my internalization of those negative stereotypes, dating still brings me back to them even if it’s just for a brief moment. So, how do we stop this vicious cycle of dating, stress, and outbreaks? The good news is that awareness of this connection is the first step to controlling it. Once you know that this particular thought process could actually make your symptoms worse, you can start to change that thought process to control the situation to your liking. It may seem to be much easier said than done, but the answer is much simpler than you probably imagine: affirmations. As Dr. Kelly’s book Live, Love, & Thrive with Herpes illustrates, affirmations begin to develop new neurological pathways in the brain to enhance positive self-concepts. An affirmation can be thought of as creating a truth about yourself through your words.

Affirmations: An Exercise

  1. Write some positive statements about yourself and why you are so incredibly dateable and lovable, and then say them out loud. Some affirmations I have made include phrases like:

My skin is flawless I am sexy My body is strong, healthy, and beautiful

Once you hear the thoughts out loud you may just start a new process that we can call the “Self Love Process.” With this information I hope you all can start more positive thought processes when it comes to dating and looking for love! Purchase Your Copy Here Live Love and Thrive with Herpes

References:

  • Goffman, Erving. 1986. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York, NY: Simon and Shuster Inc.
  • Rao, Deepa, Choi, Seung W., Victorson, David, Bode, Rita, Peterman, Amy, Heinemann, Allen, and David Cella. 2009. “Measuring Stigma Across Neurological Conditions: The Development of the Stigma Scale for Chronic Illness.” Quality of Life Research 18:585-595.
  • Schuh, Kelly Martin. 2012. Live, Love and Thrive With Herpes: A Holistic Guide For Women. Pink Tent International, LLC pg. 27-28.   

 

StephanieHeadshotAbout The Author

Hi Everyone! My name is Stephanie.  I was diagnosed with HSV-2 in April of 2014 when I was 22 years old.  Right now, almost three years later, I am a doctoral student in the sociology department at Purdue University.  I recently completed my MA in sociology at the University of Northern Colorado where I explored the role of stigma in the process of disclosing a genital herpes diagnosis.  With that said, if anyone is interested in reading what I discovered in my project, I am happy to share that with you! I plan to continue advocating for our community, as well as studying the social factors that influence sexual health in order to understand how we can create a world that is easier for people diagnosed with STIs.  I really enjoy writing for the Pink Tent community and am excited to be able to share some of my experiences and thoughts about living with genital herpes with you all.

 

What Might Your Herpes Outbreak Be Telling You?

 

What Might Your Herpes Outbreak Be Telling You?

CarnivalI have lived with herpes for over 15 years and believe me, I have learned a few things about the causes of my herpes outbreaks. Like many, I had to learn the hard way of what triggered my outbreaks. While many people are triggered by a high arginine content in their food, heat, friction, sunlight, or their menses, my number one cause of herpes outbreaks was emotional stress. Stress is by far the number one cause of herpes outbreaks! So, if you don’t have your stress levels under control, herpes will rear it’s ugly head.

Most people in America have absolutely no idea how stressed they really are until their health fails. I can remember sitting in the office of my chiropractor as I attempted to tell her that my life wasn’t very stressful. She looked at me and smiled as she carefully reflected the stressful events that had occurred in the past several years of my life. She reminded me of how I went to medical school and graduated at the top of my class, relocated to a town where I didn’t know anyone, started my own Wellness Center in a town filled to capacity with other healers and doctors, how I got married and had a very challenging pregnancy, wrote a book, started a non-profit, had 3 miscarriages and an emergency appendectomy in a short period of time. I could go on, but there is no need to.

My whole point is that sometimes we are totally unaware of how stressed out our bodies are. Especially if you are a positive, optimistic person like I am. I was shocked to hear her tell ME what my body, mind and soul had been through. So, what might your herpes outbreak be telling you? You are STRESSED! Maybe you don’t get enough sleep, you have a poor diet, your a workaholic, or your finances and relationships are stressing you out. Frequent herpes outbreaks are a great reminder that you might be more stressed than you realize.

The first step in managing stress is to acknowledge it. It is from this point that you can actually then do something about it. I want you to think about the past year of your life and what you have been through. Be inquisitive, but also very compassionate and loving towards yourself as you review this time in your life. This will give you a feel for what it is like for the herpes virus to be living in your body. When your stressed, herpes thrives! Think back over the past year and determine what major changes or life events have occurred. Here’s some areas to consider:

Health: changes in diet, sleep, exercise, illness, hospitalizations, changes in recreation Work: new job, longer hours, unemployment, transfer, promotion, demotion, troubles with coworkers or boss

Home and Family: new home, loss of loved one, pregnancy, miscarriage, new baby, marriage, divorce, problems with family member, illness in family

Personal or Social: change in personal habits, change in social activities, new relationship, an accident, change in religion, major personal acheivment

Financial: major purchase, loss of property, investment or credit difficulties, increased or decreased income While some of these changes are positive, it might come as a surprise that they can also be stressful.

Once you acknowledge what you have been through, you can begin to integrate the emotions associated with these changes in a positive manner. Spending time in meditation DAILY is extremely powerful. Even 5 minutes a day can alter your mood, relax your body and help your body to dissipate stress. There is not a single person that doesn’t have 5 minutes a day to meditate. You can’t afford NOT to! Journalling is also an excellent tool to help us to process and integrate our emotions. Whether you have frequent herpes outbreaks or not, take the time to be still each and every day. Your body will thank you in the long run.

If you would like to learn to manage your herpes outbreaks holistically and to reclaim you life, check out my new book: Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes: A Holistic Guide for Women  

Bethany: Herpes Isn’t The End Of The World

Well, even though the H bomb is still hard to think about from time to time…I have definitely figured out that I can’t let it get me down and in the dumps. I contracted herpes from a tall, strapping man. He was a co-worker and that should have been my red light, but it wasn’t. I really like the way that he made me feel and the sweet nothings that he would always seem to whisper in my ear. I pretty much knew he was a player and I just never thought that herpes could happen to me. I was young, dumb, and having fun. I knew people with herpes, but I never really though about it.In 2010, I was 23 when I got the news. I was in the deepest of denial and then regret, and then denial again. I looked at my vagina 2 days after the diagnosis and it was all white. I knew then that it was real. Talk about hurt. I automatically thought about my daughter’s father and the fact that I would possibly never get oral sex again. The 23 year old mind! SMH… I was terrible.I don’t take my Valtrex anymore. When I got my first bottle I took it like clockwork and then I was in denial again… I thought, “If I take these pills, then that means that I accept it.” I didn’t want to accept it. I still don’t sometimes. I feel like I don’t have it. When I meet a guy, that is when I remember that I may have to tell him about my conditon.I wanted to be with my daughter’s father ultimately, but we had gone down our own paths. When my daughter was born we weren’t patient with one another and we found quick love or lust in other people. I still miss him, but I understand that some people may not want to take this risk. We continue to co-parent well and that is good for now. I have learned that STDs have a crazy stigma to them and I wish people would be a bit more accepting. I have learned that herpes isn’t the end of the world, even though it definitely feels like it. I have learned that I can live a normal life. I have learned that outbreaks aren’t a daily occurence. I had that initial ob and that was the craziest one. I have had a minor one, but nothing like the first. They don’t happen often at all.I would tell a newly diagnosed woman that it will be fine. Joining support groups and getting deeper into my faith (Team Jesus) got me through my herpes diagnosis. It is going to be hard, but this will definitely make you stronger. Don’t be discouraged. It is hard to say that at first, but once you rewind to the diagnosed date…you will see how much better life is and it isn’t over. You still have life and that is what matters!Currently, I feel like half and half. I wish I had made better choices, but God has a way of making us relax and sit down when we are moving way too fast… It could have been HIV or Hep C. I always think about that. I am a better person because of it. I treat people better and I respect people who want to learn more about it. I have made it my business to know all about it. I just take it day by day.

Smart Goal Setting: The Power Is In The Reflection

 

Smart Goal Setting: The Power Is In The Reflection

ReflectionsWith 2014 right around the corner, some of you are anxiously awaiting and preparing for your New Year’s Eve resolutions. You know that most don’t stick, right?  You want to know why? It’s because most people make a rash decision to make a change, but they have not investigated the fuel behind the fire of desire. Before you begin to even think about what dreams you have for 2014, you must first reflect on the past.

Now I know that some of you have had a very difficult 2013. Maybe even several years in a row filled with challenges or maybe your life has been filled with bliss and unexpected miracles. Either way, I can help you to create the life of your dreams. I have received personal and business coaching consistently for the past 10 years and I have learned a few things about what has worked and what has failed miserably when it comes to smart goal setting. Surprisingly enough, this post will have NOTHING to do with smart goal setting and EVERYTHING to do with it.

So where do you start? Get out a pen and paper and let’s dive deep. But first, I want to share an important analogy with you. How big is your rear view mirror in comparison to you windshield in your car? It might seem like a silly question, but actually it’s not. Obviously, the rear view mirror is significantly smaller than the windshield, but it is still important, right? The rear view mirror represents your past. A quick look in the rear view mirror and you can reflect upon what is behind you and what lies in your past. Your windshield, on the other hand, is your vision for your future. All of your hopes and dreams that lie ahead of you. You could NEVER drive your car if you were constantly looking in the rear view mirror. It only serves you to take quick glances, especially if you have a baby in the back! I want you to use this same metaphor in your life.

While your past is incredibly important, it does not define you! You can’t dwell on your past and expect to live into a brighter future. When you think about your past, I want you to reflect on the GOOD and the BAD, paying particular attention to what you have learned in the process. One of the number one questions my coach is constantly asking me is, “What is working for you in your life right now?” as opposed to “what’s NOT working?”. What amazes me is that I am constantly accessing an incredible amount of actionable information when I focus on what’s working. What do you want in your life? What could you build upon that is already working in your life to get you where you want to go? What resources do you have that could help you to get there? What gremlin might be lurking in the background that could keep you from attaining your goals?

1. Pick up your pen and paper, or start typing or dictating to Siri all of the things that come to mind when you think of 2013. Lay it all out. No filters, just write it down until nothing else comes to mind. Think of this as a brain dump for 2013. I personally have had a very full past year. In brief, I launched my book, created an online private forum for Women Supporting Women with Herpes, created an online Foundations Course for my community, became Vice President of the Colorado H Club, started my daughter in part time PreSchool, we potty trained my daughter (my biggest accomplishment) and I had a few miscarriages (that totally sucked!)

2. Identify what helped you to achieve some of your goals or what may have gone wrong with some of your mistakes. Always try to find something positive even in the midst of tragedy. For example, I could have never created an online forum for women without the help of my internet consultant. I clearly explained to him what my vision was and then I trusted that he could bring it to fruition. One of the key things I have learned this past year is to delegate the things that I cannot do and to NOT try to become an expert on things I have no business doing. It takes too much time away from the things that I love to do and I am good at doing. I dearly love to collaborate and this past year was all about collaboration and delegation to help my dreams to become a reality. As women, we often try to do it all. I did that for many years and it is absolutely exhausting! Asking for help is a lesson that everyone should learn.

3. Write down some of your key strengths and your key weaknesses

4. When you think about the future you want to create, what is your number one motivation? How would you feel if you didn’t accomplish it? What small thing could you do today to move you toward that goal?

5. Take the next few weeks to get real about where you’ve been and what you have learned. Be sure to include your victories and what was in place in your life that helped you to achieve them. Include the good, the bad and the ugly. No one will ever have to read this, so be true to yourself. The reason it is so important for you to intimately know your past in a very conscious way is because it will help you to explode your growth in the future.

One of the best tools I have used in my life for personal growth and development is my journals. I have been journaling since I was a teenager. Most of the time I just allow my thoughts to flow onto the paper without any judgement. It is from these journals that I eventually wrote my book to help women overcome the emotional and physical burdens that a diagnosis of herpes brings. Thank God for those journals to offer me insight and memories that helped me to find my path of helping others.

Whether you believe it or not, I believe that there are hidden blessings in almost all struggles in life. Believe me, I would have never thought that I would write a book about herpes, but upon reflection, I realized that I had a lot to share with my sisters around the world who were struggling with the same things I was. After the New Year, we can talk more about your dreams for the future and how to make them come true, but for now, spend your time in reflection.

I will end with a quote that my sister wrote in a journal for me many years ago before I set out on a trip around the world. “He who knows others is wise; He who knows (her) himself is enlightened.” –Lao-tzuThe Way of Lao-tzu Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Know Thyself!!!!

Live. Love. Thrive.

Dr. Kelly Amazon best-selling author of Live, Love, and Thrive with Herpes