Today marks two weeks since I got my positive herpes diagnosis. It's my herpesversary!
I was talking to a friend about why I decided to write publicly about having herpes.
"I shout I have bipolar from the rooftops," I explained. "Compared to mental illness, herpes is like a mosquito bite versus being devoured by a fire eating dragon," I said.
Yep. Pretty much sums it up. Pretty much puts things into perspective.
I'm 58. I made it to 58. That's a miracle. I struggle with mental illness every minute of my life. When I got a positive herpes diagnosis, it was like being thrown from a speeding train. It knocked the wind out of me. I couldn’t breathe. My chest was a band of metal tight, and I thought for sure the knowledge of it would kill me. But some hours passed, and then some days passed, and now two weeks have passed, and I’m alive. I have herpes. And I’m still alive.
For many days after I read that positive herpes lab result on my fucking patient portal at 10:30 pm on a Friday night, immediately followed by my frantic attempts to reach the on call doctor who took an hour and a half to get back to me, the on call doctor who was annoyed at my hysteria and... well... I'm getting a bit off track here. Because I am not a victim. He was just a nitwit.
For many days after I read that positive herpes lab result online, I spent a fair amount of time asking, "why me?" I just love me a victim mentality. In spite of my lifelong battle against going there, I seem to go there whenever I can. But I don't like who I am as a victim. Because I am not a victim. I am always in control of my reaction to anything that happens. I choose how to frame it and I choose my response. I have agency.
That being said, bipolar can really throw a wrench in that philosophy. But when it does, I recognize the lies my brain is screaming at me and I always get help. I call a friend, I call the hotline, I call the on call doc, and if I need to go to the ER, I go to the ER. If I need to admit to the psych hospital, I admit to the psych hospital. So yes, I am always in control of my reaction to anything that happens, even the most terrifying things that happen in my own mind. I have agency.
Back to the question at hand. Why did I get herpes? Well, there's the obvious cause and effect, but it's so much bigger than that. In many ways, I'm kind of glad it was me. That is so fucking weird to say! It sounds like I think I deserve it. That's not it at all. I don't deserve it, of course I don't. No one does. But it happens, and it happened to me, and I'm making that be OK.
It's OK for me to have herpes. It will not ruin my life and it will not get the best of me. I know adversity, I know pain, I know mental illness, I know lost love, I know what it feels like to believe I might die, and I know what it feels like to try to end my life. Many times I've tried to end my life.
But I can write. I can write about all of that. And because I can write about the bad things, I can make good things come out of bad things. Time and again, in the look back of my life, I am struck by how the bad things made me better. And the miracle is, I can write about that, and just one person is going to read what I've written, and alter their perspective, ever so slightly, but with that minuscule shift, a bit of light will shine on something very dark and ugly. And in that one person, hope will be born.
I've gotten hold of the fact nothing can overcome me. Nothing can overcome my spirit, my dignity, and my unique value and place in this universe. I have fought every day for over half a century to achieve mental stability and to achieve and maintain a fulfilling quality of life. The only thing that can bring me down at this point is me. And I aint gonna let that happen! Not now. Not after I've fought this hard. Not after I've come this far.
I'm 58. I made it to 58. That's a miracle.