I have herpes type 1 (HSV-1). Yes, you read that right: I have herpes and I’m sharing that with you (well not literally so don’t worry). Remember, we can’t take ourselves too seriously.
So why am I telling you this? Because I sensed you may be harboring shame about something that feels deep, wrong and maybe a little taboo, and I wanted to help you release it.
Here’s my story:
When I was a young teenager, I aggressively sought out male attention from older guys. When I was 15 years old, I flirted with a man I worked with who was in his thirties. He was funny, kinda cute and we had worked together for a few weeks. I trusted him. This guy flirted back and before long, I found myself at his house. We kissed. We had sex. It gave me what I thought I needed: to feel pretty, to feel wanted, to have an adult finally pay attention to me.
The day after our hook up, the outside and inside of my mouth were filled with large sores that tingled and burned so bad that I got a fever and swallowing was a task. I eventually ended up in the hospital. I had no idea what those sores were and feared something was terribly wrong with me.
At the time, I didn’t know herpes was a thing and when the doctor started to ask me about my sexual activity, it finally clicked: “I caused this. This was my fault. I’m a slut.”
For the next few years, my herpes breakouts would occur every few months and each time they’d come on, I’d feel deep shame and spew nasty comments to myself, “Danielle, you’re a whore. You’re nasty. You’re dirty.”
Not once was I ever mad at the guy twice my age who infected me when I was a kid nor was I mad at my parents who didn’t give me the love I craved resulting in me looking in other places for it. Instead, I was only mad at myself. Funny how that is, huh?
It wasn’t until just a few years ago that I realized I was ‘that girl’ (the stereotyped label of ‘promiscuous’) because my story was complex; my early childhood trauma of being raised by addicted and neglectful parents shaped my behavior. Although I shouldn’t have been flirting with older guys, that guy (and many others) shouldn’t have taken advantage of my vulnerabilities.
Fortunately, I only get a herpes breakout about once a year. When it does come back, instead of shaming myself like I used to, I fill my mind and heart with love, “You’ve come a long way Danielle. You’re beautiful. This and everything you’ve endured has made you stronger. You are loved.”
From my story, it’s my hope that you:
- Unfold your shame. Don’t perceive your past actions and decisions as poor choices or wrongdoings. Rather, see if you can find how people, events and circumstances connect to the shame you’re holding. This may give you a deeper understanding of your feelings which will help you release them.
- Forgive yourself. It’s a fact: You didn’t know all the things you know now. Every day, every second, we are learning and evolving.
- Consider sharing your shame with someone. a friend, your partner, a therapist. When we talk about our shame, it loses power.
- Know healing is possible. Although we can’t change the past, we can move forward from it.
Join me in spreading my messages of breaking judgement habits and strengthening intuition even further: forward this newsletter to a few family members and friends. The greater the shares, the greater the impact – They can subscribe here.
PS – Here’s an affirmation to help you release shame, “I heal and forgive myself for harms I and others have caused. I love myself and accept the past.”
PPS – Are you looking for other ways to release your shame? If so, here’s a writing activity. Find somewhere quiet. Go deep into your shame (I know, a hefty request but this will be rewarding!). Be honest with yourself about your experience with shame. What happened that caused the shame? What are you feeling guilty about? Disappointed in yourself about? As you dive deeper, allow yourself to feel all your emotions: sad, scared, frustrated, confused. Write them all down. Don’t judge what comes. When you’re feeling ready, stop writing and burn or throw away your notes as you repeat the affirmation, “I release what no longer serves me.” Symbolically releasing your shame can be magically healing.