Reflections of a New-Comer and Old-Timer
I contracted herpes in 1971. After 20 years of dealing with this illness on my own, I decided to see how the problem was handled in a group setting. I attended my first support group meeting in April of 1991.
Any of you who have attended meetings know what a diverse mix of people participate. In the beginning, we start out as strangers. That's the way it should be -- anonymous. And the fascinating thing about the group is the degree of honesty with which we communicate. Stop and think about it for a moment. In what social, business or religious setting do you find people discussing such intimate and personal details of their lives?
This honesty builds trust. After all, we are being asked to keep each other's secret. I don't know the guy sitting next to me, but I know that we have the same problem. I vocalize the ways of dealing with herpes that works for me. The guy next to me doesn't say a word; he doesn't have to. I trust him anyway. If he's brave enough to be there, I sense that he's trustworthy. Friendships form quickly. Relationships get off to a fast start. The thing that has slowed us down for so long now expedites the development of our relationships.
Life with herpes is not going to be easy. But it can be a fun and fulfilling life anyway. You have to learn how to deal with the new challenges like: Who do I tell? When do I tell? Why should I tell?
Think of life with herpes as analogous to a video game that has advanced levels for players of greater skill. We automatically ascend to a higher "life skill" level when we get herpes. Even though we are not prepared for it, we must play at the higher level. Sure, we miss the simple beginner's level. After a while (a miserable while that we're sure will never end), our life skills improve enough that we start to enjoy the game again.
The support groups help us to improve our life skills. Looking around and seeing all the nice and normal people that make up our ranks gives me confidence. I am not a dirty, loathsome disease carrier to be shunned by the uninfected. I am a person bothered by a minor health problem that is quite manageable. This is the reflection of myself that I see in others who attend the groups.
Thank you for all these positive messages.