“How could they understand what I’m going through? They probably believe in the stigma themselves” says Emily Depasse.
I never received the support of a mental health professional after being diagnosed with genital herpes — HSV-2 in my case — in July 2015. I considered seeking outside guidance, but my internal monologue concluded that inviting a stranger into the dark state of my mind would result in additional emotional turmoil instead of understanding.
Effects of Genital Herpes Stigma
My internalization of genital herpes stigma revealed itself to me the moment that I received my diagnosis. When I heard the word “herpetic,” my mind worked into overdrive as it scanned the accumulated stereotypes and messages that my brain had received over my 22 years of life: dirty, diseased, unworthy, and unlovable.
As days passed following my initial diagnosis, the effects of stigma did not retreat, but my curiosity expanded. I wanted to know more about herpes: how I contracted it, who I contracted it from, and how it would alter my life. While some of my questions remain unanswered to this day, my research led me to rationalize genital herpes for what it is: a common infection transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. While stigma was somewhat navigable, my emotions teetered on the edge of a sinking ship.
Processing Emotions After Diagnosis
Healing and positivity are popular concepts that surround mental health, especially through social media platforms. We live in a world that constantly tells us to look on the bright side when faced with adversity. “It could be worse; just focus on the positives,” reiterate peers.
While I believe there is a positive side to a herpes diagnosis and can attest to my own story of self-empowerment, I also sympathize with the initial feelings of shame and worthlessness many people feel. These are not feelings that we can immediately rationalize away or sheath beneath a cloak of sunshine. These are real, raw human emotions that warrant exploration and processing.
I know what it feels like to look in the mirror and not recognize myself or acknowledge any ounce of self-love. I know what it feels like to question a future sex life and relationship potential. I know what it feels like to feel alone in these thoughts, convinced that no one could understand the mental anguish of internalized herpes stigma. To cloud myself in one too many nights of too much to drink, and little to remember. Herpes is more than a physical diagnosis — its associated stigma echoes a mental health diagnosis, too.
Finding a Mental Health Professional After Herpes Diagnosis
A herpes diagnosis may lead to a period of overwhelming sadness, embarrassment, anxiety, or behaviors that result in a pattern of addiction. While it may seem that a therapist could not possibly understand the root of herpes stigma, most therapists are trained to navigate human emotion and internal thought processes. No matter which theoretic lens or approach a therapist guides with, an effective therapist will provide a safe space for clients to discuss their perspectives. A space for clients to be seen, heard, and acknowledged, so that the therapist is better able to provide emotional support and help clients overcome emotions, life circumstances, and, potentially, behaviors that regulate their daily mindset.
No matter your life circumstances, finding an appropriate mental health professional can be a daunting task in and of itself. There are various specializations, training certifications, and theoretical models that practitioners utilize that may work for some clients, but not others. Psychology Today offers a “Find a Therapist” tool that allows users to search for therapists, treatment centers, and support groups in a certain area. While it is unlikely that a therapist’s specialization will list genital herpes, a therapist is more than likely familiar with stigma associated diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and the like.
Something else to look for on your search for a mental health professional is any credential or certification in human sexuality education. A therapist with this specialization will have a better sense of conversations surrounding human sexuality and the knowledge of how to facilitate a safer and more inclusive space to discuss such sensitive and socially taboo topics.
Building a Support System
Unfortunately, not everyone has access to mental health care and therefore must rely on external support systems. Disclosures can be daunting, especially when you’re recently diagnosed, but a supportive friend will do their best to understand and support you in the best way they know how — and they may not know how to support you through your diagnosis. A supportive friend will play the role of an active listener, offering space to let you vent or cry. A supportive friend will ask how they can best help you through your healing process. A supportive friend may also learn of their own intrinsic stigma about sexually transmitted infections during this process, and you both may be required to deal with the deconstruction of stigma together.
Herpes Support Forums on the Internet: Get Help 24*7
We all need someone who can understand us in difficult times. If you have recently discovered that you had herpes or dealing with it for more than 20 years, you need someone to listen to your story because you deserve it.
Online forums help you get in touch with people who have similar problems and stories as you. These forums make it easy for you to express yourself at every point in time. So you do not have to worry about anything. All you have to do is to join these herpes support forums and get started.
It is imperative to note that these herpes support forums are free and can help you connect with people who can help you in some way or the other. So now it is time to stop feeling lonely and connect with a world meant for you.
Hence, we are enlisting three herpes support forums below to help you
join the best communities for herpes singles and HSV Singles.
Positive Singles is not just a dating platform, and it is a community for herpes and HSV singles who can seek support from people who can understand them. With over 1 million users, 20,000+ daily conversations, and around 15,000+ daily active members, this community is one of the largest communities for people suffering from herpes.
People here can share their stories, seek advice and learn so much from each other. These herpes support forums help in building bonds that are beyond the virtual world. There are several stories of people meeting each other offline after interacting over Positive Singles.
The uniqueness of this community lies in its content. Famous for its Positive Singles Blog, this platform posts several inspiring stories to help people with herpes stay motivated. There are also various blog posts and threads on dating advice, discussions, and the latest trends.
Some of the latest and trending threads include - I love my body, moving forward, baby talk, no time, etc. After the author posts a particular post, all the members can comment and express their views.
In short, there is some useful content for every user that signs up!
Positive Singles Platform also has private chatrooms that can help users to talk to each other. People here can share anything with anyone they feel comfortable with. These chatrooms allow the users to openly express their queries and concerns in just a few clicks. There is no doubt that the world of the internet and platforms like Positive Singles has made it easy for herpes singles to talk to people who won't judge them or discourage them.
However, if you think about the security of these chats and private data, Positive Singles ensures that all their website's data is encrypted and well protected.
A team at the backend keeps an eye on the data systems and their security.
With a platform that has something for everyone, Positive Singles has left a mark in the world by becoming a community that makes it easier for people to move ahead in their lives despite suffering from herpes.
This platform is a blessing in disguise for all those who want to love again, work again and fix themselves. If you know someone who is herpes single, then do recommend this platform to them.
If you want to be a part of an ever-growing community for herpes singles, then honeycomb is just what you are looking for! With various sub forums, you can surely find some issues, causes, problems, or discussion threads that you can relate to.
All you have to do is to sign up for free and start interacting with the community. With more than 5,00,000 posts, 70,000 followers, and 71,000 topics, there are so many questions and answers that can help you!
Make sure that as soon as you sign up, you check out their “Just Signed Up? Say Hello Here!” A subforum to find people who have stories like yours. Another very famous subforum of the Honeycomb community is the “Connect with Other Hsv singles”. Here you would find the maximum number of herpes singles who are suffering from genital or oral herpes. So you can start discussing your problems here.
It is worthy to note that the honeycomb offline meetups are also very helpful with a huge user base. You can meet people around you who have the same problems and issues as you. This way, when sometimes all you need is a real person in front of you rather than the flashing screen, you can find someone you can relate to.
If you are concerned about the security of your data as honeycomb is an open and search indexed community, then it is important for you to note that the honeycomb treats your security as their priority.
Even after being an open community, the backend team of developers at honeycomb makes sure to help you with the best encryption technologies to safeguard your data.
Hence, it is one of the most secure and popular herpes support forums amongst the herpes singles and HSV singles.
This is one of the most famous herpes communities amongst women, started by Dr. Keller, who was diagnosed with herpes at the age of 23. Her encounter with herpes made her write the famous book - Live, Love and Thrive With Herpes and eventually form a community for women suffering from herpes.
This community aims to help women who are not only suffering from herpes but also the social and mental stigma related to it. Although even men can be a part of this community, the number of men is relatively less than the number of women.
If you are a fan of Dr. Keller’s work and initiatives, then joining this community is no less than an honor, as Dr. Keller herself posts in the community groups sometimes.
It is believed that Pink Tent is one of the most targeted communities globally for herpes singles and HSV singles. If you wish to be a part of this community, all you have to do is sign up for free and interact with like-minded people.
The best part of the Pink Tent forum is that it has a few courses, blogs, and podcasts to help its silent users with some astounding information content pieces which are inspirational, motivating, and highly informative. The Pink Tent community also organizes various meet-ups that can help you meet your community peers offline.
With 70,000 posts and 10,000 topics, Herpes Support Forum is once again a growing community of herpes singles across the world. The tagline used by the forum, which is - It is not a Deal breaker, It is an Opportunity helps users see the other side of the story.
The forum tries to help the users to see herpes as an opportunity to rediscover themselves. With subforums like motivational quotes, love happens, moving forward, and much more, help you to find something relatable.
All the subforums are, of course, open threads; hence you can express your story quite openly. Also, the community is a great place to purchase some of the audio courses to help herpes singles.
Courses such as self-care, dating, and relationships, having the talk and sex & intimacy can help any herpes single to live a fulfilling life without any self-doubt. Also, if you do not want to invest in the courses right away, you can download the free handbooks and E-Books to start with.
This was all about the three most famous forums for herpes singles and HSV Singles. You need to make sure that you signup for at least one of the communities to talk to others like you.
Remember, herpes is just a medical condition that does not define you. You have all the rights to feel loved, and this is the sole purpose of these forums. So join them now and make friends and form relationships that can help you curate a better life.
Make sure you win this battle with herpes.
Learning to Support Yourself
While the support of others is integral in helping us move beyond adverse events, it’s just as important to make strides to support ourselves.
Do your research: Review factual and scientific information about herpes from resources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization, and the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). The fact sheets they offer helped me realize that herpes was not as rare as I once thought.
Be realistic about search results: Google is both a treasure trove and a travesty. Beyond government and world health regulations, there are many writers (including myself!), podcasters, and activists who share their real-life stories and experiences of living with genital herpes online. While these stories are integral to defeating stigma and normalizing the reality of genital herpes, there are some comments that do not always reflect a medically accurate perspective.
Practice self-care: When was the last time since your diagnosis that you treated yourself and your body to something rewarding? Whether it’s a physical fitness class, guided meditation, tickets to a sporting event, or something else, a “you day” can do wonders for your self-esteem and remind you that you are worthy of this life.
Be accountable: Know when you may need to ask for help, whether that’s from a friend, loved one, or health care professional.
All the best!