erpes Nation Newsletter Volume One, Edition One
If this is your first e-newsletter, welcome home to the Herpes Nation, a virtual environment that accepts all and refuses no one. I started this newsletter to provide empowerment and encouragement to those of us with “the gift”. If you have been receiving my updates for awhile, you already know that the Herpes Nation is an enlightened place of responsible sexuality, self acceptance, and healing. Welcome home – to a healthy community where majority rules apply.
Barack Obama has been talking lately about the forces in society that divide us. We live in a society where some groups work overtime to keep people afraid of sex for their own political gains. One way they keep us divided is by setting the STD-free against the majority of the population with STDs. Just because a few mean-spirited and ignorant people wish to continue the stigma doesn’t mean we have to buy into it.
90% of the shame of herpes is imagined and only 10% real – I guarantee it.
What we fear and imagine is almost always worse than reality, and fortunately many individuals are waking up to embrace truth rather than fear. Those of you who are newly diagnosed will likely be angry, ashamed, stunned, numb, and scared, but remember this; most people are reasonable, open and supportive if you give them a chance to be. And if you run into some of the destroyers out there, that’s okay too, it’s all part of life. When clarity and distance comes there’s an opportunity to make peace with herpes and see the opportunities and challenges it creates.
We can’t control what others say or do, but we can control ourselves. We can be honest, upfront and unashamed. There is no more reason to be ashamed of having herpes than of having acne or arthritis. There is no excuse for not disclosing your herpes status before you have any kind of intimate contact with anyone. There is a lot to life, and having herpes is only a tiny part of it – unless you choose to blow it up way beyond what it actually is.
Please join me and the people already contributing to this newsletter by sharing your stories and articles. If you paint or draw or make art of any kind, express your feelings about herpes through your art and send it to us to share with the Herpes Nation. If you are a musician send us your herpes songs. Send your recipes. Empower yourself to sign your work, or use a pseudonym to protect your privacy. Either way, don’t be shy! We want to hear your voice.
Regards and love,
Holistic Viral Specialist
Moving Away from a Dependence
on Substance-based Medicine
by Christopher Scipio
One of the few things upon which Natural healers and scientists agree is that the universe is energetic rather than material-based. Yet both allopathic and much of natural medicine still place a heavy emphasis on healing through taking substances.
Taking substances can be a powerful component of a healing plan. In the case of Natural medicine the remedies can re-connect us with the natural world and allow us to harness the billions of years of experience of the plant master chemists. But I caution you not to focus too much on substances when you have so much healing power within you.
Love is the ultimate engine of healing. Love is unlimited, inexhaustible, transcendent, illuminating, liberating.
Liberation is key. Often our chronic illnesses are a result of our failure to break free of negative patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Love can change anything. Love can set you free.
Without an abundance of love, healing will never be complete.
If and when you take a substance to aide your healing, spend at least five minutes focusing and directing your mind/spirit on what you want the medicine to do for your healing. Feel the medicine’s effect on your body, and pay close attention to how your body reacts. If you cannot do this at first keep trying until you can.
You have the power to become a healing alchemist. You can transform the substances you take into your body into the healing instrument that you need. You can limit the negative side effects of prescription drugs with your personal power. You can make natural medicines more effective.
You can even turn water into wine. So unlimited is your potential.
What It Feels Like For a Girl
by Nancy Olson, member of the Herpes Nation since 1995
I know that every individual experience of herpes is different. I know that it is an emotion-driven infection, and that we each bring our own baggage to the news that we have contracted an incurable socially stigmatized disease. I am beginning to think however that because most women experience herpes from a largely shame-based self-image, picking up herpes along the road to dharma can be yet another oppressive and hysterical experience of mainstream femininity. If we let it be.
I’ve talked to enough women about herpes to know that the virus doesn’t play favorites – no one is exempt. Having herpes isn’t unusual – God hasn’t singled anyone out for punishment. When a woman gets herpes, she is simply dealing with the reality of life in the 20th century. We are all hosts for a variety of microorganisms some of which cause minor sexually transmitted diseases, like herpes. Between herpes, HPV and Chlamydia there’s probably no one you know who has had more than six sexual partners who hasn’t caught a sexually transmitted disease. It continues to astound me however, how differently the disease can affect men and women, on both physical and personal levels.
Let’s start with my friend Sally. A brilliant, creative and self-assured woman, when she learned she had gotten herpes from a recent ex she fell to pieces. She became quite literally hysterical. I stuck with her through a variety of humiliating visits to clinics and doctors’ offices and comforted her as she suffered the slings and arrows she suffered, mostly slung at herself. She had survived a complicated childhood and an unhappy marriage, only to have her blossoming sexuality nipped in the bud – she thought – buy an incurable STD. To top it all off, she was in a new relationship that was looking like it might last more than a month or two. I think what she dreaded most was being stereotyped by the new guy when he discovered he might have gotten more (or less) than he had bargained for. Dealing with her first herpes outbreak nearly pushed her over the edge.
At just about the same time, I noticed that the man I had just started seeing had developed some nasty sore spots on his penis, and he seemed uncomfortable with having as much sex as we had been lately. Since I had been learning about herpes with Sally, I knew right away what was going on. We talked about it, and he seemed genuinely surprised. He acted angry, and seemed truly pissed off, but he seemed to roll with it. He didn’t personalize the situation or blame anyone, or ask himself what he had done to deserve it. He shrugged it off instead with a characteristic sense of entitlement, recognizing it only as a minor setback. Either that, or it wasn’t a new situation for him. I know now that men and women both can be decimated by the news, so I have to wonder if it was news to him at all.
My first outbreak waited a couple of years, so that by the time I went to my doctor to see what was going on with some unfamiliar discomfort “down there” I had even forgotten about herpes as a possibility. I was annoyed, but because I was a few years into a stable relationship I decided to let go of the idea of herpes as a problem. It kept me off my bike seat from time to time, but I figured I was safe from having to deal with social ostracism or the rejection by a lover that might follow “outing” myself. Sally’s worries were not mine – or so I thought.
Then my partner and I broke up. After 10 years together, I found myself alone, dealing with an almost unbearable level of grief at the same time as I wondered how having herpes was going to affect the rest of my life. I was thrown completely off balance and out of touch with who I was, and for the first time I was plagued by one painful outbreak after another. I went looking for help from the only source I had, but the last time I saw my ex, he was pushing a full vial of Valtrex at me through the half-closed door of our condo. I was left standing outside in the hall feeling rejected, worthless, unloved, and ashamed.
Having the herpes virus didn’t cause this situation, but it sure didn’t help. Like most women, I had spent my entire life and enormous amounts of time and effort loving others without ever paying myself the same attention. Being raised a woman in North American society I had been socialized to believe that my needs would never come first, and that at my core I was unclean and unworthy of real love. I might have two university degrees, but all it took was losing a lover to remind me that I was incapable, unlovable and undesirable. And waking up single with an incurable sexually transmitted disease, I was certain I would never be loved again.
I don’t think my experience is unique. The fragile female psyche, whether due to socialization or dysfunctional parenting – sometimes both – will immediately personalize a herpes infection. The medical community tells us that women are more susceptible to herpes infections because our genital area has a greater surface area with more mucosal cells than men, or that hormonal changes interfere with local immune responses. This may be true, but I further believe that female susceptibility to and experience of herpes symptoms has just as much to do with learned beliefs about femininity and female sexuality. Female physiology makes it easy to convince little girls that what can’t be seen should be left alone because no good will ever come of it, and the patriarchy in which we live has wasted no time in labeling the sexuality of independent women as dangerous. (Faithful wives and mothers receive different treatment – but that’s another story.) So when you believe at your core that you are fundamentally ugly, dirty, and undesirable, it is easy to blame yourself for your disease.
Across the centuries diverse societies have demonized female sexuality in order to control it, positioning women not only as a source of life, but also of death due to the dissemination of morally reprehensible desire and disease. Female sexual pleasure has been denied and repressed both socially and physically, with female genital mutilation an example of an extreme measure of control and domination.
So if herpes is emotion-driven, then why wouldn’t women suffer differently? We have been taught that we deserve to. At least that’s how I felt standing in that lonely hallway, the bottle of pills in my hand very cold comfort indeed.
I have since learned that it doesn’t have to be this way. Because for me this most recent assault was only the latest in a string of many, I was finally forced into therapy, and the counselor I worked with used a diverse range of tools to help me discover and dislodge my beliefs of personal worthlessness. I have always been good at maintaining a strong positive network of friends, and I leaned on them mightily. And as part of my healing process I began to meditate, exercise, and practice yoga. I visited reiki masters, and trained to become one myself. I went on a wilderness retreat, and spent days alone in the mountains with little food or shelter and only a candle and a journal for warmth and reflection.
As I came to understand and make peace with myself, I made peace with herpes – one cannot happen without the other. Life got better and better. A year passed, and I noticed that the outbreaks had slowed considerably. The more I made peace with my past and learned to love and forgive myself and others the less often the virus came to remind me to pay attention. I am now considerably more self-aware and consistently happy and healthy than before becoming a host. Doing my personal work has taught me not just to I love myself, but that I AM love, which is always greater than herpes. I am not just in touch with the goddess – she is me.
It’s almost three years now since this journey started, and aside from a few tingles during a particularly difficult period at work, I have been outbreak free. Interestingly enough, I have never felt freer to explore my sexuality and female power with friends and lovers. I have found ways to protect us from the spread of STDs, and have loved only those who care enough about me to take the risk – a truly liberating and self-affirming situation.
Now in an ideal world, the outcome of this process would transcend day-to-day identity politics, and shared experience would count for more than perceived difference. But we still live in a world where markings of gender, class and race determine the shape of our lives. Women continue to contract herpes more often than men, and to suffer more severe symptoms. I only know that as a woman, forgiveness and self-inventory has done far more for me than that bottle of Valtrex ever did.
I am in touch my true nature enough now to understand that herbal and naturopathic remedies are the only healthy alternative to the chemical treatment of disease and discomfort. Holistic health is an ongoing process that requires a commitment to and responsibility for one’s own health, a source of wisdom and healing like Christopher Scipio’s Holistic Herpes Protocol, and membership in an enlightened collective that understands that we are ALL living in a Herpes Nation. If happiness is defined as an absence of negative energy, then making peace with herpes can be a way for any one of us to be happy and whole for the first time. Happiness will cease to be an emotion that can be undermined by negative experience and societal judgments – it will become a self-defined way of being. Because making peace with anything leaves little room for negativity, having herpes can be a path to fulfillment if you let it be. Come home to the Herpes Nation where happiness is not an emotion. It’s a state of mind.
In Conversation with a Hypnotherapist
Several months ago I commissioned hypnotherapist Karen Miller to create a self-hypnosis programme based on my herpes and HPV protocols and my book Making Peace with Herpes, to be used in conjunction with my book and remedies.
Recently my associate Nancy Olson sat down with Karen to talk about how the programme, available now as a CD set along with my book “Making Peace With Herpes”, works to alleviate physical and psychological symptoms of having herpes.
Nancy: Let me start Karen by telling you what a great help your CD’s have been to me. They are a great way to relax after a stressful day, and I have been using the second set of exercises to supplement my own personal healing work. So to get started tell me what made you decide to pursue hypnotherapy as a healing modality?
Karen: 16 years ago I was pregnant and looking at self-hypnosis as a way to prepare myself for the birth. I was so pleased and intrigued by that experience that I became interested in learning more and then in sharing what I found. Initially I began presenting to groups however in 2005 I shifted my focus to one-on-one sessions and special programs – like this CD set.
Nancy: Tell me about your work as a hypnotherapist today.
Karen: I’m based in Nanaimo and work primarily with individual clients in one-on-one hypnotherapy sessions. My clients come because of a variety of issues, from herpes, chronic pain, to addictions, phobias, or personal growth.
Nancy: What makes hypnotherapy such an effective therapeutic tool in treating men and women with herpes?
Karen: That’s a really involved question! The role our mind plays in our healing is
only just beginning to be examined, never mind understood. Some terrifically
interesting findings are coming out of our relatively new brain-imaging
technology. And the studies that have been conducted on hypnosis are
fascinating but really only scratch the surface…
The simple answer is that herpes is not just a physical disease. It is a deeply
emotional experience. And so it makes sense for many that hypnosis (which
impacts the physical and the emotional, the mundane habitual responses as well
as memories and beliefs) would be such an effective tool.
Nancy: How does hypnotherapy do that? How is it different from meditation say, or guided visualization?
Karen: Well, there is certainly some overlap there. There is a focused state of awareness that is often common to all three. Meditation is an opening – often involves a sort of persistent passivity, if you will- an intent to be present. With guided visualization, imagery is used to direct the experience in a specific direction. With hypnosis, the mind is open to suggestions. And with hypnotherapy, that openness is used to benefit the person in hypnosis. Hypnotherapy may, but does not have to, use guided imagery. The
key is that the part of the mind that would normally block suggestions for
change is circumvented.
Nancy: How does this technique support the recommended psychological and lifestyle changes outlined in the book?
Karen: In this case, many of the suggestions for change I just mention are elements of Christopher Scipio’s recommendations in Making Peace With Herpes. So, at the most basic level, listening to the CDs will help you integrate the lifestyle changes, for example, making the best food choices, more easily. And the CD program will help you relax and alleviate stress. And doing even only that has such a positive physical effect. But perhaps the most profound effects will come from the emotional growth the program encourages. By providing opportunities for the listener to release old wounds and rewrite their internalized truths, I hope to offer peace and real healing.
Nancy: Can you describe for me the process you and Christopher followed in creating the hypnotherapy CD set he offers as a companion to his book “Making Peace With Herpes”?
Karen: When Christopher and I first met we had an interesting discussion and found significant common ground in our understanding of the nature of health and healing. After I read his book we spoke further about our shared belief that
hypnosis could really be an elegant support to his readers and clients. So, at
his invitation, I set about combining the techniques my clients have found
helpful with the content of Making Peace With Herpes. I’m really pleased with
the resulting synergy.
Nancy: The CD set has a number of tracks meant to enhance the listener’s ability to relax. Why is that so important?
Karen: Scientific studies, like work done by Kemeny, Zegans and Cohen at the New York Academy of Science (1997), have shown that long-term stress is a strong factor for recurrent herpes outbreaks. And to look at the picture even more broadly, I would point out that the negative effect of chronic stress on the immune system in general is well documented by studies with titles like The relationship of depression and stressors to immunological assays: a meta-analytic review. Brain Behavior and Immunity (Zorrilla, Luborsky, McKay, Rosenthal, Houldin, McCorkle, Seligman & Schmidt, 2001).
Relaxation and specifically relaxation through repeated hypnosis supports the immune system and decreases recurrence of herpes outbreaks. So, it is my intent to provide listeners with an opportunity to change their immune system chemistry and decrease outbreaks by doing something that feels great. It’s an absolute win.
Nancy: Tell me more about the second set of tracks. What are they meant to do, and how do they accomplish it?
Karen: The second set of tracks is really about the roots of the emotional issues that may be tied in to a listener’s experience of herpes. So they provide opportunities to clear negative feelings and to take the power out of past events and to put it back in the listener’s hands, where it belongs.
Nancy: What changes can listeners expect, in an immediate, short-term and long-term basis?
Karen: Everyone’s path will be different. You might begin by working through and clearing your emotions, or with shifting your physical symptoms, with feeling more in touch with your wise innermost self, or with changing your lifestyle so
as to be in line with Christopher’s protocols. Your changes may be gradual. Or
you may be one of those who experience dramatic relief or release and then
plateau before the next big surge. Some people feel like nothing much is
happening, but they keep at it and just let it be part of their routine. Then
one day they wake up and realize they’ve been symptom-free and peaceful for
months ‘for no reason’.
Nancy: What would you recommend to listeners who feel hypnotherapy isn’t working for them?
Karen: To begin with of course, there are so many healing modalities, and it’s
important to recognize that some people may simply be more comfortable making peace and healing through another method. Realizing that you have choices is very freeing. Having said that, I should also say that it’s been my
experience that everyone who can learn to read can also learn to go into hypnosis and to experience it’s benefits.
So what’s going on when ‘it’s not working’? Well, trust plays a fundamental role in hypnosis. And ultimately, I don’t mean trust in me, or in Christopher, or in the program, but rather trust in one’s self. Certainly that can be challenging, and the issues that herpes stirs up can exacerbate the challenge. Sometimes the most helpful thing is to call or e-mail me ([email protected] or 250-741-1461) and we can pinpoint where the resistance is coming from and decide how to best circumvent it. And for people who would like the support of a one-on-one session with me to get past a block or to learn how to really deepen their trance that’s possible too. For many clients, however, discovering that everything that they do with this program is completely under their control and that this experience can be as gentle as they’d like makes all the difference. Once they truly find their way into that understanding, it’s amazing how quickly things proceed!
Nancy: You raise some really good points about things I have experienced myself. For example, one or two of the second set of tracks stirred up some powerful emotions for me, without the attendant support of a therapist or counselor. How do you recommend listeners in that situation deal with those ideas and emotions when they arise?
Karen: That depends so much on the individual. Some people will want to work
concurrently with a therapist or counselor. And some will want to speak with me
about the experience and to work through a session or sessions together. And
for many, time to integrate their new understanding; an attitude of kindness
toward themselves, journaling, talking and/or creating will be most helpful.
It is also very common for people to enjoy a real feeling of lightness and
peace afterward, as they have finally had an opportunity to set down and
release emotion they have carried for a long-time. But of course I would
encourage anyone to seek whatever support feels best to him or her.
Nancy: Knowing what you know about herpes as an emotion-driven disease, are there any other underlying issues you recommend that Christopher’s patients use
hypnotherapy to address? How can you help them with that?
Karen: I would encourage them to contact a hypnotherapist if they have a sense that there are underlying issues that need exploring in the company of someone who has guided and helped others. Take the time to choose someone who you feel will be both skilled and compassionate. My website is www.nanaimohypnosis.com.
Nancy: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Karen, and especially for your work on creating the programme. I know it’s been a great help to me, and now I know a little bit more about how and why.
A Recipe for Herpes Health
Being healthy and outbreak-free need not mean deprivation. In each edition of this newsletter I will be sharing recipes for a deliciously holistic herpes diet. Have you got a particularly good healthy recipe? Send it to us, and we will publish it!
Curried Chicken with Bok Choy or Cabbage
Choose local organic ingredients as much as possible.
2 cups of Bok Choy or cabbage chopped
2 medium sized chicken breasts (chopped)
2 tbsp of olive oil
3-5 garlic cloves chopped
2 tsp of ground Tumeric
2tsp of ground Cumin
2 small cans of crushed tomatoes (or one large can)
1/2 onion chopped
1-2 tsp of curry powder or paste
1/3 cup of chicken stock
1/3 cup of plain organic yogurt
Heat the oil in a fry pan and sauté onions and garlic until soft, then add the chicken. Cook until golden, turn down the heat and add the spices. Stirring occasionally, let it cook together for another 5 minutes. Then add the greens and cover. Let it cook until the greens have softened. Add the chicken stock and yogurt and heat till warm, but not boiling. Let it all simmer together for another 5 minutes and then serve.
From The Holistic Herpes Cook Book by Cassa Wood
Why Go Organic?
Some of you might have heard about the importance of organics, free range, and buying local when purchasing food, and clients often ask me “What’s the big deal with Organics and why should I pay the higher price for it?”
MY reasoning is, if you have a choice between foods covered in pesticides and foods that are not, which would YOU choose? If you have a choice between foods that damage the water, earth and creatures on the earth and foods that don’t, which would YOU choose? It isn’t easy making that decision day in and day out, but making the world a better place for everyone sometimes costs a little more time, money and effort. This might explain why our planet is in such a state.
Emotional Freedom Now!
By Kannara Daniel
EFT Practitioner, Medical Intuitive, Channel and Clairvoyant
There are very few techniques that can be learned in a few minutes that will help you relieve the fear, anxiety, stress and many other issues that can cause your herpes virus to awaken. Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is based on acupuncture and psychotherapy, and increases energy flow in the body while neutralizing negative emotions. It has proven successful in thousands of clinical cases and applies to just about any emotional, health or performance issue you can name, and it often works where nothing else will. I’ve used it to prevent herpes outbreaks and to accelerate the healing process.
For those who suffer with recurring herpes, the worry of having another outbreak can bring up feelings of absolute powerlessness and anxiety, which can in turn allow the virus to re-assert itself. Stressing over the stress goes round and round until an outbreak occurs – its a truly vicious cycle. Yoga or meditation and visualization can help slow down the mind and relax the body, but it’s hard to keep it up all day long.
EFT can be done anywhere, at anytime. It involves tapping gently on pressure points around the body (see below) to increase energy flow along traditional energy meridians, and once you learn the technique, you can even just visualize the tapping routine to get your energy re-balanced. Often it will take only two minutes of tapping to alleviate the impending stress of recurring outbreaks, thus reducing occurrences. When you use it as an everyday tool you assist your body to remain in a state of balance!
Follow the basic instructions below and feel the energy of each tap while you focus on the issue you want to address.
First rate your worry on a scale from 0 – 10.
Then begin by tapping on the top of the head (TH) and say what you are feeling: i.e.: this worry, or this stress, or this pain…etc.
Then tap about 7 times at each point below with your two first fingers. You might have to repeat it a few times, but you will begin to feel your energy flow as you use this process regularly.
TH = Top of Head
EB = Beginning of the Eye Brow (inside)
SE = Side of the Eye (outside)
UE = Under the Eye
UN = Under the Nose
CH = Chin
CB = Beginning of the Collar Bone (side of throat)
UA = Under the Arm (6 ” beneath arm pit)
WR = Inside of Wrists
Repeat the exercise until the number on the scale has come down to at least 2 or less. Repeat the exercise as needed.
Christopher Scipio’s Natural Herpes Treatment Protocol
Christopher Scipio is the most experienced practitioner in the natural treatment of herpes and HPV.
Herpes Nation Newsletter Volume One, Edition Two
Why I am not Ashamed of Having Herpes!
Why should I be?
I will not allow myself to be ridiculed, stigmatized or disrespected by others for having a disease. Disease is a natural part of life whether you are human, animal or plant. Nobody is exempt from disease, almost no one will live their full life without getting at least one sexually transmitted disease. These are the facts.
Some people are afraid of diseases and those who have them. That is an ancient, primal fear, and one I understand well, but it doesn’t excuse anyone from mean-spirited, ignorant behaviour towards those with diseases.
When I was a kid we made fun of “retarded” and “handicapped” people. I am deeply ashamed of that now, but children can be quite brutal. Adults need to hold themselves to a much higher standard.
Those who make sick jokes about herpes are not only aping the same mentality as those who make racist or sexist jokes, but they are also exposing their own lack of courage. It’s much easier to ridicule the things you are afraid of rather than having the courage to face those fears. They are creating a stigma that causes millions of people with herpes unnecessary grief.
At least 60% of the population has herpes above or below the waist. 70% of the population will get HPV as genital warts or cervical dysplasia. 80% will get chlamydia at least once- most women will get it more than once.
All animals with backbones get herpes including cats, horses, elephants and salmon. Most animals without a backbone get herpes including worms.
Having herpes doesn’t make me less moral, less attractive, less ethical, less worthy of respect, less sexy or less of a great catch, so why would I be ashamed to have herpes?
I am not afraid of my body. I know that sometimes I will get sick. I know that my faculties will decline as I age and that I am destined to die. This is the beauty of life- the contrast and balance between health and disease, between happiness and sorrow, summer and winter, fullness and emptiness, life and death.
I am a natural person; I am not ashamed or at war with any part of my body, including the herpes virus. I am at peace with the virus, my body and my place in this world as a person with a lifelong herpes infection.
I am most definitely not ashamed.
Please join me and the people already contributing to this newsletter by sharing your stories and articles. If you paint or draw or make art of any kind, express your feelings about herpes through your art and send it to us to share with the Herpes Nation. If you are a musician send us your herpes songs. Send your recipes. Empower yourself to sign your work, or use a pseudonym to protect your privacy. Either way, don’t be shy! We want to hear your voice.
Regards and love,
Holistic Viral Specialist
An Interview with Dr. David Koelle
by Angie Richardson
What are your thoughts on the origin of the herpes virus?
Herpes has been with us for several hundred million years. It has evolved with us, it has changed with us. The herpes hosts have changed and evolved over the millions of years, and the herpes virus is no different.
What are the genetic differences and similarities between type 1 and type 2?
Overall, herpes type 1 and type 2 are 50 percent identical. Some portions are 95 percent related, and other portions are 20 percent related. They are very similar on a global level. Whether herpes will present itself orally or on the genitals depends on which place the virus likes better, which place is better suited for the virus. Herpes type 1 and type 2 are extremely related, though not as closely as the flu strands, which are 95 or 98 percent related. In terms of relation, we could consider type 1 and type 2 to be brothers, and chicken pox a cousin.
Why has herpes been such a successful virus?
Simply put, because it is clinically mild. The overwhelming majority of its hosts have no increased mortality. This virus is lifelong, and can be transmitted again and again throughout the lifespan of its host. Herpes’ infectious forms are periodically present on a highly transmittable surface (lips when kissing, genitals when having sex, etc).
Why has it been so challenging to find cures for herpes and other viruses, such as chicken pox and epstein-barr?
This is because of the latent property of the virus. The virus goes into the neurons, and stays for the entire life of the cell. The cell itself would need to be killed in order to successfully remove the virus. No drugs can go into these cells and take the virus out. There are 8 different types of herpes that infect humans, and all 8 have the property of latency.
How have viruses impacted human evolution? Since viruses are neither alive or dead, what evolutionary and ecosystem niche do they occupy?
Viruses help speed up evolution, they help to stir up the DNA, to create more mutations and to allow for more transfer of DNA. Retroviruses (not herpes) have contributed to evolution in a positive way, they make DNA mobile. They can move DNA laterally from one person to another. In fact, 20 percent of our DNA is made up of old retroviruses. Retroviruses copy and paste themselves into our DNA, they insert into our chromosomes.
Which came first, type 1 or type 2 herpes?
There is no way to be sure. The share a common ancestor. If one looks at two brothers and asks which came first, the question does not really make sense: they both came from common ancestor. One did not differentiate or evolve into the other.
What is the prospect for new types of the herpes virus evolving?
Imperceptibly slow. As evolution continues, people will slowly begin to look different, just as herpes will slowly begin to look different. It will happen so slowly over time that we wont even be able to notice it. Its not like the flu, where a new from of it will show up in another country. When herpes replicates, the accuracy of its replication is extremely high. It doesnt mutate on a time scale that is easy for us to perceive from our human lifespan scale. The likelihood of it mutating or evolving while we are alive is almost zero.
On the Path
by Jessica Lauryn
Why? Why is this so hard for me to write about something I’ve been so open about, yet so troubled by, for over a year now? Herpes. That insidious cellular parasite that crept into the nerve ganglia of my sacral cells. Sacral. Sacrum. Sacred?
The quote I remember most from Tom Robbin’s “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” was, “I believe in everything. Nothing is sacred. I believe in nothing. Everything is sacred.”
In the past seven years, I have grown closer and closer to believing in the sacred nature of my vulva, my vagina, my breasts, my womb, my clit. I study myself in the mirror. Breasts beginning to sag, their firm, supple nature a relic of a past body, a body that had yet to mother. They are now reminders of the suckling of two tender infants and toddlers, nourished by their goodness during their formative years. My breasts, heavy on my belly, have served their primary purpose. A job well done.
My belly, stretched to its skin’s very limits, is defined by pale scars, soft depressions reminiscent of tree roots. It protrudes a soft mound of loosened flesh reminding me of its emptiness, void of the life it once had the divine privilege of manifesting.
My vagina, in all its pains and glories, sheds the blood of my womb each month with the moon to remind me of my sacred role as a woman, creator of new life. My vulva, sweet mound I hold so dear, home to the holy bundle of glorious nerve endings, all of which I had no words for until post-pubescence. All of the sweet, mysterious sensations that I felt while secretly pleasuring myself as a young child were accompanied by a predominating sense of guilt and fear. There were years of disdain for my vulva. How it looked (when I was brave enough to examine it,) how it felt, when I was finally overcome by desire enough to touch it, and most importantly, how I thought I was supposed to feel about having one.
A little girl learns that the pains of childbirth are akin to torture. It filled me with a fear most morose. Menstruation. . .”the curse.” I felt condemned to a life of inconvenience, monthly pains, and a dirtiness I was required to hide to avoid embarrassment. Shame. There was no mention in sex-ed of female masturbation, but plenty of information about erections and “wet dreams.” I had no language to describe my own experience. I lived with the guilt and anxiety that I was somehow “hurting myself.” I lived in fear of the inevitability of the pain that would accompany my first penetration and the new realization that virgin or whore, there lay the same degradation.
And now, seven years into my own personal sexual revolution, having finally freed myself of the guilt I harbored for so long for being so sexually alive and curious from such an early age, I must choose to transform my relationship with my herpes virus.
Herpes. Oh, herpes. Why must you attack that which I love and pride so much, so violently? Why do you send little shoots of pain, panic, neurotic, spasmodic, low voltage shocks directly through the path that brings me ecstasy? Why do you birth and multiply in my wetness that I once reserved for myself and my lovers? Why do you rob me of my of energy and insist in keeping me away from the goodness of the sunlight? Why do you make me cry? Again, and again?
In this moment, I can feel the lymph nodes in my groin begin to swell, trying to protect me from another attack. In my mind, I imagine the beauty of my lover, sending currents of pleasure rushing to my clitoris. I hesitate to engage it. To quell it. To LOVE it. It seems my vagina is plagued and confused by your all too frequent reappearances and sudden disappearances. Can I not grow to understand you better so that I can once again reclaim the purity and the goodness of my sexuality?
Today, you make me so sad. You make me wish I would have never trusted my former lover who passed you on to me. But what good is dwelling on regret? This image, branded somehow into my psyche of a single, suspicious, small wound on the tip of a flaccid penis. The lovemaking was over when I noticed you. The damage already done.
Ten days later, my genitals had not experienced such burning and misery since the crowning of childbirth. And when the diagnosis was confirmed all I could think of was, “No! No! No! Please, no! Not that! Anything but that! There is no cure! It will never go away!” Such a loss I am feeling. A loss of my sexual health, and my sexual freedom, an essential part of my being.
I trust that my body, this body who has birthed and re-birthed itself, will in time learn to better accommodate this virus so that it will lie asleep, contentedly asleep. I want to love again. I want to fuck again. I want to be relieved of any shame that I carry for having contracted this disease. I want to enjoy my own body without the fear of an orgasm disrupting the nerve endings and causing me more grief. I want to be understood and accepted. I want to be humbled by the reality of the vulnerability of the human body without wallowing in self-pity and remorse.
If I were to believe in everything, and that nothing is sacred. . .then I am one with all the is good and bountiful and beautiful as well as all that is dark and scarce and subject to pain and suffering. If I were to believe in nothing, and that everything is sacred. . . then I fully embrace the same paradox that is life with the possibility of finding something sacred, something true and something to be grateful for. . .in Everything.
Profile of a Dater by Karen Weiner
When you read my profile you may not want to date, but I’d rather tell this to you now before it gets too late!
I hope you’ll have the patience to listen to what I say, because this is a scenario that happens every day.
What follows is a story about 3 women and a guy. (Now that got your attention – if it didn’t…then you lie!)
Mr Lucky Dater goes on a date with “one”, and they have a great evening full of laughter and of fun. But she tells him she has HSV and he is quite dismayed. So of course he does a runner and she feels a bit betrayed.
So onto number “two” he moves, and she is *squeaky clean*…of course as far as she’s aware, clean she’s always been!
But like so many people here she has the virus too. The problem is she cannot see it, yet it can spread to you!!
They share many nights of passion, but this comes to an end. Lucky for Mr Dater, number “three” is around the bend.
Number “three” is a wonderful gal, and they date for quite some time…but sex is on the horizon (as it is in any good rhyme)!
She isn’t sure what to tell him before they get too ‘wild’. She had a coldsore as a kid, but now it’s really mild.
She decides it’s not a problem and they spend the night in bed. She still avoids the issue and decides to give him h**d!
But like all his romances so far, this one too must end…and now our Mr Dater is back looking for a “friend”.
And when he finds the next one, and she asks if he’s been tested, he’ll say “Oh not to worry, I would know if I’m infected”!
And when she says “well that’s too bad ’cause I have HSV”, he’ll turn around and run right back to number “two” or “three”!!!!
So am I woman number “one”, number “two” or number “three”?
And are you absolutely sure YOU don’t have HSV?
A Recipe for Herpes Health
Being healthy and outbreak-free need not mean deprivation. In each edition of this newsletter we will be sharing recipes for a deliciously holistic herpes diet. Have you got a particularly good healthy recipe? Send it to us, and we will publish it!
Baba Ghanoush’s Herpes-Friendly Cousin
by Beki Rosenthal
Choose local organic ingredients as much as possible.
1 lg eggplant
1/4 cup whole plain yogurt
1 tbsp tahini
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 small onion, chopped fine
1-2 lemons, juice and pulp
3 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley
1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tbsp hemp seeds
dash cumin and coriander (optional)
dash hot pepper (optional)
dash salt & pepper (optional)
dash cinnamon (optional)
1. Cut eggplant in 1/2 lengthwise.
2. Put cut side down in roasting pan.
3. Bake 30 min @ 375° or until soft.
4. Transfer to plate to cool.
5. Spoon out cooled eggplant flesh onto cutting surface and mince.
6. Put in bowl and mix with other ingredients.
7. Adjust seasonings to taste.
8. Dip with cut veggies or baked chips.
An Interview with Alix Bacon, Sex Educator
By Angie Richardson
What advice do you give your clients and the general public regarding safer sexuality, and the testing and prevention of herpes?
I caution them to assume that everyone has herpes (themselves included unless they have a Western Blot test proving otherwise). Based on this assumption, I recommend that people use condoms and dams for each act of sex for the duration of all their relationships. I think knowing your herpes status is valuable so if they can afford a Western Blot test I recommend it. That being said, even if you have a positive result you still may not be able to recognize an outbreak if one were to happen. Therefore I encourage them to really tune into their bodies and specifically, their genitals. Have a good feel and a good look in the shower once a week. For males this is easily incorporated into their weekly testicular self exams. Pay attention to “pimples”, “razor burn”, lymph nodes etc. Become familiar enough that you will notice if something is different.
Why do you feel there is still such a false stigmata toward herpes?
a) Herpes is the one common STI that you can’t get rid of. The only other life long STIs are HIV and sometimes HEP. HIV and HEP have their own stigma- the common misconception is that only IDUs and sex trade workers are infected. Therefore for Jo Schmo herpes is viewed as the only incurable STI. Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphillis are all cured with a course of antibiotics, HPV and molluscum contagiosum are transient infections (ie our immune systems will deal with them within 2 years) with cosmetic treatment options but herpes is with you for life.
b) People don’t realize how common herpes is (1/5 adults in North America have genital herpes).
c) Herpes is associated with infidelity.
d) People don’t understand how to prevent herpes, or don’t want the “hassle” of using condoms.
How do you feel you are making a difference in the public’s perception of herpes?
I have a holistic approach to herpes. I acknowledge the fear of living with and disclosing herpes while at the same time taking a clear, scientific approach to sharing information. I strive to demonstrate that physically (and dare I say socially) herpes usually doesn’t have to be a big deal. We can not separate the physiological and emotion aspects of our sexuality- they must be addressed as a package. I feel this is a significant departure from previous, failed education attempts. These include employing scare tactics, dispensing misinformation and shaming.
Why is it so difficult to get herpes tests?
Herpes testing options are confusing, individual tests can be expensive, tests have significant limitations and accessibility is poor.
There are 3 ways to test for herpes.
The free blood test looks for antibodies, which can take up to 12 weeks to develop. 80% of people test positive for this test (because that’s how many people have been exposed to HSV 1- which is usually what causes cold sores), and it does not distinguish between type 1 & type 2. It will not tell you if you have had or ever will have an outbreak.
The second blood test is the western blot. This is the gold standard of herpes blood tests & it will confirm for you whether or not you are a carrier and if so, whether you have type 1 or 2. Some people will have an accurate result after 2 weeks, but some may require up to 12 weeks after exposure before they will get an accurate result. It will not tell you if you have had or ever will have an outbreak.
To get a western blot you must request it by name from a doctor, who will write a lab requisition for you. You take the requisition to St. Paul’s hospital on Burrard St. in Vancouver, where you will have to pay approx $120 for the test.
The 3rd test is a swab of a suspicious bump, rash, fissure etc. This is a viral culture & is the only test that will confirm for i)if you have herpes ii)what type iii) what an outbreak looks & feels like & where you can expect them to appear in the future. Unfortunately, the culture is only accurate in the first 24 hours after the outbreak begins, so its best to go in as soon as possible when symptoms appear.
Why aren’t medical professionals encouraging people to get herpes tests?
I can’t speak for a body of medical professions but I suspect its a combination of things.
a) herpes is so prevalent and has so few physiological side effects that it isn’t financially sensible to test
b) they understand the limitations of the tests
c) they feel confident they can diagnose based on a visual examination and anecdotal description of symptoms
d) GPs have to stay on top of so many things, are overworked and underpaid and they can’t possibly stay on top of everything. STIs are only covered in brief in medical school and while continuing education is required doctors choose which areas they wish to further explore.
Doctors often treat herpes like its not big deal. This may be in an attempt to destigmatize the virus, or perhaps it is because they are jaded by its prevalence. This attitude, combined with a lack of information, lack of time and lack of appropriate sensitivity training result often result in health care providers failing to give clients all the information they need on how to prevent transmission and how to communicate with their partners about STIs. They also fail to provide the counseling, emotional support and validation necessary for a newly diagnosed client to be able to really hear information on transmission and communication.
Why is their such a temptation for people who get herpes above the waist to either act like they don’t have herpes at all or at least be more complacent about disclosure and safer sexuality?
Many people do not realize that cold sores are caused by the herpes virus. They also do not realize that they can spread it from the mouth to the genitals. This is aggravated by the fact that transmission of oral herpes is often not sexual and therefore it is not framed as an STI. And of course, there is the herpes stigma!
What more can be done to educate youth and seniors better about herpes?
Schools need to develop curriculum requirements for comprehensive sexual health education and they need to create a system to ensure the curriculum requirements are being fulfilled. Youth clinics need to proliferate and become more accessible. In the meantime (since holding our breath isn’t going to help) there are fantastic new forays into using technology as a tool for sex education. Facebook and mySpace pages, blogs, comic books, SNL style skits that the Midwest Teen Sex Show (http://midwestteensexshow.com/). These sassy for-youth-by-youth provide a social context for sex ed which is not just palatable but enjoyable. Parents need to educate themselves, if not about STIs then at least about resources, and share this information with their children.
As for seniors- where do I start. First, we as a society need to acknowledge and celebrate sexual expression among our elders. We need to empower them to access and share information about STI’s. We’re talking culturally sensitive, low tech, large print! The information needs to be shared in a way that honours their life experience and maturity-after all these are the experts when it comes to experience. Lions Clubs, Rotary, seniors centres and care facilities need to offer sexuality education nights and access to a doctor or nurse for confidential, not judgmental sexual health information and health services. We need condom dispensers in the bathrooms at these institutions too!
The Good Thing About Herpes
By Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience
posted: 16 May 2007 01:00 pm ET
The herpes family of viruses can have a surprising upside–it can protect against the bubonic plague and other bacterial contagions, at least in mice.
Research into whether a similar mechanism applies to humans and other mammalian hosts should be conducted, said viral immunologist Skip Virgin at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “There may be symbiotic advantages to chronic infections with these viruses.”
These new results do not mean people should go out and get infected with herpes, Virgin stressed. They probably already are. Nearly all humans become infected with multiple herpes virus family members during childhood. These germs not only include the herpes simplex viruses, which lead to cold sores and possibly genital herpes, but also the diseases responsible for chickenpox and “mono,” as well as several less well-known ailments. Herpes infections have bedeviled animals for more than 100 million years.
After the initial period of infection, these viruses enter a dormant state known as latency. Many lurk for the lifetime of their hosts “as permanent passengers” without causing overt symptoms, Virgin said.
Virgin and his colleagues experimented with viruses highly similar genetically to ones that cause mono and other diseases in humans. These germs normally cause fatigue and ruffled fur in mice, although the researchers used dose levels too low to cause symptoms.
The scientists discovered latent infections with these viruses could protect mice from bacterial infections, including Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, and Listeria monocytogenes, which causes one kind of food poisoning, findings detailed in the May 17 issue of the journal Nature.
The herpes viruses spur the immune system to boost levels of a protein hormone called interferon gamma “that in effect puts some immune system soldiers on yellow alert, causing them to patrol for invaders with their eyes wide open and defense weapons ready,” Virgin said. As a result, the bacteria grew more slowly and were less likely to kill the mice. Future research can investigate whether these latent infections protect against other viruses.
Still, while people might benefit from symbiotic relationships with the herpes family of viruses, they can also have serious consequences, such as deafness, blindness, encephalitis and cancer.
“The presence of these viruses seems to be a two-edged sword,” Virgin told LiveScience. “I am quite concerned that we be sensitive to these true human tragedies while recognizing the potential of a new way to view these infections.”
Uncovering any potential benefits of these viruses in humans will prove hard, Virgin cautioned, “since nearly all humans are infected with these viruses at a young age, so it will be hard to find people without them for comparison. ”
Herpes Nation Newsletter Volume One, Edition Three
Herpes and The Therapeutic Importance of Sleep
All animals need sleep, and human beings are no different. Even though we live in a macho culture where we brag about how little sleep we can get by with, the verdict is in. If we want to be holistically healthy and happy, everyone – men, women, and children alike – needs between 7 and 8.5 hours of quality sleep each day.
This is especially important for those of us with herpes. I consider depriving oneself of sleep as a form of self-abuse. Torturers know this too – policemen, intelligence officers and army interrogators from Guantanamo Bay to Syria, Zimbabwei and local police stations know that depriving prisoners of sleep is one the most effective techniques in forcing “co-operation”. In as few as 4 days in a row of less than 7 hours of quality sleep we start to lose our ability to make sound decisions and have short term memory problems. We even begin to become pre-diabetic.
It’s been clinically proven that you get better results studying or working to a deadline when you get a good night’s sleep instead of pushing yourself to exhaustion with an all-nighter. If you continue to be sleep deprived you will quickly start displaying dysfunctional even psychotic behaviour. The sleep-deprived are far more likely to be angry, violent, irritable and irrational. Brain scans show the brains of sleep-deprived people behave similarly to those with the most serious mental health issues. Sleep-deprivation will diminish men’s sexual performance, and reduce fertility for both men and women. That won’t matter much for the sleep deprived however, since lack of “beauty sleep” will definitely make you less attractive.
When you are feeling ill, even if it’s just a cold or flu – the most important thing to do is to call in sick, clear your schedule and get plenty of sleep. This is essential for dealing with herpes outbreaks because sleep deprivation is a common trigger for severe outbreaks. So if you cannot get enough sleep at night make sure you make up for it with a long nap or extra sleep on your days off – and contrary to popular myth, naps that are 90 minutes or longer are far more beneficial than ”cat naps”. The best time of the day to nap is the afternoon, hence the age old tradition of the siesta.
Getting 7-8.5 hours of sleep a day is important, but it is also essential that we get enough “deep-sleep”. Even if you are in bed for the required amount of time but are woken up or disturbed often, you will not get enough “deep-sleep”. The older you are the more important “deep-sleep” is. A person in their 30’s gets 100 minutes of deep sleep each night, by the time you are in your 60’s you only get 20 minutes of “deep-sleep”. Without enough “deep-sleep” you can develop diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and many other health problems. “Deep-sleep” is important for your immune system and for keeping the herpes virus dormant.
So how do you ensure that you get enough “deep sleep”? Don’t drink or eat anything within 2 hours of bedtime – eating before sleep can give you bad dreams, and drinking may force you to wake up to go to bathroom. Don’t watch the news, music videos, or disturbing imagery just before going to bed. If you are wound up, relax in a hot bath, ask your partner for a massage, or have sex. (or all of the above!) Make sure you sleep in an environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable – wear ear plugs and/or a blindfold if needed. Don’t allow children or pets to wake you up if you can avoid it, and don’t let someone else’s snoring keep you awake. And if you’ve had a fight with a loved one, make peace before going to bed. There are a great many reasons why all animals sleep. Lack of sleep now guarantees negative health consequences in the future. I wish you all a lifetime of lovely, restorative, holistically healthy sleep.
Homeopath/Herbalist Holistic Viral Specialist
Please join me and the people already contributing to this newsletter by sharing your stories and articles. If you paint or draw or make art of any kind, express your feelings about herpes through your art and send it to us to share with the Herpes Nation. If you are a musician send us your herpes songs. Send your recipes. Empower yourself to sign your work, or use a pseudonym to protect your privacy. Either way, don’t be shy! We want to hear your voice.
Regards and love,
Holistic Viral Specialist
That’s not sick, that’s funny…
“Herpes Tonight”is the name of a comedy (yes, a COMEDY !) about having herpes. The play has recently played to critical and audience acclaim in both Los Angeles and New York, proving that even the darkest cloud can have a silver lining.
Nancy Olson recently sat down to interview playwright and actor Corey Moosa and producer Noah Diamond.
NO: Corey, what was your goal, and your hope for this project when you first conceived it? (hmmm…interesting metaphor…sorry)
CM: The project was first conceived by me together with playwright Brian Shoaf. My goal for the show was to help to educate people as to what herpes is and through the education help lift the social stigma associated with the virus. In my experience of living with herpes, I found that people were quick to react in a very negative way and understood close to nothing about the virus itself. When you have herpes you become much attuned to what people are saying about herpes. You start to notice how often people make a bad joke about it, or use the word to describe a person as dirty or undesirable. This can start to feel like you are being stabbed repeatedly. If you are watching TV late at night with a group of friends, you start to pray that a Valtrax commercial doesn’t come on. You don’t want to hear the mean things (that people you love) will start to say. I feel that after seeing “Herpes Tonight!” people will be very unlikely to behave that way in the future.
NO: On your website you say that the play is ” …about herpes, but in a good way. ” What did you mean by that?
ND: That line is a quote from one of the reviews. I think what the reviewer was getting at is that some people might be put off by the title — and indeed, some are — but that the show is nothing to be afraid of.
NO: Corey, can you describe the effect performing “Herpes Tonight” has had on you as an actor, and personally? I’m particularly interested in the large scale “coming out” as a person with herpes…I remember trembling a bit when telling friends one at a time!
CM: “Herpes Tonight!” was a story that I have wanted to tell for years. As an actor it was a completely freeing experience. I have certainly developed a reputation around New York and Los Angeles as “the herpes guy”. I have no problem with this, as it tends to attract other people with herpes to me, and then I am able to try and help them work out problems they have been experiencing. I ran the New York HELP group for some time and I am quite good at listening. Speaking openly about the virus is not new territory for me. My initial way of dealing with my diagnosis was to tell everyone and anyone who would listen. I found when I kept it bottled up inside, I was having panic attacks and experiencing extreme depression. By talking about it with friends, family, or even strangers, I was able to release a lot of stress that would build up.
NO: And what was your sense of the audiences reaction overall? Any transformative moments?
CM: The audience reaction to show was very positive. There were some performances when audience members were clearly put off by certain images that were projected. Seeing an image of a giant penis or vagina covered in HSV sores is not the easiest thing to stomach, but it was necessary to explain who the virus works and how it affects our bodies. At the end of most performances I would have a person or two with herpes waiting to speak with me. They always thanked me for what I was doing. Or, they were newly diagnosed and were grateful for all the information. I cover a large amount of information in the show, ranging from medical jargon to personal experiences. I also give dozens of other people’s perspectives on living with herpes. The years I spent chairing meetings in New York introduced me to hundreds if not thousands of people living with herpes. This play is for them and about them. The show reached the herpes community in Los Angeles in a major way. I have had dozens of phone calls since the show opened from people seeking advice on herpes (men, women, young, old, black, white), it effects everyone who has ever been intimate.
NO: Noah, what was your role in its production?
ND: I did the graphic design and the production design, and directed the second production.
NO: Corey is quoted as saying “everyday, thousands of people are diagnosed, and sometimes misdiagnosed, with sexually transmitted diseases. Its really scary. Also really funny.” How on earth did you all come up with the idea of producing a comedy about an incurable, socially stigmatized disease?
ND: Our position is that everything is funny. Like Mel Brooks says, “”The greatest comedy plays against the greatest tragedy. Comedy is a red rubber ball, and if you throw it against a soft, funny wall, it will not come back. But if you throw it against the hard wall of ultimate reality, it will bounce back and be very lively.”
This has been our approach. There is a great deal of humour wrapped up in the horror of disease, and working on “Herpes Tonight” we tried to make the show amusing, and relatable to members of the audience whether or not they had herpes. Hopefully, all of the laughs are in good taste, and Corey and his co-author, Brian Shoaf, were very careful not to write a show that turns herpes into a joke. At the same time, without the comedy, the show would be in danger of playing like a dry medical lecture or a self-indulgent confessional. Laughter is a wonderful de-stigmatizer, and it has a way of cutting right to the truth…comedy is usually thought of as light and fluffy, but at its best, it tends to deal with dark and difficult themes.
CM: I found that when I was running the support groups in New York, that people were in a really dark and depressed state of mind. They would by crying and angry and full of sadness. I always made them laugh. I would diffuse every tense situation with humour, and itusually worked. A dramatic approach would never have worked with this show.
NO: What is the play about exactly? What’s the storyline and how do you tell it?
CM:The play is about HERPES! Literally. In a nut shell, it is everything you could ever know about herpes. From the history of herpes (dating back to ancient Greece), medical information (how the virus is spread, the difference between type-1 and type-2, and anything else there is to know), and my personal story (about learning to live with herpes, dating, disclosing…etc). I play over 20 different characters, but the most engaging and honest moments are when I am myself.
ND: And what is the overall effect of this approach? I think the audience leaves knowing a lot more about herpes than they did when they came in. Myths are dispelled. I know it sounds unlikely, but “Herpes Tonight” is a dramatic and emotional journey, a lesson in science, and a laugh riot, all at once.
NO: How did you keep it from being preachy or judgemental? (At least I assume you did – I haven’t been lucky enough to see it staged yet)
ND: Again, I think the comedy is what keeps the show from being too preachy or precious. If it weren’t such an entertaining performance, it would probably be in danger of just that. It can be enjoyed on many different levels — including simply as a piece of entertainment. We were careful not to do a “disease of the week” TV-movie kind of show.
NO: It’s a one-man show. Doesn’t that underline the lonely experience that being diagnosed with herpes can be?
ND: I don’t think so. First of all, Corey plays more than a dozen different characters in the course of the evening, so even though he’s the only actor on stage, the show is inhabited by a very colourful cast of characters, all vividly realized. Also, a major point in the show is that dealing with disease requires the support of a community.
NO: I know that personally I have come to feel proud about how I have risen above this particular obstacle in life, and I am always grateful for the opportunities it has presented me with. How does your play portray this point of view – or does it?
ND: It absolutely does. By the end of the play, Corey is able to conclude that his life is actually better than it was before his diagnosis, that learning to live with herpes taught him a great deal about life in general.
NO: There’s a line in the show, “it is possible to adjust your image of yourself and the world to adapt to any number of viruses.” Would you agree?
ND: Yes, I do agree with it – it sums up the Corey character’s journey. When he receives his diagnosis, he can’t imagine how he can continue living his life this way. But as he learns more, and as he seeks knowledge and support, he finds that he’s still the same person he was before, and that he has actually been enriche d by his experience with herpes. Another key line from the show is “Shame is not an STD.” That really says it all, or almost all, anyway.
NO: Has your work on this piece affected your own, and Corey’s, self-image? And what kind of feedback have you received from your audiences in this regard?
ND: I can’t speak for Corey, but personally, “Herpes Tonight” is exactly the kind of theatre I like the most. My main line is political theatre, and although the herpes show isn’t exactly political, it is about something real; it’s informative as well as entertaining; it challenges its audience; and it resonates in the real world beyond the footlights. Certainly, audiences in both New York and Los Angeles responded quite well to the show, with laughter and tears in all the right places. I know that many people with herpes found the show extremely poignant and even therapeutic.
NO: Thanks for your time, both of you. Sure would be great to see the production come to Vancouver!
CM/ND: Well, there are no plans to take the piece on the road at the moment, and the “Herpes Tonight” team is involved with other projects. But it could have a long life, and it deserves to. I would love to bring the show to Vancouver. I would love to be back in Canada! Find me a theatre and an investor and my team and I are there.
A Personal Story
by David Clarke
I’ve been single for a while and my last girlfriend and I both had herpes. Unfortunately that relationship didn’t work out and I was slightly concerned about dating and having to have the “herpes talk” with someone I might want to be intimate with. As you’ve said, “don’t ghettoize yourself into dating only people with herpes.” That was sage advice. Not that there’s anything wrong with dating only those with herpes, we are the majority after all. But it creates a separatist mindset and diminished self worth when you consider yourself part of the “other” group, even if the “other” group is the majority.
A few weeks ago while out wine tasting with some good friends, I met an absolutely stunning woman and we hit it off. I’ve always been the confident type and wasn’t going to let a simple skin virus take away my pride and confidence. We exchanged phone numbers and she called me that night.
This is where Christopher and I differ a little – I did not bring up herpes then, nor did we talk about sex on our first date. I prefer to see if there is any chemistry first, and then talk about sex only when there may be a chance that the relationship could go that way. In other words, it’s time to talk about it if you make to a second date. If you don’t have a wonderful time on your first date, you don’t have to waste your breath trying to educate someone about herpes.
The first date went very well and it was time to have “the talk” that most people with herpes dread – the talk that makes us vulnerable to rejection and exposes us to the world and all its archaic stigmas and classifications. Although I have made my peace with herpes and have learned how to be outbreak free, telling a potential love interest was going to be the first true test outside of my own personal oasis of calm and acceptance.
The truth is, I wasn’t afraid to tell her. I am the same guy I was last year before I had my first outbreak. I’m just as smart, just as confident, just as sexy, just as fun and she could accept me or not; either way would be okay. To my surprise, on our second date, she beat me to the punch by wanting to talk about sex and STDs. I responded by saying that I was glad she brought it up since I was just about to do the same. I told her that although I was tested in February of this year and was negative for HIV and everything else they test you for, I’m part of the 30 percent of the population that has herpes. Because of our work together, though, I was able to tell her that I have it under control, that I don’t get outbreaks anymore and that really, the good news is that I’m fortunate enough to know that I actually have it. 80 percent of the population would test positive for herpes but don’t even know they have it, or that they are passing it along.
Because I know that I have herpes, I’m able to control it and prevent myself from spreading it to others by taking sensible precautions that most people don’t take. First, I am open about it so a potential partner knows and can make whatever choice suits them. Second, I care for my body and mind so I don’t give herpes a chance to create an outbreak. Third, I use a condom and fourth, I use a antiviral sex gel – something everyone should use whether or not they know their STD status.
I had no shame or embarrassment talking to her about it. As you said, “don’t’ make it a confessional.” I was very matter of fact. I made no apologies and I kept my confidence and pride, as we all should. Naturally she was a little taken aback, and I asked her what she knew about herpes and if she had any questions about it. I also told her that there’s a lot of stigma around herpes so she might have some misinformation like I did at one time. We had a great casual conversation about it for an hour or so, and then something wonderful happened. As she was sitting next to me, she scooted closer and threw her legs over mine, then gave me an incredible kiss. She thanked me for telling her and saw it as a demonstration of confidence, courage, and respect for her. It was the right thing to do, and she knew it.
I could have said nothing, practiced safe sex and felt confident that there was little if any chance of me passing it to her. But the right thing to do was to tell her, and give her the choice to be with me without judgment. It was also a great litmus test. If she was really interested in me, a simple skin condition with a funny name wasn’t going to be the proverbial deal-breaker. If she was the right kind of woman, she would roll with it and learn more about herpes.
I gave her your book, which she read in addition to doing some of her own reading online, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. We all know how much garbage there is online about herpes.
We spent that weekend together and every weekend since. Not only is the sex amazing, but the connection we have because everything was laid out in the open in the beginning has made the romance more exciting.
I hope that this encourages all of you who may feel terrified about telling a potential lover or sex partner about their herpes condition.My advice is, just tell them. Be confident. It is what it is and they will either want to be with you or they won’t. If he or she rejects you, then they weren’t going to be much of a lover anyway, and good riddance. People who are reasonable and sensible are going to want to be with you even more because you care enough about them to speak up.
Thank you, Christopher for helping me and others with herpes live our best lives. I am truly living a healthier, more exciting life now than I was before herpes. I know that sounds odd considering many people with herpes feel isolated and tainted, but in some ways this had been a blessing in disguise.
A Message from Laura B.
The first time I was introduced to Christopher Scipio’s regimen was on a visit to the natural health store in search for a ‘natural topical remedy’ for a cold sore. One of the consultants recommended that I make an appointment with Christopher and explore the possibility of healing myself naturally – it was a suggestion that I took with me, but did not act upon right away.
For me, the problem was that I was very embarrassed by my outbreaks; my vocation was one that relied heavily on superficial presentation, and I did not believe that opting out of the Valtrex “safety net” was a good idea. I waited another eight months before I decided that pharmaceuticals were not going to solve my “problem” with herpes. I made my way back to the natural health store and met with Christopher to explore what I could do to heal myself. He encouraged me to read his book before I started the protocol, so that I knew what I was getting into, and with a little trepidation, I started my journey.
The word trepidation is not used lightly here. I was scared as all get out to try this protocol, but my nerves were not so much about natural medicine as it was about my own perception of herpes. Until I read “Making Peace with Herpes”, I was ashamed of having herpes and felt that I was disgusting, so much so that I would make excuses not to go out with friends if I was having an outbreak. It was here that the healing was needed most, and after reading the book a few times and coming to terms with my own humanity, I embarked on my healing journey.
The remedies were the boost I needed for my immune system, but the self-hypnosis, yoga, and more reasonable outlook on herpes were what completed my healing regimen.
It may be clear to most of you that holistic healing is all encompassing, but for someone who has never looked within herself for healing, it was a revolutionary experience.
I am proud to say that today I am symptom free and have had only one outbreak since I began the protocol in January. The outbreak was a minor setback, short-lived, and for the first time, NOT embarrassing. I encourage all of you to keep up with your hard work, because if a natural health neophyte like I can do it, so can you.
Herpes Nation Newsletter Volume One, Edition Four
Amber Madison is a twenty-two-year-old Tufts University graduate and former sex columnist for the Tufts Daily newspaper and author of “Hooking Up: A Girls’ All-Out Guide to Sex and Sexuality”.
Having grown up with parents who always talked openly about sex, she was determined to provide girls with comprehensive and accurate information about their sexual health and deliver it in an entertaining and humorous way. The book is hilarious, uninhibited, and full of must-have knowledge about safer sex and sexuality. Hooking Up gives frank talk on a slew of meaningful issues concerning sexual activity and intimacy, and addresses the emotional aspects that textbooks so often ignore. Revealing her own experiences and often humorous mishaps, Amber covers topics including: vaginas, masturbation, virginity, orgasms, sex acts, STDs, contraception, condom use, pregnancy, sexual assault, body image, relationships, and homosexuality.
We talked recently to Amber about “Hooking Up”.
Q: What motivated you to write “Hooking Up”?
They say that your professional pursuits are really an attempt to resolve your own internal conflicts, and that’s what attracted me to studying sexuality. I started writing a sex column because I wanted to fix things for other girls that I knew needed to be fixed for myself. I developed early, looked old for my age, and before I had even thought about having sex, everything I did was sexualized. I needed to understand how I wanted sex to fit into my life, and I needed reassurance that it was under my control.
My column tackled many issues: female sexuality, relationships, and of course STDs and contraception. The more columns I wrote, the more questions I got. And the more questions I got, the more I understood how desperate girls are for explanations about their bodies, information about sex, and reassurance that their experiences are normal. Even in college, many sexually active girls don’t have a good grasp on how to protect their reproductive health, or have enough confidence to negotiate sexual relationships on their own terms. And I didn’t have to extrapolate what it was like for girls in high school; I remember. Girls grow up bombarded with images of sexuality, but at the same time, few are willing to actually talk with them about sex. I believe that sex can be a normal and healthy part of a young woman’s development. But at the same time, sex is full of complex issues, and without an open discussion, girls end up confused.
Young people don’t get a lot of straightforward information about sex, and I wanted to write something to “fill in the holes” so to speak of their sex education. I wanted to tackle issues of sexuality from all sides, emotional and psychological, and give more than just facts. I also wanted to write something to address teen’s real questions and speak to them in language they could relate to.
Q: What are the top three questions about sexuality that young women come to you with?
The want to know why they do not enjoy sex or have an easier time having an orgasm; how guys and girls are different in terms or what they want out of sex and relationships; and what they should do if their partner doesn’t like condoms.
Q: How much do young women (and young men, for that matter) know about STDs and safer sex in general?
Young people seem to know some facts about STDs, but not everything they need to know to keep themselves safe. One myth that’s very prevalent is that if someone has an STD you’d be able to see it. Many young people I talk with seem shocked that the majority of STDs show no visible signs or symptoms. Also, they put too much stock into the claim “I’ve been tested,” and don’t know to follow up with questions like “tested for what,” and “how long ago.”
Q: And how about herpes in particular? What myths prevail?
Very few people know that someone could be carrying the herpes virus but never have a manifestation of the symptoms. I think people don’t understand how common the herpes virus actually is.
Q: I’ve read reports recently suggesting that young girls are easily convinced by their peers to give oral sex because “it isn’t really sex” and they often perform fellatio unprotected. What do you hear as you speak in schools?
I think that our society puts a lot of weight on vaginal intercourse, especially in regards to whether or not you are a virgin, and what it means to abstain from sex. I’ve never met anyone who felt that they weren’t a virgin after having oral sex, and for that reason many people don’t consider it “real sex.” Also, while many girls feel comfortable demanding a condom when having sexual intercourse, they don’t feel as comfortable demanding it for oral sex, simply because they do not see it as the norm.
Q: We hear so much lately about the early sexualization of girls by the media, including fashion and the cult of celebrity. In your experience, what effect is this phenomenon having on girls and young women these days?
It’s a huge issue. In my experience young women present themselves as very sexual because they see it everywhere, but at the same time, don’t really understand what they are doing and what image they are portraying.
Q: What is the best advice you could give young women today? And what would you like to tell their parents?
The best advice I could give young women is to really tune into what their body and mind is telling them about the sexual decisions they are making, and to stick closely with what they truly want – not what their partners want, what their friends are doing, or having sex to fill some other sort of void. To parents – talk to your kids. It’s not going to make them more likely to do it, but it is going to give them guidance.
Q: Any advice to us in the Herpes Nation? How can we best educate young people about herpes and STDs?
I think the best way to educate teens about sex is to talk to them like they’re real people–not irrational beings overrun with hormones. Really listen to what they are telling you, and address those needs, and make clear that you are there only to help them, not to judge them in any way.
Sounds like your book will go a long way to helping us take that advice. Thanks, Amber.
It’s Never Too Late
by Christoper Scipio
Teens aren’t the only sexually active population in need of education regarding herpes and STDs. According to research in the journal of Sexually Transmitted Infections, the rates of sexually transmitted infections have doubled among the over 45 population in less than a decade.
The most commonly diagnosed infection among the over 45s was genital warts, accounting for almost half of the episodes. Herpes was the next most common, accounting for almost one in five. Cases of Chlamydia, herpes, warts, gonorrhea and syphilis all rose sharply.
People over 45 going into new relationships, perhaps after the death or divorce of their partner should discuss having safer sex. Baby boomers should talk about what they have and have not been tested for.
Boomers Need to Get Tested
It’s just as important for sexually active Baby Boomers to get tested and then be honest with prospective partners, as it is for their kids. Baby boomers don’t typically go into the doctor’s office for a herpes test, and if they do, its sometimes difficult to convince their medical doctor to do the blood test required. This is crazy, because only about 30 percent of the people infected, whatever their age group, know that they are infected. Sexual activity for boomers does not have to stop after a positive diagnosis. It doesn’t have to be doom and gloom, you just have to be straightforward. Precautions such as condoms or an antiviral gel or lubricant can help lower the chances of transmitting the virus.
Be Honest About STDs I often deal with people who are angry, embarrassed and ashamed, but I want to remind you again that you are the same person you were before the diagnosis. ‘Don’t be a victim. You are not less attractive, less funny, less moral … It shouldn’t change your life. Being honest is imperative, though. People are going to be impressed that you are being honest. They are going to be glad that you had the guts to tell them. In the 19 years of being infected, I have not had one person not want to be in a relationship with me because of herpes.
Herpes and Me
by Linden Morris
My history with Herpes has been pretty brief. I am not entirely sure when I contracted HSV and to this day I am not entirely sure who gave it to me. Although I believe it was within the context of an intimate relationship. In the beginning I felt better about that; like there was some kind of moral high ground associated with how I contracted my virus. In hindsight, of course, that notion is patently ridiculous.
My HSV has been a journey of evolution regarding my thinking re: sexuality and how I relate to the virus. Ultimately, Herpes has shown me my humanness and my fallibility, my defensiveness, my lack of thoughtful evolution at times (especially in the beginning) It has also taught me how to be a little grander in my humanness and how to sort out what I think matters and what doesn’t matter in the bigger picture called life. Getting herpes has challenged many of my preconceived notions about myself and others. It has held “my hand to the fire” in terms of what I said and what I did and how that all lined up.
Initially, I went through what I am guessing is the usual shock, disbelief and denial most people go through. I remember very clearly, getting some sores on my panty line in the back and thinking that it was just simple chafing that was causing a skin problem. Forget that I never have had unusually sensitive skin and never an open sore! That level of denial, frankly, blows my mind when I look back on it. Unfortunately, there is no denying that that is what happened. It was probably about a year after that that I actually received a diagnosis of HSV II. It was a bad day. Initially, I tried some of the medicines available to treat Herpes and was simply not able to tolerate them…a blessing in disguise, although not recognized as such at that time. My treatment at that time was abstinence. I noticed I would get outbreaks around my period or if I was in the sun too much. It also seemed that stress could sometimes precipitate an attack.
I hated my outbreaks. They were uncomfortable, painful at times and from start to finish (usually 2-3 long weeks) a reminder to me of all the things I had failed at in life. I don’t know about other people but my Herpes Infection seemed to gnaw at ever issue I ever might have had; bringing them all to the surface to be lassoed together and fed into the machinery of my mind. Creating what I commonly referred to as “Low Self Esteem or Self Hatred 101” Who would ever want me like this? I didn’t even want me like this! Had I not been dealt enough difficulties in my life? Now this! We are all familiar with that line of thinking and I seemed to have it in spades.
Eventually, I found myself in an intimate relationship and knew that I needed to get some treatment. My partner was less than sympathetic and of course worried about getting the virus from me. I knew about Christopher Scipio from researching alternative treatments for Herpes and started to use his formulations and to follow his advice. I remember in the beginning of my treatments I was plagued with several things: Lack of patience, persistent prodrome (although very few outbreaks) and a sensitivity to some of Christopher’s treatments that made me not always able to partake of some of the remedies. I have to say that once I “knuckled down” things just gradually began to fall into place. I was diligent in my weekly updates with Christopher. Good thing that I was. As I updated him on my progress, he was able to fine tune my Herpes Protocol Treatment. He also made many alternative suggestions when I was having reactions to something or it appeared that something could work better.
I think I needed a progression of time to adjust to the changes I needed to make. For me, I seemed to turn a big corner with my Herpes treatment when I tightened up my diet. Never a caffeine drinker, that was not a problem. I remember Christopher asking me, after a nasty outbreak just after Christmas if I was adhering to a Herpes diet. I went back and reviewed what I was doing. Nuts were a problem as was chocolate, sugar and gelatine. I became vigilant. I also added daily portions of friendly “non outbreak” food items that helped. Although my “Treatment Protocol” is always evolving there are certain food items that I have just eliminated from my diet. I have recently found that small doses of some of the foods that I really love have not caused my virus to resurface. I also listened to the Hypnosis CD’s diligently in the beginning and cycle back to them when I am feeling that I need a tune up.
Where am I at now? Well, I still continue to work on my acceptance of a lifelong relationship with this virus called Herpes. I know and accept that it is not going to go away. I have outbreaks from time to time. Within the context of an intimate relationship my biggest struggle has been not having outbreaks due to friction from sexual activity. I am happy that in the last year I have only had two outbreaks and I am sexually active. My partner does not have any signs of the virus. Christopher’s treatment protocols, knowledge and support have played a huge part in my cohabiting with my virus in a way that I experience as pretty workable.
I still do not like outbreaks, but now I have very significant amounts of time where I am outbreak free. I have had to work on accepting this virus in a more positive way. I identify myself as a person with Herpes. My family and friends now knows I have the virus. I do not fly a banner about my HSV condition, but conversely, I do not hide it. My HSV has not been the end of my world. It has been a learning experience which has added to my inner dialogue.
Of all of my experiences which include the good, the bad and the mundane, herpes has now been given a voice. It has most certainly had its good and bad moments, although on most days it is not a worry and occupies the “mundane column” in the file system of my mind.
Herpes Nation Newsletter Volume One, Edition Five
Tis The Season
The Other “C” Word
No matter what you call it – Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza, Diwali, or nothing at all – the “most wonderful” time of the year will soon be upon us. Try as you will to ignore it, Christmas is part of the cultural soup we all swim in. Best to learn how to stay afloat, and maybe even to ride the wave of holiday celebration and togetherness. There is peace and joy to be found at this time of year, but it’s up to you to keep the spirit alive.
It’s more important now more than ever to practice what you have spent the whole year learning. Meditate, practice your deep-breathing and self-hypnosis exercises, keep practicing yoga or tai-chi, or any other activity that helps you balance your body, mind, and spirit. Stay in touch with nature and the beauty of this time of year by going outside.
Let health be the gift you give yourself and others this year. Change up some of your holiday traditions. Make relaxation your focus as you resist the expectations of others and do things your own way this year.
This edition of the News is devoted to helping you have a herpes-free, healthy holiday. It will provide you with the tools, motivation, and inspiration to do just that. We encourage you to break with tradition and do things differently this year – or simply adapt, re-use and re-cycle old traditions to make them fit your new lifestyle.
Remember what Rinpoche said…”the opportunity to experience yourself differently always exists.”
One Woman’s Story
Jane still remembers the day, many years ago. She had been feeling a strange, prickly, stinging sensation around her genitals, the source of which seemed to be a strange bump. She visited the doctor, expressing a concern that she might have herpes. The doctor said it sounded more like an ingrown hair to him, but he took a swab of the area and sent the test off to a lab. Jane never got a call, so assumed everything was fine. Every so often since, she has been plagued by this familiar stinging sensation.
In the last few years, Jane noticed a sharp increase in the frequency of her mysterious outbreaks. “It was just last year, over eleven years after that first visit, that I finally went to another doctor about this again,” says Jane. “’Looks like herpes to me’ said my doctor. I was stunned, but in my guts, I think I knew it all along. Or at least, I knew it wasn’t just ingrown hairs” Like many people, Jane had been misdiagnosed, or rather, not diagnosed at all, and had been living with herpes, a lifelong viral infection.
It isn’t uncommon for swab tests to come back negative for herpes virus. “My doctor explained that the virus lives in my central nervous system, and could come to the surface of my skin at the point where it originally entered, at any time. During that time, it is contagious, but the thing is, it is impossible to know when that is. They could be at the surface, and I wouldn’t have an outbreak. On the other hand, I might get an outbreak, but by the time I make it in to the doctor for a swab test, the virus has retreated back to its hiding place.”
“There is a huge stigma around genital herpes,” says Jane. “I remember right after I first found out that was what I really had, a friend was making fun of people with herpes. I felt so humiliated, but angry at his ignorance. It wasn’t like I was a slut. Anyone could get this. Yet I was still too new to it, too ashamed feeling, and I didn’t speak up to defend myself. […] I see people all the time with sores on their mouth, and no one even cares. But sores on your genitals is a whole other story, even if it’s the same virus!”
Jane doesn’t know who she got herpes from. Because of her misdiagnosis, she doesn’t remember the exact time frame, but it was around the end of one relationship and the beginning of another. “I was always monogamous, and I would use a condom, at least at first in a relationship. But I would usually end up having unprotected sex with boyfriends. I think most people do, once they get to know someone and feel safe.” None of Jane’s boyfriends ever had visible symptoms of herpes, and none ever mentioned it. “I suspect it was one of two people who I got it from,” says Jane. “The one guy was just a short term fling, and I have no idea where he is now. The other guy, I went out with for two years, and I don’t remember him ever getting an outbreak. I am afraid of asking him, so many years later, if he is infected. If he is, did I give it to him, or did I get it from him? I just don’t know.”
It is commonly believed that stress increases the frequency of outbreaks. While scientific studies on the topic are inconclusive, Jane has noticed it to be true. “My outbreaks increased after a death in my family, and I think I also had some post-partum depression. For a long time, I barely remember even having outbreaks, but it was this sudden increase in outbreaks that sent me to the doctor about it again.”
Jane now treats her herpes with herbal remedies and tries to maintain a positive attitude. “When I was first diagnosed, I felt so dirty and disgusting,” says Jane, “but now, I almost see this virus as a friend, one that comes along to teach me a lesson. If I stay healthy, I am fine, but if I let my immune system get run down, sure enough, I get a sore.”
Jane has noticed that things like a lack of sleep or poor diet contribute to herpes outbreaks, as does anxiety and anger. “One time, I had a minor little sore. I remember getting really angry that day. I was yelling at my kids and feeling super stressed out about some things in my life. When I got home, the sore was really raw and bleeding. It sounds gross, I know, but it was telling me something. Getting freaked out about stress isn’t worth it.” Jane takes herbs like St. John’s Wort and Lemon Balm, both of which are known for easing depression and calming moods, as well as being anti-viral. “I know there are some pharmaceutical anti-viral treatments that some people find success with, but I thought I’d try natural remedies first.” Nothing will ever take away the virus, but through taking care of herself, Jane has managed to greatly reduce the frequency of outbreaks.
Christopher Scipio encourages anyone with herpes to take treatment into their own hands. He acknowledges that there are some very affective drug therapies for treating herpes, however he maintains that a better understanding of your body is most important, and popping a pill will never get you that. He also expresses concern about some of the so-called natural cures being promoted for herpes, warning that products like lysine and di-methyl-sulfoxide can do more harm than good, especially with long-term use.
“Real management of herpes means strengthening your immune system so that it can keep the virus in check which is what your body is designed to do,” writes Scipio in one of his many articles on the topic. It also means making the effort to eat an appropriate diet, managing your stress levels, and working on your emotional and mental relationship with the disease.”
It is important for anyone with herpes, be it on their mouth or genitals, to tell their partners that they are at risk of getting herpes. Condoms alone don’t prevent it, as sores can occur in areas around the genitals, areas a condom doesn’t cover. And for the record, it is a myth that herpes are only contagious when there is an active sore present. “Most people with herpes, maybe up to 70% don’t get noticeable outbreaks,” says Scipio. “You may be having sub-clinical (subtle) outbreaks or may be shedding virus asymptomatically (without symptoms). You could be infecting others with herpes without knowing it.” As Jane said, none of her partners ever exhibited symptoms that she noticed, and yet she caught it somehow.
“The biggest challenge for people, I think”, says Jane, “is how to be sexually active. For me, I’m already married. My husband isn’t scared because he figures he’s already got it, or else will never get it. But I can’t imagine being single and having this.” Scipio points out that judging someone for having herpes is the same as judging them for their race, physical ability, or some other thing they have no control over. He says of his clients that “some are so shaken by [rejection] that they stop dating for years or ghettoize themselves to only dating others with herpes.” He goes on to point out that “herpes is a great litmus test to let you know who really cares about you and desires you. No one who really wants a person, and I do mean wants the whole person and the package that comes with them, will reject them just because they have herpes. Who would want that kind of superficial love anyways?”
We know that stress has a negative effect on the immune system, so it should come as no surprise that December would see an increase in the number of herpes outbreaks. It’s ironic that December is also the time when people allow themselves to become “too busy” to keep up their self-care routines or to eat healthy food. Before you let that happen, think about the points below.
1) Let go.
Resist being a perfectionist when it comes to gift giving and entertaining. Prioritize your TO DO list and don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t measure your efforts against some imaginary idea of perfection. Relax and enjoy yourself.
2) Create new traditions.
If it’s no longer appropriate, don’t do it. There’s an old Hungarian story about a young bride who buys a brisket of beef and cuts off a small piece from the end. When her husband asks why she is doing that she says: “my mother always does it that way.” They ask the mother why and she says: “my mother always does it that way.” They ask the grandmother who tells them that she cut off the end because her pot was too small. Ask yourself why you are doing something. If it has outlived its reason or usefulness, drop it.
3) Do less.
You don’t have to do everything from scratch. If your budget allows, hire help. If not, ask other people for help.
4) Give shopping free gifts.
Instead of spending your precious time shopping for gifts that might be returned or never used, donate money to a person’s favourite charity, or give a “gift certificate” for baby-itting, house-sitting, etc. Find out what a meaningful gift might be for the people on your list. And unless you have been preparing all year, DON’T stress yourself out deciding now that you can make everyone’s gifts. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus, and there’s no such thing as Martha Stewart.
5) Be realistic in your expectations
There’s no reason to believe that family members who don’t get along the rest of the year become bosom buddies on December 25th. Consider having two meals and invite the folks who get along….chances are good you can make the non-traditional menu for one group, and stick with turkey for the others. Remind your family that Christmas not the time to drop emotional bombs. This is not the time to announce that she is getting a divorce or that he lost his job.
6) Have a holiday health plan.
Decide before-hand how much and what you will eat, but even given our recommendations, have a small taste of your favourites so you don’t feel deprived. Its all about balance – if you really must have a Nanaimo Bar fll of nuts and chocolate, be sure you eat lots of healthy greens and foods high in lysine too. (Real egg nog is a good one). At the big dinners or events, keep busy with non-eating activities. Set the table, serve the food, do the dishes.
7) Take care of yourself.
Meditate, get a massage, go for a walk, read a trashy novel, rent a funny (not seasonal) movie, spend a night in a hotel.
8) Recognize what is in your power and what isn’t.
Keep in mind what you can and cannot do, and if you are so inclined, recite the Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change
The COURAGE to change the things I can
The WISDOM to know the difference.
Here is something you CAN control – a herpes-healthy salad that will balance some of the not-so-friendly treats on the table this time of year. It’s a perfect salad over the holidays when clementines are in season.
Escarole, Pomegranate, and Clementine Salad
1 x head escarole lettuce, well washed and torn
1 x small bunch spinach, washed and torn
1 x pomegranate, seeds only
2 to 3 clementines, segmented
1 x red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp pomegranate juice (30 ml)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (60 ml)
1/4 cup grape seed oil (60 ml)
1 tsp honey (5 ml)
1 tsp Dijon mustard (5 ml)
coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Combine the greens in a medium bowl. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds, clementine segments and onions. Make the dressing by whisking together the pomegranate juice, sherry vinegar, grape seed oil, honey and Dijon mustard in a small bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Toss with greens.
How Not to Get Depressed This Winter
Change Your Lighting. Switch the light bulbs in your home to Full Spectrum Compact Flourescents with a colour temperature of 5100 Kelvin or higher. This is the closest artificial lighting to the sun’s rays and will help combat seasonal depression along with reducing your lighting bill by as much as 67%.
Vary Your Routine. Lack of stimulation, lack of variety and lack of challenge all contribute to depression. Don’t allow yourself to stay in a rut. Try new foods, go to new places, reach out and try to make new friends, move the furniture around in your house, change the colour of your walls. Examine every habit you have and try to shake things up.
Reach Out for Community. Isolation is a slow death. No matter who you are and what you are into there is a community out there either in the real world or on the internet ready to embrace you. You need to feel connected to others and others will benefit by being in your circle.
Have More Sex. I hope the benefits of physically and emotionally fulfilling sex are obvious. So why aren’t you getting more? Perhaps your rules are limiting your opportunities. If this is the case, it’s time to re-examine the priority you have placed on sex. loosen your restrictions, make it easier and not harder for yourself to get more sex. You do not have to be in love with someone or in a relationship to have sex. I am no promoter of meaningless sex, but I know from personal experience that it is possible to have abundant, healthy, uplifting sex in your life if you choose to.
Humidify. Drink lots of unfiltered spring water and teas like siberian ginseng, rhodiola and tulsi. Take a good fish oil supplement and make sure you have a humidifier in your bedroom if you have electric heat in your house.
Find Meaning in Who You Are and What You Do. If your daily life isn’t full of joy and meaning, you will get depressed, it’s only a matter of time. Some try to self-medicate themselves from this morass by doing reactional drugs or drinking too much. There is ultimately no escape from your internal judge. You know in the depths of your soul whether the life you live and the things you do have enough meaning. If meaning is lacking in your life, strip away all the dead wood and see what persists at your core. Who are you? What do you wish your life to be about? What dreams still remain unfufilled? How would you like to impact the world around you?
Tell your Story
There’s a beautiful print by Roy Henry Vickers, a famous native artist, at the bottom it reads: “Storytelling is the Ointment of the Healer”. This quote speaks to the social aspects of healing. Using storytelling as a healing tool is not only found in native traditions. It can be seen in the role of the modern-day therapist, or in the everyday act of relating a difficult event to a trusted friend. In short, storytelling is an essential part of being human.
However, the stigma and shame of having herpes often causes those with the condition to rob themselves of telling their story, speaking their pain to the world. We are left feeling more alone, more isolated from our family, friends and community at exactly the moment when we need most their support and to progress on the path of healing.
Perhaps, my story, or rather how I finally came around to telling my story, can help you. When I had my first outbreak, I was working on a fishing boat in an isolated part of the Queen Charlotte Islands. I knew something was wrong and eventually had to ask the captain to call a floatplane to pick me up to visit the hospital in Prince Rupert, at a large expense and disruption to those on the boat. However, out of shame and fear, I lied about my symptoms to everyone around me.
That started a long road of deceit and internalizing my story. This continued for many years. I came into the habit of only telling my partners when intoxicated, a regretful symptom of my fear of rejection and lack of my own comfort with having herpes. Or, worse still, I would put people at risk by not revealing what I felt was my darkest secret. Either way, I was left to further internalize my suffering. This only worsened my stress, paranoia and outbreaks. I was diseased mentally and physically, and very much in a wilderness mostly of my own creation.
But, change did come. Four years after the float place landed and after breaking up with the woman from whom I contracted herpes, I suffered from my worst period of outbreaks: nearly four months of constant sores, prodromes and pain. Finally, in a fit of pure desperation, I broke down the walls of shame and told my family. This was the beginning of using storytelling as a powerful tool for my healing.
My family did not reject me as I had imagined; shattering their picture of the perfect son. Instead, they loved and supported me more than ever.. One of the things I realized was that by not telling them, I had robbed them of the opportunity to help me; to guide and hold me when in need, just as they would if I had any other problem. I had denied them (and myself) their chance to be a shoulder to lean against and, yes, cry on.
Only a month later, my mother was driving me to see Christopher Scipio in Vancouver. And, for all of you have had such an experience, you know that getting his support and adopting a holistic approach can be a life-changing experience. It was for me. But, I probably would have never have made it to see him, if not for speaking out when I did.
Mostly recently, I joined a herpes support group, some five years after my first outbreak. While talking about living with herpes to strangers is a personal decision, I would strongly encourage those who are so inclined, but still apprehensive, to do so. I left my first meeting with a new sense of community. It put faces and stories to the statistics of how many people are going through the same thing: lawyers, doctors, senior citizens, construction workers, single mothers and fathers, and university students.
Of course, you must choose to whom and when to tell your story on your own terms. But, do not let fear stop you.
As a final note, I do not want to give a false impression that suddenly everything was perfect for me. I have my struggles with this condition. Yet, what has changed is that I have a network of love, support and community to lift me up on my bad days. I chose to stop feeling isolated and so I hope will you. This is because not speaking out robs you from harnessing storytelling – the ointment of the healer – to live a more balanced, honest and happy life.
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