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.