Opening the Conversation around Herpes

When I typed this, it was an absolutely beautiful morning in QLD. The sun was shining, I poured myself a cup of tea and reflected on the week that was. After soaking up every ounce of gratitude I had, I thought it was the perfect time to update everyone.4 months ago I had the book launch of Keep Swimming. 4 months ago I tested positive to HSV, something I never, ever expected as part of my journey. In the space of a week, I had the most beautiful moment of my life and the worst moment of my life. 3 months ago, I fell in a heap after struggling with the positive diagnosis for herpes. I reached out to Lifeline after battling with thoughts that returned much darker, scarier and intense than ever before.I thought HSV would be the thing to break me. Even after making it through my most difficult years, it felt like this was going to be the thing that held me under. But, that's just it. I didn't let it. It has now been 2 months since I went public with my HSV diagnosis. Mamamia published a piece I wrote about my journey and as soon as it went live, the power and shame that I felt from my diagnosis disappeared. I felt free and I felt empowered. Since this moment, I receive messages of gratitude and support daily from incredible humans all over thanking me for speaking out about the unspoken. But it doesn't stop there..  In 2019, I started listening to the Happy Hour with Lucy and Nikki podcast. When I was in the thick of my depression I would listen to their episodes on repeat. These girls were able to bring light and laughter back into my life at a time when that felt impossible.2 weeks ago, I drove to the Gold Coast and met Lucy and Nikki in their podcast studio. I sat across from them as we had an incredible conversation about my journey, but most importantly, about herpes. I never expected herpes would be part of my journey, just like I never expected I would be talking about my toughest times on the same podcast that helped me through my toughest times.  And to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way.The podcast episode went live last week. Again, my inbox has been flooded with the most beautiful, heartfelt messages from so many women, showing me that I am on the right path. I am working hard to normalise something that is heavily stigmatised, because I don't want anyone to have to suffer in silence. I don't want anyone to feel the pain I felt after my diagnosis.I am aware that a lot of people might not understand why I choose to speak out. This is my why: "Thank you for sharing, it helps to take away the stigma and helps me to feel less alone.""Thank you for sharing your story on happy hour, it has been greatly beneficial for me. My best friend has recently been diagnosed as having herpes and has been struggling so much with it. And hearing your story has just given me another lense to look at it through and more education to be of better support to her where I can.""Annaleise, you have no idea how much your episode and article have comforted me.""I just wanted to say thankyou. I just listened to the episode and I am in tears. Thank you for making this all feel normal.""Listened to the ep this morning. A life-changing conversation and something I've been subconsciously searching for, for a really long time. Thankyou.""Thank you for changing my life."And that's that. I know I have to continue this work. I am now working on an eBook for those facing a positive diagnosis. Once it's launched, in an instant, someone can download it and read real stories of others who are thriving despite a positive diagnosis, showing them that they can too. You never know what life will throw at you. Don’t let the unexpected weigh you down. Perhaps it is there, on your path, to propel you forward. Herpes felt like it was the straw that would break my back, but instead it has significantly changed my life for the better.There’s a quote in my book that I think of whenever I am feeling defeated by the things life throws at me:“We literally put cow shit on soil to help plants grow. So, when some shit is sprinkled on your life, remember, it isn’t there to harm you, it is there to help you grow.”Now, I happily welcome any and all shit that is thrown my way because I know I will grow from it and you can too. Thank you for reading along. Thank you for your support.  But most of all, thank you for being YOU. I appreciate all that you have to offer this world. You can listen to the podcast episode here.You can read the Mamamia article here.Have a beautiful day, wherever you are. I am always in your corner.  Keep Swimming, Annaleise x
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