In July of 2015, I found out that I had contracted HSV2 from my then-partner. It was a life changing ordeal for me, mostly due to the stigma. The day that I was diagnosed, I made a promise to myself that I would fight, not only for myself, but also, others. It took me about seven months to get my feet back on the ground, but I made it.
In December, I publicly announced through social media that I had herpes, and how it affected me. I received an overwhelmingly positive response, so I continued to talk about it. I started writing. I began a personal blog which now has over 25,000 views. I have been published on Thought Catalog, Elite Daily, and the Feminist Wire. I have poems forthcoming in Germ Magazine. Most recently, I became a bi-weekly sexuality columnist for my alma mater’s university paper. In addition to my full time employment I also hold an internship with an organization in Baltimore, where I am a guest speaker and blogger. I had the opportunity to collaborate with them on the development of a human sexuality course for seventh grade students. I have people messaging me from across the world who identify with my story, thanking me for pointing them towards the light. For whatever reason, I am easily recognized as a safe space, which is something I truly honor.
With the good, comes the bad. The more public I became, the more harassment I faced from the online world. My face has been Photo-shopped with herpes sores. I’ve had men research my education, even my university’s tuition, and devote entire articles to why I’m an invalid source. I am painted in a negative light on multiple forums, in America and beyond. I’ve been accused of being a rapist and child molester. I’ve seen it all, and yet I persist. I’m still fighting. It’s these instances that make me want to work harder and achieve more.
Before herpes, I had quite the history as well. I am a victim of low-self esteem, poor body image, and an eating disorder. I am an anxiety sufferer. My health views have shifted to a more holistic perspective, and I replaced Zoloft with yoga. Yoga has had such a profound impact on my life that I am currently involved in the 200-hour teacher training at my studio. There is a lot of transformation unfolding for me. I have a gift of turning pain into artwork, and I have done just that. I have allowed my heart to open, my feelings to flow, and from that vulnerability, I shift. I have much to be thankful for in my life, and although I do not know what I am meant to learn from my most recent endeavor, I know I am secure in the present moment and wherever it takes me.
I am Emily, I love and accept myself.
For more of Emily’s work visit: http://eldsoul.blogspot.com