My story started when I was 17. At least that is where I will start telling it here. I was newly single. I spent 2 years with the same person. Well. I would like to say he was my only partner during that time, but that would be a lie. After loosing my virginity at the age of 14 to my ex-boyfriend, I was already fairly sexual. I was happy to express myself through sexual touch and intimacy. At this point, I felt free and excited about life. I am a dreamy person and it wasn’t out of the norm for me to sit alone in bed dreaming of all the things I would do with my perfect partner.
The ungrounded self I was, with or without drugs or alcohol, created the thought in my mind that I needed to please my man. I had to “do” what ever it was he wanted me to do. Looking back, I was lacking a lot of self-esteem and awareness. This thought lead to me sleep with 4 different guys in 4 days. After those 4 days, I freaked out. I noticed a bump on my vagina that wasn’t there before. I convinced myself it was genital warts without doing any more research than one google scroll. This was enough for me to shut-down the possibility of love for the next 4 years. The fear of having a sexually transmitted infection at 17 years old terrified me. The stigma was strong, the name calling was worse. The word “slut” was not uncommon to my ears (or inside my head) after that.
I continued to “sleep-around”, more so with the help of drugs and alcohol. There were many nights I told myself “I will not have sex tonight”, got black out drunk and and had sex. I found myself doing the same thing sober with just the right amount of pressure from the opposite sex. I couldn’t follow through with a no. Even if every inch of my body told me no, I would do it anyways. I wanted to be liked and I wanted guys to know I was “down.” In the end, this was more painful for me than if I had stuck up for myself.
When a guy would touch me, I would get a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach and ask myself if he could feel the bump. I would use condoms as much as I could remember to lower the risk of transmission but never would I reveal my truth. The self destructive behaviour and partying only got worse as I entered university. Despite my dedication to playing soccer and staying fit, my mind would not overcome the self-hatred it felt for possibly spreading an STI to so many people without their knowing. I was numb. I could not talk to anyone. I thought I would go to jail. That is until I started yoga.
Third year university is when things started to change. I stopped drinking alcohol. I got focused on my health. I did yoga and worked out almost everyday. At first, my intention was to look so good someone was bound to love me even with a sexually transmitted infection. But what happened was I got more attention, and the number of partners increased. The longest relationship I had during this time was 4 months. (As I write this now, I noticed how much the number 4 keeps coming up. The synchronicity of life amazes me.) That year, I completed a diploma in Sport Event Management, and moved away.
I spent a year and a half living in Penticton, BC where I was able to reinvent myself. Somewhere I felt like not everyone knew my reputation (*slut*). I was committed to change. I moved away while dating a guy that I had fairly strong feelings for. I thought I could trust him. I wanted to tell him my truth and share with him my thoughts on having genital warts. We had already been intimate numerous times, but being in a different town gave me the confidence to speak. On the phone one night I told him I needed to talk about something. With much hesitation, I said it out loud. For the first time ever. “I think I have genital warts”. Immediately he reacted. He was not okay with this. He threatened to call the cops. And told me to go get checked. While in tears, he literally said “My life is over”. All the fear I ever felt was coming true. I was a terrible person. How could I let myself spread this virus without telling anyone about it. It all really sucked.
I knew I needed to get tested. The next opportunity I had to go to the health clinic I did. It was a Tuesday night. I took the bus to the hospital where they held their drop in clinic. I waited my turn with one thought in my head. Do I have genital warts? I knew nothing about it besides it was a strain of HPV. I didn’t even know the signs and symptoms, all I knew was there was a bump and I was scared. I went in to talk to the nurse and told her what I was thinking. Her answer for me that evening was “no, that is just your skin”. WHAT. It is my skin. Just a bump on my skin. Thoughts went screaming through my head. Why did I put myself through all this fear? Why didn’t I ask sooner? Why didn’t I talk to anyone, not even my mom? What was I going to do now? Did all these stories and self torture really come from my mind for 4 full years? I was “clean”, and felt a giant wave of emotions including regret, freedom, misunderstanding, purpose. So much to process, but relieved at the same time. So many moments after this I wanted to share my story and didn’t. I still struggle with this. Needless to say, the guy I was seeing was out of my life for good after that. He was relieved of my news and we never spoke again.
Shortly after my newly discovered freedom, I completed my 200hr Yoga Teacher Training Certificate in India. Yoga was my reason for having the inner strength to speak my truth. Many practices of yoga (tapas, satya, ahimsa, etc.) re-routed me towards a self-healing path. I truly aspire to live the 8 Limbs of Yoga to the best of my ability. During my time in India, I remember my entire middle section feeling numb. The pain, stories, and disconnection were still there. I had never fully listened to my body. I was always cold from my pubic bone to my tail bone. Frozen like ice. I didn’t know what that meant or how to change it, it was just there.
I met Kieran online. We grew up in the same town with mutual friends but never hung out. He was the first guy I felt I could be myself around. I knew through the grapevine there was a possibility of him having genital herpes, but he found it within himself to tell me before we met in person. By this time, I knew having a sexually transmitted infection could not be as bad as the stigma behind it. I mean, I thought I had one for years, and deep down I still wanted to be loved. We all deserve love, no matter what disease and suffering life hands us. It wasn’t until after a year of dating Kieran had his first outbreak. It wasn’t easy at first. Knowing I too could have herpes. But at the same time, I was determined to speak about the stigma and spread some light of the actual facts.
- One in five Canadians are diagnosed with herpes sometime in their life.
- Herpes has been around as long as humans have existed.
- It wasn’t until the 1900’s when big pharma created antiviral medication for herpes that the stigma was created.
- The virus may or may not show symptoms. Either way, there is always a chance of viral shedding (at which time herpes is not visible but may be contagious).
- Coldsores and genital herpes are interchangeable and can be spread from one place to the other, but only through skin-to-skin contact. (So stop worrying about sharing towels and toilets people)
- A woman with herpes can have a healthy pregnancy and birth. If an outbreak is active during the time of delivery an infant may be at risk, so a c-section would be advised.
- There are many, many, many people who will accept you with herpes. (YOU ARE LOVED)
These realizations have calmed my inner voice and empowered me to speak my truth to friends and family. My dream to teach yoga to others with sexually transmitted infections so they too could feel the freedom of stigma and live in a loving way towards themselves inspired me to travel to India to study yoga therapy for three months in 2016. I arrived at the Yoga Institute in Mumbai with so much passion and joy. I absolutely love immersing myself in all aspects of a yogic lifestyle. I could talk about yoga all day, sit on the floor while I eat, and spend every evening reflecting on my day while observing my thoughts. I loved it there. The beds were hard and a jet would fly right above us every 5 minutes from the Mumbai airport, yet it was so peaceful. After completing a one-week health camp at the Institute, my period was late. I decided to ask a volunteer if I could take a pregnancy test right away, seeing how I was practicing honesty, I couldn’t keep the thought inside my head. The following morning I woke up at 4am, I took 2 pregnancy tests. Both said positive. I felt overwhelming joy come over my body. For years, I doubted my ability to create life or a healthy baby (even before I thought I had an STI, not that that helped). I could not stay still. I walked around the ashram multiple times, up and down the stairs, until finally it was time for asana practice at 6am. I told the same volunteer the results of my test as soon as I spotted her. I was thrilled. I could hardly keep it in. I knew I had to come home and plan.
I left the ashram 3 days later. This was the first time in my life I ever felt true surrender. For months I planned this trip to India, I was going to study and I was going to teach yoga to people with sexually transmitted infections. God (or any word for a higher power) had other plans. I let go of control and came home to Canada. While carrying my daughter in my womb, I felt warm. The ice had melted and she was always there with me. I recognized her heart beat like I had heard it before in another life. This was the greatest gift of all.
Fast forward 3 years, my daughter is now almost 2 and a half. Her name is Clarity. She is perfect in every way. I’m always in awe by her. How did I create such a smart little spunky girly. She is my soul child. I know when I die, we will meet again.
My inner flame was constantly lit until the day I had an IUD put in, 8 months ago now. I didn’t want it. But I did it. I let my circumstances influence my decision, instead of listening to her (my womb). She had been suffering more than I knew or realized.
Now this is her story.
Shortly after receiving a clear diagnosis of genital warts, I started having abnormal paps. This means the cells on my cervix (or the portal to my womb, from where I birthed my daughter and from where I had the IUD inserted for 5 weeks) were different than what healthy cells should look like. I was told to go to the Colposcopy clinic in Kelowna, where they would take a small biopsy of the cells to keep an eye on them, incase of cervical cancer. I was 21. The cells on my cervix continued to come back as abnormal before and after pregnancy. I had biopsies on my cervix every six months to a year for the next 5 and a half years, sometimes multiple biopsies at once. I was told they wouldn’t proceed with further procedures until I turned 25, in which case the chance of cervical cancer goes up and they would perform a LEEP procedure to remove the remainder of the abnormal cells. I figured I was young and healthy and the cells would probably regenerate on their own. After Clarity was born, that is what happened. The severity of my diagnosis went down and I was scheduled for one more biopsy before I could go back to regular pap smears. No more biopsies!!!
Until everything changed. In may 2018 I had an IUD put in. This day in particular is one that will not leave my thoughts. Immediately after having it put into my cervix and into my womb, I felt a sharp pain on my right side. A pain I feel at this moment, seven months after having it removed. The memory of this day haunts my body, and my mind. A few months after removing the IUD, I went back for my “final” colposcopy appointment. Weeks later, I got a call from my doctor. The degree of cervical dysplasia (abnormal cells) had gone up and I was now between a 3 and 4 CIN diagnosis, which is considered severe, not quite cervical cancer, but pre cervical cancer, possibly. I was at work when I got the call. I had to walk outside and call Kieran, I had to cry. This is NOT what I wanted, I did not want them to touch my cervix or remove any more pieces of my cervix. Now they wanted to remove a whole chunk! I told them not right now. It was time for me to listen to my womb speak. To create a relationship with her that was mutually beneficial for all.
Ever since I felt this jabbing pain on my right side, my left side has felt nothing. My left side is numb. Just like I used to feel, but only half. The conversations my womb and I have now tell me it is okay. Killing the idea of carrying another child, and my ability to create life, with the IUD made me suppress my emotions into my uterus. The memory of the IUD is still there telling me, no you can’t, and my numbed emotions, the feminine energy, telling me, you can do this. Whether or not life has another baby in store for me, I choose to believe it is possible. I choose to let go of the fear of not being able to carry such love and life inside of myself. I have a long road ahead before I fully heal from these experiences. Each day I make it my priority to listen to my feminine side, to have strong boundaries, and feel every little ounce of pain there is to feel. I know I must move through this to come out the other side – pure, fully actualized in my body and my life.
My intention behind sharing this story with you is to heal. To heal myself and to heal the collective of women who came before me, and who are suffering now. To spread light and love and educate others that the stigma behind STI’s is not nearly as bad as actually having one. Almost every person will have HPV at some point in their life whether they know it or not, and there are hundreds of strains, only some will cause cervical cancer or warts. Unfortunately in B.C. they do not test for HPV and consider all abnormal cells on the cervix HPV. Abnormal cells can be caused by having poor boundaries (unwanted penetration of the cervix), smoking, and suppressed emotions. It is 100% possible to heal the cervix and regenerate our cells, it’s what our bodies do! I am still yet to experience a herpes outbreak after 5 years with the same partner, although a blood test came back positive for HSV a few months ago. Every body is different and I accept every part of me, abnormal or not.
I hope that you take this message and do the work. Do your best to live a healthy, happy, pure, vibrant life. A life that aligns with your souls path and that makes your heart feel SO happy.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I truly appreciate your energy. I will not take it for granted.
With healing prayers,