When I was diagnosed with herpes, I felt like a death row inmate walking towards the gas chamber. It was as if I was attending my own funeral and watching them lower my casket into the ground. Life as I knew it was over!
Even though the doctor told me that herpes was very common and my quality of life would hardly suffer at all, I was traumatized. I bet you were too. Were you thinking like I was: “How can the doctor act so nonchalant about this virus? This is a life sentence!” Did you also ask yourself these questions: Why me? Who gave this to me? How do I have a relationship going forward? How do I keep this from coming out? I literally went from feeling confident and carefree to contaminated and cursed in a matter of seconds.
And while the shame of contracting herpes had me in a choke hold, my spirit and self esteem was crushed. I can only imagine how magnified that must have been for you! I was a 40 year old hairstylist with clients who adored me, but you are Usher The Magnificent and have millions of fans around the world who idolize you! You are a sex symbol and celebrity who women of all ages yearn for. Without a doubt the prospect of them discovering that you had herpes was your worse nightmare come to life. I understand why you would pay over a million dollars to keep this secret from coming to light.
Because you thought it would destroy your image. The world is a cruel place and herpes is highly stigmatized. People are also incredibly mean and like to kick you when they think you’re down. Which is why there are so many silly and hurtful memes going around poking fun at you. But guess what? I bet some of the people laughing at you probably have it and aren’t even aware. Most people think you have to have a lesion before you are positive, but nothing could be further from the truth! You can spread herpes and not even show any symptoms!
So imagine if you flipped the script, took control of the conversation and created a campaign around herpes awareness. The haters would be completely caught off guard and no longer able to hold shame as a bargaining chip over your life. Transparency and vulnerability give you bulletproof freedom that no one can ever take away! You and your team could create your own memes like “Get Tested!” or “Got Herpes?” to name a few. You could also get together with some of your peers in the music industry and collaborate on a benefit song like Michael Jackson and Lionel Ritchie did with We Are The World. The proceeds would go towards herpes research which is desperately needed. Do you realize that African American women are 3 times likelier to have the virus than any other race? Herpes is rampant in our community. It is time to sound the alarm and create outreach programs.
You could do for herpes what Magic Johnson did for HIV. You have the power to singlehandedly move herpes from a whisper to a roar! The Usher Raymond Herpes Foundation would be the voice of so many who are screaming in silence and give them the courage to step out of the shadows. They won’t feel the need to duck their heads in the sand and live life as second class citizens in a secret underground society any more. Workshops on How To Regain Your Self Esteem After a Herpes Diagnosis, Dating With Herpes and other challenging herpes related issues could be addressed. Lifestyle, Health and Wellness, Motivation, Inspiration and Self Development would be included as well.
I know this is a lot to think about and overwhelming. Especially when you realize how monumental this can be. But there are times when GOD chooses us for a purpose even though we may not feel worthy or up to the task. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. George Lucas said, “We are all living in cages with the door wide open.” Wow. Imagine that. All it takes to be free is to have the courage and strength to walk through the door!! Yet so many of us will never do it. The door is wide open, Usher. Are you willing to walk through it? Are you willing to help stop the herpes madness? Are you willing to step out of the shadows and be our herpes hero?
I sure hope so! Because freedom feels good! I know this all too well. As someone who hid my herpes diagnosis for 13 years, it was empowering and life changing standing in my truth and sharing my herpes positive status! I released the shackles of shame that had dimmed my light and smothered my soul. There is no need for you to be in bondage to this disease or the women who may continue to come forward demanding payouts. Don’t give another woman a dime! If they have herpes, how do they know they got it from you? I can’t say with certainty who I contracted the disease from. It could have been dormant in me for years. And truth be told, I probably infected some men and didn’t realize it.
It’s time to take a stand and boldly and unapologetically declare that while you have herpes, HERPES DOESN’T HAVE YOU! And if you would like someone to stand with you, I will. I have faith in you Usher. You can do this! Let your words be heard and be the beacon of light to all who suffer with this disease. Lend them your voice until they feel comfortable using theirs.
Don’t let the stigma win. You can slay the stigma. This is your David moment. And herpes is Goliath. Bring your slingshot and get to work!