Sharing is (self) Caring

I think there's an important distinction to be made between sharing publicly and sharing in general. Sharing publicly is not a requirement for working through shame. I think that sharing in general, on the other hand, is.

Shame is not natural - it's a social construct. Something we're taught to feel. Shame wouldn't exist if we grew up free to learn, explore and grow without the judgement of others. Shame is man (and corporation) made, and it thrives on secrecy. So when we have this "deep dark secret" that we expend a lot of energy guarding, we're inherently telling ourselves that part of us is unworthy, that part of us deserves to be hidden. I don't know about you, but that doesn't seem like an environment conducive to forgiveness and acceptance to me. Brene Brown doesn't think so either - she says that shame can't survive being spoken. So let's talk about speaking it.

When we think about opening up to someone our brains scroll through a million and one scenarios about how it could go terribly wrong. I'll save the usual, "what about, how it could go terribly right?" for another day. How about this instead: what is your relationship to fear now, and what do you want it to be? There's no right or wrong answer here - only the one that's right for you. And keep in mind, what may have worked for you two years ago, might not serve you now. Before your diagnosis, maybe your greatest fear was disappointing your parents and it functioned as a motivator in your life that didn't feel detrimental at the time. But after your diagnosis, that same fear has grown into something so dysfunctional that it's crippling. It's no longer serving you so what can you do to shift it?

Now, sharing your own baggage with certain people might just be a no-go - I've spoken to people who have very traditional or religious parents who they're afraid will react disapprovingly - and that's okay. Know that that’s the choice you’re making. There's no rule written that says, "you must tell everyone you love." I do however think it's important to acknowledge (especially if you're otherwise close to these people in your lives) the message you’re sending yourself when their assumed thoughts, feelings, and values outweigh yours. True acceptance doesn't mean that everyone in your world accepts you. It just means that you accept you, in spite of what some people might not understand. Yes, this can be a hard process to navigate through. And the more time we spend wishing our results were wrong, wishing we could go back in time, cursing the person we contracted it from, the less time we’re focused on us & our relationships in the here and now.

Sometimes when we're deciding who we might share with, we "test the waters." For instance: "I brought up STIs casually with a friend and his reaction was the worst. He was so judgmental, so I definitely can't tell him." We're trying to see what sort of risk we're taking, I get it, but the conclusion drawn is a false one. Before I told the masses, I had a friend make a herpes joke - I felt so worthless. And then after I shared my story he was so supportive and could now see herpes through a new lens. We can't be surprised when people in our lives react with the limited & very narrow information they've been taught. Especially the people we love. Maybe instead of them viewing us through the herpes lens, they'll view herpes through their lens of us (that's the goal y'all!).

People often ask, "how did you learn to accept this? What can I do?" and my answer is always the same: 1) try to be kind to yourself. If it helps, treat yourself like you would your best friend or 5 year old you or your 5 year old child. You're dealing with change, and change isn't easy, especially when it's unexpected. 2) If you’re feeling sensitive, try to limit your research to sites like the CDC, WebMD, Planned Parenthood, and members of the HANDS network - avoid Reddit and Google images if you notice they create unnecessary fear and anxiety for you. 3) Do the things you love to do - the things that make you, you. Staying in touch with how you haven't changed can make you have feel less significant. & 4) Tell someone(s). Find someone you can confide in so you don't feel alone. The more support you create for yourself, the better.

So when I encourage you to share, I hope that you'll reach out to a trusted friend or family member. And if you don't have one of those, try a therapist, support group, or me. Carrying the weight of shame around alone can be crushing. As humans we naturally crave community and connection - we're social beings. So it's a wonder that in our most vulnerable moments we've been conditioned to isolate instead of reach out for help.

Whether you feel called to shout it from the rooftops, or to share it confidentially with a licensed therapist, or something in between (that sweet sweet gray area), know that you're not the only one dealing with this and that the act of talking about it out loud is you giving yourself permission to be in your life.

Not sure where to go from here? Baby step challenge: set up a call with me or reach out to one of the other HANDS members - you know we have it, so there's no judgment there. Automatic safe space :)

Looking to push yourself further out of your comfort zone? Tell that one person in your life you've been wanting to tell. It might not go well, it might go great. Such is being alive. If you're craving an honest connection with this person (parent, sibling, cousin, friend, coworker, etc.), listen to yourself - trust your gut.

Want to try something else? Sit down and journal (I'm a journaler - if you're not, just jot down some notes on your phone) through the question: "what would I do if I wasn't afraid of what people might think about me?" And just notice what comes up. No ones going to read or grade your answers, so be completely honest with yourself - this is for you.

We often feel stuck because we don't see any other ways to cope. There are new choices that can be made - even if they feel small, they can make a world of difference. So commit yourself to a new choice today. Be open to failure. See what happens. Welcome to trial and error. Sometimes it's trial and success.


My Imaginary Argument

Do you ever have imaginary arguments with people?

Like, “if my roommate slams that door one more time I’m going to say…” or “if he leaves those dishes in the sink I will ask him about the dishes fairy…”

Sometimes, when I’m sharing about herpes my brain automatically takes me to, “some people won’t like this and they’ll probably have something to say,” so I kind of rehearse what I would say back…here’s a snippet of this very healthy, very human exercise from an exchange that has never happened :)

I don’t speak any judgement that compares me to anything other than being human. I don’t assume that I am “better than” or “have more figured out” than you or anyone else, and I’d hope you’d give me the same courtesy. We’re all humans doing out best, learning as we go. Some of us need different kinds of help than others (we all need help); some of us need different kinds of community (we all need community); some of us need different kinds of love (we all need love). Our commonality is human - let’s start there.


Don’t come at me as if you’re more human than me because you don’t currently have an STI - because the circumstances of your life’s lessons have been different from mine. Don’t invalidate my experiences and existence because you haven’t lived them and might not understand it. I don’t belittle you for anything difficult you’ve had to face in your life - I’d ask for the same consideration from you.


Tiffany Haddish made a herpes joke & I'm not mad at her...

I'm a fan of Tiffany Haddish and it comes as no shock that herpes jokes are alive and well.

Nothing is really off limits for comedians. There are jokes about gender, race, politics - anything that people tend to have strong feelings about. Why would herpes be any different? I think the distinction between the hurt that heeps experience after a joke (compared to any other group) is that we feel voiceless - we feel "less than" and we can't even express our concerns because then people will know.

Tiffany Haddish made a herpes joke at the VMAs, and that IS okay - it gets us talking. What isn't okay is how disempowered we feel. If we don't want herpes to remain this one-dimensional joke, we have to add dimensions to it - this is how we take our power back. Maybe if we share more of our stories, comedians will have more material to pull from and they can update this old go-to.

I'm still a fan of Tiffany Haddish - I think she's hilarious and brilliant, and she's creating the life she's always wanted after years of hard-work. If she can be out there living her best life after all the adversity she's been met with, then why can't we?…/tiffany-haddish-vmas-her…/

Just do it.

Nike is on to something.

Just do it.

I love songwriting and running. I know that these things bring me joy, but sometimes I just don’t feel like doing them. Sometimes I don’t feel inspired to write. Sometimes I don’t feel motivated to get the miles in.

& sometimes that’s okay. But when I’m working toward my goals, progress is necessary. So how do I get into action when I’m not feeling particularly motivated? How do I keep from negative self-talking my way into bummer-land?

If you guessed, "just do it,” you’re correct!

If I sit down to write a song title about whatever pops into my head, more often than not, the inspiration will flow and the motivation will follow. Or if I start the day by putting my running clothes and shoes on, I’m more likely to get out the door at some point. Action can beget inspiration and motivation - it doesn’t have to be the other way around.

I just finished, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and he writes, “if you lack the motivation to make an important change in your life, do something - anything, really - and then harness the reaction to that action as a way to begin motivating yourself.” He calls this the “do something principle” and simplified it looks a bit like this -

Action —> Inspiration —> Motivation

“If we follow the '“do something'“ principle, failure feels unimportant. When the standard of success becomes merely acting - when any result is regarded as progress and important, when inspiration is seen as a reward rather than a prerequisite - we propel ourselves ahead. We feel free to fail, and that failure moves us forward.”

I think this hit so hard for me because when I look at things I’ve done over the years, I can see that this works for me! I signed up for my first half marathon because I wanted to exercise throughout the NYC winter, and knew I wouldn’t be motivated to if I wasn’t working toward anything. So I signed up, figured out the training schedule, and got it done.

I’m going to leave you with this last excerpt from The Subtle Art because it made me cry real tears -

“If you’re in the midst of an existential shitstorm and everything feels meaningless - if all the way you used to measure yourself have come up short and you have no idea what’s next, if you know that you’ve been hurting yourself chasing false dreams, or if you know that there’s some better metric you should be measuring yourself with but you don’t know how - the answer is the same:

Do something.”

People often ask, “how do I start dating again after herpes,” or “how can I possibly tell this girl/guy I’m interested in that I’m hsv positive?” Go on a date. Say the words, “I have herpes.” You’ll learn how to navigate the words and fears with practice, but take the leap and the net will appear. It might feel more complicated or difficult than that (and it’s okay if it doesn’t feel that easy). But if holding this thing as complicated is what you’ve been doing, and it hasn’t been working, then make a new choice. The next time you’re feeling stuck, ask yourself what you can do. If you’re not ready to go out on a date, can you still download an app today? If you’re not ready to say the words to someone else, can you say them out loud to yourself today? Then tomorrow, ask yourself again. Your:





might surprise you.

Stay courageous xo.

Rebranding Weakness as Humanity

What if instead of the question, “what is your greatest weakness,” they asked you, “how does your humanity show up in your work?”

Or, if tears were just a sign of sadness, compassion, empathy, anger - you know, those regular human emotions - as opposed to weakness.

And how about if mistakes and failures weren’t seen as weakness at all, they were just, humans being human, figuring out how life works best for us, cause, let’s face it - there is no one answer to the question, “what is the best way to go about living life.”

We are often so set in perceiving difficult tasks and chapters in life as struggles that don’t belong, rather than what they are - a necessity. We learn first-hand through our own experiences and we learn second-hand through those of others.

So instead of thinking that we are weak, what if we simply thought, we are human. We learn. We grow. There is nothing wrong with not getting something ”right” the first time; or crying at work (regardless of your gender identity); nothing wrong with being afraid so long as you learn from it and get into action anyway - reflect, and figure out what lesson you can take from each experience, not as a badge of shame, or failure. As a badge of courage. Your humanity badge.

What are you waiting for?

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Gandhi stood for what he believed in. As did the Suffragettes, Martin Luther King Jr., & Ellen Degeneres. These people shared their experiences and inspired their communities to come forward and speak out alongside them. Did they all have easy, fairytale journeys? Not at all. But do we know their names for a reason? Yep. These movements had to start somewhere.

Heeps (herpes positives) are hurt, angry, frustrated, and tired. Tired of being the punch-line to everyone’s jokes. Tired of being thought of as one-dimensional - dirty, promiscuous, damaged goods. Tired of being treated as if we’ve done something any differently than any STI negative person has done (news flash - they have sex too). We may be tired when we claim, “it’s not the right time to speak up,” but if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who will? We have to stop hiding.

We don’t feel empowered by mainstream schools of thought to share openly so we find solace in hidden Facebook groups. We want the views of society - the stigma - to change before we speak up because that would be safer. Easier. It would be more comfortable. Where would women be if they had waited for the world to change for them? How about black people? And the LGBTQ community? By no means are those fights over, but they’re worlds from where they once were.

Our plight is not going to be as important to someone who isn’t living it, AND THAT’S OKAY. I am not under the impression that all of my Facebook friends care as much about the herpes stigma as I do. And why would they? I had no frame of reference for herpes before I got it. But now I do - and now they do because of me. I continue to tell my story because it’s important to me. It’s important that those of us who feel less than are liberated from our shame. And only we have the power to do that.

By no means do I think all heeps should proclaim their status to the world via social media and blogs (that’s not everyone’s calling) but I do think that there are ways we can show up boldly in our own lives so we don’t have to hide anymore.

We’ve been waiting for the world to tell us it’s okay to be and I think we’ll be waiting for a long time if we keep at it this way. What makes our plight any more unbearable than the fight for Women’s Rights, the Civil Rights Movement, or the journey to Same Sex Marriage? Are we less bold, resilient, or deserving of respect than any of those groups are? (If you can’t tell by my tone, the answer is no :). So what are you going to do about it?

What are you going to do the next time someone makes a herpes joke? (Cause you know it will happen). You can either stew silently in embarrassed anger like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Say something.

What are you going to do the next time you’re feeling alone and think no one can relate to you? You can either sit alone like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Reach out to someone you love.

What are you going to do the next time you really like someone and want to take the leap? You can either talk yourself out of it like you usually do, or you can make a new choice. Tell them how you feel.

You can sit and wait for the world to change, or you can help change it. What are you waiting for?

Stay courageous.

Kate & Anthony

I know numerous people who have questioned whether they should continue living after they tested positive for hsv - including me. I knew I would never really end my life, and at the same time, I also felt deeply that there was nothing good left for me. Sitting where I am now, I can see with clarity that the little voice that said, "keep going," knew better.

The news of the suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain is truly saddening. Celebrities, public influencers, high achievers -- humans. Because they are in the public eye and are people of influence, we forget that they are human beings just like us. When talking to people about hsv, I often remind them that every single person has something that they're hiding, or that troubles them deeply - stds, mental health, sexual abuse, financial debt, the list goes on - every person has something that makes them feel completely alone. Fighting the shame of it all, alone.  

But you are not alone. 

We think, "how could someone with such success still want to end their life?" The truth that I've experienced is that it's not about how successful you are, or how much money you have, it's about how open you are with your pain - it's your self-awareness, your desire to find understanding and clarity, your willingness to seek help. 

If you've had the thought, "if someone of their stature could commit suicide, where does that leave me?" remember that you are not them. There's so much we don't know about either of them - so much that we will never know. We all have our own stories and all we can focus on is us. 

Share your story. Look for people who might be going through the same thing. Talk to a therapist. Reach out to suicide prevention resources. The more you share, the more you'll learn for certain that you are not alone.

That voice inside that says, "I do not want my life to end this way." Listen to it. Give it a microphone. Follow it to healing. 

Guest Writer - Dear Amber

I'm thrilled to share this piece written by Amber. She's been hiding her herpes status and has recently decided, no more. If you'd like to share your story in whatever capacity feels courageous to you (anonymous, first name, full name), please reach out. We're stronger together. Courage calls to courage everywhere.

So stay courageous xo

Dear Amber,

You’ve come a long way. I know I always say that to you, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Your resilience never ceases to amaze me. I remember the darker days where you never left your room because you didn’t want to face the world. You were in your own world where no one could harm you, no one could call you dirty or shame you for something they would never understand because they didn’t want to. Yet, day by day you built up your inner strength, I don’t know where it comes from, but it is always there when you need it. You were able to pick yourself up from the ground, dust yourself off and say FUCK YOU! to those who tried to stigmatize you. FUCK YOU! to the fake friends who listened to your story but laughed at you behind your back. FUCK YOU! to the people who wanted to see you lose, who wanted to see you down and out. Fuck all that, you fall nine times and let them see you get up ten, and I fucking love that you have that mentality.

I think back and remember you crying for days thinking no one would ever love you, thinking you were the only person in the world with this deep dark secret. I remember how hard you tried to hide this secret, how you would lie to the men you slept with thinking in the back of your mind that as long as you were safe, it didn’t matter if you told anyone or not. Until one day it all blew up in your face, people knew, and you didn’t exactly know how, you couldn’t pinpoint it on anyone, so you stopped trusting everyone. You became angry with the world but mostly with yourself. How could you be so careless? You started back tracking trying to figure it all out until you drove yourself crazy. You let those people control you, you let those people have power over you, well, I am here to tell you to take that power back! I am here to help you find the courage to live your truth as openly and freely as possible. I want you to stop living with this burden of whether people know or not and just scream it from the mountain tops. Anyone who judges you does not belong in your life. I know it’s annoying to hear but you’ll know who really loves you for you. Sometimes the people we want in our life are not the people we need.

It’s going on six years since your diagnosis and I know how much you wish you could turn back the hands of time to the exact day you contracted it and stop it from happening, but you can’t. It was hard to let go of at one point but now I look at it as both a blessing and a curse. Yea, it made you feel like shit, less desirable and attractive, paranoid as hell and you distanced yourself from so many people. Yea, people exposed you and call you dirty every chance they get but it also made you a different person. You are more compassionate and caring, more self-aware and have a low tolerance for bullshit. Time, self-love and educating yourself has made it easier to accept the things you cannot change and change the things you can. Your personal growth has turned you into the amazing person you are today, someone I am extremely proud of. Your “who gives a fuck about what people think” attitude is on fleek, you have learned to love who you are, and you aren’t as hard on yourself when things don’t go your way. You’ve made plenty of mistakes but never let those define you. Continue to learn from your experiences both failures and achievements and let them become your guide to life. Love and happiness will come, because you deserve it, have faith and continue being the woman you are. 

Love always,

Feathers & Boulders

I saw Love, Simon a few weeks ago and when I got home I was describing a montage scene of Simon's parents laughing and decorating their home for Christmas and I said something to my fiancé like, "I can see us doing that." To which he replied, "but we already do things like that..." to which I quickly piped in, "Oh I know!...well, most of the time I know."

Those beautifully loving, fun, positive memories full of laughter are like pristine feathers. They float down around me as I experience happiness & joy. 


And as I go about my day, I may also be met with frustration, sadness, or anger. These emotions occur as giant, filthy boulders, covering the feathers so they can no longer be seen. 


And as life goes on, more feathers come, and more boulders follow. The boulders are so much easier to recall because I give them so much more weight. 

I get frustrated with myself when the feathers aren't readily available for me to access. "Why can't I see them? Why can I only see the boulders?" But asking why never leads me anywhere productive, so I'm learning to ask better questions (thanks to a great coach) like, "how is this effecting me?" and "what is it I need?" 

And what I've come up with is a happiness practice. Everyday I write down one thing that happened that made me smile, laugh, or just think, "how lucky am I?"


Will this stop the boulders from falling? Not at all. But it will rearrange things, and maybe this way more of the feathers will stick out in my mind and the boulders won't be as bothersome anymore.

Beautiful artwork and narration done by my dear friend, Katie Barbaro, comedian, illustrator and creator of Showing Up Messy , a podcast about the messy parts of the creative process and how we often need to show up before we feel "ready." Listen to it, it's awesome!

With humanity.

I saw the Greatest Showman with my honey - we were mid-fight (cause we're normal humans) - and I fell in love. I didn't fully express my love with my partner until we were clear of that evening's "episode," but the movie gave a megaphone to the voice inside me that is usually at a low whisper, quietly reminding, "you can do anything." 

I'm not used to the encouraging voice being louder than the one I safely label as, "realist." Realist Devin makes sure that all the other Devins don't get too carried away with things that may not happen. Realist Devin makes sure that she chooses songs that she feels comfortable with when singing around others. Realist Devin doesn't share her opinions out of fear of being "wrong." Realist Devin takes calculated risks. You could argue that she's trying to protect me, but (on my clearest days) I can see that in the process she mostly ends up hindering. 

There is no way to know how something is going to turn out - the only way of ensuring it doesn't work, is by not doing. What a way to spend my energy - waging bets on what could or should happen in any given scenario.  

A week or so before seeing the film, my coach asked me to choose a power song - something that would remind me of how awesome I am, and of all the good that surrounds me. The film's anthem "This is Me," hit home in a thousand different ways - reflecting on the struggle I had with my herpes diagnosis; my ever-present doubts about my voice; and my deep desire to truly and fully know me. I sang this song non-stop at the top of my lungs in our apartment (I hope the neighbors enjoyed it as much as I did) until one day I realized that I couldn't clearly categorize the emotions I was feeling around it. I felt sad and excited; anxious and rejuvenated; depressed and happy; ashamed and motivated --

This song simultaneously inspires and cripples me. 

There are so many things that I want to do right. now. - write more (blogs and songs); sing more (in front of people, yikes!); speak out more about shame, courage, and resilience. All can be thrown into the category of, "putting myself out there more."

When I got to a place of acceptance with my herpes diagnosis, I think I thought the rest of life would be relatively manageable - living out loud would now just come naturally. False. I feel like I'm rewiring my brain against the shoulds that I've so long accepted as truths - this is not easy work. I often treat myself with less kindness and understanding than I've given to strangers; less support, less grace. Wanting to be at the finish line having exhausted my potential, instead of gathering tools to take with me on this never-ending, always changing, journey. What would life look like if I encouraged myself the way I encourage others? 

I don't know. But here I am, writing my first blog post in I don't know how many months, squashing the voice that's been saying, "It's been too long. You can't all of a sudden start living out loud again. How will you explain your lack of action?"

With humanity. That's how I explain it. With humanity. 

The "fix it" lens

"Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we're very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It's as if we've divided the world into 'those who offer help' and 'those who need help.' The truth is that we are both." - Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I've been told numerous times by friends and family that I need to stop giving unsolicited advice; that they are perfectly capable of finding solutions to their problems; that they just need an ear and a shoulder. I respond internally with, "how do I just sit here and not help you change what's not working for you?" "how do I do nothing as you suffer?" Well I'm learning that empathy is not "nothing." Quite the opposite actually. Empathy is everything people need to feel safe and connected. Empathy is why people courageously come back to you to share their deepest fears and shame. Empathy helps.

Empathy is something I work on every day. Putting away the judgment (mostly self-judgment) and allowing myself to be present in the emotions of what's going on. Trying to connect instead of fix. It's not easy - I'm almost 30 and I've spent the majority of my life looking at the world through a lens of problems and solutions. What if, instead, there were only experiences.  Things that we go through that occur to us personally in one unique way - in a way that doesn't occur for anyone else.  Then the need to label something as a problem transforms into the ability to see something as an experience. 

If a friend calls to talk about his concerns about his relationship, or her desire to get a raise at work, they are searching for connection and understanding. Viewing their experiences as just that might open you up to a world where you can offer yourself as a safe space, creating the possibility of more connection in the future.

And if they want your advice - they'll ask.