CAT, who often uses the internet handle catinbarefeet, is the author of H-Book, her love letter to the HSV community. She plans and coordinates the well-attended Friends on the Beach national event, held in Florida each November. She has facilitated live HELP meetings in several states across the country, and currently serves as an administrator on National HELP, a secret 100% support forum on Facebook.
I contracted genital herpes in 1994, from a man I had only known eight days, and I can probably characterize the day I was diagnosed as the most stressful day of my life thus far—and I’ve had some very stressful days in my life! On top of my body’s painful physical response to the infection, the insensitive behavior of some of the hospital personnel made me feel like a dirty lab specimen.
The days directly following were filled with anger, many tears and accusations, and feelings that i was doomed to live life as a leper—less than a whole person, and certainly without hope of ever finding true love. I “hid” for four years, telling no one about my condition. Though I continued to attend social functions as the upbeat, cheerful person people knew me to be, I always held back at a certain point in any interaction, especially with men who might have become potential romantic interests, had I not contracted herpes.
Never having been one to take a bad situation lying down, however, I took two courses of action. First, I got on the internet and read everything I could find on the virus. I devoured every website and publication until I became a walking encyclopedia of information about HSV.
I also found and joined an internet dating site for people with HSV, and met a handful of terrific men who seemed normal, interesting and well-adjusted. This clued me in to the possibility that things might not be so hopeless after all—that because there were literally thousands of people on this dating site who were clearly like everyone else in the world, ordinary humans who happened to have a common condition, I might not be as alone as I first thought.
In 1998, I attended my first live local support meeting in my area. This was the moment when I first truly realized that I was not alone. Happy to have discovered a gathering of people with similar issues, I quickly became involved in the group’s activities. I’m comfortable in front of a crowd, and a bit of a ham, so serving as a facilitator has always been second nature. After those early years, I moved all over the country and, feeling a sense of mission, took the opportunity to set up HELP meetings in several states.
During those early years, I also began to attend live social events with the local group. This led to attending live national events, a number of which were—and still are—held annually all over the country. One day I realized that my social life had quadrupled and I was more confident than I had been before I was diagnosed with HSV! The best bonus was that I met people who have become lifelong friends whom I’ve seen through life events, and with whom I’ve grown enormously as a person. My H friends have made me a better human being through their incredible caring, zest for life, and love.
At the now defunct Atlanta national event in 2006, I met my soulmate, who I married in October 2010. Those who know me in the community probably shook their heads in disbelief that I ever managed to settle down, but this is something you do when you find the person who is exactly right for you in every way, in or out of the H community.
In 2009, I took over the planning and running of the Friends on the Beach national event, an event that has been handed down from friend to friend since Matthew from Atlanta created it in 2000. Held each November on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it boasts an annual attendance of between 200-300 people from the H community.
The Friends on the Beach event is a labor of love for me, as is H-Book and my activities on National HELP and other online H message boards—are my way of giving back to a community that brought me back from despair, introduced me to the love of my life, and led me to a caring community, to whom I will always be paying it forward.
I welcome you to my online home, and hope you’ll stay a bit and look around. I also invite you to interact with me anytime—please do make contact. Welcome!
© 2012 H-Book