Health Podcast Post

Living with Herpes with Alexandra Harbushka

George Grombacher April 27, 2023

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Living with Herpes with Alexandra Harbushka

LifeBlood: We talked about living with herpes, how common it is, how to remove the stigma, what to do should you be diagnosed with it, approaching difficult situations with love and kindness, and the resources that are available, with Alexandra Harbushka, Founder of Life with Herpes, speaker, podcaster and YouTuber.   

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You can learn more about Alexandra at, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Alexandra Harbushka

Alexandra Harbushka

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:00
Hey, what’s up? This is George G and the time is right welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Alexandria blue sky, Alexandria. Are you ready to do this?

Alexandra Harbushka 0:09
I’m excited. I’m excited. Let’s go.

george grombacher 0:12
Let’s go. Alexander’s life was sent into upheaval when she received a call from her doctor diagnosing her with herpes. She’s set out on a mission to help others in similar situations. She’s a YouTuber, tick tock or podcaster speaker and founder of life with herpes Alexandra excited to have you on tell us a little about your personal life’s more about your work and why you do what you do.

Alexandra Harbushka 0:33
Well, so I’m really excited to be here. And of course, when you start off in life, or like I don’t want to like it’s not like, oh, I want to start a herpes community, you know, or I’m going to, I’m going to create this whole platform or or do these things. You can hear my mom, my little boys in the background. He just got home from school. Anyways, um, when I was 28, I was diagnosed with genital herpes. I was dating someone and he didn’t know he had it. And one of the things that’s very interesting or unfortunately frustrating is when you go for an STI test result or to get tested and you go to get tested and have those done. Herpes is not included. So herpes is not included in the STI panel. So we may be responsible sexually active adults, we may be getting tested, we may be doing those things and it’s not included. So what is STI stands for sexually transmitted transmitted infections. Got it? did me no, no, you’re fine. So here I was 28 years old, dating someone. Find out I have herpes. Find out he has herpes. Now what you know, and I felt extremely alone, I felt extremely abandoned. I felt suffocated. I felt that all of my hopes and dreams and things that I had wanted in life no longer existed, I could no longer do those things. Because now I had herpes, right? I was now cursed with herpes I, I believed that when you because we have these mind, we have these thoughts of people that have herpes prior to we have it like, Oh, well I know why they had it. They made these decisions to live in this type of lifestyle or act in this certain way or this sort of thing. And I was like, I didn’t do that. So why do I have this now and having to re work and rewind and undo the programming that was around being diagnosed with herpes. So the guy said, I was very alone. And I was turning 30 And I’m like, I’ve got to make changes in my life. I have to I have to change what is happening in my life. And I decided to get focused on healing myself. So it was really healing my my relationship with myself and I realized that that was the root problem. It was healing the relationship I had, I believe that at that time, people who had herpes were dirty, they were disgusting. And I had to work through that. And at 30 I said I’m gonna I’m gonna start dating. I’m not gonna let this hold me back anymore. So I like to call it my IE or face as we know ers the Winnie the Pooh. And I’m I was er for two years and I thought I can’t keep this going

george grombacher 3:46
it’s is it essentially going through the stages of grief?

Alexandra Harbushka 3:51
Yes. Yeah, so again, and you’re doing it alone because of herpes you’re alone. And so that’s one of the reasons why I created life with herpes was I was like I don’t want anybody to go through this again. I don’t want anybody to go through what I went through all by myself and hopefully go through it faster. There’s there’s we have to go through grief we have to go through all those stages. It’s it’s normal, it’s natural. It’s part of it right? We have to digest what has just happened. But to stay there for two years or decades, which many many people do is is what is heartbreaking.

george grombacher 4:26
Yeah. I’m really sorry that you went through that.

Alexandra Harbushka 4:32
Right? Well, I’m glad I went through it because on one side of tears the other side is a breakthrough. Right? So had I not gone through two years worth of tears crying, you know not being bright and when I say bright I don’t mean intelligent but like bright with like sunshine and color and just like I was lacking that sparkle and that twinkle in my eye. Had I not gone through my diagnosis. I will would not be where I am today. So I’m totally okay with that transformation.

george grombacher 5:04
Yeah, it’s a it’s it’s a life is a life is an interesting thing. And sometimes the worst thing that happens to us doesn’t end up being the worst that maybe it is, but we end up being grateful for it.

Alexandra Harbushka 5:17
Right, right. I mean, I don’t like, I don’t wish herpes on anyone or I don’t want to go out and get herpes like it. It’s not something. But it’s one of those things is when you realize that it’s so so, so common, and it’s extremely difficult to actually bypass it. Statistically, by the age of 50 90% of the population has come in contact with it. I don’t know how it’s not 100%. But 90% have come in contact with it. 90% of the people with genital herpes don’t know they have it. So it’s extremely, extremely a common and B, the ability to transmit it is is higher because people don’t know they have it.

george grombacher 5:54
What, how common is it? What percentage of the population 90% come in contact with it? How many are carriers?

Alexandra Harbushka 6:02
So two out of three people have HSV one, and one out of six have HSV? Two? So what’s the difference? What does that mean? So HSV one is more commonly known as oral herpes on the mouth. And HSV two is more commonly known as genital herpes, however, they can enter switch, they can go either location, so you can have HSV, one genital or you can have HSV, two oral the reason why in my opinion, and this is my opinion, why HSV one is just much more common as because our mouths are exposed, right? We we share cups of coffee, we kiss people and in certain cultures, you kiss to say hello, you have more skin to skin interaction with our faces, right? And then of course our genitals. We don’t right. So that’s just why HSV one is just far more common. But the virus doesn’t care where it goes. If you give it an opportunity to go below the bell, it’ll go up a little bit about

george grombacher 6:57
Yeah. So recognizing the limiting negative belief, limiting belief, beliefs you had about people with herpes, how did did you go through a formal process of overcoming those walk us through?

Alexandra Harbushka 7:19
What Oh, like I said, I was 28 Turning 30. And I thought I just can’t stay in this situation. I started getting I realized I can’t stay where I was. And I was really angry. I was angry at love. I didn’t, I no longer believed it existed. I was angry at men. And I realized, well, that’s not going to be a good thing. You can’t stay angry at men, like, you know, like that. They’re not the problem. Love exists. Like other people, there’s evidence that other people have love. And I didn’t want to go through life. But let’s say I stayed angry and ended up getting married. And yeah, that would be an unhealthy relationship, right? And that would be an unhealthy relationship to raise children. And so I was like, alright, that’s not fair. So I have to work through this. And little by little I started. And this may sound silly, but I realized, you know, it’s scientific law. For every action, there’s an opposite and equal reaction. And so I thought, well, if I’m, I’m not giving off love, right? I’m giving off anger and resentment and frustration. And that’s what I’m getting back. So if I start to give off love, then I will get love back. But first, I had to fuel myself with love. And I realized I didn’t have it. So I thought, Okay, I will this at the time, pink salt, Himalayan salt had just come out on the market. And so I went and got this is before Costco carried it, you know, so I went and got Himalayan pink salt. And I thought, okay, Pink is the color of love. And I will physically sprinkle the pink salt on my food. So that I am and that’s literally sprinkling love on my food and I’m literally putting it in my body. I love that. Yeah, so I did that every meal. Like who and if I didn’t have the salt, I was like I am putting love in whatever I was eating and like putting it in my mouth. So I’m you’re literally filling myself up with love. And then I I also looked at it as a Carebear and like Carebears like that their little tummy that shine or whatever they had and I was like, Okay, I’m gonna shine love at people. Not the lust, not the romance, you know, like, but anyone I saw like I just genuinely gave them love and I found something that I appreciate about whoever it was the mailman the person holding your door your door when you’re walking into the office. The person at Trader Joe’s whatever it was, I just gave that person love and the more I gave that person love the more I filled up myself.

george grombacher 9:52
I think that that’s I think that’s incredible and um,

Alexandra Harbushka 9:55
time you know? Yeah, yeah. And so little by Little by little, and then of course, you know, it just overflowed now, you know, there’s, there’s more work I did, of course, you know, and I read books and I took a course on dating and like, how to attract how to attract your soulmate. And like all these things, but I thought, Okay, I gotta clear out the old.

george grombacher 10:20
Yeah, I, there’s so much work to be done on on all of us in every area. And I just love everything about what you just said about the pink Himalayan salt, I put that in water every morning. And from now on for the rest of my life, I’m going, but I’m falling in love. Yep, thank you for your love. And you’re

Alexandra Harbushka 10:41
gonna be a Carebear. And you’re gonna be putting love out there.

george grombacher 10:45
And that’s something that that that I do consciously think about doing as well is, my thought process is just to be a little bit of sunshine, shining into other people’s lives through kindness, or just similar to what you’re talking about. So I appreciate that. So letting people know that, that that they’re not alone, that there are lots of other people who are going through this. That’s life changing. I’m suffering through if I’m suffering through anything alone, whatever it is, it’s just exacerbating a problem. It’s loneliness is really terrible for you. And then whatever problem I’m struggling with, or I’m perceiving to struggle with. Horrible, right,

Alexandra Harbushka 11:27
and the, the sad thing is, is, is, like you said, you feel so alone. And the beautiful thing about social media is it’s made us aware of people all over the world who may be going through something similar. Unfortunately, in 2011, when I was diagnosed, social media isn’t or wasn’t what it is today, right? There was no Facebook groups. It was just Facebook, there were no zoom didn’t exist, you know, all these all these platforms now that allow us to connect and it’s become like, what’s I don’t know the opposite word of taboo, but it’s become socially accepted to talk about taboo topics. And so now there are places where you can heal. So my story is herpes. Everybody has their own story. Everyone has their own personal 911 event. Mine just happened to be herpes. And it happened to be something that was very isolating. Had it been something like breast cancer, that’s something that you talk about, and people bring over casseroles and they’re like, let me how are you? Okay, let me help you. Oh, you know, myself my so and so went through this, I you know, no herpes, you don’t talk about it. No one’s bringing you a casserole. Right? In fact, they don’t even like want to touch you. So that’s, that’s the difference. And one of the things I would suggest to anybody, whatever your personal 911 is mine, mine is herpes is educate yourself on it before you had herpes. Before I had herpes. I had an idea of the person that had herpes or the lifestyle or life changes, or I had these like, ideas in my mind, and they were all false. Right? So once you begin to educate yourself and learn what this this virus is, and what it is not, you can start to digest it and begin to pull it apart piece by piece and go okay, this is what that means. Okay, this is that well, actually, I’m not the only person that has it statistically. One out of six people have it and right now HSV one genital, so the cold sores, aka cold sores being genitally is now really common, like most of the people I talked to end up with genital HSV one. So it’s extremely common.

george grombacher 13:41
What are some of the biggest preconceived notions that are incorrect about about it are

Alexandra Harbushka 13:46
oral herpes is the good kind, genital herpes is the bad kind, when they’re the exact same thing. Same viruses that go either way. People also think, well, if you have cold sores, you can’t transmit that by doing things sexually. Right? And in fact, you can. So that’s something that I like to bring awareness to because there’s millions of people living with cold sores, oral herpes and are not aware that they need to disclose that to a partner. That’s why a lot a lot of our teens and 20s right now are getting it genitally because of that reason. Another thing that we think about people living with herpes is they’re promiscuous. They live deviant lifestyles, they are not their personal hygiene potentially isn’t great. And, and that has nothing to do with it roughly you have, you know, with 67% of the people having HSV one 13% Having HSV two, that’s a large percent of the population that’s living with herpes and so you have a larger chance of that one person having herpes, right than you do. Have like obviously, if you have sex with 100 people, you have a higher risk, but that one person has such a low Our chance of having herpes that kind of outweighs the other you know what I mean? It does?

george grombacher 15:06
Yes. And you are with, with your nonprofit with life with herpes, what? What are you hoping that that the? And what are you doing with it?

Alexandra Harbushka 15:25
So it was my hope to bring awareness. So again, in 11, when I was diagnosed, and I went and researched it, it was very sterile. It was WebMD it was a little bit of Planned Parenthood, and I think, potentially the CDC, and those websites for you know, or that the trifold pamphlet that you get from the doctor that has like blue drawings of people, you know, like, here’s what you do now, you know, and, and it was just very sterile and it made you feel like a statistic and opposed to making it say, Okay, this is actually very, very common. There’s people that you love, unconditionally, that have this, you’ve come in contact with it before you were diagnosed. It wasn’t like this one bad person in your life or like, that’s the bane of my existence, the person that gave me herpes, you’ve come in contact with it prior by somebody that you love. And, and, and just how do we live life? What is this mean? What is it? What does it not mean? Are there ways to prevent outbreaks? Are there ways to speed up recovery? Are there ways to prevent transmission to partners? What is what type you have? What does it mean? What does it not mean? All sorts of things and just try to make it a well rounded and also fun, like just no no reason to be to feel like you’re again isolated living on a on a, you know, you’re a leper or living on an island, and no one can touch you ever again. I mean, that’s not at all what it is.

george grombacher 16:51
I certainly appreciate that. You talk about God on on on the website, tell me a little bit about your relationship.

Alexandra Harbushka 16:59
So I since becoming a mom, I was like, how am I so blessed to be a mom and and is is the most amazing thing. And so I wanted to get to know God more and understand that and finding your fight your faith during a challenging time can be extremely helpful to some people, it deepens your roots, it deepens just that connection that you have whether depending on what you believe, it doesn’t matter what you believe. And so I went back to school, I’m two classes away from finishing my master’s. But I became a minister to be able to support people through grief. So grief counseling is something that I work through and support people on. And just giving them if they are faith based there is that avenue, they want to go through it if they’re not totally fine as well.

george grombacher 17:54
So that’s awesome. And when I think about what you’ve done, what comes into my mind is bravery and courage. What are some of your favorite virtues and values?

Alexandra Harbushka 18:11
Being the voice for people that don’t have a voice, and I’ve talked to 1000s of people, personally, I’ve helped millions of people, but I’ve spoken to 1000s individually. And there’s many people that would have given up and that have missed out on things because of their diagnosis, whether they never got married, or they never became a parent or they dropped out of school, or they didn’t follow their career, passion choice because of having herpes. And they say like, if I just would have known you 20 years ago, if I would have known this five years ago, I wouldn’t have made these choices. So I didn’t give you one word. I just gave you examples. But yeah, we we as humans, it’s the kind of way I guess we’re designed is we set our own glass ceilings. And as society we’ve deemed herpes as a glass ceiling. So now when you’re diagnosed with herpes, it is your scapegoat for anything that has gone wrong in your life. I can’t find a date because I have herpes. I can’t get a promotion because I have herpes. I can’t get in shape because I have herpes. I can’t go back to school because I have herpes. I can’t whatever it is, whatever our story is, is because I have herpes. And that’s definitely not something to be taken lightly. I’m not saying it’s false, because it is truly your belief at that time, but it’s my job to break down that belief. And to get rid of that root that’s that’s that belief is growing roots and it’s holding you back.

george grombacher 19:48
Certainly not serving you. No,

Alexandra Harbushka 19:50
no. No.

george grombacher 19:54
And a time where we at least from my perception, it seems We celebrate victimhood and, and all that, I think that that’s one of the most dangerous things that’s out there. And to think that, that having a terrible thing happened to is really, really awful and sad, but not letting that define you for the rest of your life, which is what you’re talking about.

Alexandra Harbushka 20:19
Right. And speaking of victimhood, that’s a big pain point for for me as well. And I don’t allow that in my community. There’s other communities out there that are all about that. And one of my biggest thing is, okay, this happened, you can have er days or periods, but you have to get out of it. And I was there for two years, like I said, I had to get out of it, right. And it’s okay to be there and process, it’s part of grief. But the two things that I highly, highly, highly, highly discussed, are getting out of that mindset. And number one is practicing forgiveness. So practicing forgiveness to your partner, and practicing forgiveness to yourself. Those are the two main things that we’ll have number one, like one a one b, forgiveness, whether your partner knew or did not know that he or she had herpes, that’s not the point, you have to forgive that person. And you have to forgive yourself for making those choices at that time, because that was the you made that choice, because it was a good choice in your mind at that time. And then number two, is take responsibility. So it was my choice to be intimate with my boyfriend at the time, I chose that those were my decisions, right. And it’s not a good decision or a bad decision. It was my decision. And so it was my decision. And I take responsibility for 50% of the actions that happen. So you can only take responsibility for your actions. And your reaction to anybody’s action. You can’t control someone’s actions or their reaction. Right. So yeah, and that’s one of the things that’s what gets us out of the ER phase is out of the victimhood. You have remember, it was your choice you made this was a decision and that’s fine. It’s normal to be intimate with a partner. And whether you you were responsible or not. Now you know, and we can move forward.

george grombacher 22:14
Well said Alexandra, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with you and and your wonderful community?

Alexandra Harbushka 22:23
So if you have herpes I, I understand what you’re going through or or anything like that. I do have a 21 page ebook that I have, gosh, written and rewritten and revised over the past six years, it’s A to Z on what herpes is how to prevent outbreaks, certain foods that trigger ways to speed up recovery. So if you go to outbreak You can download it, it’s free. And you’ll you’ll learn everything you need to know in that that little ebook so

george grombacher 23:01
excellent. If you enjoyed this as much as I did show Alexandria your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to outbreak and get your free copy of the ebook that Alexandra has created and revised many, many, many times over. Thanksgiving, Alexandra,

Alexandra Harbushka 23:22
thank you so much, George. Till next time, remember,

george grombacher 23:25
do your part by doing your best

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