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A woman who contracted an incurable STI said that God 'gave her herpes as a wake up call' to transform her life.
Alexandra Harbushka, now 39, from Las Vegas, was first diagnosed with herpes in 2011 and explained that it initially sent her into a depression that lasted two years. Watch below:
At the time of contracting the STI, Harbushka said she was 'dating the wrong guys' and living with her parents where she was binge eating and drinking too much.
But now she puts her health and wellbeing first and has completely transformed her life, although she still gets occasional outbreaks around her genitals.
When she was diagnosed, Alexandra, who is a mum-of-one, didn't think she was 'deserving of love', but she is now married to her husband, Bill Gaylord.
He has encouraged her to share her story to help others, as even though herpes is an incurable STI, it was a blessing for her.
As reported by the NHS, herpes is transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
While symptoms can go away, those with the illness are prone to future outbreaks, which can be triggered by things like smoking and alcohol.
Alexandra said: "I believe that God was giving me messages along the way that I wasn't on my path. I wasn't being who I was meant to be.
"Finally, God gave me herpes so I would wake up, listen and make changes.
"I think God was showing me that my life wasn't the one I was meant to be living, but he had to show me that through a physical manifestation.
"I think there is a shock value to saying herpes is a blessing.
"We can look at things like a victim or we can look at them as a wake-up call."
The mum-of-one said she was given herpes by a man who did not know he had the STI because it is not tested for routinely.
Alexandra said: "I never thought I'd get herpes. I had this mindset of the activities or lifestyle that caused it, and I wasn't living the lifestyle that I believed caused it.
"I was being a responsible adult. So when this happened to me, it was absolutely devastating, crushing and suffocating.
"I thought that now I had herpes, nothing mattered. I didn't think I was deserving of love."
However, as she neared her 30th birthday, Alexandra knew that something had to give if she wanted to make the most of the rest of her life.
Alexandra said: "It took me two years before I came to terms with it. I was turning 30 and I thought 'I can't stay like this, I need to figure this out'.
"I felt like Eeyore from Winnie The Pooh. I cried every day, I just couldn't seem to get out of this fog.
"I thought 'I have to change this'. I was living with my parents, I needed to fix my finances, I needed to change my lifestyle."
The mum-of-one continued: "I was binge-eating [when I was diagnosed with herpes], so I had to relearn how to eat.
"Bad lifestyle habits make outbreaks more frequent and intense. A lower immune system can lead to outbreaks, and there are certain foods that can trigger outbreaks.
"Chocolate, coffee beans, coconuts, peanuts and sugar can trigger them.
"When I was 28, I wouldn't eat all day because I thought it would manage my weight. Then I'd binge eat in the evening.
"That's how I thought I could keep a low weight, but doing that was hard on my body. Now I eat real food."
Alexandra is now sharing her story to help others cope with their own herpes diagnosis and turn a negative into a positive like she is.
She does so on her TikTok channel LifeWithHerpes, however, reactions to her message have been mixed.
One TikTok user who was empowered by their diagnosis wrote: "I chose to use my diagnosis to become an author helping others overcome the stigma, better diet, made me more empathetic and dating with intention."
"Herpes made me a much more empathetic person," added a second while a third wrote: "It forced me to realise how much of a people pleaser I was."
However, some said there is no way the STI can be a blessing.
"The itching is not a blessing," slammed one TikTok user.
Another added: "I don't think an STD is a blessing in any way."
Topics: Real Life